This was our second visit to Venice but my parents were joining us and it was their first trip here. I read quite a bit about aqua alta in Venice, but had noted that it mostly happened in the winter, particularly November and December. For those who do not know, aqua alta literally means “high water” and is a phenomenon which causes exceptional tide peaks in the Adriatic Sea. These peak cause major flooding in the Venetian lagoon, particularly St. Mark’s Square, as it is the lowest point in Venice. I am always interested in experiencing something unique to a culture or city and I always considered that I would like to go to Venice during an aqua alta at some point. However, this trip was in late March so it never occurred to me that it might be happening now.
We were arriving in the evening after a long trip with some longer layovers so I decided we would take a water taxi as our hotel had it’s own dock and entrance from a small canal. I thought this way we would not be wandering at night with our luggage looking for our hotel. Unfortunately, because the water was so high the water taxis could not travel on the small canals under the bridges so we had to be dropped off near the Rialto Bridge and guess what? We had to wander through the streets with our luggage looking for our hotel. Well, it would not be a visit to Venice without that I guess!
I noticed that night the gangplanks were set up near the Rialto Bridge and I thought – Oh my! They must be having an aqua alta with all this rain! The next morning we had a Secret Itineraries Tour at the Doge’s Palace scheduled. We headed over there but stopped when we saw that St. Mark’s Square was flooded. Now here is the tricky part. When it is flooded you can only enter St. Mark’s Square from certain spots without having to walk through the ankle deep water- the two main entrances are up near the entrance to St. Mark’s Basilica. The gangplanks set up are just wide enough for people to walk both ways, umbrellas can make this even more precarious. Please note the gangplanks closest to the Basilica enter straight into the church. The gangplanks located just a bit further from the church go to the campanile and then over to the Doge’s Palace. There are no signs telling you this and we first got on the gangplanks entering the basilica when we needed to head to the Doge’s Palace. We realized too late then had to turn around and go all the way back out from the square and enter again through the other set of gangplanks. Luckily we made it to the Doge’s Palace only a few minutes late and only missed the first few minutes of the tour.
Keep in mind that the high water will only last for a few hours, by early/mid afternoon the water had receded and St. Mark’s square was dry again.
So just try to avoid that area in the morning. If I had known we might encounter this I would definitely have come prepared. Probably would have worn cheap rain boots on the plane because having a pair would have made getting around very easy as we could have walked wherever we wanted with out having to worry about walking on the gangplanks. I have read that some of the smaller B&Bs and hotels provide rain boots for their guests but ours was a larger hotel and did not.
The vendors would set up in any dry spot they could find.
The view of St. Mark’s square from the top of the campanile as the water starts to recede.
I know our aqua alta experience was actually a bit mild compared to other’s I have heard about but, while a bit frustrating it was also fun to experience something so unique to Venice.
I usually plan our trips way in advance, but we were headed to Italy to visit our daughter who was studying in Rome and we had to wait until she arrived there and got her complete schedule so we would know exactly when we could visit. That gave me just about 6 weeks to plan the trip. I got very lucky though with all of our accommodations and loved the new hotel I found in Venice. Hotel ai Reali is located in Castello very close to the Rialto Bridge but in a small campo next to an interior canal, so tucked away and very quiet. It had just opened in Nov. 2012 but all the reviews on it were excellent. It was a perfect location easy to walk everywhere and close to the Rialto Bridge stop for the vaporetto.
The lobby as well as the rooms were decorated in the grand Venetian style with fabric wall coverings, chandeliers, and marble bathrooms.
I had booked a Classic room for my mom and dad and a Deluxe room for Stephen and I and Michael. When we arrived they said they had upgraded us both to a Junior Suite!! Our room was very nice and very large with a nice view of the canal. Probably the largest hotel room we had ever had in Europe. In addition to our king size bed they had a roll away for Michael and a couch, coffee table and round table. Unfortunately, the roll away bed was not that large and Michael who is about 5’10″ and thin, found it quite narrow. Probably best for smaller kids, not an adult or older teenager.
The closet was actually a small room so tons of space for us to keep all of our luggage.
My parents room even had a fireplace.
The wifi connection in the room and lobby was excellent and the towels were nice and soft and fluffy – probably due to the fact that the hotel was new. The hallways and landing areas were also very large and nicely decorated.
They also have a canal entrance if you are arriving/departing by water taxi.
Breakfast was served in the restaurant which was nice and the rooms had a view of the canal. It was not one large room but several smaller rooms, and we never had a problem finding a table. A nice breakfast buffet with the usual meats, cheeses, cereals and pastries but also scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and some yogurt that Stephen particularly liked. The ladies in the breakfast room were very nice and helpful.
Stephen did use the sauna and jacuzzi which is a nice addition to the hotel. He said they were both nice, however, the jacuzzi was not hot enough and they would not let you turn the jets on because apparently they make too much noise and disturb the rooms below. Too bad, because this is a welcome amenity to a hotel in Venice, and unfortunate that you can not use it the way it is intended. They also have a spa which we did not use, but they generally were offering specials each day at breakfast if you made an appointment that day.
We do not usually eat in the hotel restaurant when traveling, but we arrived in the evening and by the time we checked in and got settled, it was almost 9pm. I had read good reviews of the hotel’s restaurant, Alle Corone, so we decided to just eat there. Stephen and I shared a salad and Michael had a fish carpaccio to start. Stephen and Michael had tagliata which was excellent and cooked a perfect medium rare. I ordered the spaghetti with scampi. When it came it did not look all that exciting, but the flavor was delicious and the scampi very sweet.
The servers here were also very nice and extremely helpful in explaining things on the menu. These little treats came with our bill.
On our last night we had determined that our best meal by far was the meal at the hotel so we decided to return there and my parents joined us this time. (The first night they were exhausted and just went to sleep). Another wonderful meal – I had ordered the calf liver with apples and a side of creamy polenta. The dish was quite large and I thought I will never be able to eat that much liver but it was so good that I finished it all!
We had a fantastic stay at Hotel ai Real. I suspect next year at this time this place will be more popular so I would book further in advance!
We recently returned from a two week trip to Italy. We had a painfully long layover in Salt Lake City – 9 hours!! We had flown through SLC at Christmastime and knew it was a very nice airport, but 9 hrs was too long to be stuck inside. I decided it made sense to rent a car and explore a bit of SLC. There is apparently a free shuttle that will take you to Temple Square from the airport, but we always do carryon only and we felt renting a car was the easiest and safest way to have our luggage. We left Medford, Oregon about 6:15am and arrived in SLC at 9am. I had read about Park Cafe for breakfast – it got excellent reviews, so we headed there first. It was Saturday morning about 9:30/10am when we arrived and was very crowded. We had to wait almost an hour and a half to be seated it was so crowded, but have to admit it was worth the wait. The menu is typical American breakfast fare but they really did do everything very well and the service was excellent. The original plan was to do Temple Square and then drive up to Park City. The breakfast took longer than expected so I did not think we could do both Temple Square and Park City. Stephen and Michael dropped us off at Temple Square and they drove up to Park City to just drive around and see everything. Read More →
Even with the growth of internet maps and GPS systems I still find the need for a good old-fashioned map whether it is for planning a trip or for getting from place to place around a city. When we first started traveling someone recommended the Streetwise maps and I have been hooked ever since. They are the perfect size for sliding inside a small crossbody bag or even fit nicely in your back pocket. Read More →
We go up to Portland, Oregon quite a bit and have stayed in many of the main downtown hotels. We planned a last minute trip for the President’s weekend and this time chose The Nines as it was $50/night cheaper than the other contenders (though this is not always the case). We had stayed here several years ago when they had first opened, but for one reason or another had never gone back. While all the downtown hotel’s are very well located for shopping and picking up the MAX light rail, The Nines definitely has the best location of them all. Located in the Meier and Frank building, you can just walk out of the lobby and the entrance to M & F is right there. Just kitty-corner is the entrance to Pioneer Place and Nordstrom is just one block up past Pioneer Courthouse Square. The MAX light rail runs right by the hotel, a stop is just 1/2 block away, or you can walk just a few blocks up to the streetcar stop and get to The Pearl or NW 23rd. Read More →
There are many reasons why we started traveling abroad with our kids. To “see the world”, experience other cultures, see things we had read about or seen in movies and eat amazing food. But there was one other reason as well. I wanted to be sure my kids were not apprehensive or intimidated about studying abroad if that was what their dream would be to do. When I was in college I had some interest in studying abroad, but having never traveled abroad I was fearful of the experience, and not sure my parents would have supported the idea. Read More →
Great news! It is easy to take a shower or freshen up at SFO after a long haul flight or just a long day. My daughter left Sunday morning from Oregon to San Francisco for her trip to study abroad in Rome. While waiting for her SFO – Frankfurt flight she received notification via her phone that the flight had been cancelled!! No attendants at the counter because her previous flight arrived earlier and it was still 2 hrs before the flight had to leave. She finally found an agent who said she had to go outside of security to talk to someone. In the meantime she also called United’s 1-800 number where she was promptly put on hold. After waiting in an enormous line and being on hold for ever, she did eventually get rebooked on a Swiss Air flight but it was not leaving for another 6 hours. Then she had to lug all her luggage on a cart (we estimated at least 100 lbs.) from the domestic terminal to the international terminal.
We are still not sure why they just left her luggage on the carousel in the domestic terminal, but I guess after the flight got cancelled that is what they do??
Anyway, after all this she called, and said “Mom, I’m drenched!! Is there anywhere I can take a shower here?!” I quickly googled and was happy to tell her that yes, there is a place called Freshen Up located before security in the International Terminal, near the entrance for Gates 91-102. For about $15 they provide you with soap, shampoo, conditioner, towel, and slippers.
Lauren said it was very nice and clean. One of the reviews I had read about it said you could not lock the doors, but Lauren said her door definitely had a lock. When she was done she said she felt 1000x times better and was now ready for the rest of her journey!! There is also a place right next door where you can pay to store your luggage.
I tried to see if I could find out what other airports had a Freshen Up but they do not have a website. Would love to hear if others know about places like this in other airports, in the US and abroad.