Venice, Italy. August 29th-31st
Cous and B are up to their necks in blog catch-ups so I (Lauren) have volunteered to tell you guys about our experience in Venice, in attempts to lighten their loads.
To begin with, this was a Cous and Rain exclusive adventure, Benny had prior engagements with a splendid little friend named Ilaria in Codroipo, which was a mere 60km away. Benny came and dropped us off at the local train station in Mestre (the city 5km outside of Venice) where our wonderful friends Manoj and Namrata Adhikari were waiting with open arms and trunk. We had originally met Namrata about a year and a half ago when she treated us like royalty, putting us up for 4 days in the Adhikari home in Pokhara, Nepal. The remainder of the family lived in their second home, found in Mestre, which we were lucky enough to enjoy during our stay in Venice. They treated us like family from the get go, supplying us with a huge bedroom, hot showers, laundry service, and treated us to 3 or 4 delicious Nepali/Italian infused meals.
Our hosts, the wonderful Adhikari's!
Namrata and Manoj (recently married charming young sweethearts) insisted on showing us the breathtaking sites of Venice themselves. We spent a sweltering afternoon admiring what Venice had to offer: St. Marco, the gondolas, the Grand Canal, Italian icecream ..etc.
Although the heat was really quite overwhelming, it might have been due to the 20 million tourists that are said to stampede in and out of Venice anually. After a few hours in Venice it was obvious why it is known as "The Jewel of Europe", but we couldn't help but feel that it had been ruined by the hoards of tour groups, thousands of tacky souvenir shops and of course the ridiculous prices (ex. 1hr parking in Venice=8€/hr. Internet=7€/hr.!!!). To be honest, that first day, we were relieved to finally be leaving the cramped alleys, and crowded streets.
Cous feeling the heat on his sweaty brow.
Day two was a completely different story. Marcus and I had decided to go into the city solo; this plan was largely based on the weather forecast which was calling for heavy showers that afternoon. We jumped at the chance and rode the 10 minute busride back into Venice. Once the thunderstorm began and the torrential downpours really started, the streets were evacuated of all their well-dressed tourists, next the ill-prepared backpackers ran for shelter, afraid of dampening their newly purchased souvenirs. Cous and I had the streets to ourselves. Finally. We strolled at a leisure pace through the storm, soaked to the bone, catching lears from every crowded awning, taking our shoes off in the end. This was my favourite time in Venice....until the next day!
Ren on a balcony
The Grand Canal
Okay, day three. Manoj and Namrata took us to Lido, one of the local beaches, and we watched Italians soaking up those sexy rays. After this, we headed back to Venice where Manoj had arranged a private boat ride for us through a friend of his. It was spectacular! We saw Venice from the water, snaking through small canals and kissing under bridges.
Ren on the boat
About 30 minutes into the ride Sanjay (Manoj's friend) pulled the boat up to a small dock infront of a beautiful, ancient building. Namrata, Manoj, Cous, Sanjay, and myself all got out and entered the building. Sanjay told us that a friend of his is the housekeeper of this place, and that he thought we might like to see the inside of a real Venitian Palace. We entered a tiny little steel elevator, only big enough for 4, that slowly squeeked its way up to the second storey. The gate was pulled open, we were greeted by Man, a Nepali local who takes care of the palace while the owners are away. We walked into the main livingroom ..... my jaw dropped, eyes widened .... I started to feel a little hot and overwhelmed. My first thought,"my parents would DIE if they were here!" I was flustered with the task of attempting to capture the detail and beauty of this 600 year old Venetian Palace, once home to an Italian Prince and Princess. To give you an idea here, we're talking 22 ft ceiling, original furniture, some of which were so rare that they actually had their own passports! I won't go into detail of this place, this is why I am posting all these pictures.
Ren being a debutant
This Sofa has its own passport!
After a mind blowing tour Man took us into his dinning quarters where he fed us fancy hordeourves and got us drunk off 2 1/2 bottles of pretty pricy champagne.
Man feeding us free food and drink at the Palace
After a good hour or so, and a few photo shoots, of course, it was time to go.
Cous had a special night planned for the two of us. Still high off that experience, and quite honestly, drunk as well, we managed to find a beautiful little romantic restaurant right on the water. Feeling like high class society, we sipped our wine, and slurpped our pasta, and took in the magical evening. After dinner we planned on taking a late night gondola ride (which I have been looking forward to for months), although when we emerged from the restaurant it was well past 11:00pm, and all the gondolas were fast asleep. It might have been due to the 4 glasses of champagne and bottle of wine at dinner, combined with the once-in-a-lifetime sneak peak into a Venetian Palace, but it really didn't seem to faze me much. I figured we just had our own FREE private boat and a backstage pass to the real Venice, and that beats the hell out of an overpriced gondola ride any day! (FYI that 80€ we saved on missing the gondola went to another boat ride, whitewater rafting in Bosnia a few days later....much more exciting!)
So all in all, Venice was easily the highlight of Italy (as expected), although it is all thanks to our friends and family that made it truly breathtaking: Namrata, Manoj, Saroj, Mumma, Papa, Sanjay, and Man, thank-you from the bottom of our hearts.