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Trip Report: Rome, Venice, Paris

Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 09:53 AM
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Trip Report: Rome, Venice, Paris

To celebrate turning 30, we went to Rome, Venice, and Paris Sept. 20-30, 2007! Background to help you follow along: Him-30, Estimator, laid back, not a planner, happy to be along for the ride. Me-30, Attorney, not laid back, deluxe planner, happy to be directing the ride. Us-married 7 years in October 2007.

I researched this site a ton to plan our trip and came up with the following itinerary. You can find where we stayed, our packing tips, and more at our blog: http://zanowiaksgotoeurope.blogspot.com/

Here was the plan:

Rome

DAY 1
7:15am Arrive Rome

7:30-9:00am: Drop bags off @ hotel and eat breakfast there


9-1pm: Walk through Piazza Navona and see 4 Rivers Fountain on the way to Castel Sant' Angelo. Tour. Lunch in area.


1-5pm: Taxi to Vatican. (1) Tour the Vatican museum/Sistine chapel, (2) use the "back door" to St. Peter's, (3) climb to the top of St. Peter's (The "back" door is at the back on the right - you go down some steps and round a corner, and end up at the doors of St. Peter's without having to walk all the way back round the Vatican walls and queue to get through security. You can only do this if you have not taken an audio guide - if you have you have to take it back to the entrance!)


5-7pm: Taxi back to hotel; have dinner at Rick Steve's recommended restaurant next door to hotel.

DAY 2


9-10:30am: Breakfast at hotel then stop at Spanish Steps and walk through park on way to Gallery Borghese

11-1pm : Gallery Borghese.

1-2pm: Lunch in park. Walk to Santa Maria degli Angeli.

2-4pm: Santa Maria degli Angeli

4-6pm: Capuchin Crypt

6-7pm: Take Metro to Pincio (Barberini to Flaminio) (sunset incredible)

7-8:00pm: Walk back to hotel and see Trevi Fountain and Column of Marcus Aerelius along the way

9pm: Dinner in Piazza Navona

DAY 3

9-1pm: Breakfast at hotel then be at sites when open:
Palatine Hill
Roman Forum
Colosseum

1-2pm: Lunch in area.

2-3pm: Maritime Prison

3-5pm: San Clemente

5-7pm: San Giovanni in Laterno

7pm-?: - Bus or taxi to hotel. Shower then dinner near Campo de Fiori. See sites at night, especially Campidoglio by Night.


DAY 4

Breakfast at hotel. Be at Pantheon when it opens.


8:30-10am: Pantheon


10-12pm: Walk to Travastere and see Santa Maria in Travastere

12-2:10pm: Get bags, grab lunch, catch train

2:10pm-6:46pm Rome-Venice via Eurostar

Venice

DAY 4
Arrive 6:46pm at Santa Lucia Station. Meet Rosanna and make way to apartment. Shower and have dinner near apartment.

DAY 5

Get up early to see St. Mark's Square empty and have breakfast.

Walk to Rialto Market and wander area. Eat lunch in area.

Walk to Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and tour.

See Campo Santa Margherita.

See Santa Salute.

Water taxi back to apartment for shower and dinner.

DAY 6

9:55-1pm: Breakfast then Secret Itineraries Tour at Doge's Palace

1-4pm: Lunch in area then tour St. Mark's Basilica

4-5pm: Elevator up Campanile. Wander area/ taxi Grand Canal/ get tickets for morning ride to airport.

Dinner.

Paris

DAY 4
Arrive 6:46pm at Santa Lucia Station. Meet Rosanna and make way to apartment. Shower and have dinner near apartment.

DAY 5

Get up early to see St. Mark's Square empty and have breakfast.

Walk to Rialto Market and wander area. Eat lunch in area.

Walk to Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and tour.

See Campo Santa Margherita.

See Santa Salute.

Water taxi back to apartment for shower and dinner.

DAY 6

9:55-1pm: Breakfast then Secret Itineraries Tour at Doge's Palace

1-4pm: Lunch in area then tour St. Mark's Basilica

4-5pm: Elevator up Campanile. Wander area/ taxi Grand Canal/ get tickets for morning ride to airport.

Dinner.

I blogged the whole time we were gone so I'll just cut and paste my entries here.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 09:55 AM
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Day 1: Slow But Steady

We landed at around 7:30am in Rome. Once we deplaned we found the passport line and zoomed right through. With no bags to wait on, we went to the "arrival hall" and found the man holding the card with our name on it (we reserved through Rome Shuttle [email protected]). It was 35E to go to our hotel. This was the best price by far that we found. We were in the car by 8:10am. It took about 45 min. to drive to our hotel. It was one of the scariest rides in a car I've ever experienced. The drive felt like a fair ride--lots of speed, fast stops and much swerving. There is no order to the driving here---no one seems to care that there are lanes, there are scooters weaving in and out of cars, no apparent speed limit, and in the city, the streets are ridiculously narrow. I had a headache by the time we arrived. Don't know if it was the driving or lack of sleep. We dropped our bags off, and the concierge said we might want to get to the Vatican museums earlier than we planned. So we caught a cab (6E)and were off the Vatican.

The lines were...long. We got at the end and reminded ourselves that you can't complain when you're in Rome. We waited in line for 1hr. and 20min. Most of the time we people watched and eavesdropped. Funny how we still eavesdrop over here even though we have no idea what they're saying. We got pizza while we were in line. It was really good (think two pieces inverted onto one another). It was 5E for the two slices. We got through the line and started wandering the museum. We aren't art lovers so we used our "Top 10" books (series by Eyewitness Travel)and picked up on the highlights. An hour later we ended our tour through the museum at the Sistine Chapel. It was packed with people. We admired for awhile then took the back door to St. Peter's so we wouldn't have to wait in line again and go through security again. We learned about the back door on the Fodor's website. If you're facing the back of the chapel, it's on your right side. When we were there, it was marked that the door was for group tours only. No one questioned us when we walked through though. This proved to save valuable time as the line was long. St. Peter's was larger and more spectacular than we imagined. I can't even begin to describe it. We used our book and wandered through. We didn't have the energy to climb the dome for the view so we headed out to get a snack. Found postcards and the Vatican post office along the way and a souvenir book with nice shots of Rome. Jonathan got a panini and I had my first gelato--wow. I plan on having one every day. I can't even describe it---it looks like pudding in the pails, and they have every conceivable flavor. I had caramel.

With a little more energy, we went back to take some pics of the outside of St. Peter's then head to Castel San Angelo (a massive circular tomb that was also the papal castle for 1,000 years). This proved to be a treat--our favorite along with St. Peter's for Day 1. It also had a view, and we mustered the energy to climb to the top of it. At the top was a cafe, and we sat and enjoyed for awhile. We made our way back to the hotel through Piazza Navona, a lovely little pedestrian square and loved it. Lots of people and cafes. We got back to the hotel at 5:30pm and took a short nap and showered. The hotel is in a wonderful location--just around the corner from Campo de Fiori ("field of flowers"), an area which holds the distinction of being the place where Caesar was assassinated. It's a really lively little area with loads of cafes, and most famously, the open market. In ancient times, it was the open space in from of the Theatre of Pompey. Our hotel was actually built on top of the Theatre of Pompey. Campo de Fiori is about 2 minutes away, Piazza Navona, 5-10min., the Ruins, about 15-20minutes.
The concierge made dinner reservations for us. We had dinner at 8pm at the restaurant next door that has a fixed menu. It's recommended in Rick Steve's book. We sat outside. The food was delicious. There was an antipasto course---with prosciutto, cheese, olives, and unidentified "beans" (think the look of green peas, but army green with a baked bean texture---they really were quite good). Then we had a pasta course followed by a meat course (we think it was pork). Finally, we had dessert, which was some type of apple dessert. The fixed menu was 22E a person. We were tired but surprisingly not grumpy and ready to end the day at about 9:30pm and get ready for Day 2.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 09:57 AM
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Day 2: Bad With Map But Get There Eventually

Day 2 was not a good day for us and our map. Streets are very poorly labeled here, and we are somewhat challenged with directions anyhow. We went down for breakfast at the hotel at 8am, feeling rested after a good night's sleep. Breakfast is served in an original part of the former Pompey's Theatre--really neat. There are meats, cheese, breads, fruit, yogurt, and cereal served--very filling. We learned the seriousness of coffee here and all the distinctions. Cafe italiano is basically an espresso, cafe americano is basically tar, and cappucino is basically coffee with heavy cream. We're sticking with cappucino from now on.

At 9am we left for our site seeing. We stopped in Campo de Fiori to fill our water bottles. There are lots of public fountains for such here--very neat. We stumbled upon the Saturday market---awesome! Fruit, fish, veggies, and anything else you can think of. We milled around a bit before we left for the Spanish Steps (off centre sweep of a staircase designed in 1723 for King Louis XV). The weather was gorgeous, and the walk nice. We made it to the Steps without incident. There was scaffolding up so we were unimpressed. We took our pics and tried to find the Villa Borghese, the amazing park leading up to the Gallery Borghese, touted as one of the world's greatest small museums in a 17th century villa in the park. We made reservations ahead of time (only a 2 hour window visit is allowed, spots are limited, reservations required, tickets were 10.5E each) to pick our tickets for the gallery up at 10:30am. After much difficulty finding even the entrance to the park, we gave up and hailed a cab. One scary cab ride later (6E), we arrived to pick up our tickets. Not surprisingly, our self-guided tour through the gallery was swift. We enjoyed it though---a highlight was Bernini's "David". At noon we walked through the park and shared a slice of pizza for lunch. We sat and people watched in the park. It was full of families with their children--really lovely. The gardens are clean and well manicured with lots of trails and fountains.

We then walked to Santa Maria degli Angeli, a Diocletian bath house that the pope commissioned Michelangelo to transform into a church in 1561. It really shows how massive the bath houses were. We then wandered around for an hour lost until we stumbled upon our destination, the Capuchin Crypt at 3:00pm. Advertised as a haunted house type place, it is decorated with the bones of monks. Don't know what led us there in the first place with that advertisement, but we confirmed it was not a repeat. After a frustrating day at map mis-reading, we decided we just couldn't stomach the rest of our schedule. The "no complaining while you're in Rome" rule was still in place, but my feet weren't cooperating.

We headed to Trevi Fountain (getting lost along the way). We finally arrived and found a beatiful fountain that was overcrowded with people. The tradition is that you throw a coin backward over your shoulder to ensure a return visit to Rome. If we would have tried this, we would have missed and pegged someone for sure--the crowd was unbelievable. We watched some pick pocket tricks, too strongly noticed the scent of some of our fellow tourists who don't care to use deoderant, then left for the hotel. We were frustrated and done with site seeing. Much to our surprise...one long walk later, we found ourselves on the opposite side of the city from our hotel! Luckily, it happened to be at some sites we wanted to see but skipped because we were tuckered out so we mustered the strength to see them. We went in Santa Maria del Popolo and walked up to a stunning view of the city at Pincio. We were glad we had walked the wrong way---both sites were a treat. Too tired to walk back to the hotel, and with absolutely no confidence that we could find it, we grabbed another cab (6E) and took another life threatening ride back to the hotel at around 6pm.

One nap and shower later, we were off to dinner around Piazza Navona. The concierge made us reservations at La Foccacia at 8:30pm. We actually had to order this time and did pretty well. Luckily, most everyone here knows some sort of English. I had a pizza (fresh from the brick oven) with buffalo mozarella and Italian sausage, and Jonathan had sea bass ravioli. Both were delicious. We ordered dessert and had some kind of custard with pureed raspberries on top. Very good.

We were told on the first day that dinner here is between 8-9:30pm. This is taking some getting used to.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 09:57 AM
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Day 3: Ancient Rome

The map got us again! After breakfast we headed to Ancient Rome. We were completely frustrated by finding the Forum (the center of the Republic for 1,000 years) so we were not off to a good start. Then when we did find it, it was poorly labeled so our guide book was even difficult to use. We struggled through it, and 2 hours later we found the ticket booth to Palatine Hill to buy our combo tickets to the Hill and the Colosseum (another tip from Fodor's to avoid waiting in line at the Colosseum for tickets which is always crowded). Palatine Hill was the birthplace of Rome and where the leaders built their homes---very cool. We wandered there for about an hour before heading to the Colosseum. It was hot, hot today so we were pooped. There was a huge line to enter the Colosseum and morale was low so we decided to eat lunch in the area then come back when the lines went down. A sandwich and slice of pizza later, the entrance line went down, and we passed through security. We passed the very long ticket line, thankful for the tip on combo tickets at Palatine Hill, and entered the Colosseum. It's huge and impressive, but we were done in no time at all. It was just so hot and really not a lot to read and see. On the people watching front, it was a treat, as we could not get over the number of people posing for photos here. I'm not just talking a "smile for the camera shot", I'm talking it looked like a series of modeling shoots...hilarious!

We walked to Mamertime Prison---the most famous of prisoners was St. Peter. There is an imprint of a face on the staircase wall which is said to be his. Supposedly the guards shoved him into the wall, and the wall gave way and left an imprint of his face.

The map started working for us, and we found St. Clemente in no time. This is one of the older churches in Rome. Finally, we headed to St. Giovanni in Laterno, the papal residence until the 1300's. It was pretty incredible inside. It's most famous for the outside, where there are saints gyrating on the top (yes, you read that right). Interesting...

We walked back to the Colosseum area at 4:15pm. We were finally in the shade, and it was none too soon! We took a break at a cafe around the Colosseum and enjoyed a panini and more people watching. We were back on our feet by 5pm to the hotel. We pit stopped into San Andrea de Valle, the church by our hotel. It was stunning---the second largest dome in Rome. After a few minutes there, we hit the hotel for a nap and shower before supper, which finds me here updating the blog. The hotel has two computers in the basement so blogging here is easy. More to follow tomorrow...
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Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 09:59 AM
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Day 4: Finishing Rome and on to Venice

To wrap up Day 3, we went to Travestere and had dinner. Travastere ("Across the Tiber") is Rome's left bank adn Bohemian neighborhood. It was the first time we picked our own restaurant, and it ended well. Actually, it was our favorite meal in Rome! We tried to find somewhere off the beaten path and somewhere that the locals were eating (i.e. we looked for the absence of backpacks and maps!). Our antipasto course was the most delicious bruscetta I've ever had---tons of fresh tomatoes. Then we each ordered a pasta dish. Mine was pasta with fresh parmesan, olive oil, and fresh ground black pepper. It was the most delicious thing! The Mr.'s had a tomato based sauce and was good, too. We shared a meat dish---veal in a lemon sauce. It was great. It was also our cheapest meal in Rome---35E. After dinner, we caught a cab back to the ruins (6E) and saw them lit up at night...really beautiful. We then went back to the square by our hotel and people-watched. We met a waitress from College Station (who sadly went to UT undergrad). The Mr. asked her all kinds of questions about the mob, and I think this remains his highlight of Rome. He has a fascination with the mafia, and she did nothing but perpetuate it.

Day 4

Woke up and packed up. We headed to the Pantheon at 10:30am. It's a pagan temple that was converted to a church. We did our 15 minute run through then grabbed a gelato, a table outside, and did more people watching. Some of our observations: (1) scantily clad people are not native to our area---we saw more than we ever wanted to see of the Romans and her tourists. (2) Everyone (absolutely everyone) smokes. When we get lung cancer, we will blame this trip. (3) eavesdropping is more fun when you don't know the language---you can make up the conversation and drama which is likely more interesting than what's really happening.

We grabbed a couple of souvenirs then got our bags and caught a cab to the Termini train station (10E). We were seated by a couple from Chicago. I suspect they were in their late 60's or early 70's. When we sat down, I asked (very Texan-like) , "Where are y'all from?" The lady responded very slowly, "A-mer-ica". I still laugh thinking about it. We visited with them for awhile (and played footsy a bit as we were sitting directly across from them and sharing leg space). The journey took 4.5hours. There was pretty scenery along the way. We napped, visited, and slept.

We arrived in Venice at 6:50pm. Since we are staying in an apartment here, we met the lady who would give us the keys and show us the way at the train station. Since we know ZERO Italian, and she knew very little English, we did lots of gesturing. We took a vaparetto (water-bus they call it) to the apartment area. We bought a 3 day pass on the vaparetto which allows you unlimited rides for 30E each.
The apartment is beautiful---La Rosa di Venezia. Very small, but just adorable. We are right on a side canal, literally around the corner from St. Mark's Square (2 minutes max). Rialto Market is about a 15 minute walk. After getting settled in, we went out to find a restaurant recommended by the apartment owners in the packet they left us. Sure, we should have known better than to trapse off with a map and confidence, but we did so anyway...and it was a disaster. Around and around we walked, and finally an Italian woman asked us what we were looking for. We told her the name of the restaurant, and she said it wasn't in the area. At that point I realized that I wrote down the name of the wrong restaurant! We were really looking forward to the restaurant so we wound our way back to the apartment and found the name of the right one. Familiar with the way back now, we headed back to our former locale armed with the name of the restaurant. We arrived and found...that it was the exact spot where the nice lady offered help! Ahh...the irony. The food was delicious. We ordered the antipasto di pesce (24E), which was a plate of assorted seafood. It had cod, a seafood spread, shrimp, crab legs, squid. It was huge and filling. We had a delicious meal, and went back (again) to the apartment. There was laundry to do so we stayed up doing that and finally turned in at 1am. Laundry was not fun, but we continued the motto that you can't complain when you're in Venice.

Will post the rest of Venice later...
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Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 12:11 PM
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Day 5: Relaxing in Venice

Had every intention of waking up early, but with laundry keeping us up so late, we slept in (until 8:30am that is). Got up, went to find a map at the tourist information booth by St. Mark's (found out that they will charge for absolutely everything here as there was not even a free map), then headed for a cappuccino and a croissant (yum and 9E total). Off to Rialto Market we went. It was spectacular...a huge area filled with fish and other unidentifiable (and live) sea creatures, fresh fruit and vegetables, and flowers. Lots of outdoor shopping booths, too, so I shopped and I shopped. The Mr. was a good sport and toted around the bags until we both wore out. We had an Italian sausage in a hoagie roll for energy--not bad. It was then back to the apartment for me to do my favorite...review and admire the purchases (and tally up the bills). The Mr. went to the supermarket and grabbed lunch fixin's while I did my nerdy-work. We had lunch by the table by the windows and enjoyed watching the gondolas go by. Then he napped, and I read until mid-afternoon. Just a perfect day.

We went exploring afterwards---saw a church (Santa Marisa Gloriosa dei Frari) and cute little square with lots of natives (Campo Santa Margherita). We went and grabbed a pasta dish afterwards at the same place we ate last night because it was so good (we had a pasta dish with prawns--very good; 24E total) and are now here recounting the day. There is an Internet cafe not too far from the apartment with English keyboards--hurray!

What a great place! The weather is sunny but cooler than Rome (thankfully). More to follow...
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Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 04:53 PM
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bookmarking this to enjoy later - Thanks!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 06:57 PM
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bkmk for Rome portion - thanks.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2008, 07:20 PM
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Loving your trip report mindibz, the details, your sense of humor..and feeling like I am in Italy with you! Thank you for taking the time to share your Italy adventure. And wishing you more joyous times while you are still in Italy along with a good flight to Paris.
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Old Apr 4th, 2008, 03:52 AM
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Thanks so much for reading! Will continue with Venice today!
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Old Apr 4th, 2008, 04:40 AM
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Wow. This is a marathon. Thanks for all the effort you're putting into this detailed report.
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Old Apr 4th, 2008, 04:57 AM
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Day 6: Soaked in Venice

We woke up this morning to rain--we had such a wonderful day yesterday, and waking up to the sound of rain on the canal was perfect. We opened the windows to smell and see and thought our second day in Venice was off to a good start. We have read that it rains on and off here. Our plan was to get breakfast then head to Doge's Palace for the Secret Itineraries Tour. We had reserved our tickets online and needed to pick them up beforehand (16E each for tour and the rest of Doge's Palace). We noticed that the rain was getting louder and louder. We geared up and headed out--rain wouldn't stop us! The apartment is on the 2nd floor (which is 3rd over here). When we got to the bottom floor and saw the rain seeping in the building, we knew it wasn't a good sign. We made it to the corner (about 15 steps) before we were completely drenched! The wind was blowing like crazy, sheets of rain were coming down, and we were cold and drenched. We gave up on finding breakfast and headed to Doge's Palace for shelter. There were tour groups from cruise ships arriving, and those poor folks were really drenched and discouraged, as they only had 1 day in Venice. We decided our fate could be worse; we at least enjoyed a gorgeous day yesterday.

We got to Doge's Palace at 9:30am, as our tour was at 9:55am. When we got there, they said the only tour guide available, due to the weather, was at 12:55pm so we got tickets for that time. We went to the cafe at the palace for breakfast (which was really quite good) and had croissants and cappucinos again (mine was chocolate and delicious; Mr.'s was some kind of apple and equally delicious). 7.5E for breakfast. We decided to tour the rest of Doge's Palace. It is the official residence of the 120 doges who ruled Venice from 697-1797. After our self-guided tour, we decided to run over to see St. Mark's before the Secret Itineraries Tour. We geared up and headed out in the rain. There were walking paths set up (think plywood on top of a platform) because the water was so thick on the ground. We got drenched again, only to find a long line at St. Mark's---back to Doge's it was! We went to the cafe again and had lunch. We both had a slice of pizza. Their pizza is different. It's more like deep dish with no crust, cut into squares. It was hot; we were cold---just what we needed. The Mr. had a cappuccino, too; our lunch total was 14E. We finished lunch and met for the tour. It was a tour of the 3rd floor of the palace which was used for administrative purposes and torture. One of the famous prisoners was Casanova. Our tour guide was excellent; we would recommend the tour. It lasted about 1.5 hours.

When we left Doge's Palace, the rain and line at St. Mark's Basilica had subsided (just sprinkling now). We lined up and were in the Basilica by 2:15pm. True to our form, were through it in about 15 minutes. We thought it was more spectacular from the outside than the inside. We decided to take the elevator to the top of Campaniele, a tower in St. Mark's Square where you can get a good view of the city. It was 12E, and the view really wasn't that great. I don't think I'd recommend it (however, upon returning, our pictures from the top turned out just fantastic so I believe I'd do it again for them alone).

By 3pm, we were wet and cold, and needed a break. We went back to the apartment, put dry clothes and shoes on, snacked, and napped. At 4pm, we left for some more shopping and to hit the Internet cafe. It was no longer raining, and the sky had cleared a bit. It turned out to be rather pleasant--though still cold. After finding a neat little shop with leather bound journals and oil canvases, we stopped for appetizers at Naranzaria. It's a quaint little place on the water by Rialto Market.

By 7:30pm, we were hungry and went off to find another recommended restaurant---Vini da Gigio. We had tried to get reservations but were unable to connect to their number. When we arrived, they were booked. We were discouraged. The owner was so nice and asked if we would like her to see if her brother's restaurant had a table. It was across the street, and she said it had the same quality of food and a similar menu. That sounded great, and she walked us over. Her brother got us a table and was wonderful to us all night. His restaurant is called Al Fontegodei Pescatori; he's the president of the Rialto Fish Market. We decided this would be our "splurge meal", and we ordered the fixed menu. We are so glad we did! The first course was an array of different seafood. The second course was a pasta dish and a rissoto dish. The third course was a sea bass dish. Finally, the dessert was an apple struedel . It was all wonderful, and the presentation was beautiful. It was 51E each. We would highly recommend this restaurant.

We stopped at the Internet cafe on our way back to the apartment and got sad news. The Mr.'s Uncle Dan would likely not make it through the day. We were lucky enough to live by his aunt and uncle in the last city we lived in, and they are the most fantastic couple. We were able to spend time with them over Labor Day and are so thankful for that. Think generous, kind, funny, sarcastic, intelligent, loyal, devoted, and you've got the right mental picture of Uncle Dan. We are shocked and saddened, but feel comforted in a weird way by our sadness. We'd like to think if we didn't have such a special relationship with him, we wouldn't feel his loss so deeply. We'll be looking to end our trip early to be with family.
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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 01:20 PM
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Day 7: From Venice to Paris

Our flight left Venice at 7:30am for Paris. We booked a flight on MyAir. In order to get to the airport on time, we had to catch a vaporetto at 5am. This found us up at 4am. We had gotten virtually no sleep the night before with packing and news of Uncle Dan so this was a challenge! The air was chilly so that helped wake us up. The vaparetto was on time, and at 5:40am, we arrived at Piazze del Roma to catch the land bus to the airport. We arrived at the airport at 6:15am to check in. I don't know what I was expecting, but the airport was new and modern, and surprisingly efficient. We were amused and annoyed by a group of couples checking in in front of us. It appeared that they were all taking a weekend trip to Paris. It started with about 4 couples. Then another couple would show up, they would exchange kisses, and that couple would cut in line. This happened over and over again (yet we were the only ones who seemed to notice or be annoyed!). It was almost our turn when the final couple arrived and made the final cut. The man looked at us and said something we didn't understand. We pretended he said, "I'm a cutter, and I know I'm a cutter." We checked in without further incident and went to get a cappuccino which we desperately needed. We each had a cappuccino and croissant (4.5E)--our cheapest breakfast yet!


We got our luggage in Paris, bought metro tickets, and headed to the apartment we rented there. It is in the St. Germain area--a really great location. We arrived there at 10:30am. The lady we rented from was a complete riot. She was scatter brained and spastic and made us tired just watching and listening to her!

We went out to get lunch and find an Internet connection which was not far from the apartment. We got the news that Uncle Dan had in fact passed and began planning our early departure. The soonest we could leave was Friday so we decided to make the most of our Thursday. So began our whirlwind tour of Paris...

It was 1:30pm when we left with our map and metro tickets. First stop: a walk along the Seine and stop at Notre Dame. I was in Paris in 1999, and there was scaffolding all over Notre Dame so I really enjoyed seeing it this time. We immediately noticed the difference in the churches in Rome and Venice and Paris: the Italian churches were art focused---the paintings and frescoes were the highlights. The French churches had magnificent stained glass. Second stop: the Louvre. The Louvre was on strike during my 1999 visit so I was particularly excited about this (and okay, I'm more than a little obsessed with The DaVinci Code). We got there at 2pm, got our tickets (9E each), and started hitting the highlights. The enormity of the museum was unbelievable---it just kept going and going. The display rooms were fantastic, as well as their treasures. We really enjoyed it. We walked through the Jardin des Tuileries (formal gardens laid out in the 17th century) after the Louvre. They were beautiful. The leaves were turning, and there was a good distant view of the Eiffel Tower.

Next we walked along the Avenue Champs-Elysees, making our way to the Arc de Triomphe. We climbed the narrow 284 steps to the viewing platform and enjoyed the view at the top (6E each). We also got to see the symbolic reignition of the eternal flame on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which was neat. Finally, we headed to the Eiffel Tower to see it during the daytime. By 7pm, we were hungry and spent. We freshened up at the apartment, finalized our departure, then went to see the Eiffel at night. It was misty and cold by that point, but we were not to be deterred! It was lovely at night, and we had "dinner" at a refreshment stand at the tower (if you call a hot dog on french bread and the most delicious chocolate banana crepe dinner). It may have been just one day in Paris, but we made the most of it! We went back to the apartment, reminisced about all the funny things on the trip, packed up, and toasted to Uncle Dan--when we all were together he always toasted my favorite toast, just 2 words, "To Family".
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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 01:20 PM
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Day: 8: Back to the States

We decided to get up early, grab a croissant and coffee, and head to Jardin du Luxembourg, a 60 acre park right by our apartment. We went to a bakery for our croissants (I'll miss you chocolate croissant!), then cheated and went to Starbucks. We were just dying for a large cup of coffee that wasn't so strong. It was delicious! The park was lovely. We were back to the apartment at 8:30am to grab our stuff and metro to the airport. Our flight was at 11:40am so we wanted to leave plenty of time to find our way. Miraculously, we did great with the map and metro system in Paris, which led to some false confidence.

We got on the metro B line to the airport. I innocently asked a girl while we were riding about the airport. I knew we were in trouble when she started shaking her head no. We followed her off the metro, and she found someone who could speak English to tell us where to go---platform 32 or 33 in that stop. Around and around we walked----finally we found it. We got on and other people had luggage so we thought that was a good sign. It was almost 9:45am by this point though so we were pushing it. Next we notice that there are two stops for the airport, depending on what terminal you're at. We found a nice man who let us borrow his cell to call American to find our terminal stop. In the meantime, a young girl with a baby in a stroller attempts to get off the metro. We are preoccupied with finding the terminal, and she waits too long to get off (okay, so maybe our bags were in her way), and the baby stroller gets stuck in the door! The nice man and the Mr. yank on the door until it reopens and the girls gets down safely with the stroller. It was scary and distracted us from our nervousness of missing the flight (for about 10 seconds). We arrive at the right stop and have to weave to get to the check in counter. We hustle there to see that we have 15 minutes to spare before cut off check in--hurray! But...they say we have to go to ticketing! We race to ticketing, weaving in and out of a very crowded aisle with all our stuff. We get there, she starts working on our tickets since we were a last minute change, takes our credit card to pay the change fees, and it's declined (even though we already alerted Visa that we would be leaving the country---arghhh). Now is not the time. We finally get the bank card to work and start working our way back. Only 5 minutes left! This place is packed, and we are full speed running back to check in! We are weaving, body checking, and I'm running over more than a few toes with my bag. The Mr. decides to pick up his bag and use it as a shield in front of him; he also checks his share of passerbys (and quite possibly leveled an innocent woman though he didn't have time to turn around and check; he just heard a loud "awww"). I know no French, and the Mr. doesn't remember much from high school so we don't even bother with saying, "I'm sorry", we've got a flight to catch! We make it in time and finally get to catch our breath.

We pass through security and passport control without incident and caught the flight fine. We had great seats this flight (in front of TV and with lots of legroom) on a newer aircraft which was wonderful. Our flight was on time (even early). When we were going through passport control in the states, a couple of foreign people went under the rope and cut in line, and our fellow Americans were exchanging looks, completely annoyed...ahhh.... home again, home again.
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