From Venice with Love

From Venice with Love

with 28 Comments

 

Oh no! Nooooo! I can’t believe I just said “Venice”! Noooo!!! Never had I wished so hard to be able to turn back time! Just one minute. Or maybe even 2 seconds would have been enough. Suddenly, tears rolled down my cheeks and I felt like jumping into a hole in the ground and bury myself alive.

 

Next to me, Kerstin couldn’t stop laughing. The more she laughed, the more I cried. We were both sitting in her car. Queuing. Waiting to pick up our order in a Mc Donald’s Drive-in. Next to our car, stood a gigantic blue bin… which stank of oily burgers and fries. There couldn’t possibly be a less romantic spot on Earth. And I could not possibly have found a worse place and a worse moment to reveal to my wife where I was going to “kidnap” her after Christmas Day. The location where we were going to spend the romantic Twixmas week that I had been planning in secret for months!

 

No, the stupid me could not have kept my mouth shut for once. No, I had to talk like a waterfall after a long stressful and tiring week at work… and then make that stupid mistake by saying something as meaningless as “yeah… I didn’t have time to get a Christmas present for that colleague, you know, but I thought I could just buy her something when we’re in Venice…”

 

Venice… Venice! Yes, Venice! One single innocent word. But the ONLY word I was not supposed to pronounce until Christmas Eve! Until the moment Kerstin opened my Christmas present.

 

 

Now thinking back, I know that it was funny. Ridiculously funny. That’s why Kerstin kept laughing so loud. And I know that I overreacted. But it was way beyond my control. And to be honest, I’m still angry with myself. And disappointed.

 

For years, I had planned many surprise trips for Kerstin. I loved the secrecy of the planning, and I had always managed to keep the secret alive, up till the very last moment. For Bergamo, she didn’t find out until we arrived at the airport. And when we road tripped through Burgundy from Tanlay to Vézelay, the destinations were revealed to her upon each stop on the road.

 

Planning surprise trips for my wife was somehow my hidden talent. And I was proud of it… until the moment I failed. Boom! Big time.

 

But perhaps one needs to fail at a particular incident every now and then. So that this specific situation can be followed by a series of perfect events. This is exactly what happened with our trip to Venice. For our whole trip was so perfect that sometimes I still wonder if Venice was not merely a dream…

 

Venice from the sky

 

 

It started with that aerial view from my window seat on a December 26. We were gazing at the majestic Alps, trying to figure out whether we were flying over France or Switzerland.

 

For a moment, our minds had wandered off to old travel memories and we had talked about Chamonix and Lake Annecy. But all of a sudden, the rugged mountain range was replaced by a cityscape. Not a mass of grey buildings and matchbox cars like in Paris. Nor an overwhelming grid city like Los Angeles. Unlike any place we have flown into, Venice from the sky seemed like a blurry dream.

 

A diffuse morning haze lingering above Venice drew us into the city. Water was stretching as far as the eye could see and it was hard to distinguish between the water- and the skyline. A lagoon was glistening in the early sunlight. Like a snake, Venice’s Grand Canal slithered through the city, dividing it into two. Among the maze of red rooftops, we spotted a few white domes, and the iconic Campanile di San Marco. But when our plane started to land, little did we know about these majestic Venetian buildings…

 

Venice from the Grand Canal

 

 

The first impression of a person, a book or a place matters a lot to me. Because no matter how much time passes, the first impression will stay with me forever. Most of the times, I cannot control the first perception. But when a possibility presents itself to make our entrance into a place memorable and worthwhile, I choose that option. Even if it means that we would have to pay a bit more.

 

When we walked out of Marco Polo airport, most people headed to the bus or train station. Traveling to the city center by road is the less expensive option. But we chose to take a water bus. For Venice is a water city. And the arrival scene of Angelina Jolie in The Tourist had convinced me that we should enter Venice on a boat.

 

Watching the waves crashing against our Alilaguna boat, as it moved forward towards Venice’s cityline, stirred up our enthusiasm. Like two little schoolgirls, we sat next to each other, holding tightly on our luggage, smiling at each other while looking out of the boat’s windows.

 

When we reached the Grand Canal, the boat slowly moved forward along majestic Venetian Renaissance and Baroque palaces. One next to another, the historic monuments blossomed in the morning sunlight. When I spotted the red façade of the 17th century Palazzo Fontana Rezzonico, my heart started to pound, while Kerstin couldn’t take her eyes off of the 15th century Ca’ d’Oro. By the time we reached the Rialto Bridge, I still couldn’t believe we were finally in Venice.

 

Venice from the Ego Boutique Hotel The Silk Road

 

 

Oh, you must be Mei and Kerstin! Welcome to our hotel! Never had we been greeted more warmheartedly than at the Ego Boutique Hotel The Silk Road.

 

I had booked a hotel about three months prior to our trip. But one week before we left Luxembourg, I stumbled on the Ego Boutique Hotel while looking for places in Venice related to Marco Polo and the Silk Road. The few photos of this hotel that I found made me dream… So, I contacted Ekaterina, the hotel owner, who explained to me that their hotel was brand new. It opened only a week before Venice was hit by one of the worst acqua alta in the 20th century. Due to the high waters, they had to close down the hotel for a while. So, we would be among their first customers, and she was happy to offer us a good deal.

 

I didn’t hesitate long to accept her kind offer and canceled the hotel I had booked before.

 

When Ekaterina personally led us into the Imperial Suite, all the decor and furniture down the smallest detail left us speechless. That night, we stayed for hours in our private jacuzzi, relishing the Venetian dream we had been living from the moment we spotted the city from the plane.

 

And that dream continued the next morning, as we savored the view of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge right from our king size bed.

 

Venice from the Basilica di San Marco

 

 

Three hours later and a tasty gourmet breakfast in our stomach, we finally managed to leave our hotel. Venice was void of crowds. Stores were opened, restaurants were being delivered their daily fresh ingredients, and here and there we came across a few tourists strolling around with their smartphones.

 

When a narrow street led us to the Piazza San Marco, we stood aghast in front of the iconic plaza. No tourists. Hmm. Where is everyone? Acqua alta had clearly scared away many people.

 

Both the Campanile and the Basilica di San Marco drew us towards them. We couldn’t find a line to queue, since there was no line. As we entered into the Basilica, I told Kerstin that no one would ever believe us when we’d tell them how empty Venice was…

 

Known by the nickname Chiesa d’Oro (Church of gold), the Basilica di San Marco in Venice dates back to the 11th century. The floor, pillars and lower parts of the interior walls are entirely in polychrome marble, whereas the upper levels and ceilings are covered with dazzling gold ground mosaic (about 8000 square meters!).

 

With a distinctly Byzantine design and a Venetian style of the Renaissance art, the Basilica kept us inside longer than we had expected. We were mesmerized by its opulence and couldn’t stop looking up at all the details. And once again, we were caught in another Venetian dream…

 

Venice from the Doge’s Palace

 

 

We didn’t see the Palazzo Ducale (or Doge’s Palace) immediately when we walked across the famous Piazza San Marco. Perhaps, we were too focused on the Campanile and the Basilica next door. But once we laid our eyes on the Doge’s Palace, we couldn’t take them off of its facade built in Venetian Gothic style.

 

Founded in 1340, the Doge’s Palace served as the residence of the Doge of Venice (the chief magistrate and leader of the former Republic of Venice). But it was also the seat of the government until 1797 when the City fell at the hands of Napoleon. In 1923, the palace was transformed into a museum.

 

The weekend tourists arrived in bunches, when we were ready to enter the Doge’s Palace on the third day of our trip. Thanks to the 3-in-1 museum ticket that we bought the day before, we accessed the museum without queuing.

 

From the palace’s apartments to the institutional chambers, the whole building is profusely decorated. We spent almost half a day inside the Doge’s Palace to examine all the architectural details. And let the historical paintings on the walls and ceilings guide us through Venice’s past and make us dream away…

 

Venice from the Bridge of Sighs

 

 

There are more than 400 foot bridges in Venice. The Ponte dei Sospiri, or Bridge of Sighs, is one of the top tourist spots in Venice. From the outside, this enclosed arched bridge that passes over the Rio di Palazzo doesn’t really look interesting. But what’s interesting is the reason it is called the Bridge of Sighs, as well as the view of Venice from the inside…

 

Built in 1614 to link the city’s (new) prison to the interrogation rooms in Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs was the last corridor that the convicts passed through before imprisonment. Legend has it that prisoners sighed while crossing this bridge as it was their last chance to look at freedom through the bridge’s small windows.

 

When we stood inside this enclosed bridge, peeking out at the crowds standing on the Ponte della Paglia who were looking back at us, we imagined what the convicts must have felt back then…

 

The Venice of Marco Polo

 

 

About a year before our trip to Venice, we started to read the Travel memoirs of Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant and explorer who traveled from Venice to Xian along the Silk Road between 1271 and 1295. That’s when we decided to follow Polo’s footsteps and to explore the Ancient Silk Road in China in the summer of 2019. Spending our Twixmas trip in Venice, where Polo was born and grew up, was therefore the perfect way to end our year.

 

However, to our surprise, it wasn’t easy to find any historical place related to Marco Polo in Venice! After spending a whole morning strolling around every little corner of the city, through narrow streets and along quiet canals, all we could find was Marco Polo’s house.

 

The house cannot be visited, and the only noticeable element is a small and discreet plaque on its facade, on which it is written that Marco Polo lived here. Standing two meters below that plaque, we both scrutinized it for a minute. Behind us, a gondola made its way under the Calle Scaleta. All of a sudden, the gondolier’s singing voice disrupted the utter silence and propelled us back into the 13th century. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I caught a glimpse of Marco Polo behind the window… or was I just dreaming?

 

Venice at sunset

 

 

Some say that sunsets are always the same, wherever you go. I like to think that whoever says this has never really experienced a sunset with his or her full senses. For us, sunsets are linked to memories. And to feelings of specific moments, as the ones you remember because you held hands, or kissed.

 

From Malta to San Francisco, from Santorini to Halong Bay, each of the sunsets we laid eyes on and felt have burnt their last violet sunray in our heart. But when the Venetian sky started to blush and slowly turned into crimson, we had to hold our breath. And make space in our heart for this specific sunset.

 

Standing at the bay, we looked out into the open lagoon. The tower of Palladio’s church in the distance invited us over to the island. But we felt good where we were, in front of the ebony gondolas, lined up between wooden poles and gurgling wavelets.

 

 

“In the end, there’s always this city. As long as it exists, I don’t believe that I, or for that matter, anyone, can be mesmerized or blinded by romantic tragedy.” – Joseph Brodsky

Pin these for later

From Venice with Love © Travelwithmk.com

From Venice with Love © Travelwithmk.com

From Venice with Love © Travelwithmk.com

 

Follow Mei:

Traveler - Storyteller

Mei is a 30-something Archaeologist, born and raised in Luxembourg. Besides traveling, she loves eating sushi and stinky cheese (although not at the same time), as well as listening to Kerstin's funny stories while driving on long road trips. She's afraid of heights, but adores panoramic views. Her favorite places are those she chose to live in: Paris, Greece, San Francisco.

Latest posts from

28 Responses

  1. Umiko
    | Reply

    It is hard to believe that there were no tourists in Venice when you visited. I call it lucky. Your choice to enter the city in a gondola were awesome! Sunset views were spectacular. I hope to visit the city one day.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      In fact, we didn’t enter Venice in a gondola (gondolas don’t travel all the way to the aioort). It was a water taxi, but the views were equally beautiful.

  2. Emma Riggs
    | Reply

    What a romantic gesture for a Christmas gift. I had a pretty good chuckle about you spilling the beans way too early and in a Maccas drive-thru of all places! Venice looks just divine, you’ve given me lots of ideas for a bucket list.

    • Mei
      | Reply

      Yes, Venice is truly divine! I hope you’ll get to visit it someday! 🙂

  3. Your post brought back so many memories. I certainly remember my first view of Venice from the water. I can imagine how magical it would be to see the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge from your hotel room. How wonderful to have the city to yourself for a few days. You certainly did catch an amazing sunset view. A great surprise trip for sure.

    • Mei
      | Reply

      I’m glad my story brought back great memories of Venice to you, Linda! 😉 And yes, the views of the Grand Canal from our room was quite unique!

  4. Samantha Karen
    | Reply

    So so beautiful! I love Venice, and even though I’ve been there twice I still would like to go back! Such a magical city that everyone needs to visit.

  5. josypheen
    | Reply

    I LOVE that your superpower is creating amazing surprise trips for Kerstin! She must love you for that (and everything else!) This does not sound like a fail, no matter how much you meant to keep it secret. You two are so flipping sweet and you both deserve dream-like holidays like this. <3

  6. subhadeepmytravelframes
    | Reply

    I had never been to Venice but I read a lot about it. You portrayed Venice so beautifully with your style of storytelling and photographs that I could not resist myself from reading the whole story in one go.Thanks for sharing.

    • Mei
      | Reply

      Thank you! I’m really glad that you like my storytelling! 🙂

  7. Smita
    | Reply

    awww, it’s so wonderful that you plan so many surprise trips for Kerstin, Mei! And kudos on keeping them all a secret – well, so far at least! I’m the worst at surprises. I just get so giddy with anticipation of revealing a surprise (even months before the actual event!) that it’s plain to read on my face, haha.

    Loved your descriptions of Venice. You got really lucky having so many beautiful places mostly to yourselves!

    • Mei
      | Reply

      Thank you, Smita! 🙂

  8. The Top Ten Traveler
    | Reply

    Such a great experience, in such a great city. Venice is so unique, rich and special. I was there so many years ago, and really want to visit again, this time as a couple, and enjoy all the romantic scenery of this city.

    • Mei
      | Reply

      Oh I’m sure you will LOVE Venice when you visit it again as a couple!

  9. Sandy N Vyjay
    | Reply

    The charm of Venice is unique. We spent a couple of days there some years back, but could not have enought of it, hope to get back to enjoy more of this beautiful city.

    • Mei
      | Reply

      Yes, Venice is such a unique city!

  10. Kez
    | Reply

    Sounds like you had an amazing experience Venice.

    What I’m wondering is how did you once get Kirsten to an airport without knowing that you were going on a trip?

    • Mei
      | Reply

      She knew that we were going on a trip, but not the destination. 🙂

  11. Juliet Dreamhunter
    | Reply

    How cool that you were able to keep the secret until you arrived at the airport that one time! I can’t imaging planning a trip without my husband knowing as we both work at home and it would be really hard to keep something like this from him… But what an awesome idea anyway! How did she know what to pack for Venice without knowing the destination? If you tell the weather, she could guess easier 🙂

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      We are both minimalist when it comes to clothes AND travel packing. Which means that we usually wear the same clothes no matter where we go. Haha..

  12. Two’s company
    | Reply

    What a lovely gesture to plan a surprise trip, i’m sorry that it was revealed a little sooner than intended. Shauns mum once accidentally revealed a surprise birthday trip he had planned me and I remember him being soo upset about it! However, it didn’t spoil our time there and it seems as though your time in Venice was just as amazing!

    I have always wanted to go! I’ve heard from a few different people to avoid going in the summer as the heat can make the water a bit smelly and it is super busy. Would you recommend going in the winter?

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh having someone else reveal a secret you’ve planned is actually worse! I prefer to be angry with myself than with someone else. Haha! And yes, I definitely recommend you to visit Venice in winter. When it gets too hot, the canals’s water might be smelly.

  13. Jamie
    | Reply

    Venice is one of those magical cities that meets all the over the top expectations I had for it. Loved reliving my time there through your post and beautiful photos!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Glad you got to relive your memories of Venice through our post, Jamie! When was the last time you visited Venice?

  14. I love Venice! I have been there in summer and over New Year’s and it is fabulous no matter when you go there. We bought 2 tiny but colorful carnival masks and they hang in our house for more than 10 years now. A great reminder of this wonderful city.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      We haven’t visited in summer yet, but one my colleagues was there last week and she said it was very beautiful. Of course not crowded at all because of covid…

Share your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.