If there is a perk to living in Turkey, I think it must be that a good meet-up point with the fam is in Europe. And it just so happened that none of my family had been overseas before (other than the Caribbean).
So with a little twisting of their arms (no twisting at all when there is a certain little someone named Aubrey that will be present), they agreed to a two week European adventure starting in Venice, stopping in Paris, and finally finishing in Edinburgh. Although I had been to both Venice and Paris (a few times), once I counted up how long it had been and realized around 11 years had passed since then, I was excited to see them with new eyes. And having never been to Scotland, it was tops of my list.
Aubrey and I arrived at the Venice airport just a half hour or so after the family arrived, so that made meeting up easy. We said our hellos, collected our luggage, and opted for a private boat transfer to Venice (for a group our size it was actually cheaper than the normal public transportation).
I may have squealed with excitement when I saw we were getting a wooden boat. Just like George!
I know I brag on her often, but this little girl is a serious travel trooper. I woke her from a sweet slumber at the ugly hour of 1:00 am and dragged her to the airport to make our 3:35 am flight. Not only did she not cry once, but she also didn’t make a peep in spite of being lugged in the Ergo, in the blazing heat, in the NON-air conditioned boat, and eventually what ended up being an hour+ long fiasco finding our apartment. I know the rest of us were in a state of misery by the time we finally arrived, but she just plugged along as if nothing was amiss.
So back to the boat ride. It was pretty awesome, and way worth getting the private transfer over the water bus/taxi.
The only pitfall was that those of us sitting in the back seat caught a few splashes to the face along the way. Just a little “crystal clean” canal water…NBD 🙂
The apartment we rented through Airbnb was only a 4 minute walk from the stop on the canal. Being the avid planner that I am, I created a document with step-by-step directions, all the relevant information for all of our sites, and contact information in the case of an emergency. Unfortunately for us, the boat driver dropped us at a dock just slightly down from the normal stop (which was crowded at the moment), immediately throwing us off of my directions. I didn’t have an international plan on my phone, there wasn’t Wi-Fi where we were, Will wasn’t with us so I couldn’t use his international phone, AND when we did stop and ask directions the lady told us to go three bridges in the wrong direction.
It’s one thing to walk block and bridge after block and bridge under the Italian sun when you are wondering the city to your heart’s content. It’s quite another when you are hauling a ton of luggage, a baby, and a stroller laden with all the bags and such we could squeeze for easier transport.
At one point the handle on the stroller sounded like it was cracking as we hoisted it over yet another bridge.
By the time we found the apartment (and subsequently realized just how freaking close it was to our starting part), we were completely pooped…and absolutely pouring sweat.
Then we had 4 stories of double flighted (<– is that even a word??) stairs to get up before we were finally home free.
Although comical (and downright hilarious now), it was not the best start to our European vacation.
To make matters worse, the advertised “air conditioned” apartment was down to only one working AC unit out of four, which happened to be in the back bedroom, and of very little use to the rest of the 2 story apartment. We were told a tech would be called to come fix it, but after three days we resigned to the fact that AC was not in the cards for us. So we took turns sleeping in the room with the working unit, and assigned Aubrey to that room full time. Then we opened all the windows and moved the only fan up and down the stairs to whatever room we chose to sit in. We all ended up with approximately one million bug bites. Luckily we spent as much time as possible exploring the city, and making use of the two terraces – which alone were enough to make all the heat worth it. They were incredible!
Once we settled in, freshened up a bit, and put A down for a nap, a few of us headed down the street to grab some pizzas for dinner…and decided a small bottle of Prosecco was in order while we waited for the pies to be made and baked (So awesome to get to have fresh made, melt in your mouth delicious authentic pizza whenever you want! AND it was super cheap compared to our crap delivery in the states.)
On the walk back to the apartment we all caught a second wind, and a glimpse of a street-side cafe that was calling our name. Four hours later, quite a few local beers, a few appetizers, and the additional company of my parents and Aubrey later…we finally finished the walk home to enjoy our pizza on the terrace.
The next day, after a beautiful breakfast on the terrace, we set out to see one of the only two major sites I planned.
After walking around Saint Mark’s Square, we stopped for a quick (and pricey) drink on the square.
Aubrey loves music so when the band picked up she was enthralled. They realized she was watching them like a hawk and began playing to her. It was adorable!
The Rialto Bridge was under construction (as was everything in Europe it seemed), so the pictures kind of sucked of the actual bridge, hence the reason they aren’t included.
On our last full day I had planned for us to rent a car and venture into the Prosecco region to a couple of wineries. The ladies in my family (myself included) LOVE champagne/sparkling wine/bubbly, and we had all looked forward to this part of the trip for a while.
But once again the vacation gods were against me.
Our GPS that I had so carefully toted from Turkey ended up not working due to a needed update that required my computer – that I did not tote from Turkey.
The GPS from the rental car place was a piece of crap that needed to be plugged in constantly, only the plug was worn out and wouldn’t stay in unless you held it. Oh, and it was so dated it could hardly find anything.
We did luck out and end up with a big van instead of two separate cars, but of course it was a stick shift, and bulky, making it hard to navigate in crowded city streets, and narrow country roads.
We found the first winery relatively easily, thanks to using some of the data my Aunt Jill had thought to put on her phone in case of an emergency. But then found out it was closed for lunch (we had planned to eat lunch there and were absolutely starving), so the lady gave us directions to the only restaurant in the small town, and told us to come back in an hour.
The restaurant was closed.
So we ventured on to the next town, and had our first stroke of luck when we happened upon a little restaurant with a terrace view that could make you cry it was so beautiful. We were the only patrons so we weren’t totally convinced that they didn’t stay open just for us giving the very late lunch, pre-dinner time.
We were happy to find that the bottles of Prosecco were super cheap…and proceeded to order a few to get started.
Along with a first course of fresh homemade pastas.
And a second course of beef tartar (a common theme for the rest of our trip), and steaks that were melt in your mouth delicious.
Our fearless (and very very patient) driver.
After lunch, because it was late, we made the decision to keep driving on to the second winery instead of going back to the first. There our bad luck continued. Not only was the tasting room in a completely different location than where Google Maps had led us (and costed us precious data and the the bulk of the phone battery life we had), but the man working at the distribution center informed us that you also had to call ahead in order to get into the tasting room anyway.
We attempted to find another winery close by and started driving, only to get a few miles down the road and realize that we wouldn’t have enough battery to finish navigating. By this point I was getting pretty down. It was already after 4:00 pm, and outside of the fantastic lunch, we hadn’t set foot IN a winery nor tasted a drop of Prosecco.
We made a pit stop at a gas station, and to lift spirits (and because we could), while I brainstormed, we bought a bottle of Prosecco and shared it right there at the gas station cafe tables. Of course there was no wi-fi that would have solved our problems, but I did manage to squeeze out the last little but of battery from Jill’s phone to find a winery, and after several attempts got our POS GPS locked in to a location near it. And from there we relied on our natural navigational instincts to lead us.
Believe it or not we actually found the place. But as our luck had it, although I found it in an article detailing the best Prosecco wineries and tasting rooms to visit and this particular one was mentioned, it did not, in fact, have a tasting room.
And with that, our last hope of making it to a winery died.
My family laughed about it all, and swore they had a great time just getting to see the countryside and eating an incredible lunch with a priceless view. And I believe them, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m still pretty bummed the day didn’t work out like I’d planned.
My Mom was so excited to bring her new selfie stick for the trip. While I really hate those things, I will admit it made getting a group shot super easy (I really hate entrusting random strangers with my camera – and trying to explain to them how to work it – and ending up with blurry crappy photos anyway).
The next day we had one last breakfast on the terrace to clean out the fridge, and eventually made our way to the train station. One of the things Jill wanted to do in her 50th year was to take a train ride, and I was happy to oblige. The next stop was Paris via a sleeper train.
Too bad for us, our bad lucked followed right along…