Of all the Gondolas in all of Venice…..

We Wander Venice

I have loved Italy since the moment I met her. From the energy I felt my very first steps in Rome to the dreamy hillsides of Tuscany… the coasts, the islands, the alps, the food and especially her people… she is a masterpiece. It is indeed la dolce vita. One of her finest jewels is Venice, the city of marble palaces built on a lagoon. The history and the grandeur of old Venice is like an enchanting spell. My first time in Venice, however, I was actually quite sick… yet even still she captivated me. It is a place where you start walking… down alleys, over canals, through piazzas … and you just keep walking. Around every corner is the most beautiful architecture that transports you back in time to a gilded age centuries earlier. It is perhaps the only city in the world where getting lost is both inevitable and the goal!

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During our prior visit we stayed at the Hotel Danieli, a palace in its former life, right on the Grand Canal and steps away from Piazza San Marco. It was fantastic and would be a hard act to follow. Its’ grand décor was breath-taking and the breakfast on the roof terrace overlooking the canal was a highlight! This visit we chose to stay at the JW Marriott private island, Isola delle Rose. It has a complimentary water ferry from the resort to Piazza San Marco to travel back and forth at ones convenience. I wasn’t sure if I would like not being right in the heart of Old Venice, but from the moment our water taxi pulled into the dock for the JW Marriott the experience was exquisite. The service, the check-in, the assistance with anything… was all seamless. Our room was large and comfortable and the deck overlooking the grounds was expansive. Having just arrived in paradise, we quickly made the decision to avoid the mid-day heat and crowds (when the bulk of the tours and tourists are out) and spend the afternoon relaxing at the roof top pool that looked out over the water towards Venice.

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Later in the afternoon we took the ferry over to wander, get lost, sit at the cafes, check out the dueling musicians on the square and enjoy the sights. It was perfect. Venice in its’ “golden hour” is quite possibly my favorite time of all. The crowds are starting to thin and many streets we walked we had all to ourselves. As we were heading back to the Square we paused on a bridge to enjoy a light breeze and stumbled into a banner being unfurled proposing marriage to a young woman in the gondola below while musicians played on the bridge and the couple was showered with rose petals. Just after the bridge the celebratory Prosecco was waiting… this young man thought of everything! (Of course I had to airdrop the video of the proposal to the orchestrators on the bridge.) We continued on to enjoy a glass of wine, live music and people watching at St. Mark’s Square. On this evening we encountered a group in full renaissance regalia travelling through. We were able to ask them where they were all going and it was 93 Americans heading to a Venetian Wedding Ball! How cool is that for a destination wedding? A gondola proposal, a wedding and a ball … the City of Romance shines brightly.

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On our last night we scheduled a birthday dinner on the canal and chose to take the traditional gondola ride before our meal. We had not really planned it, but wandered into an area that had several waiting gondolas and decided that the trip would not be complete without this quintessential Venetian treat. Some new friends we had met were just returning from their ride and as we left they snapped a few photos of us in the gondola. The pictures always make me laugh as our energetic Gondolier posed for most, if not all, of the photos. He was well into his standard narration when he suddenly asks me “Are you a swimmer?” Surprised by this random deviation from his explanation of the city hall building I said “many, many years ago.” He straightened his back and set his own shoulders and said “I thought you were a swimmer from your shoulders.” He proceeded to tell us that his 15 year old daughter, Guilia Salin, swims for the Italian National Team as a Junior and had recently done an international championship meet in Indianapolis! He pulled out his smart phone and showed me an Arena sponsored video on YouTube about her. (For all my swimming friends… she is a mid-to-long distance freestyle competitor. She also recently medaled at the Mare Nostrum! See her video link below).  Of course I told him about my nephew getting ready for his big nationals swim competition in July as well. Of all the gondolas in all of Venice we would happen into the one owned by the Father of an Italian swimming star. It truly is a small world… and we may leave swimming but swimming never leaves us. We wish you continued success Guilia… we will be watching and cheering you on from the US!

Our dinner on the canal with the rising moon was the best birthday celebration and a perfect finale. Thank you Venezia for your magical hospitality. As always… we leave you wanting more.  Venezia ti amo. Finché non ci incontreremo di nuovo.

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Did you know?

• Between the end of the seventh century and 1797, the Republic of Venice was once one of the most powerful countries in the world. It was an economic powerhouse which that built a mercantile empire in the Adriatic and the eastern Mediterranean. In 1797, after being weakened by two centuries of war with Ottoman Turkey and only 11 ships left, it fell swiftly to Napolean Bonaparte on May 12 and their millennium of domination came to a close.
• The first public casino in the world opened in Venice in 1638. The Venetian Council did this to try to control the illegal gambling during the Venice Carnival.
• The first woman in the world who graduated from University was born in Venice June 5, 1646. Elena Lucrezia Cornaro who was awarded a doctorate in philosophy by the University of Padua, Italy, June 25, 1678. (She originally applied for a doctorate in theology but the Roman Catholic Church intervened saying no because she was a female).
• After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the Republic was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
• Venice is made of 117 submerged mini-islands which sit within the shallow waters of the Venetian Lagoon. (The lagoon has an average depth of 34 feet.) The buildings are constructed on wood pilings to rise out of the water.
• Venice has 177 canals. The S-shaped Grand Canal splits the city in two.
• Venice has 417 bridges. 72 of those are private. Most of the bridges do not have steps as they were built when horses were used for transportation
• Venice is home to more than 450 palaces
• There are about 350 gondolas in Venice. There are only 3 or 4 Gondolier licenses issued annually. To qualify, applicants must be able to finish an extensive training and pass a rigorous exam. There are only 400 licensed Gondoliers operating in Venice today.
• Venice is sinking at a rate of 1-2 millimeters per year
• Venetian legend says that if a couple in a gondola kiss as they pass underneath each bridge they will remain in love forever.

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Jaimi’s Top Five Things to Do:

1) Get lost. Venice is a magical maze of alleys, bridges and squares. Even during the busy times of day, there are many “streets” (alleys) that are empty. Wandering is a great way to lose the crowds. Just make sure you have comfortable walking shoes.
2) Take a Gondola ride. It is the quintessential way to experience the “City of Water”.
3) Go to church. In addition to the famous St. Mark’s Basilica there are 139 churches in Venice, 88 which still hold services. We love wandering in and enjoying the frequent music as well.
4) Views- St Mark’s Campanile (lift only) & if you are like me and like stairs to work a little bit for the view… St. Mark’s Clock Tower (Torre dell’Orologio) 132 stairs
5) Island of Burano – take a ferry or water taxi to this colorful fishing village. It is like walking through a kaleidoscope in time and if you are a fan of color do not miss this beauty!

Five Local Favorite Treats:

1) Enjoy the Café culture… even if it’s just for drinks and light appetizers. During the evening St. Mark’s Square has live music everywhere.
2) Osteria Oliva Nero. A lovely family run Osteria. The owner, Isabella, took our order and made recommendations for both food and wine that were wonderful.
3) L’Ombra Del Leone Café (right on the Grand Canal -great views out towards san salute and guidecca) Reserve the patio with the view. Wonderful service and the food was delicious.
4) Gelato! When in Italy it’s all about the gelato!
5) Splurge – lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch at Restaurant Terraza Danieli. Location, location, location!

What are your favorites in Venice? Please share them below.

Wander with us on Instagram @anywherewewander and join our #wewandertribe on Facebook Anywhere We Wander.

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#venice #venezia #italy #italia #piazzasanmarco #stmarkssquare #wewander #wewandervenice #anywherewewander #gondola #jwmarriott #isoladellerose #stmarkscampanile #torredellorologio #stmarksclocktower #stmarksbasilica #osteriaolivanero #lombradelleonecafe #gelato #restaurantterrazadanieli #cityofromance #afewperfectdaysinvenice #venicetopfive

More on Guilia Salin, Italian Swimmer

The Great Cape Lobster Roll Challenge Round 1

A few days into my Cape Cod Discovery Tour I decided it would be fun to do a Lobster Roll Tasting Challenge around the Cape.  All along Highway 28 and in each town I explored  there were so many lobster and seafood restaurants that it sort of suggested itself.  There was the “Lazy Lobster”, the “Lobster Shanty”, the “Lobster Pot”, the “Lobster Trap Fish Market“, the “Wicked Oyster”, “Seafood Sam’s” ….  the list goes on and on.  Growing up seafood was not served in our house.  It just wasn’t on the menu.  The closest I came to eating fish of any sort were Gorton’s Fried frozen fish sticks… and even those were very rare.  (Since I grew up in the Army, moving from base to base, the joke in our house is that it took me quite a few years to realize meat did not originate from a Commissary.)  In complete contrast, Scott grew up hunting on the farm and vacationing in Maine fishing camps before his earliest memories.  In fact by age eleven, he was “working” as a camp boy during the summers up in Maine.  So the tradition continues and we make the annual fishing trips to the lakes and woods of “Downeast Maine” every year.  (Why they say “downeast” is a mystery to me as it is about four hours north of civilization in my book.)  But I digress.  The thing about where we go on Big Lake in Maine is that to get a lobster roll in a restaurant it is about a one hour drive… each way!  We make that trek once or twice every time we are in Maine.  They are not as good as when we make the trip to buy fresh, whole lobsters…  but no trip to Maine would be complete without at least one lobster roll.   So imagine, by comparison, that I am driving down the Cape and it is a literal repository of lobster fare!  Hence the “Great Cape Lobster Roll Challenge” begins.  Each day in my wanderings I was too busy to stop for lunch.  Around 4:00 pm I would be hungry enough to stop and search for the “best lobster roll in” whichever town I happened to be near.

Lobster Roll Contender No. 1 – The Black Cat Tavern, Hyannis

I had walked around five miles in Hyannis and when I searched for the “best lobster in Hyannis” the Black Cat Tavern popped up first.  I was seated on the front patio and the menu read “Giant Black Cat Lobster Roll” for $ 28.95.  In Perry, Maine the price is $ 19.99.  I asked if they had a regular sized lobster roll and the answer was no, the giant one was the only one but that it was seven ounces of the very best lobster meat.  I also asked to substitute coleslaw for the potato chips.  When the roll arrived it did not seem that “giant” but it was certainly delicious.  The meat was very fresh (thankfully no marine residue which sometimes sneaks in there) with just enough dressing that the lobster flavor really stood out.  When I got the bill I noticed that they charged me an extra dollar to substitute the coleslaw that I didn’t care for, but the lobster roll was divine.  This challenge was off to a great start and contender number one was a big success!

Lobster Roll Contender No. 2 – Skipper Chowder House, South Yarmouth

The next day I was mid-Cape, so I just searched “best lobster roll in Cape Cod.”  Not very scientifically- one restaurant that popped up several times was the Skipper Chowder House in South Yarmouth.  It was also on the way back to my hotel so that worked perfectly.  The staff there was awesome. Chatting it up with my waitress, who was born and raised in Yarmouth, she gave me her insights into more fun places to see on the Cape, as well as her favorite surf spots.  She let me know that Skipper had won multiple awards for their clam chowder, so we added a cup of that as well.  They actually had three different lobster rolls on the menu. The “Traditional Lobster Roll – 4 oz”  ($ 21.99), “Skipper’s Lobster Roll Supreme – 8 oz” ($ 26.99) and “The Wicked Awesome- 8 oz” served hot with melted butter ($ 29.99).  After a little back and forth we decided that since I was also getting their signature “Cape Cod Clam Chowdah” we would stick with the traditional lobster roll.  The “chowdah” arrived and it was decadent and delicious!  The very best I can remember.  From now on every cup of chowder I order will have big shells to fill.  Then the lobster roll arrived and I could not believe my eyes.  “Are you sure this is the regular?” I asked.  “It looks like a lot more than four ounces!”  She just laughed and said “well, they don’t actually measure.”  The lobster was incredible.  I had to eat some of the lobster first before I could actually eat it as a roll and the meat was fresh, tender and oh so lightly dressed.  Wow!  We have a race!

Lobster Roll Contender No. 3 – The Lobster Pot, Provincetown

Provincetown has a lot of restaurants and night life.  There were three top options that came up as “best lobster roll” in Provincetown so I opted for the iconic Lobster Pot.  Their menu touted that their chowder had won “Best Of” by Cape Cod life for nineteen years and seven different Chowder Festival grand prizes… so I started with a cup of chowder here as well.  Had I not just had the incredible Skipper clam chowder the day before I might have been impressed.  But today it did not compare to the flavor, the amount of clams or the richness I enjoyed the night before.  Next up was the lobster roll itself.  It was certainly more typical of the lobster rolls I had experienced in the past.  It did not seem as fresh, which may be because it had too much dressing, so the flavor was more of the mass-produced and stored lobster salad.  Don’t get me wrong… it wasn’t bad.  It just did not compare to the prior two.  The best thing that happened there was the couple at the table next to me had just driven down from Maine and had happened across a place called “Red’s” that Andrew Zimmern had featured.  They said that the lobster roll there was unbelievable.  Their cell phone photo revealed that it was located in Wiscasset, Maine… which was somewhat on the route up to Big Lake.

Lobster Roll Contender No. 4 – The Tavern, Nantucket

When I arrived on Nantucket Island from the ferry out of Hyannis I walked around the docks and saw a fun restaurant called “Cru” right on the water.  Imagine my shock to see their menu listing… “Nantucket Lobster Roll – warm and buttered” listed at $ 38.00!!!  Toto… something tells me I am not in Kansas anymore!  After getting lost in the whimsy of Nantucket for most of the day, I didn’t have very much time before I had to catch the ferry back to Hyannis.  My google search tells me that the “Straight Wharf Restaurant” has a highly rated lobster roll, but as I walked in they told me that they were not serving them today.  Running out of time meant the next option was The Tavern right by the ferry dock.  Their lobster roll was a solid, basic roll you would expect in size and in dressing.  It was really good and a little on the small side, which meant I still had room for the French fries for the first time!

Alas, my time in Cape Cod, and therefore the Great Cape Lobster Roll Challenge, comes to an end.  There were several towns and several highly rated lobster rolls that I missed.  So what is a girl to do?  Why close off Round 1 and do the next round on the next trip of course.

So, without further ado, here are my rankings for the lobster roll contenders.

#4- The Lobster Pot, Provincetown

#3- The Tavern, Nantucket

#2- The Black Cat, Hyannis

#1 -The big WINNER of Round 1 is the amazingly sweet and tasty Traditional Lobster Roll at the Skipper Chowder House in South Yarmouth!

If you love lobster I highly recommend a visit when you are on the Cape.  It is a wonderful, casual restaurant with something for all ages right by the water in South Yarmouth.  I have heard that the local owners are awesome and treat their team really well… which is probably one of the reasons the service is so awesome! Keep it up Skipper…. see you next time for Round 2!

They say that once you get Cape Cod sand in your shoes you will keep coming back… and in my case that is certainly true.

Post Script.

Since it is not on the Cape, but actually in Maine it did not qualify in our Great Cape Challenge, but I did manage to stop at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, Maine on my way up to Big Lake.  Holy lobster roll!  It was unbelievable!  It is a road side shack that always has a line.  There are some patio tables out back where you can sit to enjoy your feast.  One lobster roll will set you back $ 27.95 plus tax.  It. Was. Huge.  They serve it with local Katy Maine drawn butter because of course you have to eat over half of the lobster meat before you can even think about picking up the roll.  As I was dipping the lobster in butter I picked up not one, but TWO whole lobster tails.  I believe this roll had about two lobsters worth of meat on it.  I personally hate the work of picking a lobster, so usually I will eat the tail and call it a day.  I was in lobster heaven.  The best lobster I have ever tasted already picked for me!

So yes, Red’s Eats is simply the best and the biggest lobster roll I have ever experienced.  If you are driving the coast of Maine it is worth the trip, and, for what it’s worth, the line at about 6 pm isn’t even that long!

Thanks for wandering with us!

#wewander  #capecod  #massachusetts  #hyannis  #blackcattavern  #yarmouth  #skipperchowderhouse  #nantucket  #thetavern  #provincetown  #ptown  #thelobsterpot  #greatcapelobsterrollchallenge  #maine  #wiscasset  #lobster  #lobsterroll  #wewandercapecod  #wewandermaine  #travel

Busy

If you are like me you are busy…. and that is Busy with a capital B.  It seems that everyone is… regardless of what phase of life we are in.  Everyone I can think of… from young students to retired Grandparents are busy, busy, busy.  One priority that keeps me super busy is trying to show up for my family and friends, whenever and wherever possible.  Perhaps the fact that I was not able to have children influences my commitment, but showing up for family is HUGE for me.  Being the “driver” personality I am I just “may” overcompensate. 😉  My family loves me and puts up with me anyway.

I decided to start this travel blog “Anywhere We Wander” eleven months ago.  I have started the Instagram page and stories, the Facebook page and the website… but I have yet to write my first blog.  My goal of the blog was to curate highlights from various destinations around the world.  When we travel and I am researching destinations, I am always looking for those things to do and food experiences “not to miss.”  I love TripAdvisor for certain things, but it is a LOT of information and does not always curate the top experiences very well.  So the blog is going to focus on our picks for Top Five.  Top five things to do, top five eating experiences, top five tips… you get the picture.  That way, even if your time in a certain location is limited, it can be a resource helping you hone your own list.  After all, it is what I am always looking for when I am researching.  We will also have guest bloggers, with a range of likes and dislikes, so that you have a few different lists to compare.

I had decided that since I moved to England with my family at age 6, London should be my first blog post.  After all, it was only fitting as my first international destination that started a lifelong passion for travel.  More recently I decided that my first blog should be more of the “About Us” to kick things off.

Yet, here I am, writing my first blog about “busy-ness.”  Scott and I just returned from a fantastic 23 day grand tour in Europe and were home less than a week before it was time to head to the East Coast to celebrate his parents 70th wedding anniversary.  Yes 70…. the big 7-0!!!   At almost 93 years old and almost 92 years old we need to celebrate them whenever we can!  Since the east coast is synonymous with “fishing in Maine” for Scott that was of course added to the agenda.  Early June is fly-season in the woods of Maine (black flies, mosquitos, you name it) which happen to love me.  I, however, do not return the affection.  So, I decided to opt-out of “the guys and the flies” fishing fun and have my own adventure.  I was, however, too “busy” to plan it.  People kept asking what I was going to do and I kept saying I had not figured it out yet.  I knew I would land in Manchester, New Hampshire (as we have the Southwest Airlines companion pass) but I had not decided where I would go from there.  The day got closer and closer and I still had not decided.  The night before we were flying I rented a car.  While we were sitting in the airport that morning I decided I would start at Cape Cod and see what that was all about so I made a reservation for two nights.  Perhaps even funnier is that I did not realize that Cape Cod was not, in fact, a town until I arrived at my hotel and a friend asked me which town I was staying in.  It did not take me long to realize that this beautiful slice of  beachy Americana would take longer than two days to enjoy, so I have settled in for the duration.  I am not sure what I expected, but it is actually quite amazing here.  More importantly, enjoying this unplanned, solo adventure without a schedule is a respite that I did not even know I needed.

So back to busy-ness.  We all have our own forms of Busy.  What this adventure is teaching me is that no matter how aligned our Busy is with our Purpose we sometimes need the time and space to just be with ourselves in a new environment that removes the noise and lets us truly rest.  I absolutely love sharing my journeys with Scott.  I also love the camaraderie and fun of sharing adventures with family and friends.  It never occurred to me that I was missing anything as I go about scheduling my “Busy” and wandering the world. There is certainly a place for quiet discovery, unplanned adventures and simple relaxation. Thank you Cape Cod for the reminder.

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Arrivederci 2017 and Ciao 2018!

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Arrivederci 2017 and Ciao 2018! #2017bestnine is in the books. We can’t wait for all of the places #wewander in 2018.  Cheers to making this the best year ever!
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Follow @anywherewewander for more 🌎✈️☀️ #worldtravel #adventure #wanderlust #bucketlist #travel #luxurytravel #luxury #travelinspiration #welltravelled #TLpicks #fodorsonthego #IamATraveler #anywherewewander #AWW #destinationhighlights #localdelights #thatonething #wewander #cntraveler @cntraveler @fodorstravel @travelandleisure @travelchannel