We were in Venice for so long – 6 days! – That it all sort of runs together. I won’t rehash everyday in articulate detail because then we’d both get bored of Venice. At any rate. We met Maura’s sister Meghan at the airport in Venice. In the city of canals it was kind of tricky to figure out transportation and quite a good deal of anxiety was shed over the navigation. A lost bag, a delayed plane, and a trek across the city later though, we made it to our hotel. We’d been going for less than a week and already I was excited to be grounded somewhere for a bit. Plus I have a thing for hotels.

Meghan had arrived equipped with what would come to be our dearest travel companion: Rick Steves. Having Rick Steves’s Guide to Venice still didn’t prevent us from getting lost, but he managed to direct us to a very delicious geletaria and provided endless hours of Venetian entertainment. Our first day was spent in the meeting point of Venice- St. Mark’s square and Basilica. Absolutely packed with tourists, but we held fast to our wallets and found it was worth the crowds. Too much explanation of St. Mark’s would probably bore you and not quite grant it the justice it deserves, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

 St. Mark’s Basilica

 Horses of St. Mark’s Square

Rick’s number one tip for Venetian travelers is to get the water taxi pass, so we did. We took basically all the water taxi rights we could manage. They go all over the city and out to some of the outlying islands too. This especially came in handy when we decided to go to Murano, the glass island of Venice. We did manage to make it to the second day before we had to go shopping, which I personally believe shows a great exertion of self control. We watched multiple glass-blowing demonstrations, went to the glass museum, and still managed to go into at least 75% of the glass boutiques, with extra time spent lingering the ones Rick Steves suggested, of course.

The ancient glass blowing island of Murano

Pretty houses- Burano!

Like I said before Venice is an un-chronological blur of glass, water taxis, Rick, and gelato, so I can’t remember what happened precisely the next day, but I do know that we made it out to two other islands- Burano, which is full of colorful houses painted in every color you can imagine and Torcello, which used to be inhabited by thousands of people, but has been reduced to about 20 residents. We also took a water taxi down the Grand Canal, which is the main canal that runs through the center of Venice. Rick Steves provided a written tour that Maura narrated for us and our fellow taxi travelers as we moseyed on down the canal. In addition to the water taxis of Venice, there are, of course, the gondoliers. The gondoliers, dashing and not so dashing men who can only break into gondoliering through family inheritance can be heard throughout the streets of Venice with the cry “Hey pretty ladies, Gondola, Gondola”. With an incentive like that, Maura, Meghan and I eventually caved and hired one for  a lovely, but brief (for funds were limited) ride.

Pretty lady and her gondolier- I was disappointed we got a vet and not one of the dreamy young casanovas

            Now Maura and Meghan were the primary keepers of the Rick Steves guides and the maps, on account of the fact that my directional skills occasionally are left somewhat to be desired, so I had to find alternative methods to explore Venice. I found a lovely children’s book in our hotel breakfast room and commandeered it temporarily. “The Thief Lord” is the story of a band of orphan children who find shelter together in the hidden corners of Venice. It was an excellent read, and I would just like to take a moment to recommend it to any of you, young or old, who plan to visit Venice in the future.

Monahan girls reading maps and consulting Rick Steves while I did unhelpful things like take this picture

            One of the many places I learned about from “The Thief Lord” was the Rialto Bridge- the oldest one of the four bridges that spans Venice’s Grand Canal. This bridge also has a hopping market, both culinary and for the more leisurely tourist shops. I managed to keep most shopping to a minimum, but did attempt to haggle one evening with a little Italian man in a glass shop. Apparently my haggling skills need to be refined along with my directional ones because his response was to laugh at me, grab me by the shoulders, kiss me on both cheeks and shout “Americana! Americana!” Despite this warm reception, I declined to purchase anything.

Rialto Bridge

Grand Canal boat tour

            On one of our last nights in Venice, we were wandering the streets for the hotel, and passed a giant church from which we could hear singing voices. We wandered inside this massive building where these children’s choirs from Australia were performing. It was absolutely mesmerizing and probably one of my favorite memories from Venice- Rick Steves was good, but there was nothing in his books about stumbling across cool things like this. I think I will even dare to say the choirs in that cathedral were cooler than gelato. Which is a lofty claim, I know, but really very true.

After 6 packed days in Venice, this volcano erupted. You may have heard about it- it sort of disrupted European air travel during the months of April and May, and may have seriously destroyed a British airline or two. It erupted the day before Meghan flew back to Maryland and she barely just barely made to and out of Madrid before all air traffic was suspended for at least a week. Maura and I were headed south to Rome, so the volcano luckily didn’t affect us…yet.