I wasn't really prepared for Venice. I had some pre-conceived notions about the bridges and waterways, but it was very different from what I'd pictured. It's hard, I think, for an American to really grasp the age of these buildings and streets. In fact, the streets are little more than cobbled alleys, and most of them could hardly be called streets here. Ben chose a hotel for us really close to the Piazza San Marco, which is pictured above, the heart of the city in many ways. A city of this size, over 270,000 people, with no cars is also inconceivable to us, even when we're expecting it. You walk for a couple of hours, and then realize that you have to get back the same way. We do spoil ourselves, driving everywhere.
So I'll start with a little advice. If you're beyond your prime (as it's rumored that John and I are) and not in the best shape of your life, and you want to see as much as possible, don't go with a senior citizen group. Go with someone young and healthy who loves you and wants you to have fun and really see the sights. Someone who cares enough to be patient when your body starts to hurt and you lag behind, or when you get so excited about what you're seeing that you simply stop and stare and they're blocks ahead, but still remember to stop and look behind for you, and then wait for you to catch up. You'll end up exhausted, but very happy. John and I certainly did.
It was almost like being children in a sense. Ben made all the plans and arrangements. We didn't have many decisions to make. We were certainly given choices, and we made those as necessary, but otherwise we just had to follow Ben and Ruth, who carried the girls in packs where they could talk to them. The girls were up high where they could see what was going on and ask questions about what they were seeing, or relate what they wanted. It was a different story from the multitude of children I saw plugged in to "rubber mothers," what I've always called pacifiers. They were being pushed around in strollers, totally separate from the parents who pretty much ignored the crying much of the time—at least it seemed that way to me. Our granddaughters did seem to be the happiest kids around.
One of the things I most wanted to do in Venice, and didn't expect to accomplish, was getting to Murano Island, since it's quite a distance. The private water taxis are very expensive, and I knew that it would take a big chunk of our time and money for all of us to go that distance on the public boat. The lines are outrageous. The first morning in Venice we were stopped by a gentleman who spoke beautiful English. He explained that he worked for the city department on the Island of Murano and they were sending people there that morning in private water taxis if we'd be interested in having a tour of the Glass Masters' Factory. (Dreams come true.) He promised they'd return us the same way. We all said yes, and he walked us to the dock, paid for the taxi and off we went. It was just the six of us in the most beautiful little cabin cruiser. I'd love to get John a boat like that. Wow.
I bought a few gifts, and Ben bought Ruth a stunning bracelet for Mother's Day and managed to keep it a secret from her with my help. The whole experience was amazing. In fact, when we got out of the taxi, there were huge lines from the public ferries waiting to go in. A gentleman met us at the water taxi, took us in by a private door, and gave us a private tour. He took us through everything. We were even able to ask questions and take photos. On our way out we saw the room where we'd had our private tour crowded with about 50 people, all jammed together watching the masters work. It was different from the treatment we had received. I'm just not sure why. Then the tour guide took us to the dock, paid the taxi driver to return us to Venice, and off we went. All together, I guess we were gone about three or four hours.
We climbed steps, toured cathedrals and bell towers, looked down over the city and just enjoyed each other for two days. We even had a wonderful gondola ride through the side canals. I had no idea they were so easy to tip over. (No, we didn't quite manage that, but I sure thought we were going to!) We ate pizza and pasta until it was coming out of our ears, and the last night we hiked half way across Venice to find the only MacDonalds in Venice. Ben was "pizza'd out." Then we packed up on May 1st and went to the cruise ship for the next stage of our adventure. In fact, just getting to the ship was an experience. I found out how far Ben can throw a duffel bag.
The best part of being on this trip was doing it with people we loved. Being with Ben and Ruth, Ashley and Kate was amazing. I see the kind of parents they are, and I feel so fortunate that our grandchildren are getting the love and attention they do. They're smart kids, and good kids, but like all children—well, if you let them, they could take over the world. Their corner of it, anyway. Any child can turn into a tyrant if you let them. Ben & Ruth are so united in love that the kids can't play them against each other. I could go on, and someday I might do a blog on what I saw that impressed me so much.
I asked Ruth one day, which seemed especially long, if she ever felt like screaming. She's so patient. There's no question of her saying, "Because I said so" just to end a discussion with a 3-year old. She looked at me and said, "Sure." But she doesn't. She's probably the most gracious woman of any age I've ever met. (Good job, Ben.)
So I'll close Venice by saying thank you to both of them for being so welcoming to us, and so patient with our less agile bodies (especially mine). We know you could have covered more ground without us. Here's my slide show, if the photos weren't enough for you...