This is a blog about our holiday to Europe in 2014. We started off our travels in Venice, where we began a cruise of the Adriatic and Aegean seas, ending in Rome. We then travelled from Rome to the Netherlands by rail, stopping in various places along the way. We are: Me - Gill, my husband - Grant, my daughter - Paula; my father - Neil and his partner - Astrid. We are South Africans, from the lovely province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Our friends Lisa and Trevor joined us from the UK for the cruise portion of our holiday.

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Friday, June 13, 2014


We left home on Wednesday 11 June, after a lovely farewell lunch at Stokers.

Our flight to Dubai was the usual - hours of trying unsuccessfully to sleep and bizarrely timed meals.  Emirates did their best though, no complaints.  We arrived travel-worn and weary, with Paula desperate for the loo and had to endure what felt like a never-ending bus ride to the terminal (it was probably only a few minutes long, but at that time of the morning, with severe sleep-deprivation, everything uncomfortable feels never-ending!)  And then we got a dose of "just what the doctor ordered" - a lovely, luxurious, long, hot shower.  Oh my soul, warm water never felt so good!  We used the showers at the gym at the Dubai International Hotel.  Most expensive shower of my life, but also the most welcome, complete with fluffy robes and slippers and all the amenities you could wish for.  Yes please!  Having freshened up, we then tried to snooze on the recliners in the airport terminal while we awaited our next flight to Venice.

Our flight to Venice was uneventful and we arrived at Marco Polo airport to be greeted by our transfer-person, the most delectable young Venetian (Paula, Astrid and I immediately looked at him and then turned to look at each other with BIG eyes, he was that hunky) who drove like the devil himself.  I had my eyes tightly shut and clutched Paula's hand the whole way to the water taxi stop.  We were delivered to our water taxi driver and I immediately tried to ruin my holiday by giving myself a frontal lobotomy.... I cracked my head a heck of a shot while climbing into the water taxi... but I survived... and onward we travelled.  

water taxi en-route to our hotel

We were transported without further ado to the jetty of the delightful Hotel Becher, just a short walk from St Mark's Square.  A lovely way to arrive in gorgeous Venice.  And Venice is so very, very gorgeous.

Hotel Becher is a cute, characteristic little hotel.  Small and friendly.  The decor is very Venetian and the hotel fits in perfectly with the area.

Entrance to the hotel

We met Lisa and Trevor at the hotel (yay!) and then, after a quick freshen-up, we went for a short wander around the area, before meeting on the jetty for Prosecco and snacks.  It was at this point that we realised Dad and Astrid were missing, they had gone for a walk and got horribly lost... with no cell phone and no map to help them.  When my obsessively punctual father is an hour and a half late, you know there is a serious problem!  I was beside myself with worry, thinking they were going to wander the alley-ways of Venice, lost and alone, for the rest of their natural lives... And then they found their way back to us and everything was okay.  Phew!  Big gulp of Prosecco to calm my shattered nerves!

On the jetty with the weary wanderers

We set off for dinner, which I unfortunately have to admit was not that great.  As we were all really tired, we opted for somewhere close by and found ourselves at an open air sort of restaurant near the Fenice theatre, can't think of it's name, but we ate pizzas that were a bit lacking in flavour and it was all just a bit... dull... for want of a better word.

After another wander around, during which Grant managed to take some amazing photos, it was back to the hotel for a good sleep.

Day 2:

We had breakfast in the little breakfast room at the hotel and then set off for St Mark's Square, where we caught the lift to the top of St Mark's Campanile.  The views were absolutely gorgeous.  360-degree views of Venice from above.  Amazing!  

After that we wandered around, visiting the Rialto bridge and taking our time strolling around the alleyways and then took a spur-of-the-moment gondola ride.  Our gondolier was a friendly chap who was happy to answer our (many) questions and to tell us interesting titbits of historical information.  

We found our way to a pub and had a couple of drinks, I enjoyed my first Aperol Spritz and Paula had a delicious raspberry Bellini, while the others had beers in very characteristic glasses... can't get more Italian than the boot!

After our drinks we split up from Dad and Astrid and we wandered some more.  Purely by chance we happened to see THIS as we walked back to our hotel!!

... oooh excitement!

After lunch we met up with Lisa and Trev and Dad and Astrid in St Mark's square, in time to catch our boat to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello.

First stop was Murano, where we watched some glass-blowers.  We then had free time to amble in the glass shops.  There were some really beautiful things, but the prices were high for us poor South Africans.  (Our currency doesn't do us any favours when travelling internationally, that's for sure!)  I bought a Christmas ornament though.  I plan to try to buy one wherever we go, if possible.  We got back on the boat and had a chuckle at a couple of people who came flying down the gangway in time to watch us chug off into the distance.... Why are there always "those people" who are NEVER on time?!

We arrived at Torcello next and I am ashamed to admit that we only made it as far as the local bar.  blush  In our defence, it was HOT and I had no real expectations of seeing anything interesting on Torcello, so the bar was very appealing indeed.  Paula took a little wander around on our behalf...

Final stop was Burano.  I was very excited to get to Burano and it didn't disappoint.  Such a beautiful place, with the coloured houses.  

We had a lovely stroll around, popping into the various shops.  And then it was back on the boat for the short trip back to Venice.

After freshening up we headed out to dinner.  We found a nice restaurant and had a good meal, sitting outside at tables in a little square.

We have SO enjoyed this visit to Venice.  The only other time we had been here was on a Trafalgar tour, when we were in Venice for a few hours and it was incredibly hot and crowded.  This experience was infinitely better.  To be in Venice in the evenings and early mornings, when the day-trippers aren't there, is just wonderful.  There is something so magical about Venice.  I just love it.

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