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Trip Report Statia's Florence & Venice, Italy Trip Report

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STATIA'S FLORENCE & VENICE, ITALY TRIP REPORT

Travelers:
Statia and husband

Ages & Health:
34 & 43, respectively. Overall healthy.

Dates of Travel:
July 2 - 14, 2003

Itinerary:
4-1/2 days Florence
4-1/2 days Venice
1 day Paris

Main Modes of Transportation:
Air France (coach class)
Eurostar
Cabs
Buses
Vaporetto
Water Taxi

Accomodations:
Apartment Rentals in Florence & Venice
Hotel in Paris

Dining Style:
Medium price range, with the occassional splurge

Clothing Packed:
For her: Knee length skirts, sleeveless summer sweaters & blouses, along with stylish Clark's sandals.
For him: Zip off cargo pants, button up shirts, and white (gasp!) tennis shoes (believe it or not, we didn't stand out in the crowds).

Trip Purpose:
Husband's birthday in Florence.
Renewing our vows on a gondola for our ten year wedding anniversary in Venice.

Overall Perception:
We enjoyed Florence for the art & history. His favorite.
We enjoyed just wandering and exploring more in Venice. Her favorite.
Paris was simply a place to relax before heading home, since we'd been there before.
We thoroughly enjoyed each city for it's own reasons.

Now, if you want more detailed info, feel free to read on. Since I'm sure this report might get to be a bit long, you could always do as I do when reading trip reports. I like to print them out to peruse with a nice glass of vino or a gelato, at my leisure.

To begin with, I have received such a wealth of information from the people on this board, so I want to give back by contributing my own trip report with the most detailed information that I can. I am a very detail oriented person, so forgive me if I delve a bit too deep than most people care to hear, that's just my writing style, and I will aplogize beforehand. This is my first time posting such travel details on a public forum (I usually only do reports for friends and family), so I hope to be of some assistance to someone out there.......just as you all have been to me. I tried to include detailed info in my heading, as well as include headings and caps in my report, so that specific info could be found easily herein, rather than having to read the whole report. So, here goes..........

JULY 2 - 3 HOME (ST. EUSTATIUS / SABA / ST. MAARTEN) to PARIS CDG / PISA / FLORENCE for ARRIVAL

My husband and I left our little island home of St. Eustatius at 10:45 a.m. and had a rather uneventful and enjoyable trip all the way to Paris. AIR FRANCE has even made some additions to their coach service since our last European adventure in 1999. We typically fly American Airlines (due to their monopoly on our hub), so in all honesty, Air France is quite a step up for us. Each seat had it's own seat-back televsion screen for movies, television shows, documentaries, geographical info, and music. Also included were eye mask, headphones, blanket & pillow (for which I'd had my own pillow cases made and felt more sterile and comfy). The service was good and the meals were great in comparison to what we are used to on AA. Wine, good entree, cheeses, after dinner drink etc. We were overall pleased with the service and provisions on Air France for our 8.5 hour flight over "the pond." It was also nice that AF placed carts with self service drinks near the emergency exits, for those who try to wander about and walk around a bit during the flight.

I have to make a special mention here to all the Fodorites who wished us well in a thread before we left. As intended, I printed the thread and showed it to my husband shortly after takeoff from St. Maarten. He was thrilled to say the least. Thanks to you all!

We only slept an hour or two due to excitement about our arrival (which we expected) and finally landed at PARIS CDG at 6:15 a.m. LT the next day. No problems with customs or immigration (although we now hold an EU passport, so that might have simplified things). We arrived at terminal 2D and had to take a shuttle bus to 2F for our connection. Everything was well marked and we honestly had no problems getting from one terminal/gate to the other. The weather was chilly at 50+ degrees F., which was unexpected for July. I was glad I had brought my sweater. We had a pleasant time while hanging out at CDG for nearly four hours, and it was nice to be around some of the French culture again (although we knew we'd love the Italian culture just as much).

When we finally boarded our flight from Paris to Florence, we were seated with a very nice American lady about our ages, and got to know each other quite a bit on the flight (she was traveling alone). I was surprised that our flight from SXM to CDG had mostly French passengers, yet our flight from CDG to Florence consisted of mainly American passengers. As we were approaching Florence, the pilot announced a "little problem" Uh-oh........the trip had been so good up to now, what could be the problem? Apparently, there was too much wind to land in Florence, so we were to be diverted to Pisa. Luckily we're easy people, so we didn't mind. I'd actually wanted to include Pisa in our trip to begin with, but figured we didn't have time. So, as Martha would say, "this was a good thing," although it would get us into Florence later than planned.

Upon arrival in PISA, we all collected our luggage and had the option of getting to Florence on our own, or taking the Air France chartered bus that would arrive within two hours. All of the passengers swapped ideas of the train, sharing cabs, etc. Our new friend, Leslie, and we kept debating the same issues, and even thought of trying to high tail it by cab to the Leaning Tower while we were there. However, we opted to wait around for the chartered bus, and were glad we did in the long run, since it arrived much sooner than expected. So, our stay in Pisa was brief, but another little adventure in our trip, nonetheless.

I have to add here that our only concern with being delayed into Florence, was that we had someone awaiting our arrival at the apartment that we'd rented. So, I felt compelled to attempt to telephone her to notify of our late arrival. I bought a phone card at a tobacco shop in the airport and could NOT figure out how to use it. I finally let my husband have a go at it, but he couldn't figure it out either. My husband then summoned an employee in the tobacco shop to assist, and he was very helpful. Turns out that it wasn't us.......it was the phone. Eventually, however, we found a working phone and reached our landlord, who said she'd be happy to wait for our delayed arrival, and if it got too late, she'd leave the key with the restaurant downstairs. We were already having a wonderful impression of the Italian people!

After boarding the bus, for which Leslie had saved us seats next to hers, we all enjoyed a most pleasant, and comfortable ride from Pisa to Florence. We really wanted an opportunity to see the Tuscan countryside, but didn't think we could fit it in our short stay in Florence. So, this worked out rather well. We were all three very tired from such a long day and a half, but tried to diligently stay awake to enjoy the view. Some of us were successful, some not. I , myself, happened to be the successor, although it was tough at times.

I want to add a nice tip here that I recieved from you Fodorite's. I brought along some key chains and post cards from the island where we live, figuring they would be nice little tokens to give new friends in Italy. I gave one of each to Leslie, and she seemed to really appreciate it. It's a nice way for people to remember you, and the post cards are great for jotting your email addresss on the back.

Once we arrived FLORENCE AIRPORT, we hugged Leslie goodbye, and all headed our own directions. Little did we know that Leslie would eventually end up needing a cab to Santa Maria Novella Stazione, as she was headed to Rome. So, after going our separate ways, we still all ended up in a cab together since our rented apartment was not far from the train station. (We'll be keeping in touch with Leslie......ha). It was really quite humorous how we couldn't seem to get rid of one another......not that we minded at all.

After dropping her off, the cab driver (who was young, very nice, and gave us the "fair fare" of 15 euro) proceeded to take us to Piazza San Giovanni (where the Duomo is located), and from there it was a short walk to our apartment on Borgo San Lorenzo. We walked about half a block and we were "home." I was so glad that I had studied my maps so thoroughly before we left home. I was honestly shocked in Florence at how much closer everything was than it seemed on my National Geographic laminated map that I'd studied so much for six months beforehand.

Our apartment in Florence worked out great for us, and the location and price were perfect. We'd rent there again and will be glad to elaborate if anyone is interested. The only downfall was the six flights of stairs several times a day, but we didn't mind since it kept us in shape for all the walking we were to do, and it put us high up enough that we had no street noise. After we got settled in, we picked up groceries nearby and went out to explore. We didn't have anything on our itinerary for this day since we knew we'd just use our time getting acquainted with the area. It didn't get dark until nearly 10 p.m. (which was strange for us coming from an island where dusk is at 6 p.m. year round). So, we had plenty of time to soak up the local atmosphere. We found a little net NET CAFE at the end of VIA DE CONTI and VIA F. ZANNETTI, one block past Borgo San Lorenzo, and let our families know we had arrived safely. The price for 15 minutes was 3 euro; one hour was 10 euro. As it turned out, I did a small trip report to the family daily, although emailing on vacation is not usually my "thing." However, they enjoyed hearing our highlights, and we enjoyed hearing from them, as well.

After stopping off at a few small places and enjoying some antipasta, we ended our afternoon/evening of exploring at a little wine bar near our apartment, which we came to frequent nearly every evening. It was OSTERIA DELL AGNOLO, BORGO SAN LORENZO 24R, TELEPHONE 055.211326, FIRENZE, ITALIA (www.osteria-agnolo.it). We found that Valentine (sounds like val-en-teen), was superb at serving just the right olives with the right wines. Our personal favorite was Clemente VII with his superb black olives. Just the right flavor combination.

Needless to say, after being up for nearly 36 hours straight, we slept very well that evening.


JULY 4 - FLORENCE

We both awoke just after dawn to the sight of the dome of San Lorenzo staring us in the face through our window. What a sight to behold! We opened the window and thoroughly enjoyed watching the swallows swooping down over the dome, as well as across our window. It was so pleasant, but we knew we needed more rest, so we eventually closed the shutters and went back to our snooze. Our vow renewal consultant called from Venice about 9:45 a.m. and we were glad to hear her voice (finally, after six months of emails), and we were also glad that she called to wake us from our slumber. We are not late sleepers, but I think we had really needed it at that point.

We had a leisurly morning at the apartment (even though we felt a little guilty about it, but after all this was vacation, right?) We ate breakfast while watching the international news, and then headed out for the day about 11 a.m. First stop was the train station (just a ten minute walk away) to buy our Eurostar tickets to Venice. It took awhile, but we finally found the EUROSTAR CLUB, on recommendation from a Fodorite. It was located down track 16, for those of you who may venture there. Purchasing train tickets to Venice was very easy there. We figured we'd splurge the extra 20 euro for first class, after what all we'd spent on this very special trip. PRICE FOR FIRST CLASS EUROSTAR TRAIN FROM FLORENCE TO VENICE WAS 78 EURO PER PERSON.

We then headed to the DUOMO (free) after buying a scarf to cover my shoulders from a street vendor. We were concerned about my husband's shorts (even though they were longer), but that wasn't a problem. I think that the covering of shoulders and thighs was the main point in most Italian churches. It's really all a matter of "respect" which I totally agreed with. I saw many women, in many churches in Italy, with less "covering" than I had, but I still felt the need to use my scarf out of respect, overall. We had no line getting into the Duomo in the middle of the day.

I can agree with some people's standpoint that the interior of the Duomo is not as awesome as the exterior. I conclude that this is due to the large, empty space in the absence of rows and rows of pews, that one is used to in such a church. The absence just gives it a different feel than say, St. Patricks Cathedral in New York or Westminister Abbey in London. However, the exterior and the interior of the Duomo were both quite awesome, we just preferred the exterior in so far as it being more ornate. It's really quite unbelievable when you see it in person, versus photos. The artwork on the inside of the dome itself was beautiful. Especially when climbing to the top, which I'll get to later in my report.

We then proceeded to the BAPTISTERY (3.00 euro per person) directly in front of the Doumo, for which there was also no line for entry in the middle of the day. The Baptistery was also very beautiful. So much ornate gold and Byzantine mosaics. We read our Rick Steve's Guidebook to get some background on a lot of the artwork in the Baptistery, and it was rather interesting. The bronze doors were also quite intriguing in their detail.

We then attempted to find Dante's house, which we seemed to keep passing up for some reason (despite all my map studying beforehand). We finally realized why. It was under construction/restoration and not open to the public. So, we settled for DANTE'S CHURCH, which was eerily serene. After visiting the colossal Duomo, which we much admired numerous times on the trip, Dante's chapel was so small and simple. There was some nice instrumental music playing inside, and when admiring the artwork within, it was almost as if you could feel Dante, himself, there. A very unusual experience.

We finally stopped for a few pizza slices and a cool beer at a little cafe on via Orsanmichele (opposite Orsanmichele church). I'm not usually a beer drinker, but it sure tasted good on a warm day after much walking. We had attempted to visit Orsanmichele Church, as well, but it was closed. I suppose it was due to understaffing, as our Rick Steve's Guide had suggested. However, we enjoyed great service, wonderful pizza, and a nice duo band while having lunch. We were also surprised that it was not really all that hot in the middle of the day, nor was it during the rest of our trip. Although we live in the tropics and are used to the heat, we seemed to always find a shady side to walk on various streets, as well as in the piazzas.

We finally made our way through PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA where we really enjoyed admiring Neptune's Fountain and the sculptures of Loggia Dei Lanzi. Then, we went on past the Uffizi Museum, ending at the River Arno. The river had a lovely view in both directions, and the PONTE VECCHIO is even more attractive in real life, than in photos. After spending some time admiring the view, we headed off in search of MERCATO NUOVO.

We weren't having much luck in finding it, so we finally stopped to ask directions from a shopkeeper who was sitting outside her store. We attempted our best Italian in our request, and obviously it wasn't that good because she answered us in perfect New York English, "What do you want?" Needless to say, after her directions of turn here, and turn there, then turn here, and turn there, we finally found Mercato Nuovo. Also known as "The Straw Market," there were numerous vendors there selling everything from various souvenirs to beautiful leather bags and tapestries. We didn't buy anything, but were glad we made it there in order to pet "Porcellino," the brass snout pig. Legend has it that if you pet his snout, you will return to Florence. It certianly seemed easier than having to find a blue bead in order to return to the island where we live.

By this time it was well into the afternoon, so we dropped off our film from the day, and stopped for a glass of wine at OSTERIA NUTI, near our apartment. We seemed to end up stopping there at about the same time daily and our waiter, Leondardo, was very nice and quite good to us. Osteria Nuti is really just a touristic restaurant, but we enjoyed having cichetti and a glass of wine close to home in the late afternoon, before getting ready for our evening. We found that on most days during our stay in Italy, we started out farily early and ended our touring for the day at around 4 p.m., in order to just sit in a cafe or two and soak up the local atmosphere. It also meant that we only got to the "must sees" on our list, and very few of the "if we have time to sees," but we felt that it made for a more relaxing vacation, rather than going non-stop from dawn until dusk.

I also want to mention the PHOTO DEVELOPER we used daily. We were very satisfied with their service and their price was about 8 euro per roll of 24. It cost us a bit more to develop our film as we went along throughout Italy, but since we have no film developing location where we live, we didn't want to wait until we go to the States this fall to develop them. Also, we didn't want to risk ruining the film in x-ray machines, and we would have the opportunity to re-take any photos that didn't turn out well. The location we used for developing was MUSIC CENTER, PIAZZA DUOMO, 15A, FIRENEZE, ITALIA, TELPHONE: 055-211-538. They are located on the right hand side of the Duomo. The owner got so used to seeing us that he began to put our name on our film envelopes as soon as we walked in the door. It was rather humorous, and he said he hated to see us leave on our last day in Florence. My husband told him, "I'll bet!" ha. You could say we spent a "pretty penny" there, but the photographic memories are more than worth it.

Early that evening, we strolled Borgo San Lorenzo to shop for some souvenirs. I was rather surprised at the great service we got when we bought some framed prints from one vendor. He hustled to wrap everything so nicely for our travels and even threw in a free Tuscany calendar. There was a good array of all types of souvenirs to buy on Borgo San Lorenzo, about one block north of the Duomo, near San Lorenzo Church. I even found a lot of nice, hand painted, ceramic Florentine kitchen items for many friends and family. You also notice in Florence that the aroma of leather is virtually everywhere. I understand that some great prices can be had on leather items, but we didn't really bother to look due to the tropical climate where we live.

We then set out to find LA GIROSTA, on recommendation from a Fodorite, to make reservations for my husband's birthday dinner. It took awhile to find because it was a hole in the wall with no visible outdoor sign, but the inside was very elegant and cozy.

We ended our evening by cooking dinner in and stopping back at Osteria Dell Agnolo for a night cap, as we had the previous night. It was very convenient since it was almost directly across the street from our apartment. We now trusted Valentine to give us a wine similar to the one we'd had the previous night. He opted for Nero D'Avola, which was also very good. We also decided to start a "wine wish list" since we have a friend who owns a wine store where we live. It was nice to try various wines while we were in Italy and add the ones we really enjoyed to our list, for future reference.

In our last evening stroll, we encountered a college aged girl, from the US, sketching the Duomo while sitting on the street corner at the end of our block. Her work was so awesome that we just stood there watching her for awhile. Turns out she's an art student in New York City who hails from Ohio and she'd even been to the tiny island where we live. What a small world! My husband tried to talk her into letting us buy one of her sketches, but she wasn't going to sell any since she wanted to bring them back to school. Understandable. Nevertheless, she was very talented and sat there for hours that evening just sketching away.

We had been invited to a Fourth of July college party at a place called The Fish Pub that evening, but we decided we'd forego the party and get to bed at a decent hour. Not that 11:30 p.m. is a decent hour for us, but it's decent when darkness doesn't come until nearly 10 p.m. Plus, we had lots more to accomplish the next day! Turns out that it rained most of that night, so we were glad we'd stayed in. We were very fortunate we had such wonderful weather the whole time we were there.

To be continued......

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks for the replies.

    Jean & DLN: Thanks for the encouragement, glad someone is enjoying it.

    Ira: You're kidding! Most people don't know this place exists. I'll bet I know some folks included in those pleasant memories, being that this is such a small place. Glad you enjoyed your time here.

    I'll add more very soon. Working on it.

  • Report Abuse

    JULY 5 - FLORENCE

    I'd like to begin with a quick tip for other travelers, which worked really well for us. We felt very safe walking around Italy since we never carried anything we couldn't afford to lose each day. We kept our credit cards and ATM card at the apartment (unless we thought we'd need the credit card), and only withdrew the cash we would need for the day, depositing the ATM card back home before we went out. Therefore, we only had our maps, guidebooks, water, etc. in my purse, and some cash in my husbands front pocket. We felt much safer that way and if we were pick pocketed or my purse got snatched, we hadn't really lost anything too terribly important. I also kept a copy of our itinerary for the day with me, and left the orginal at the apartment. I've lost travel info on a trip before and it can sometimes be a pain to "wing it" after you've done so much research. We also left our passports home, and only took a copy of each with us during the day. We also had all necessary emergency numbers for our accounts at the apartment and hid all of the above items in a safe place. We just had a lot more peace of mind when we got into crowds during the day knowing that we didn't have many important items on us that could be stolen. We also used our money belts diligenty when traveling from city to city. However, I will add that we never once felt threatened in any way during our stay in Italy, or Paris.

    We awoke about 6 a.m. day and got some laundry done. Having a washing machine was a big plus in being able to do laundry, thus being able to pack very light. We each traveled with a 22" rolling suitcase, and one duffle bag, with another duffle bag in the suitcase for souvenirs bought along the way. The mornings were nice and cool, almost chilly, in Florence. So we loved having all the windows open to enjoy the cool breeze. After a light breakfast in, we headed out for our reservations at the ACCADEMIA at 8:30 a.m. It was very easy to find and we got there just in time to be whizzed in ahead of the accumulating line of about 100 people. It was nice to have some quiet time with "David" before everyone else came barging in. We felt that the small additional reservation fee was worth that alone. The total cost for entry was 9 euro each.

    "David," of course, was awesome. It really makes a huge difference seeing him in real life, rather than in photos. But, then again, isn't everything that way? My husband agreed with Fodorite Tom, of "TNT," that it was a bit "like looking in a mirror." ha! Just kidding, but he did actually say that. It was quite unreal to think that Michelangelo carved that work of art out of just one piece of marbel. We also really enjoyed "Prisoners." It was amazing to read our guidebook descriptions and see how the sculptures actually did look like they were trying to escape from the marble. We used our Rick Steve's Guidebook for most of the works in the Accademia and felt that it gave us a more detailed approach to the things we were seeing. We noticed that in most museums on our trip, we saw some things that we might have overlooked without reading the guidebook as we went along.

    After the Accademia, we headed home to hang the laundry, and then went to the DUOMO MUSEUM (6 euro per person). As Rick Steve's had suggested, this is a very interesting and quiet museum to take in. It's a nice step out of the hustle and bustle of the other museums since it seems so many people overlook it. It's located directly behind the Duomo and contains many of the original pieces of work (scupltures, choir lofts, etc.) from the church and Baptistery. We used our Rick Steve's Guidebook there, as well. The original panels of the Bronze Doors of the Baptistery were really interesting in reading the narratives of the Biblical stories. They were so detailed! We also enjoyed seeing the historical aspect of the building of the Duomo, as well as the panels of the Campanile. Each panel depicts the march to civilization through various industries of the time period. And, last but not least, Michelangelo's last Pieta is housed here. It's especially beautiful since he sculpted himself in it.

    We then stopped for a panini before heading on to the PONTE VECCHIO, across the Arno, and on to Pitti Palace. The Ponte Vecchio is chock full of gold and silver stores, which I kept having to pull my husband away from. The bridge can be very crowded, but you can get a nice view of the Arno from the middle point on either side. There is also a great gelateria at the end of the bridge on Oltrarno. We took the Fodorite's advice and made sure we had a gelato a day, for which we were not dissappointed.

    At the PITTI PALACE, we opted to tour the Royal Palantine Apartments, which were very interesting, but contained more works of art than ancient furniture, as we'd previously seen at the Palace of Versailles in Paris. The paintings were huge and beautiful, nonetheless, and we enjoyed our tour. Rumor has it that the Medici family didn't want anyone else in Florence to own more art than they did, which was quite obvious. The apartment ceilings were also very ornate and interesting. We visited the Costume Museum, as well, but found the earlier centuries clothing the most interesting, since there was also much modernism.

    After a break in the courtyard of the palace, we headed out towards BOBOLI GARDENS. I had seen another Fodorite mention that the gardens were a bit of a dissappointment due to the lack of upkeep, and we noticed this, as well. My husband suggested that maybe they were having a Bush Cutter Union Strike........ha. I honestly think that they are just grossly understaffed at the moment. The fountains in the gardens were lovely, and we hiked it up to the highest point, although we were getting quite hot in the sun on the way. This was the only time that we were honestly hot and sweating the whole time we were in Florence.

    Although it was a bit of a walk and our feet were tired, we were so very glad that we'd ventured up to the back of the gardens, and up the stairs to the rose garden, because the view over the Florentine countryside was marvelous! We stood up there for quite some time just admiring the view in every direction. It was really great. It reminded us of the scenery in the HBO film, "My House in Umbria." There was also a lovely view over the Duomo and the city from just outside the entrance to the gardens, for those who may not want to venture so far uphill. At the palace, we chose the combination ticket which was 10.50 euro per person, and a better deal if you are planning to see two or more sights within the grounds.

    After we left the gardens, we stopped off at a cafe for which we'd been given a flyer upon entering Pitti Palace. CAFE PITTI was directly across from the palace, and seemed like a nice enough place, so we thought we'd give it a try. We each ordered water and a cool beer, and requested a menu for lunch. After bringing our drinks and menus, the waiter never came back within the half hour we were sitting there looking at our empty glasses. We were quite shocked. I can honestly say that this was one of the worst restaurant experiences I've ever had. I've had slow service, but no service was another story. On top of that, there weren't even very many other patrons there, so it's not as if they were busy. So, we finally decided this place was not worth eating at and figured we'd pay for our drinks and head elsewhere. But, the waiter still stood near the door and ignored us, not even offering to bring the bill. My husband was quite ready to just leave exact change........sans tip.....on the table. However, I did convince him to at least take the money to the waiter so that it wouldn't get swiped off the table by a passerby. So, we won't be recommending this particular place to anyone in the near future.

    We then crossed back over the Arno on Ponte Vecchio and brought our daily film to be developed. We proceeded on to Osteria Nuti where at least we knew Leondardo would give us wonderful service. We had a calzone for lunch there, and it was good. We were just looking for a simple meal. Leonardo even gave us a limoncello on the house after lunch. Yum, yum. We've had limoncello here in the islands before, but it's MUCH better ice cold in Italy.

    By now, we had things to do at the apartment such as emptying the dishwasher, ironing dry clothes, reorganizing, etc. That's the one downfall to renting an apartment....household chores. However, we still feel that the good outweighed the bad, by far. Money saved on hotel, money saved on meals, space saved on packing with being able to do laundry, etc., not to mention having a lot of space all to yourselves when coming "home" at the end of the day.

    However, even with "things to do," we still opted to head up to PIAZZELLE MICHELANGELO to watch the sunset, instead. We'd originally had it planned for our last night in Florence, but decided this night was perfect for it, and why wait for the weather to possibly turn bad?

    We took a cab up, even though we knew we could hike it or take a bus. We figured the cab (8 euros from Duomo to the piazzelle) would save on time. The view on the drive up was just beautiful. The trees and homes were lovely. When we entered the piazzelle and ventured to the railing we were just in awe. It was a spectacular view over the city. We now knew why so many guidebooks and people recommend it. Actually, we likened the view to Lookout Mountain in Chatanooga, Tennesse, believe it or not. Of course, this was Italy, so it was different, but both views are surprisingly similar.

    We continued to walk around the piazzelle and take photos together at different vantage points. Luckily my husband is wonderful about picking just the right person to take a photo of us together and always offers to take one of them in return. At least we've never had our camera run off with yet. In our meandering around and stopping to admire the view, we ran across two college age girls from London who were carrying a bottle of wine and looking a little forlorn. Bret, the sweetie that he is, said, "Do you need someone to open that for you?" Well, as it turns out, that was their dilemma........a nice bottle of wine and no corkscrew. Well, of course, we are always prepared. So, he offered to open their wine for them and we proceeded to engage in a nice conversation about travel and such. Katrina and Leslie (yes, another one) were quite pleased to have found someone with a corkscrew, and we had a nice time chatting with them. They were backpacking and camping through Europe, and we told them how wonderful that they had the opportunity. We advised them to enjoy it while they are young, as sleeping on the ground gets a little more difficult as you get older. However, I haven't let dear husband in on the fact that I would sleep on just about anything in my efforts to see the world........ha.

    Of course, everyone was scurrying to get photos just as the sun was setting and we did manage to get a decent shot ourselves in all the hubub. I must say, we were quite shocked to see a hint of a "green flash" as the sun went down over the mountains in the distance. We quite honestly thought that green flashes were only seen when the sun sets over the ocean, as we see from our patio often. So, we were thoroughly excited that we saw a green flash over a mountain (or at least a very large hill)! What 'til everyone back home hears about this!

    As twilight came over the city of Florence, we decided to hail a cab before everyone decided to leave at once, and we found one waiting for us just outside the piazzelle. We were quite surprised on the entire trip that no matter where we were, the mode of transportation we opted for always seemed to just be sitting there waiting for us. Maybe it's luck; maybe it's sheer optimism. I don't really know, but we were certainly glad for it.

    After we returned to town, we headed for OSTERIA DELL AGNOLO (I told you we got to frequenting that place), and decided to have dinner there this time. We had to wait quite awhile for a table outside, but we didn't mind. We had plenty of company with some more new friends that we made. Susan was from Germany, and Claire and Turlogh were from Ireland. We all discussed things we'd enjoyed in Florence and ended up having dinner together, as the tables were so close. We also met a really nice couple from Rome that night. We met so many fantastic people on our trip, the Italians included, of course.

    Our dinner that night was fabulous! I had spinach ravioli in parmesean sauce and my husband had pasta with clams. He also opted for tiramisu for dessert, which was wonderful.........some of the best we've ever had. The total, with wine, was 78 euro. We finally made it home around midnight (luckily home was just across the street) and had a very restful sleep. We'd had a wonderful day!

    To be continued...........

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    Hi Statia,

    So you have been to Lookout Mountain, too. Small world.

    Am loving your trip report.

    How much is gelato in Florence? Other posters have mentioned that they found it very expensive.

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    Ira,

    Yes, it's a small world, as I've found many times here on the island, even after moving from a city the size of Houston. We've run into many people we know far away from where we came from. When were you on St. Eustatius, by the way?

    We always bought gelato, in both Florence and Venice, in the 1.50 euro cup size, and shared it. After all, we usually just wanted a few tastes. The size was enough for the two of us, yet not all that small. Picture a small cup at Baskin Robbin's.

    Thanks for the compliments. More to come tomorrow.

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    STATIA
    This is great!!...armchair travel at it's best...it's even fun waiting for the next installment!
    Bringing postcards from home is a great idea!! Also safety tips were good...if you don't have a bunch of stuff to lug around you also don't have a bunch of stuff to worry about.
    "CEPT MAPS....I love maps!
    MANY MANY thanks for taking the time to post your story!! I wish I had the patience...I'm the visual type...photos. Speaking of photos...wold love to see some of yours!!

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    Bailey,

    I've actually tried to post photos on the website that I think you might have mentioned...worldisround.com? However, I got stumped after scanning and couldn't figure out how to upload, so I emailed them for assistance.

    Actually, you can find info about my home island of St. Eustatius at http://www.statiatourism.com/. I've lived here for the past ten years, but originally hail from Houston, Texas.

    Thanks for the encouragement on the report. I really appreciate all of the input from everyone and will post further tomorrow.

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    Statia: Thank you for such a wonderful report. I, too, am a detail oriented person so I especially appreciate all the helpful things you included. I found several of your topics very useful for my upcoming trip.

    One of the things I was interested in was your flight on Air France. Now, I understand that your experience is no guarantee of what type of service I will encounter on my Air France flight. But you mentioned that they put self-serve beverage carts by the emergency exits. My reserved seats are in the emergency exit row. We chose this because we thought it would give us more leg room for the long trip across "the pond." But I was unaware of this self-serve cart. Is it placed in such a way as to be disturbing to the passengers seated by the emergency exits? Maybe we should change our seats assignments?

    Also, did you take your 22 inch rolling luggage as "carry-ons"? If so, then I am assuming that Air France did not give you a problem with each of you taking a 22 inch suitcase and a backpack...which is what I am hoping to do as well.

    Once again, congratulations on celebrating your special occasions.

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    Travler2,

    The aircraft we flew from SXM to CDG had no emergency exit seating, as the exits stood by themselves. We checked beforehand, because those are the seats we typically try to get. So, I would say that on your flight the carts would be placed in the galleys (there were also some there on our flight, as well). I don't think that AF would place carts anywhere that would disturb passengers.

    We checked our 22" suitcases only because we knew ahead of time that AF has a one carry-on per person allowance (versus two on AA, which we are used to). We just didn't want to take any chances at the gate. However, I saw several people with both a 22" rolling suitcase, and a personal item or duffle bag, and they weren't stopped at the gate. So, I would think that you could chance it. Just be sure to pack accordingly in case you have to check the suitcases at the last minute.

    We packed half of each other's clothing in each suitcase in case one got lost in transit.

    Thanks for the congrats!

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    Kismetchimera: We're about 90 miles south of Puerto Rico, in the Dutch West Indies....35 miles south of St. Maarten. Thanks for the report compliment.

    Cigalechanta: Thanks to you, too!

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    Glad I have some readers! Thanks!

    JULY 6 - FLORENCE - HUSBAND'S BIRTHDAY

    We arose early due to having reservations at the UFFIZI at 8:15. There was honestly not much of a line for the non-reservation patrons, but we decided to use our reservations anyhow, and headed in a bit earlier, even though it cost a bit more (total cost 12 euro per person). We used our Rick Steve's Guide for this museum, too, and learned a lot as well as enjoyed the many works of art. It really is a very interesting museum with beautiful paintings, and doesn't take all that long to see (maybe two hours tops if you see everything).

    After the Uffizi, we grabbed a couple of paninis as we walked back towards the Duomo. My husband knew it would mean a lot for me to attend mass at the Duomo, so that was our plan. The mass was held in a little side chapel and we were surprised that it was not even really crowded. I would have thought that lot more people in a city like Florence would be attending Sunday morning services. We knew to go in through the side entrance on the advice of another helpful Fodorite. The mass was, of course, all in Italian, but we enjoyed it nontheless. Being Catholic all my life, I knew what was going on anyhow, and my dear husband (although not Catholic) participated, as well. He lent me the same courtesy at Sacre Couer in Paris a few years ago.

    We finally made it back to the apartment in order to do those much needed be done "chores," and then I had my husband open his birthday cards. He had one from me, of course, and one that our close friends had sent along with me, which included a 25 euro note for him to buy a nice bottle of wine in order to celebrate. That was so thoughtful that they went out of their way to get the currency for the country we would be visiting.

    We had planned to spend the afternoon in FIESOLE, and knew we could either take a cab or bus, so we opted for a cab up, and bus back. Here again, in order to save time. The cab ride from the Duomo was about 17 euro (20 minutes) and really worth it, since we noticed how much more scenery we saw from the cab, as opposed to standing in the bus on the way back. The view all the way up was really lovely with all the winding hills, and nice homes, as well as the view over the city as we were ascending.

    The cab driver dropped us off in the main piazza in Fiesole, and we ventured past the Roman ruins area that I'd read about. We took some nice photos at a viewpoint just past the ruins and museum entrance. Afterwards, we entered the ROMAN/ETRUSCAN RUINS area (6.50 euro per person). There were hardly any people there, so we enjoyed the solitude, although it was the only "other" time we were really hot, besides Boboli Gardens. Here again, I think it was a factor of being in the sun without much shade. The Roman bath ruins were very interesting, though, especially when you picture the Romans actually there so long ago and what it must have looked like at that time. The area also held the oldest Roman amiptheatre still in use in Europe. The views over the valley from there (opposite Florence) were also wonderful. And, there were quite a few nice olive trees, which I'd never seen before. We also visited the museum on the grounds, which was interesting even without the audio guide, but I would recommend renting it as the descriptions are all in Italian.

    We then had a nice, cool lunch on the main piazza underneath a bunch of shade trees. I can't recall the name of the place, but it was the third cafe down from the beginning of the block. After lunch, we headed up via San Francisco to the main viewpoint over Florence. Luckily we'd been walking a very steep path near our home for months before the trip, so it was a piece of cake. When we reached the viewpoint, which we arrived at quicker than we'd anticipated, the view was TOO DIE FOR. The entire city of Florence in the valley below was breathtaking. It was even more beautiful than the view at Piazzelle Michelangelo, in our opinion. Just stunning! We decided to sit on a bench in the shade for awhile and enjoy the beauty before us, as well as map out our plan for the following day (which would be our last in Florence). We had gotten to most of the "must sees" on our list, so we figured we'd incorporate a few of the "if we have time to see" items.

    We then began to head back into town to get ready for my husband's birthday dinner, as we didn't want to be rushed. We opted to take the bus back, and it was very easy. We bought a ticket from a vendor near the bus stop, and the bus left within five minutes time. We were surprised, however, that there were very few seats on the public buses, so most people stand. The bus was also very clean, efficient and cost effective at 1 euro per person, per hour. Standing was no problem, even on those curves going back into town, but we did notice that we couldn't see as much of the scenery, so we were glad we'd sprung for the cab on the way up.

    We weren't real sure where to get off the bus, but knew it was headed for the train station, which was not far from our apartment, so that's where we were headed. However, at one point, we saw the Duomo in front of us, so we got off there, instead, and realized we were just across the piazza from our street. Great! We decided to walk around a bit and check out the leather photo albums for our vow renewal photos. The prices were good, but we weren't really convinced they were genuine leather, however, so we opted not to buy one at that point in time.

    Hubby was a bit tired by now and wanted to take a nap before getting ready for dinner. I, myself, am not a napper (I'm useless the rest of the day afterwards), so I went to the net cafe to get an update out to our families, instead. I was quite surprised when I returned to the apartment because my husband had then decided he preferred not to go to our appointed dinner at La Giostra. This especially surprised me because a) it was his birthday, and b) he is a grand lover of gourmet cuisine. However, he convinced me that with his being a lover of Rennaisance art, just being in Florence was a big enough treat for his birthday. So, we stayed in that night, had some wonderful pizza, and spent the evening looking through our pictures taken thus far, as well as photo books we'd bought. And, believe it or not, we ended the evening by falling asleep watching Letterman...........ha! I do think, though, that we probably both needed the rest at that point, after not getting much sleep the night before, and with our trip not being half over yet. I have to add that since our return home, we've read many rave reviews here about La Girosta, so we'll be sure not to miss it on our next trip.

    To be continued.......

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    Statia: Thanks again for your advice. When packing, we always go "half and half" in case one bag is lost. By phone, AF tells me they will allow a carry-on that does not exceed the "45 inch rule" and weighs no more than 26 lbs PLUS one "personal item" (backpack, purse, briefcase, laptop). So this is what we will be trying for.

    I am printing out your report because it will require lots of study. Thank you again for passing on all of your generous advice. It's great reading.

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    Hi Statia.
    Thanks for the great trip report. We will be in Florence and Venice next spring, so the details and tips in your report are great. Thanks! Just want to ask more about your apartment stays. Who did you rent through? If I may ask, what was the rate per night? Look forward to reading more. Thanks again. wanderfar

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    Thanks for all the replies.

    Ira: You must have been in St. Maarten when you came here.

    Travler2: You're packing just as we did. I'm sure you won't have a problem carrying everything on.

    Wanderfar: In Florence, we rented the Lepri Apartment at the San Lorenzo Apartment Building from Gianna Galeota who we found at sleepinginflorence.com. She was very helpful and our rate was 95 euro per night.

    In Venice, we rented the San Aponal Apartment with Venice Rentals at venicerentals.com. Our rate for that one was 120 euro per night.

    We booked both apartments back in January of 2003. Check out each website and you will have all info on each apartment, as well as numerous other ones that might interest you. We were very satisfied with the service of each and would rent with both again.

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    Lina: I'm enjoying your report, as well.

    Crazymina: I thought of you numerous times in Italy when taking photos. I tried using some of your techniques and they turned out pretty good, too!

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    Thanks, Dick.

    JULY 7 - FLORENCE

    We awoke early, nice and refreshed, and were out on the road by 6:45 a.m. for our black & white photo session. We aren't professional photographers, by any means, but in each city we visit we like to go out very early on one particular morning, and take black & whites as the city is coming alive for the day. It's also a great time to get nice shots without people in them. It's an overall great experience to see any city that early in the day because it's so nice and peaceful in comparison to the hustle and bustle of the tourists at all other times.

    About 8 a.m., we finished with our photo walk and decided to CLIMB THE DUOMO (6 euro each) before it got too hot later in the day. There wasn't a line at that time, and we were still sweating bullets when we neared the top, so we were glad we didn't go any later. The climb up wasn't bad (we'd had lots of practice with those 70 steps to the apartment.......ha), and we were suprised that we didn't even have to stop and take a break on the way. It was 463 steps to the top and the stairways changed somewhat as we went up. They started out narrow and winding and ended up being quite steep and straight as we neared the top. I'm not a huge fan of heights, so I made my husband get behind me when it started to get steep, just in case I fell backwards. On the way both up and down, we walked around the inside of the dome at two different levels, which was really nice. You get a whole different perspective of the artwork in the dome from the closer vantage point. When we reached the top and stepped outside..........WOW. It was really beautiful. The "lantern," as it's referred to, is actually quite small so I couldn't imagine being up there with tons of people. It really provided a nice view over the city, though. I also found it odd that the railing around it was rather low (about waist level), in comparison with most high tourist sights, which have a lot of guard rail to protect people from dangerous situations. Don't get me wrong......it didn't seem dangerous, but rather felt weird not having taller fencing or the likes in front of me. We really enjoyed being up there and got some wonderful photos over the city. It's well worth the climb.

    Once we descended the Duomo, we headed home for a quick bite to eat and then went to the BARGELLO MUSEUM (4 euro each), which supposedly houses some of the finest European sculpture in the world. We also used our Rick Steve's Guide here, and it was helpful, as usual. The inside of the building itself was really beautiful, especially the courtyard area. The Bargello was originally used to house government offices, so there was an ornateness about it, without the "foo foo" that you typically see in more royal buildings. It was very old world and Rennaissance.

    We enjoyed seeing sculpture by various artists, as well as some of the relics used during the Rennaissance era, such as hair ornaments and armor. We were quite amazed at how small some of the armor was. Certainly none of it would fit my husband, nor most men in this day and age. I guess people were just smaller back then. I noticed the same small sizes in various clothing we would see of the period, as well. Some of the artwork and carving on simple things like ivory hair combs were also quite unbelievable. And, of course, a lot of the weapons used during that time period were very clever. Some of them literally made us say, "Ouch! That would hurt." One thing that I particularly remember at this museum was this one sculpture that is in the courtyard. The sculpture is two women who are sitting and looking at one another. One of them has her palm extended and facing the ground. The other has her palm extended a little higher, and it's facing upward. My husband was intensly looking at these two for awhile before he very calmly said,

    "Was it this high?"

    "NO.......Higher!"

    I'm sure you had to be there, but I laughed myself silly on that one.

    After leaving the Bargello, we decided to head in a different direction than we'd come from, outside the city center. We figured it would be nice to venture off the beaten path and explore some of the outer areas as we headed back towards the area of the Duomo. We'd had no problem whatsoever getting around Florence by this point, so we felt very comfortable just meandering in that general direction outside of the tourist grid. We walked for a good, long while before we finally figured that we should start heading west, so we stopped and looked at our map to see just where we were. We were quite surprised to find that we'd long passed where we should have headed west and we were pretty far north. So, we had to do quite a bit of backtracking, and by now our feet were really hurting. However, we did finally find the Duomo again and had a nice time meandering some of the back neighborhoods of Florence.

    We decided to stop for a well needed break at an outdoor table at CLURICANE IRISH PUB (another place we frequented during our stay). It's located one block west of Piazza San Giovanni (where the Duomo is) on via Dell'Olio. This place was your typical hangout for those who are.........shall we say "well pierced?" It was a self service pub, and everyone there was always very nice. It was a great shady place to get an affordable, ice cold beer on a hot day, and their bathroom was spotless.

    We then headed to the famed SANTA MARIA NOVELLA PROFUMA, which I'd heard so much about. It was quite easy to find with some well given directions from a Fodorite on this board. The aroma inside was lovely, but I found it was not necessarily my kind of place for shopping. I love bath and body products, as well as aromatherapy, but I'm not one of those who likes to be waited on hand and foot when I'm shopping. I prefer to look at things, pick them up, smell them, look at the price, etc., on my own. Here, however, every item is in locked glass cases and you have to be assisted with every item. That just seemed entirely too time consuming to me, not to mention that I stood at the counter for a few minutes without being asked if I needed help, so we left without a purchase. My husband was a bit disappointed because he really wanted me to have something nice from there, but I didn't mind.

    After that, we headed for SAN LORENZO CHURCH (2.50 euro each), and found that we actually liked the interior of it better than the Doumo. With it's cool, grey marble, it was so nice and refreshing inside. The interior wasn't overly ornate, but was very pretty and tranquil. And, it had pew benches where you could sit, pray, or just absorb the atmosphere around you. We walked around a bit and looked at some of the tombs and art work, and then I lit a candle for my mother. I think we also liked San Lorenzo because it wasn't collosal, and felt more peaceful than a lot of the really big churches in Europe. There was also a nice courtyard on the south side of the church.

    After picking up a few last souvenirs at the San Lorenzo Market, we stopped by Osteria Nuti for another little break. As I was sitting there updating my travel journal, I looked up to find a baby sparrow sitting on my husband's shoulder, just enjoying the view from there. I managed to get a great picture before he flew off and it was then that we realized he was just learning to fly. Awwww. Mama Sparrow was up in the restaurant's neon sign coaxing Baby Sparrow to "flap harder, flap harder!" It was really a cute sight to witness. After many attempts, and many close calls with walking tourists, Baby Sparrow finally made it up to the Nuti sign with Mama. Yeah! I don't think I would have left there until I knew Baby and Mama were safely reunited.

    After one last net cafe stop before heading to Venice the next day, we went home to pack. It never ceases to amaze me that I live to travel, yet I absolutely abhor packing and unpacking. I tend to keep things very organized, yet it's still such a chore. Maybe I'll make enough money one day to hire someone to do it for me, but it still wouldn't be done the way I want. That's why hubby doesn't bother to assist, either. He knows better........ha.

    My husband does assist, however, with cooking, as well as dishes and laundry. So, it was no big surprise when "I" finally did the dishes that last night, only to find that I'd washed them in fabric softener (after all, I can't read all the Italian labels). I thought the plates smelled awfully "fresh." My husband commented that he wished I found the fabric softener under the cabinet days ago, so he wouldn't be wearing such crispy underwear.

    We had planned to go out for some antipasti and a glass of wine..........you know, one last hurrah in Florence.......before bed that night. But by the time we were all set to go for our early departure the next day, it was just too late.

    To be continued...........



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    JULY 8 - FLORENCE DEPARTURE, VENICE ARRIVAL

    We got up at 6 a.m. to get an early start to the SANTA MARIA NOVELLA TRAIN STATION. We like to arrive for travel departures with plenty of time to spare in case of unexpected delays. It was quite a chore getting our luggage back down the stairs now that we had an additional duffle bag with souvenirs, but we did manage to get everything to the ground floor in one piece. Our poor 22" rolling suitcases have been all over the world and endured so many trips in 8 years that I had this awful vision of one of the wheels coming off as we were bouncing them down the cobblestone streets to the train station. However, all was still intact when we arrived.

    We had no problem finding our train information on the board, with the notes I'd made from all you helpful Fodorites. We were a bit early, so we stood around people watching for awhile waiting for our track number to be listed. Finally, we saw "Venezia via Bologna, bin 13." We still weren't convinced that we didn't need to validate our tickets for Eurostar, as I'd heard people say, so we validated anyhow, since everyone else seemed to be. We found car number 4 with no problem, but finding our seats was a whole 'nother story. There we were schlepping our luggage back and forth in car number 4, as well as the next car, and the numbers seemed to jump right past our own. With the help of one of the attendants, however, we finally did find our seats and had only walked past them three times. I guess we're just used to aircraft seats where the numbers run chronologically, no matter what. Once I saw that the third seat from the end of the car was still ten or so numbers from our own seat numbers, I guess I didn't bother looking at the numbers again until the next car. My own mistake.

    I have to make a CORRECTION here. In my first post, I stated that we paid 78.50 euro per person for first class seats from Florence to Venice on Eurostar. Actually, in looking at my tickets now, it was 39.25 per person, or 78.50 for two. Sorry 'bout that.

    We really felt that FIRST CLASS ON EUROSTAR was worth the extra cost, for comfort if nothing else. We'd gone second class on Eurostar from Paris to London before, and there really wasn't THAT much difference, but there was some. The seats were larger, and more plush, with lots of leg room (wish the airlines offered so much in coach). The car wasn't very crowded, and there was plenty of room for our 2 - 22" rolling suitcases, plus a duffle bag each, in the overhead bins. The service consisted of a danish and cookies, as well as juice and other assorted drinks, and Italian newspapers. The service cart came around again for refills, as well. There was also a dining car which my husband got a sandwich from. We overall felt that the extra leg room over the course of three hours was the most justification for going first class, with my husband being so tall. We both kept commenting on how comfortable we were. One word of advise for the ladies........it can be a little more difficult to play "air wolf" in the ladies room while on a train with the car lumbering from side to side down the tracks. I will say that the bathrooms in first class were very clean, though.

    The countryside on our trip to Venice was very pretty. We were surprised at the number of cornfields we passed, though. My husband is originally from Indiana, so it was funny how familiar the scenery looked all the way in Italy. We made very brief stops in Bologna, Ferrara, Rovigo, Padova and Mestre before arriving at Santa Lucia Station in Venice. We were both amazed at how the three hours just flew by. Too bad it's not that way when we are in the air, as well. I guess it makes a difference when you have scenery to look at.

    Once we arrived SANTA LUCIA STATION, we called our rental agent to let her know we'd arrived, then we headed into the train station and were immediately greeted by a gentleman working for the station who welcomed us and asked if we needed help. Although we knew where we were going from my research, we told him what we intended and he ensured that we were on the right path to the vaporetto stop, as well as explaining which vaporetto to get on. His assistance was very nice, and he seemed to be legit.

    When we stepped out of the station, which we had much anticipated for months, the view of the GRAND CANAL was a really wonderful sight. However, I will say that we were REALLY amazed and nearly to the point of tears once we actually started down the Grand Canal on the vaporetto.

    We bought one hour tickets (5 euro each) for vaporetto #1 right next to the vaporetto stop and walked up onto the vaporetto landing. Now......here's the funny thing. In all our excitement and overjoyment to be in Venice, on the Grand Canal, we did not realize that the vaporetto platform was just that........the platform. We thought that it was the actual vaporetto. This just goes to show you HOW excited we were because I'd seen photos of the vaporetto, as well as the platforms, on the web for months. If you really think about it, the platforms look similar to a houseboat, so there we were on the platform making sure that we got a good "front view" and waiting for the thing to start moving. Boy, did we feel like idiots when the actual vaporetto showed up a few minutes later. I'm proud to say that was at least one of our few screw ups on the trip. Sure makes for a funny story now, though, when we talk about it.

    As we started down the GRAND CANAL, we just couldn't believe that we were there......in Venice! It was so amazing to see everything we'd been looking at in photos for months. It was just beautiful and I nearly had tears in my eyes as we cruised down the waterway. Some have said that the Grand Canal is "the most beautiful street in the world," and I have to agree. There is just something so unique and magical about it. I was so amazed that the scenery and feel of going down the Grand Canal was exactly as I'd pictured it for so many months beforehand.

    Shorty after crossing under the Rialto Bridge, we got off at the stop nearest our apartment, SAN SYLVESTRO, in the SAN POLO area. Luckily we were on the right side of the vaporetto with our luggage and knew exactly where our stop would be since I'd studied our maps so much before the trip. Denise, our agent with VENICE RENTALS, met us upon arrival and escorted us to our apartment in CAMPO SAN APONAL, just a short walk away. She was also great about showing us around the area, and pointing out various neccessities such as the nearest ATM and grocery store. We were very lucky that our location was right around the corner from one of only three grocery stores in Venice. The apartment looked even better than it did in photos, and I'll be happy to elaborate more on it if anyone is interested. One of the main advantages was it's rooftop terrace with 360 degree views over Venice. However, we were once again on the top floor (60 steps this time), so we knew we'd been getting more exercise. This apartment also worked out perfectly for us in location, ammenities, and price, so we would stay there again, as well.

    When we entered the apartment, much to my surprise, my wonderful, darling husband had two dozen extra long stemmed roses sitting there in a vase waiting for me, along with a beautiful card. I was already so far in "La La Land," just being in Venice, that I was stunned to say the least. "How did he get those roses here?" "That card has his handwriting on the front. How did he do that?" "Did he sneak to Venice from Florence last night while I was sleeping?" I was so shocked and flattered that I couldn't say a word. It was so sweet! After ten years together, he still never ceases to amaze me.

    Denise knew that we were renewing our vows and as we talked a bit, I had told her that we were going out shortly to look for some Venetian glass beads to exchange during our vow renewal (instead of rings this time). She was nice enough to take us to a bead shop near San Marco that a friend of hers owns, where we each picked out a beautiful bead for the ceremony the following day. Afterward, we were surprised to find our way back home with no problem, and we didn't even have the map with us.

    Once back at the apartment, we took care of our usual arrival errands, unpacking, and getting settled in. We immediately noticed that although Venice had cooler temps than Florence, it also had more humidity, which made it actually seem warmer than Florence. But, we didn't find either city to be too hot to deal with. When we were finally all settled in, it was almost time for our vow renewal consultant, Stef, to meet us at the apartment. We'd been working with Stef by email for six months in planning our ceremony details, and had become good friends in the process, so we were really looking forward to finally meeting her in person.

    Stef then took us to the laundrette to have our formal wear pressed for the ceremony the next day. We were sure glad we had her with us because she did all the arguing in Italian with the two older Venetian women as to why the clothes needed only pressing and not laundering. After all, they were brand new and we didn't want to risk having something happen to them with the ceremony being the next day. She also took us by the hairdresser, as well as various places for the big event the next day, so that we would be familiar with how things would go. Afterward, she told us that she'd taken the afternoon off in order to show us around Venice for awhile. It was so unexpected, and so sweet of her. She took us to Rialto Bridge, St. Mark's Piazza, as well as various other sights that weren't too far away. We were both still in such awe at being in Venice that we were just enjoying the stroll and taking it all in. It was also neat to see so many different types of boats carrying everything imagineable, from frozen foods to musical instruments.

    After Stef left, we had a glass of wine on our terrace and just relaxed and enjoyed the wonderful view, as well as the quiet. Then, we decided to stroll along the Grand Canal in search of a light dinner. We hadn't really planned anything in particular for this day, nor the next, since we knew once again that we'd just be getting ourselves acquanited with the area, and would be focusing on the ceremony the next day. In our strolling, we realized the vast difference that everyone speaks of in the daytime Venice versus the night time Venice. Once the daytrippers have left for the day, it truly is a different place. We were shocked at how many less people there were walking around, as well as how much more peaceful and quiet it was. The Grand Canal is also almost like a calm lake without the daytime traffic on it, as well.

    We finally decided to stop at a little osteria just on the other side of the Rialto Bridge. There seemed to be only locals there, so it looked like a good choice. BANCOGIRO OSTERIA DA ANDREA, CAMPO SAN GIACOMETTO, SAN POLO, 122-30125 VENEZIA, TELEPHONE: 0415232061 was fabulous. Turns out that this would be one of our fave hangouts during our stay in Venice. It was mostly a wine bar that served cichetti, as well. We had calamari salad, along with assorted cheeses with honey that night. I would have never thought of combining cheese with honey, but it was really unique and very good. The calamari salad was also very good. Total cost with wine was 30 euro. I think, however, what we enjoyed most at this place was the tranquil atmosphere and it's location on the Grand Canal. It was very serene and enjoyable as we'd sit and watch a lone gondola pass by every once in awhile. My husband and I agreed that we could just sit there forever. But, we finally had to go home as it was getting very late after a much enjoyed first day in the mystical city of Venice.

    To be continued............

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    Thanks, Ira and Dick. You both, as well as Bailey, give me great incentive. However, I'm probably boring the hell out of everyone else....ha.

    JULY 9 - VENICE - VOW RENEWAL CEREMONY

    Here we are at "the big day." We slept in a bit and awoke to nice weather, but shortly thereafter we began to hear thunder and upon entering our rooftop terrace, saw dark clouds and lightening in the distance. Certainly the good Lord wouldn't let it rain on our vow renewal day? Not after we'd had such perfect weather the entire trip? I began to only slightly panic since we had plans to renew our vows outside, on a gondola. My mind started to race a bit in thinking that maybe we should go ahead with plan B to have the ceremony at Scala del Bovolo, or maybe even postpone it until the next day. We decided to just wait it out and see what the weather was going to do since we had a few hours before we were to begin getting things together for the day. It was nice, however, to have the shutters open and enjoy the cool breeze, as well as the view of the Venetian rooftops that morning.

    We spent the next hour or so enjoying the activity we saw from the terrace (as well as watching those dark clouds and anticipating what they might do). We watched swallows swooping everywhere, women hanging clothes out to dry, pigeons courting one another on chimneys, and the likes. Finally the weather began to clear and the sun came out. Yes, God does answer prayer. The rest of the day was partly cloudy and cool, which was perfect weather for our ceremony. That way we wouldn't be squinting in our photos, nor sweating in our formal wear.

    We made a stop at a NET CAFE we'd seen the previous day. It was located on the San Polo side of the Rialto Bridge in CAMPO SAN GIACOMETTO, SAN POLO, 122-30125 VENEZIA, TELEPHONE: 041-5203132 right next door to Bancogiro Osteria da Andrea where we'd eaten the previous night. Internet time was more expensive in Venice, but it was still worth it to keep in touch with loved ones and tell them about our adventures on occassion. The cost for an hour was 14 euro.

    Stef came by later that afternoon to take me to have my hair done, as well as get a manicure. I was so glad she was there to translate everything, but it was a bit odd having she and the "hair maestro," as we came to call him, talking about my hair in another launguage, while he was flipping it around everywhere. It was actually quite humorous to watch him work, but he did a great job. After we were all done at the salon, we picked up flowers for my hair at a nearby florist and he didn't even charge us a dime. Stef said it was because Bret had already gotten the roses there, and she'd picked up his boutenniere there, as well. However, it was still very nice of him. We found all over Italy that the people, both local and foreigners, were overall very nice and helpful. I'd say we usually experience that just about anywhere we go, however. I always say it's how WE approach the situation.

    We then headed to the laundrette to pick up our clothes. After the slight altercation the day before, we were hoping it would be a different scenario today since Stef wasn't with us. However, both Ventian ladies were so very nice, and even complimented my dress, as well as saved my husband's tie clip, which he'd accidentally left in his suit pocket. We then made some lunch at home and got cleaned up for the ceremony, while trying not to sweat. It wasn't that hot out, really, but I wasn't taking any chances. So, I basically sat right in front of the A/C unit once I was all ready to put my dress on.

    When Stef arrived at the apartment about 6 p.m., she had in hand some anniversary cards from some of our family members in the States. Turns out even more people were pulling surprises over on me, and I am NOT an easy person to pull surprises on. Our family had mailed the cards to Stef in Italy weeks beforehand so that we would get them just before our vow renewal ceremony. How thoughtful, huh? After we got dressed, Stef put the flowers in my hair for me, and we were off to meet our photographer, Valerio, downstairs in the campo.

    We made the short walk to the San Sylvestro vaporetto stop, and the gondolier showed up nearby shortly thereafter. He was a few minutes late, but Stef had called him on his cell phone (yes, even gondoliers have cell phones), and he'd been stuck in traffic at a bridge. We weren't worried, however. I'd already told myself months ago that no matter what might come to alter this day, the ceremony was the important thing and nothing was going to ruin our renewing our vows.

    As we were standing there waiting to board the gondola, it was very strange how many other people were taking photos of us, besides our own photographer. It made us feel special, but it was also kind of awkward. I had also been trying to figure out just how I was going to get on that gondola in my full length dress and heels, but Sergio, our gondolier, made sure I was well taken care of. It was no problem at all.

    When we began our slow cruise down the Grand Canal, and all I can say is WOW! It's a totally different experience than on the vaporetto, being lower in the water, just gently gliding. There was so much to look at and so much to see, and it was such a unique experience. Of course, the special occassion had a lot to do with it, as well, I'm sure. My husband turned to me and said, "Pinch me.........we're not really here doing this!" So, of course I pinched him, which Valerio got a fantastic photo of as we were both grinning like a couple of five year olds. (It's actually our favorite out of all the vow renewal photos taken).

    After awhile, we had somewhat contained ourselves and our delight, yet still hadn't been able to wipe those silly grins off our faces. We finally veered off onto the smaller canals in the Dorsoduro area, and Sergio was great about picking out a route that was practically void of any other people, so we were alone to begin our ceremony. Stef wrote and conducted the ceremony beautifully. Since this was a symbolic renewal, rather than an actual marriage, she was able to conduct the ceremony herself without the hassles of legality. And, of course, there were many tears of joy shed as my husband and I each read the vows that we'd written, not knowing what the other was going to say until it was said. We also put our Venetian glass beads around one another's neck after we each spoke, and the whole ceremony was actually even more meaningful for us, after ten years of marriage, than it was the first time we said our wedding vows.

    Once the ceremony was concluded, my husband kissed his bride and and gave Stef his hanky since she was tearing up, as well. Then, Stef gave us a beautiful Murano glass antique ink pen as a gift, which was so thoughtful and totally unexpected. She'd also included a beautiful card and said the pen was to continue writing our memoirs.

    After touring the smaller canals a bit more, we ventured back onto the Grand Canal, and then headed into the smaller canals towards San Marco. It is truly amazing the skill that it takes to maneuver the gondolas in the canals, and you don't really have an appreciation for it until you are actually on one. There were so many times it seemed as if Sergio had gotten himself in a pickle only to maneuver right out of it with great skill and ease. We truly enjoyed the gondola ride and the scenery that went along with it. You have a different perspective, and the relaxation is wonderful. We both felt so happy and serene. It was as if we were living a dream.

    In the San Marco area of the canals, we also encountered many well wishers and were congratulated in many languages from around the world, which was quite neat. One guy, however, told my husband, "You'll change your mind on the other side of the bridge!" ha! We realized at this point that the canals we'd had the ceremony on were so perfect in the sense that no one was around, since we were now in with a lot more traffic and people. However, we were truly enjoying this once in a lifetime experience. After we went under the Bridge of Sighs, we ventured out into San Marco Basin and enjoyed the view of the piazzetta and Doge's Palace before disembarking on the other side of the Correr Museum. Sergio had even arranged for another godolier to be there upon our arrival to help us off the gondola. He made sure I was very steady on my feet before he let go of me. It must have been obvious that I was floating on air........and I hadn't even had any champagne yet!

    We continued on with the traditional "wedding walk" through St. Mark's Piazza, and past the Basilica and Doge's Palace. Valerio took some beautiful photos in this area, as well as many others during the course of the evening. Then, we awaited the launch to HOTEL CIPRIANI for dinner. The captain was most gracious upon his arrival and we felt really special having that beautiful mohagony boat all to ourselves for the ride across the bay to Guidecca. Once we arrived Hotel Cipriani, we were greeted by beautiful gardens and an wonderful staff. We bought Stef and Valerio a drink at the outdoor hotel bar, and enjoyed a nice toast to a perfect evening.

    After Stef and Valerio left, we were seated on the terrace, right next to the water, for our sunset dinner. We started with foie gras with brandied yellow figs and a nice bottle of wine. The views over the water and San Giorgio Maggiore were splendid, especially with the cool breeze and the slight hint of lightening flickers in the far off distance during sunset. After our appetizer, my husband had lamb and I had filet of beef in gargonzola cheese with white wine sauce. Both dishes were absolutely wonderful, as well as the Cipriani chocolate cake we had for dessert. The service was impeccable, without being pretentious, and the staff were all very nice and friendly. The total for dinner was 235 euro, and well worth every penny.

    After dinner, we wandered to the piano bar, which overlooked the gorgeous pool area, and had an after dinner limoncello. The bar only had a couple of other patrons in it, so it was nice and quiet, rather than crowded and stuffy. The piano player wandered in and asked my husband what he'd like to have played for me. My husband told him "You Look Wonderful Tonight." It was very touching. My husband happened to run into the piano player later, and he said he could really appreciate the fact that we'd renewed our vows. He added that he and his wife had been married 25 years, and there's nothing like spending your life with the most special person in the world to you. Awwwww.

    We finally took the launch back to St. Mark's and meandered our way back home. We then called both our parents to tell them "We're married!.......again!" Just as we'd done the first time ten years ago. It was truly the most perfect and memorable day that we could have asked for and........we would not have changed a thing.

    To be continued...now it's "honeymoon" time!



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    Statia, I believe you must be JK Rowling in disguise. This wins the prize as the most detailed, long and great trip report. Fantastic job. I can hardly wait for the movie.
    ((H))


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    Thanks, Lina. Yes, we were also very thankful that the weather was perfect that day.

    Maitaitom, I had no idea you were peeping around in here. I'm flattered. BTW - I had to ask my husband who JK Rowling is....ha. Guess you could say I've never read a Harry Potter book, but I'll take that as a compliment.

    Bailey, I just knew you were waiting for the ceremony! Just kidding.

    Thanks for all your comments. Now, on we go....

    JULY 10 - VENICE

    Now that the "big day" was over, it was actually a bit of a relief to have the rest of the trip to do as we pleased, without having to worry about any upcoming events. We certainly felt like newleyweds again, so it was as if we were on our honeymooon. We spent much of the day strolling the magical streets, alleys, and campos of Venice. The city is so unique and romantic that we found ourselves wanting to take photos at every turn and every bridge. We visited the RIALTO MARKET and were amazed at the amount of produce and seafood there. We'd never seen every kind of seafood known to man in one place in our entire lives (and we live on an island, too!) There was also vast amounts of fresh produce, and it was here that we had the best strawberries we'd ever tasted. We noticed that you only buy produce in the markets in Venice, as none is sold in the grocery stores. It was the same with the seafood. Once I saw how much they had at this particular market, I realized why.

    After venturing through SAN POLO, we found our way to FRARI CHURCH (2 euro per person). We enjoyed the painting and sculpture there, as well as the various tombs. The church itself was also very attractive, and we used our Rick Steve's guide to familiarize ourselves as we went along. There were some very interesting stories that went along with the artwork and the tombs. I really liked the tomb of Titian, myself.

    We then meandered through the DORSODURO area, eventually ending up in Campo San Barnaba for lunch. We ate at RISTOTECA OSTERIA ENOTECA, CAMPO SAN BARNABA, DORSODURO 2852, TELEPHONE: 041-5224410. The zuchini lasagna and sphagetti bolognese were both good and the service was fine. Total was 34 euro with drinks. Afterwards, we walked some more, and some more, just enjoying "getting lost in Venice," although we were really never lost, and rarely had to use our map.

    I have to add here that in all our time in Venice, we found no problem with either the canals smelling, nor mosquitos, both of which we'd heard rumors of and were slightly concerned about beforehand. I don't doubt that others have had problems with mosquitos at some times of the year, but we didn't have any problem at all during our trip. However, I will say that Venice has the biggest house cats we've EVER seen. Must be all the leftover fish. And, it was odd to see so many people out walking their dogs with no leash. Not that it bothered me in the least, as long as they were behaved, but it amazed me how people had their little dogs just walking along behind them, stopping on occassion, mixed in with all those people! I'd be afraid my Chihuahua would be stepped on! They all seemed to do fine, though. We also didn't notice any mangy, ill-kept dogs or cats roaming the streets, in Venice or in Florence.

    We met Stef at the apartment later that day so that she could bring us the photos from the vow renewal ceremony, which we were very pleased with. Afterward, we all met her husband for a drink, since his office was very nearby. Later, we enjoyed some wine on our terrace and cooked dinner in, before taking an evening CRUISE ON THE GRAND CANAL on vaporetto #1 (one hour ticket was 5 euro per person). We boarded at San Sylvestro and since the ticket office was closed, we were able to purchase our tickets once on board. We enjoyed the ride very much and headed south on the Grand Canal, then toward the Lido, where we then turned around and disembarked at San Zaccharia (our hour was up at that point). We really enjoyed the scenery, and the ride was very relaxing, even on a bigger boat. We also loved admiring all the buildings in the setting sunlight, some with gold flickering on them. It was neat to see the Venetian's getting off work for the day and heading in their various directions, wondering what's next on their agenda. We found that the vaporetto wasn't very crowded at this time (about 8 p.m.), since we easily obtained seats in the back for very nice views. A lot of local people were also very gracious in taking photos of us together, so we got a lot of nice pictures. We did notice, however, that after only three days in Venice it was strange to actually see cars on the Lido when we arrived there. It's amazing how quickly you can become adapted to things in a foreign place.

    After disembarking at San Zaccharia, we walked through San Marco and ended our day back at the Rialto Bridge. We decided to go to Bancogiro Osteria da Andrea again. We really grew to enjoy that place during our stay. It's so relaxing and serene at night....totally away from the tourists and the busy areas, yet close to home. It was also convenient for my email updates since the net cafe was right next door. At other times, when I was doing email upates to our families, my husband would pay a visit to a bar that was located caddy corner from the net cafe. The owner, Alberto, was the grouchiest old Itailian you'd ever want to meet, yet my husband loved his frankness and enjoyed chatting with him.

    To be continued.......

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    Thanks so much Statia!!!

    I know you're not done yet, but I just wanted to drop in and say thanks before I forget...TERRIFIC REPORT!!! I love the details! Since we're planning on going to Florence and Venice next year, your report will prove to be an invaluable reference for us...just a great wealth of info!

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    Thanks Bluefan, and everyone else who bothers to read this, as well. Since I'm getting so "chummy" with you guys, I figured I'd let you know that I just uploaded a few of the vow renewal photos in Venice, if anyone is interested.

    Go to worldisround.com, and do a search for a personal article by Statia.

    I plan to post more of the travel photos, as well, and I'll try to post another day of the trip tonight!

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    STATIA....Wish we were all there to throw the rice!!!...or is bird seed the "correct'" thing to throw at a wedding?
    Thanks for the visuals!!
    Worldisround is a great addition to the posting!!

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    Statia, How great! I loved them all, especially the "pinch me". You are so cute. We are going to Italy Sept. 6-12 on our honeymoon. I am planning much by this site. You make me want to take my wedding gown. You guys are great. I know I have posted before...but I love your story. Reading about your vacation is such a treat!!!!!!!!!! Thank you.

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    You are all just to sweet! I'm actually blushing.

    We just had some Venezuelan friends come by to bring us a homemade flan in honor of the vow renwal (nearly a month after the fact it seems that friends of ours are still celebrating), so it's way past my bedtime. However, you have all made me feel compelled to post day 11 before I hit the hay.

    Thanks to you all for the lovely comments! They're deeply appreciated.

    I'm still trying to choose a few select photos of the rest of the trip to post on worldisround.com. However, with 400 of them, it's kind of difficult. I'll figure it out eventually, however.

    JULY 11 - VENICE

    We slept in.......again. It's really strange how in Venice we didn't feel the need to see as much as we did in Florence. Just as all the Fodorite's had advised, in Venice you feel more compelled to just wander, and the sights to see are in the hundreds of alleys, canals, and campos. Not that there aren't plenty of tourist sights to visit in Venice, but you see so much beauty and uniqueness in just wandering, that you don't feel that you must visit each and every musueum and church. It's really quite a relaxing city. We highly advise it as a last stop on a trip through Italy because it gives you a chance to wind down.

    We went to DOGE'S PALACE for our 11:30 a.m. appointed SECRET ITINERARY TOUR and really enjoyed it (12.50 euro per person). The tour was very interesting and it was neat to see the rooms of the government elite and judges from so long ago. It was amazing to imagine yourself stepping back in time in those very places. We also saw the torture chamber, and prison cells, as well as stood in the cell that Casanova first attempted his escape, and saw the one he was later sucessful in escaping from. That whole story is really interesting, but I'll let you take the tour yourself to get the inside scoop. I don't want to give away the plot! We also went into the palace attic and saw how the suspended ceiling is made. I will also make a note here that there were a few people on our tour who felt a bit claustrophobic due to the smaller spaces that we went into at times. However, if you aren't comfortable, you can just wait outside the door, so it's no reason to pass up the tour, by any means.

    After the tour, we continued touring the remainder of the palace on our own, again with the assistance of Rick Steve's. Some of the judicial rooms were really amazing in their size. One of them spanned to fit 2,000 people, for which we could appreciate, considering it could hold the entire population of the island on which we live. We really loved seeing Tintoretto's "Paradise," the 190 square yard largest oil painting in the world. I would have to say that was one of my favorite paintings on the whole trip. Not only was it beautifully detailed and an incredible undertaking, but it was so huge! And, to think that Tintoretto's daughter died on the day he finished it. Wow. You can see her right the middle of it, being lifted into Heaven. I'd just like to know how he found the exact center of such a huge piece of work! We also found the lower level prisons very interesting, and it was neat to walk over the Bridge of Sighs, just as the prisoners did many centuries ago. We could just imagine their thoughts at the sight. And, of course, the Golden Staircase is not to be missed.

    Afterwards, we dropped our daily film at our FILM DEVELOPER on the Rialto Bridge. AL PONTE DI RIALTO PHOTO, SAN POLO 14/15, 30125 VENEZIA, TELEPHONE: 041-5201958 also had very good service. His prices were about 15 euro per roll of 36, so a bit more expensive than in Florence. Actually, by this time in our trip to Venice, this guy also always had our name written on our envelope before we even approached the counter, just as the guy in Florence had. He was great, and even gave us a really big discount, as well as a nice little gift our last day there, which was so unexpected.

    We then had lunch on the Grand Canal at a typical tourist place while waiting for our photos to be developed. I will say that the food we had at the tourist restaurants on the Grand Canal was not necessarily special, but was an affordable alternative if you just want some decent food in your belly. After all, we couldn't afford to eat at Hotel Cipriani every night........ha.

    Later on, we met up with Stef for the last time, and also got to meet her son. It was sad to say goodbye to her, but we'll be keeping in touch, and she's even planning to visit our island with her family.

    We then ventured through some more of San Marco, and took the Accademia Bridge over the Grand Canal to the PEGGY GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM (8 euro per person). We are not huge modern art fans (although I was in my younger days), but we like to experience anything we can and we'd enjoyed the Guggenhiem in NYC before. I think I actually enjoyed just seeing her house and the furniture that remained more so than the art itself, but it was a nice experience. We used our Rick Steve's guide here, as well, and it made the pieces more interesting. Some sculpture, as well as Peggy's ashes, are also in the back courtyard, along with those of each of her "beloved babies," all 14 of them.

    As evening was approaching, we were commenting on how nice it is to see the older Venetian women all dressed up to meet with their young daughters and grandchildren in the many campos of the city. We also saw them meeting up at various cafes. It was just nice to see the family gatherings and many kisses, along with lots of oohing and coohing over babies in strollers. Yes, it's true......Italians love children. After an early dinner, we enjoyed glaring at the beautiful full moon over the Ventian rooftops from our terrace. It was so quiet up there at night that you could hear a pin drop. We finally made it to bed early that night........for a change.

    To be continued....last day in Venezia.

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    Keep going Statia, love the whole thing. BTW your hubby and I share a birthday. Going to Italy for the first time Sept 19 for 15 days. You are kinda raising the bar for trip reports. Also, was on your tiny island while aboard a Windjammer. Thanks again this is a great post, Mary

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    Statia,

    Great report....thanks for sharing.

    You made a beautiful bride. Tell me..does this mean if anyone asks how many times you have been married..you have to say two?

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    Thanks so much for the wonderful compliments. Perhaps Fodors will invite me to be a travel writer...ha!

    Marymac: You will fall in love with Italy! I'll bet you visited our island on the Polyesia?

    SRS: Well, it will have to end eventually...ha...but I do have 3 more days to go. Even the trip home was an adventure.

    Dick: As always, thanks for the lovely compliment. Yes, I've wondered if people might think we've divorced and remarried...ha.

    TNT: I really enjoyed your report, as well, and actually tried to model mine from it. My real name isn't Statia, that's only my screen name. My real name is too different for anyone to ever pronounce it properly, anyhow.

    Kismetchimera: I always enjoy your posts, as well.

    I'm presently uploading photos from Florence and hope to post the link, as well as day 12 tonight, so check back! Thanks again!

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    Got my Florence photos uploaded, so I'll post the links here. Also, if you want to see all the photos from the trip, since I'm adding Venice in the next day or so, you can go to:

    worldisround.com, then select "personal article" by "Statia" in the search box.

    Actually, the ones posted aren't ALL of the photos, since we have 200 per city, but it's just a few. I wouldn't dream of boring anyone with every single shot.

    Meahwhile, here's the latest links. Please keep in mind that these are our own "amateur" photos, therefore, not like the professional ones done for the vow renewal. I will also admit that our black & whites are better for Venice (after we learned to turn off the flash on our new camera!) I'll post Venice soon!

    Link for color photos of Florence:
    http://www.worldisround.com/articles/20406/index.html

    Link for black & white photos of Florence:
    http://www.worldisround.com/articles/20407/index.html

    I'll now go on to Day 12.....thanks for all your support. You guys keep me going!

    JULY 12 - VENICE

    This was our last day in Venice, hence a black & white photography morning. We started out about 7 a.m. and were surprised at how desserted everything still was. We practically had St. Mark's Piazza to ourselves, and got a lot of nice photos all over the city. It's amazing how practically nothing in Venice opens before 9 a.m. Not even Mickey D's, where we figured we could surely order a little something and use the restroom. I guess their Egg McMuffin sales are good until at least noon, huh?

    After we were done with our photos, we found a place to get a quick panini for breakfast, then we took the CAMPANILLE lift to the top of the tower (6 euro each). There was no line at 8:30 a.m., so we fortunately walked right in. The lift was very quick and the view was gorgeous! This tower did, however, have wide screening all around, but we still got a lot of great photos of various areas from up there, and it was really a whole different perspective over the city.

    Afterwards, we had planned on going inside the BASILICA, as we'd planned on most days, but once again, the line snuck up on us in no time. There was no line when we entered the Campanile, and then there was a huge line when we came out. I would suggest if you want to see the Basilica at any time during your stay in Venice, get there at 8 a.m. and just wait in front of the doors, even if there is no one there. Once those cruise ships allow passengers to disembark.....you can forget about seeing it without a long wait because it's as if suddenly 200 people show up out of the blue. So, needless to say, in all our attempts, we never got to see the inside of the Basilica, but that just gives us reason to go back, right?

    We then bought some feed for the PIGEONS (1 euro each.......they are making a killing on that stuff) and I must say that anyone visiting Venice has to experience this once. Just being in the piazza and wading your way through them is an experience in itself, but being attacked by them (ala "Alfred Hitchcock's The Bird's") is a whole other ballgame. Of course, once I opened my bag and they attacked me, I freaked, as my husband stood there calmly while they flapped all over him and sat on his head and arms. However, I vowed to be more calm the next time (knowing what to expect), and dear hubby bought me another bag of feed to replace the one I'd thrown on the ground just to get them off me before. We did get some really good, humorous photos of this scenario, however.

    We headed to the CORRER MUSEUM (6 euro each) after that, which is mostly a museum dedicated to Venetian history. Of course, it was very interesting, and we used our Rick Steve's Guide here, as well. It was especially neat to see various paintings of St. Mark's Piazza and other areas we'd been in Venice, and see that not much at all has changed for centuries. We also enjoyed looking at the ancient maps and seeing that not much has changed in the layout of the city, either. We could even pick out our apartment building on a map from the 1700's! I also loved seeing the old library rooms filled floor to ceiling with books that were handled by people in the 16th century. Wow. By the way, you can get some fantastic photos of St. Mark's Piazza and it's attractions from the open windows of the Correr Museum. Our very best shot of St. Mark's is from there.

    After that, we headed to the ACCADEMIA MUSEUM (6.50 euro each), and enjoyed the art there, as well. It was rather warm with no A/C at the time (I think it was out of order), and we had to stand in line for a bit, but it wasn't too bad. There was an older couple in front of us who seemed to be having a problem coming up with the correct amount for their entry. My guess was that they had some various international money and not all Euros. So, my husband suspected what was up, asked the cashier how much more they needed, and chipped in the rest for their entry. They were so surprised and pleased, but that's just the way hubby is. He figures what goes around, comes around, and you never know when we might be in the same situation one day. We also used our handy Rick Steve's Guide at this museum and were pleased with what we learned. There were some amazing paintings. My favorites were "Feast of the House of Levi," and the story that it contained, as well as "Perspective with Porch," due to it's 3D perspective so that you felt as if you were in the painting yourself.

    By this point, we were rather tired from all the walking and standing, but we opted to head on farther south to SANTA MARIA DELLA SALUTE, which was built in honor of Mary after Venice was delivered from the plague in the 1600's. Luckily, we got in to see the church just before closing time, which we were not aware of. The church was very pretty inside, and was quick and easy to see. There were various nice paintings to admire, and it gave us a chance to sit breifly before torturing our feet some more.

    On the way to the church, we were sales blasted by an artist selling his paintings, and he would NOT let us go. We were amazed at how much air this guy would suck in before he spewed forth more of his sales pitch. It was incredible! We were trying to be nice, but we thought we'd never get away from him (first time we encountered that during our trip). So, it was rather funny when on the way back we took another route in order to be on the other side of the canal from him, and my husband said, "Now.........when we see him across the canal, we'll put our thumbs in our ears, wave our fingers, and go "Na, Na, Na, Na, Na.........Na!" We wouldn't actually do that, but it certainly was a funny thought that we still laugh about.

    By this time we were really getting pooped, so we stopped for a well earned beer at a little place in Campo San Barnaba. After a break, we were more prepared for the walk home. We decided to buy the last of our souvenirs around the Rialto Bridge, then headed home to begin the dreaded packing process, since we were leaving the next morning. I'd say that in Venice, just as in Florence, we still didn't get to see everything that we would have liked, but we did hit all the "must sees" on our list, which was fine.

    I also want to add here another tip that I recieved from a fellow Fodorite. I took along a medium sized manila envelope for each day of travel and they worked very well for keeping museum tickets, brochures, receipts and the likes separate and in chronological order, so they were easy to go through when we returned home. You can also write the date and other notes on the envelope itself, to further enhance the ease of your trip report.

    We made one final stop at the internet cafe, had a light dinner, and then enjoyed one last full moon lit night on our terrace before bed. It was truly a beautiful evening with an Italian accordian playing in the distance. We were literally "moonstruck" during our last night in Venice.

    Off to Paris tomorrow!

    To be continued..........


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    Great report, Statia! I especially enjoyed looking at the pictures you posted of your wedding vow renewals! They were just lovely. You are a cute couple and I wish you much happiness.

    I did chuckle over your description of the vaporetto platform. lol We will be in Venice in September.

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    Thanks, Ronda, Ira, and Wantagig, as well as everyone else.

    I am finally done uploading photos, (I think hubby is tired of my being tied up with the computer....ha), and am now working on updating and arranging them, as well as finalizing the rest of the trip report. So, I plan to post "the finale" by early Monday morn.

    Happy travels to all!

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    Fantastic report, Statia! The detail is great and will really be useful when I arrive in Florence and Venice in 3 weeks! Thanks for taking the time to write the report, and for sharing your pictures! You seem like a very fun couple!

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    Love your report. my husband and I leave for Venice, Florence/Tuscany and the Cinque Terre in a month. I have already referenced your report many times. Thanks! I will try to return the favor after our trip!

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    I finally got my photos finished on worldisround.com. What a great tool for sharing photos with friends and family, since we are so far from them!

    Thanks, Bailey. We learned quite a bit with the B&W's, and I think that although still not great, the ones in Venice turned out better than in Florence. We just used regular old Kodak film. I can't even tell you what speed.

    Thanks also to kwn333 and tiffpolm. Glad to be of help. You will both LOVE Italy, and I look forward to reading both of your reports, as well!

    Ok...let's complete this adventure once and for all...

    JULY 13 - VENICE DEPARTURE, PARIS ARRIVAL

    We got up at 6 a.m. and felt really rested after a good night's sleep. We were all ready to go and awaiting our previously arranged WATER TAXI at 7:30 a.m. at San Sylvestro vaporetto stop. We opted for the 85 euro water taxi ride so we wouldn't have to get up so early, and we figured it was the easiest way to the airport with our luggage. Our flight was at 10:30 that morning from Marco Polo Airport, so I heeded the advice of you Fodorite's, and we weren't sorry we opted for this route. We had a beautiful boat and the driver was very nice and helpful, as well as on time. He was a friend of Stef's, so I was sure he wouldn't let us down. We realized we were glad to have the water taxi as we zoomed past the Alilaguna, for which we would have had to get all our luggage to San Marco much earlier, had we gone that route. My advice to anyone with an early flight is that the water taxi is really worth it, if it's affordable for you. Yes, it's expensive, but we were glad we did it. The ride through the canals of Cannaregio (which we never got around to seeing on foot) was really enjoyable, as well as the ride through the lagoon, even after the driver floored it to get us there quickly.

    Once we arrived MARCO POLO AIRPORT at 8:00 a.m., there were two men telling us that they would take us and our luggage to the airport for a fee of 15 euro. They kept insisiting it was a service of the airport, although I knew we could also take the shuttle. However, we didn't see a shuttle anywhere around, so we opted to go with them and it worked out well. They handled us and our luggage by van from the time we disembarked the boat until we were at the correct check-in counter at Air France. A little pricey, yes, but we still felt it was worth the cost because we moved quickly and were in line by 8:10 a.m.

    While in line at AIR FRANCE, we were offered the opportunity to volunteer for a flight an hour later into Paris. Since our stop in Paris was only to relax before heading home, we figured, "Why not?" Any other time we have the opporutnity for vouchers or cash to take later flights, we can never do it. So, we got 35 euro each just for saying "yes" to volunteering. And, if we had to take the later flight, we'd be given each another 75 euro. Not a bad deal. At least that's what we thought.

    We did eventually make it on our orginally scheduled flight (and made 70 euro), but our luggage, however, did not. After hightailing it to the flight once we were told we could get on, we arrived Paris CDG only to find our luggage was nowhere to be found. Air France was very helpful, though, and even gave us some really well stocked toiletry bags for the night. I was SO glad, however, that we'd hand carried our items for the night in Paris, not to mention the 600 photographs of Florence, Venice, and the vow renewal, plus all negatives. I guess I had an inclination that something might happen, and we honestly had nothing in the checked bags that we needed for the night, or that couldn't be replaced eventually. Everything of real importance was in our hands.......thank goodness.

    So, we headed downstairs to buy our RER tickets (7.70 per person each way) and boarded the train into Paris. It was really nice to be in another one of our favorite cities again (although I think that Venice takes the cake for me personally now). We also noticed how naturally it came to switch from Italian to French, in our limited use of each language, although hubby did occassionally say "grazie".....ha. We enjoyed the relaxing half hour ride to St. Michel/Notre Dame station and disembarked there to find HOTEL MONGE a few blocks away. It was really nice to be back in an area that we were familiar with after being away for so long (we'd stayed in the same area of Paris in 1999) The hotel, however, was a bit farther on foot than I'd anticipated from the map. We did finally make it, though, with very jello-like arms for my poor hubby after carrying those heavy duffle bags so far.

    Julie at Hotel Monge was very nice and helpful, if a bit shy. We had a very nice, clean, modern room with two sets of French doors opening onto a balcony over Rue Monge below. The room was affordable at 95 euro per night and we were glad to be "home" once again, if even briefly.

    There was no need to unpack for just one night, so we ventured out in search of an early dinner and a little roaming. We had actually planned on eating at "Le Biblos," which had been a Greek restaurant that we'd really had a nice evening at on our prior trip, but we found it was operating under a new name. So the next best thing, since this was a stopover of memories, was a little restaurant near Rue de la Hutchette that we'd had a lovely lunch at one day on our prior trip to Paris. We were glad to eat early (at 4 p.m.) because we had the place to ourselves.

    Afterwards, we roamed around the Notre Dame area, picked up a few small souvenirs, and made a couple of cafe stops to enjoy the atmosphere. One thing in particular that I was looking for was a medium sized Eiffel Tower statuette. I currently have the smallest one, and I plan to buy the next larger size every time I visit Paris, until I reach that monstrous three foot tall thing. So, I informed hubby that we have quite a few Eiffel Towers to go before he's done seeing Paris...........ha.

    We then took the metro to the Eiffel Tower itself (6 euro), since I couldn't imagine a trip to Paris without at least seeing that beautiful monument once each time. We were also amazed at how quickly the metro system of Paris came back to us. It's honestly the simplest metro system I've ever encountered anywhere, but I still have more than a few places in the world to visit. Once we arrived there, we enjoying strolling the park around the tower, as well as walking around underneath it. We didn't feel the need to ascend it, since we'd done that before, but rather enjoying the overall view from below.

    We then headed back to the Latin Quarter and after more strolling, cafe stops, people watching, and relaxing, we finally headed back to the hotel. On the way, we made a quick stop at our favorite bakery on Rue Monge for quiche and cheese bread for the following morning. We enjoyed spending the evening with our French doors open and watching the comings and goings on the street below. The only thing we wished we'd thought of in planning this little stopover was the fact that Bastille Day was the following day.......it would have been nice to stay in town for that.

    Later that night, Air France called to say that they'd found both our bags and assured us that they would both be on our flight to St. Maarten in the morning. Life was good. Our bags had been found, and we didn't have to cart them all the way to town. However, we had yet to see if they would actually end up in St. Maarten the next day.

    JULY 14 - DEPARTING PARIS, ARRIVING HOME

    We inadvertently got up one hour earlier than we were supposed to (5:30 a.m.). My mistake in trying to see the clock when it was still dark. However, turns out it was a blessing in disguise, which you'll later see. So, when we realized we were ready to go an hour earlier than planned, we decided to head to CDG anyhow, taking the metro from Cardinal Limone this time, and saving our feet some toture. We switched at Cluny La Sorbonne and then to the RER at St. Michel/Notre Dame station, and figured we were on our way (we'd bought our RER tickets the day before when heading into town). Well, figuring and reality are two different things. I don't know how we didn't make this mistake the first time we were in Paris, but we ended up on the wrong train. We were on B5, which takes a fork in the track on the way to CDG, and we needed to be on B3 in order to actually arrive CDG. We thought we might have gotten on the wrong train early on, but figured we'd wait it out to see which side of the fork the train took. We were quite surprised that we had a few Parisians tell us that we were on the wrong train, just after we'd realized it ourselves. I guess the luggage was a dead giveaway. However, it was very nice of them to tell us so.

    So, we got off the train at Sevrin Livry (sp?) and had to wait awhile for the next train back towards town to show up. Now you see why I say that hour advance in waking up was a blessing in disguise. It was a nice, cool morning as we were standing outside, and at least we weren't panicked since we had some spare time. We were rather enjoying yet another of our adventures in travel. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Well, wrong trains, along with washing your dishes with fabric softener and wearing crispy underwear while falsely assuming vaporetto landings are actual boats. The train finally came and we took it back to Gare du Nord, where we found a monitor listing the train we wanted, and assured ourselves we had it right this time. About now we were very thankful to Air France for losing our luggage that we didn't actually need until we got home anyhow.......ha.

    When we checked in at CDG, there was no line whatsoever, but our flight was delayed for two hours. Hmmmm? No word on why. So, we strolled around the airport and finally went thru security about an hour and a half before boarding. Boy, were we glad we went through a bit early........what a MADHOUSE! It was insane that they had a mass of hundreds and hundreds of people going through security and only two persons checking passports. We finally departed CDG at noon and arrived SXM at 1:30 p.m. LT......my, how time flies when you backtrack. The flight back was also uneventful and we were surprised that we slept very little on that one, as well. Usually when we are returning from Europe, we sleep like babies on the way home.

    When we were off the ground at CDG, we finally realized whey the flight was delayed. The pilot announced that all airports in our local Caribbean region had been shut down for a day due to the volcanic dome on the island of Montserrat collapsing and the air having been filled with ash. We were quite surprised at this since we haven't had ash fallout from a Monsterrat eruption in a number of years. We were glad, however, that we'd overnighted in Paris because otherwise we would have been stranded on the island of Guadeloupe in having to be re-routed the previous day. Once we arrived, SXM was a nightmare with so many delayed flights and stranded passengers. And, on top of that, only ONE of our bags that had been lost arrived. So, we were back to square one with the lost luggage issue. After giving the agent our info on the luggage, we headed to our next gate which was a free for all run on a "first to run up for your flight, first to be boarded" basis. Boy.......you gotta love "livin' in de eye-lans, mon!"

    We finally did make it home to our own little paradise, one bag short, but many wonderful memories and hugs ahead. Gosh, it was good to be home, even though we love so much to be abroad. Our friends had our car, all nice and clean from the ash fallout, awaiting us at the airport with many "Happy Anniversary" balloons on it, as well as a "Just Married" sign attached to the front license plate. However, the funny thing is that half the islanders now think we've been "living in sin" for the past decade, since we were originally married the day before moving here. When we got home, not only was all the ash cleaned off our house, but we were in shock because our living room was covered in "Happy Anniversary" balloons, as well as our kitchen island covered in many cards, flowers, and gifts along with a beautiful photo of our vow renewal (which we'd sent by email from Italy) in a gorgeous crystal frame. We truly have some wonderful friends and family.

    After numerous calls to Air France about our lost bags over the next couple of days, and their insisting that both bags were still in Paris, we finally got a call from our local airport baggage man saying that our last bag had arrived. This, even after Air France had said both bags were still in Paris not forty minutes before.........ha. However, we will say that Air France was very courteous and helpful when we talked with them, so we felt that although obviously disorganized in the baggage department, they were very good to deal with for the most part.

    This was truly a trip of a lifetime. I want to thank all you Fodorite's for your invaluable help in our planning. Yes, I did most of the research on my own, but all of your tips and advice were a big part of it, as well, and my husband agrees. Now he doesn't mind me spending so much time and money on this board (unfortunately, we have to pay per minute for internet time). Next planned adventure........Ireland & Scotland.

    In the meantime.......happy travels to all, and shall we each achieve our dream of seeing the world!

    THE END

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    Wonderful report, Statia.

    Expand it into a book, with appropriate photos, restaurant and hotel reviews and recipes.

    Of course, you will have to do the trip again for research and fact checking.

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    Statia,
    This has been one of the best trip reports I have ever read on this board!
    I got teary eyed reading about your vow renewal as well... I was thinking about going to Venice for our 15th anniversary in 2006. How did you go about finding Stef and making the arrangements for your special day?? You can email me privately if you want.
    Thanks again!
    DebiC

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    Statia: Excellent, excellent, excellent report! I didn't think I could read a trip report to the very end as so many are full or details of no importance, but your's was great!

    I may have missed it, but how did you find the apartment in Venice? Did you find it less expensive than a hotel? I ask because next June we are going to Italy with our 2 adult children and an apartment might be better for us than a hotel.

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    As always, thanks Ira. Maybe I'll think about the book idea since it would mean I'd have to go back....ha!

    DebiC, thanks to you, as well. I'm at work now, but I'll email you from home with Stef's contact info.

    Dick, you'll have to let me know when you get your pics posted. I'll look forward to it!

    Ronda, we found our apartment on line after much searching and looking at various ones. In Venice, we rented from Venice Rentals (venicerentals.com). We never found a comparable hotel room that wasn't a lot more expensive, so we really felt we came out much better. We paid 120 euro per night, since we booked in January, but I think the same apartment goes for 140 euro now. They do have specials, though, so check their website.

    If you go back to day 8 of the report, there is a bit more info about our experience with Venice Rentals, which was great, and the apartment itself.

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    Love the photos, Dick.

    Sue, in answer to your question, I've resided on the West Indian island of St. Eustatius for the past ten years. It's affectionately known as "Statia."

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    Statia, this is a silly little question but maybe you'll know the answer. Fodor's says only 3000 characters per post. How did you know you were over the limit? I know when I write my trip report, I'll have as much to share as you, and I also know I'll start typing and keep on going and going... Do you get cut off when your post goes over 3000? I'm asking because the very first post which started your story seems longer than the regulation length! And I'm sure no one in their right mind would actually count all those characters. Help! I'd hate to start typing and have anything disappear into cyberspace because I wasn't watching how long my post was (though my readers might disagree...)

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    Hi dln,

    I have no idea. I actually typed the trip report in an email program to try to avoid those question marks everyone ends up with everywhere, and it worked. I then cut and pasted day by day.

    I don't know if there is necessarily a limit since they've been upgrading the board lately. If there still is, I'm glad I stayed under it!

    I'm really looking forward to your report, as well. Be sure to let us all know right before you leave! And, use your travel journal diligently! It really pays off.

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    Statia - thanks so much for the wonderful trip report. It has made me look forward even more (which I didn't think was possible) to my upcoming trip to Italy at the end of September.

    I do have a question for you regarding the pictures, which were great! How did you upload them onto the internet - did you scan them into your computer, or did you get them processed in Italy onto a disk? I assume you didn't have a digital camera, since you had to get the pictures processed in Italy. I'd love to put all the pictures we take on our upcoming trip out on the web, but hate the thought of how long it would take to scan in all those pictures!

    Thanks again for such a great report.

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    TXStone: Are you from Texas, as I am, by any chance?

    Regarding the photos, we brought along both the digital and 35 mil cameras, and found that we ended up using mainly the 35 mil. We developed our photos daily on the trip, and then I scanned them in when I got home.

    I had 600 photos in total from the entire trip (including the professional pics for the vow renewal), so I only selected a few to put on line. I have to admit that I put together my photo albums, with descriptions, before I ever attempted the scanning feat, so that simplified things somewhat. I then chose certain photos, scanned them in JPEG format, and uploaded them onto worldisround.com. Yes, it was a bit time consuming, but worth it in the long run so that our families and friends could see the pics, since we live so far away from everyone.

    If you want advice on uploading, etc., feel free to ask. It took me a bit of time to figure out, but once I got the hang of it, it was really quite simple and less time consuming thereafter. You just have to look at it as a weekend project, rather than something you're going to get done in a day.

    Jean: Thanks for the compliment. I will definitely post after Scotland and Ireland. We are busily researching, planning and....God willing....will make it there in April.

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    STATIA
    Yeah...I just got back in town...so happy to find your last installment!!
    I'm planning our Ireland, Scotland & England trip also...for April or May!!
    Isn't the planning great fun??

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    Bailey, my friend...where did you go? Do enlighten me on your travels!

    Yes, I strongly agree that planning is half the fun, and DH is now agreeing with me. He is planning Scotland while I plan Ireland. First time that I haven't had a hand in all aspects of the trip(s) myself, but I trust him.

    It would be great if we could meet up in either country at some point. We'll have to keep one another posted on our plans!

    Glad you enjoyed the last installment. Thanks!

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    STATIA
    We were in Rochester NY...husband covering the NFL training camps!!
    Did have time to catch up with old friends & drink some of their great wine...AND READ THEIR PARIS TRIP NOTES!!
    I just received a great book of B&B's from the Irish Tourist Board...FREE
    1-800-233-6470....I'm not sure that will help...I know that you aren't in the states...maybe they have an address on their web-site. Here's my e-mail...in case I'm ever lost in this shuffle BaileyZimmerman@aol.com
    Maybe we can keep each other posted on the I&S (Ireland& Scotland)
    adventure!!

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    Statia:
    I am a native Texan as well. Thanks for your informative and entertaining trip report. I really enjoyed reading it. Regarding "...have to pay for internet time to be on Fodors..." - now that's trouble in Paradise? (what's the name of the exotic island you live on?) Thanks again, and safe travels to ya'll.

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    Bailey, I emailed you direct on Ireland.

    RLA, glad you enjoyed the report. Yes, paying per minute is a drag. In anser to your question, the island we live on is called St. Eustastius (or Statia for short, hence my screen name). It's an 8-square mile island of 2,000 inhabitants in the Dutch West Indies, near St. Maarten. We moved here from Houston ten years ago.


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    How absolutely wonderful - it's been a real pleasure reading your journal.

    Also you've given some thoughts and ideas - my husband and I will be renewing our wedding vows in Namibia next year - which will also be the year of our 10th wedding anniversary. We booked the trip about 6 months ago - almost 18 months in advance. It won't fall in the month of our anniversary because we decided to book the trip for the month we preferred, weather wise. Anyway, the post about the day of your renewal really touched me and made me think more about our upcoming experience. I just wanted to thank you.

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    Statia ~
    Oops! I meant, ...now THAT is trouble in paradise and no ? mark. Living on a beautiful island, something has to be less than rosy. Ha! Not much, hugh? I am writing in too big of a hurry today so I better get off this board until I can slow down! P.S. I loved looking at your pictures too. Ya'll are precious!

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    Statia - thanks for the photo tips. I look forward to posting all of our photos after our trip to Italy.

    Also, you guessed right - we are from Texas! My husband is a native Houstonian, and I moved to Houston in 1977 when I was 5. We still live here, though your island sounds like a small paradise - maybe someday...

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    I feel inclined to reply....only since this got topped again.

    Kavey, I hope you have a fabulous vow renewal, and I'm sure you will! You are doing your planning about the length of time we did. Trust me...it's very meaningful after all the ups and downs you've endured. I wish you both all the best! Looking forward to your trip report when you return.

    RLA, thanks...and yes, the per minute net time does cause "trouble in paradise" at times...ha!

    TxStone, glad to be of help. Looking forward to seeing your photos, too. Native Houstonian here, as well, and heading there for a visit in October. We'll be in the general Clear Lake area, which is where I grew up.


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    Statia, finally got a chance to catch up on this..thanks for posting all this!

    neat black and white photos, BTW!

    I am perplexed about something...you said you have been married for 25 years? Did you get married when you were 12 or something???? ;)

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    Whoops...I read one part wrong...I'm a numbnut. Forgot your ages posted in the beginning of your report! Forgot it was 10 years and not 25!!! (I nearly had a heart attack when my mind misprocessed the info...I was going to hunt you down to find out your beauty secrets!...although I still may do that!)

    You both look beautiful...I really enjoyed your wedding photos!

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    Hi Statia

    What an amazing report - you sure have a great talent for writing! Your time in Venice sounds a lot like our trip there in June - even down to the fact that you mistook the Vaporetto platform for the Vaporetto!!!! (had a good chuckle at that as Paul thought exactly the same thing). Thank you, thank you, thank you for such a great report.

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    This question is for Statia. Hope you are reading this ....

    I am traveling to Italy in May. I have rented the same apt in Florence as you. I have a few questions about the facilities in and around the apartment. Would you prefer for me to post the questions I have here or email you separately (I prefer the latter so that I won't clog the forum with my queries). If you prefer the latter, can I have your email address, please? Thank you in advance.

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    Hi Geminicricket,

    Sorry that it's taken me awhile to see your post, but I've been tied up in the US for the past couple of months, so I haven't been on line much. Feel free to email me at statia69@yahoo.com for more info about the Florence apartment. I'll be glad to answer any questions you have.

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    Yes I'm dredging up an old one here.

    I ran across this thread while prepping for my trip to Italy. I can't seem to find out what the Eurostar Club is.

    Statia, if you're still around can you enlighten me?

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    mdtravel, I was told about purchasing tickets at the Eurostar Club by another Fodorite.

    It seemed to me to be the equivalent of a frequent flier club, except for frequent Eurostar travelers. I could be mistaken, however.

    We didn't go very far into the club in Florence since we only bought our tickets at the front desk upon entering, so this is just my speculation. They were very helpful in there, though, and the calm and peacefulness sure beat the craziness of the train station outside. :)

    Sorry I can't be of more help.

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    Hi Statia,

    So happy mdtravel pulled up your post. At first I didn't even notice it was two years old.

    I literally had tears in eyes when I read of your vow renewal, the cards from your family back home and how your husband surprised you with roses.

    My husband and I are going to Florence & Venice this Jan and Feb, 2006.

    Could you tell me how did you found your "Stef"? What a huge asset she must have been to you!

    Thank you for such a lovely report, and Happy 'almost' 12th Anniversary ((L)) Tiff

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    Agreeing with Tiff... I've never seen this report before and it's great! We're going to Italy for our 1st anniversary in a few weeks (we spent our HM there last year) and now you have me imagining our 10th. =) Thanks for sharing! -- h.

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    Tiff, I certainly didn't expect this to be topped after so long, but thanks so much for the well wishes for our 12th. My how times flies. We will be in St. Martin this year and although nice, it's certainly not Venice. :)

    We found Stef thru a wedding consultant in Florence and I'd be happy to give you details on either if you'd like. The consultant in Florence is wonderful and, of course, Stef remains a dear friend of ours.

    hcloe1, I can just imagine what Venice is like as a true honeymoon destination. Congrats on your anniversary and defintely do think about renewing your vows there. It would be very special for you.

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    Hi Statia,

    Thanks for you reply. Yes, I would appreciate a website or contact number if you have it handy. For some reason I just feel like I should 'bookmark' it for future reference. I am always stashing little ideas for future reference, lol, and more often than not I use them.

    How fun it must have been to relive such wonderful anniversary memories here.

    A trip report, the gift that keeps on giving!

    ((G)) Thank you! Tiff

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    Hi Tiff,

    The link for the Florence wedding consultant is as follows. Chandi was very good to work with in so far as Florence wedding/vow renewal info, as well as referring me to Stef for Venice consulting.

    http://sogniitaliani.com/

    If you want Stef's email to contact her, as well, you can drop me a line at statia69@yahoo.com .

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    Leah, we stayed in the San Aponal apartment thru venicerentals.com on this trip. They still rent that particular apartment, but the terrace is no longer available. You can contact them directly for further info at info@venicerentals.com. Both Denise and Maurizio are wonderful to work with and will send you all the info you need.

    We just returned from Venice again this past October and rented the San Marcuola apartment from the same agency. It was located in a wonderful local neighborhood, closer to the train station, and had two bedrooms and a terrace.

    We were very pleased with both apartments and with the rental agency.

    Good luck with your trip planning! :)

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    I know you renewed your vows in 2003 in Venice and your reporting was great. I would like to know how you found "Stef" who helped you plan the event way in advance. Any help on whom to contact or where to start looking for a contact is greatly appreciated.

    Ciao!

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    What a nice surprise to find one of my fondest memories topped. :)

    slula, I found Stef thru an agency in Florence who referred me to her. Although my husband and I are still dear friends with Stef, she is no longer consulting on weddings or vow renewals since she is teaching at the university full time.

    Sorry I can't be of more help, but you could try contacting Chandi Wyant (who referred me to Stef) to see if she has any leads for you. Give Chandi my regards if you talk to her. :)

    http://www.sogniitaliani.com/

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