Let's go back in time a little, shall we? Specifically, let's go back to late winter 2012. Mr. Frisby and I had just done our taxes and were set to get a killer return (having a mortgage and a baby are awesome in that regard). We thought about the different things we could do with the money and ultimately decided to give in to our irresponsible inclinations and travel. We thought about various destinations and then I remembered that my oldest sister, Julie, and her husband, Terrell, were planning to do a cruise with my parents somewhere in the Mediterranean. I called her up and invited ourselves along. It was so long ago that the details are now a bit fuzzy in my memory. But, I remember telling her that Venice was at the top of my list of places I wanted to travel to (and had been ever since I had a list of places that I wanted to travel to) and so I wanted that to be in the itinerary. She was happy to have us along and the planning commenced. She found a spectacular 11 night itinerary that sailed out of Venice on September 15th, 2013 and arrived in Rome on September 29th. When it opened up for booking in April 2012, she got all of us balcony cabins right next to each other. We were super excited, but September 2013 was a long way off. Over the course of the next year and a half, we busily researched the ports we would be seeing and booked tours in most of the ports. Somewhere along the way, another sister, Gaylene, decided to join the fun and then another sister, Tracy, and her husband, John, joined in, too. We decided to fly into Venice a couple days before boarding the ship so we would have a good amount of time there. And we decided to stay a few extra nights in Rome after the cruise to see the sights there. As we got all of our flights and hotels and tours booked, we anxiously awaited September 2013. *cough* understatement *cough*.
As we made our plans and got ready to go, there were a number of things that made me nervous about taking Stella on a trip of this magnitude, not least of which was the super long flights. I did some research to find good activities and/or products to keep a toddler busy on a plane and I stocked up with those items.
At last Thursday, September 12th arrived and we headed to the airport, giddy with excitement. Gaylene, who lives in Morgan Hill, was with us and we met up with my parents once we got to our gate. Stella had a great time watching all of the goings on at the airport while we waited to board. That's our plane out the window.
One of the things I LOVE about traveling with kids is priority boarding. We boarded early and got settled in our seats. It was Stella's naptime - and it showed. Here she is waiting for takeoff. She looks like she's smiling, but she's actually screaming.
The 10 hour flight to Amsterdam was looking more and more painful by the minute. Fortunately, my sister and parents were sitting nearby, so once they got on Stella was a little happier. Just before takeoff, one of the flight attendants asked how old Stella was. When she found out she wasn't two yet (only a week and a half away), she freaked out a little and told us that, even though she had her own seat, she had to be on one of our laps, buckled in a special seatbelt that connected to one of ours for takeoff and landing. Fine, KLM. Give us the special seatbelt. After the fasten seatbelt sign was turned off and Stella was free to move about the cabin, she was happy. We began the process of gradually pulling out all of the new things that I brought to keep Stella busy to while away the ten hours. Stella has never really watched videos before except of herself. In preparation for the trip, we loaded our iPads with kid-friendly movies and videos and I bought her a pair of kid-sized headphones. The headphones took some getting used to, but she liked the videos. Though, they could usually only keep her attention for 20 minutes tops. She preferred videos with singing in them and particularly enjoyed the Veggie Tales movie.
She also liked the new book I got her about an airplane ride.
She ended up going to sleep for about and hour and a half in the middle of the flight. Unfortunately, I was not able to go to sleep then, so I didn't sleep at all (I've never been able to sleep well in airplanes or cars), but her nap was a much needed break for me and Mr. Frisby. Actually, Stella did very well. She was a typical two year old and was restless and curious and needed to be kept busy. But, she didn't cry much and didn't bother the people around her, so it was a success. We made it through the ten hour flight, exhausted, and met up with Tracy and John at the airport in Amsterdam during our layover.
Our flight from Amsterdam to Venice was less than two hours and by the time we landed, poor little Stella was so tired. We met up with Julie and Terrell at baggage claim in the Venice airport. It was early afternoon on Friday, September 13th. We then found our water transport to take us across the lagoon to the city. We were staying in two different hotels and were on different lines of the transport to get to our locations. So, we split up again and headed off with plans to meet up that evening in the Piazza San Marco for our first planned activity - a Gondola ride. Poor Stella was so exhausted that she fell asleep in her little suitcase chair while waiting to board the transport boat. She didn't wake up at all when we took her out of the seat and loaded her onto the boat or during the 45 minute ride into Venice.
Our transport from the airport took us right down the Grand Canal and we got off at the stop near the Rialto Bridge. Gaylene and Tracy and John were in the same hotel as us, so we were all together and commenced the grand search for our hotel. We had read that it's very easy to get lost in Venice since not all of the "streets" have names and it's very easy to get turned around. We found this to be very true. Fortunately, we only got a little lost in the search for our hotel and we eventually found it and got checked in. We were super tired, but also ready to see Venice! We headed out to find a bite to eat before meeting up with my parents and Julie and Terrell. We found a little pizza place near our hotel. It was pretty tasty.
After our pizza, we headed to the Piazza San Marco. I'm kind of a sucker for big, European piazzas (or plaças, or plazas as the case may be) so, not surprisingly, I loved St. Mark's. Unfortunately, they're doing some restoration work on the front of St. Mark's Basilica, so much of it was covered with scaffolding (somehow, this seems to be our luck when visiting Europe), but it was still impressive and we were excited to be there.
Stella was enthralled with all of the pigeons and commenced chasing them immediately.
We had a difficult time meeting up with my parents and Julie and Terrell. It turns out the Piazza San Marco is huge and busy and full of people, so it's easy to miss people there. We thought they were just taking forever to get there when, really, we just never saw them. While we waited for them to arrive, we decided to sample our first Italian gelato. It did not disappoint and it would prove to be the first of MANY scoops to be had on this trip.
At last we found the others and found a gondola. Julie and Terrell had been to Venice and ridden a gondola before, so they decided to meet up with us when we were done. John had skipped out on St. Mark's in favor of a nap at the hotel. So, the rest of us decided on the length of our ride, decided on a price with the gondolier and headed out. Riding a gondola in Venice is one of the items on my fairly short bucket list, so I was super stoked about it and we had a fabulous time. Mr. Frisby took this next shot and I believe it may have been his favorite from the trip.
We headed right under the Bridge of Sighs and wound our way around the little side canals. It was totally the cliché thing to do and it was totally awesome!
Stella was, understandably, very tired, so she opted for lounging during our ride.
After our gondola ride we found Julie and Terrell and poked around the Piazza some more before heading back to our hotel to crash. It was a great first day in Venice and we were super excited to finally be enjoying our long-awaited trip.