Highlights in Venice

I find Venice to be a magical place.  Really, there is no other place like it. From the car-less streets to the hundreds of bridges, Venice is one of a kind.
Tourist flock to Venice making it nearly impossible to walk down some of the narrow street-ways (especially if you are pushing a stroller). But Venice is high on my list for a must see in Europe.

Arrival in Venice…..Fly, Drive or Train?

We have arrived/departed from Venice with all 3 modes of transportation. The Venice Airport is about 10km from Venice on the mainland. You can connect to Venice with a water taxi from there or opt to take a bus to Piazzale Roma.

If driving to Venice I would recommend parking at Tronchetto.  Right outside the garage, you can hop on a Vaporetto or the People mover.

We were very excited to see a People Mover has opened (Since April 2011). This is especially convenient for those who are cruising out of Venice, stopping right at the Port.  It also stops in Piazzale Roma.

If you ride in on the train it will conveniently drop you off near Piazzale Roma. Be alert on the trains. We’ve never been successfully pick-pocketed but have thwarted off a thief before.

Remember in Italy your dog needs to have a muzzle on trains and boats. You’d be surprised how many dogs are in Venice. It’s fun traveling with your dog, it’s always a good conversation starter with the locals. We find in Italy our dog gets more attention than our kids.

Venice is expensive.  Everything is tourist prices. You will find there are not many discounts given for kids either, full prices, kids, and adults. This can make a family trip to Venice even more expensive.  I’d recommend considering purchasing a Venice Card, and/or a Museum Pass to make your stay less expensive. Be alert in Venice. Count your money/change. More than once, on different occasions, I have had people try to short change me.

St. Mark’s Square is one of my favorite squares.  Find a cafe and have a drink on the square. You can relax and people watch and, if kids are in tow, they can chase the birds while you enjoy one of the most famous Squares in the world.

Visit St Mark’s Basilica.   The church is free to enter but the line can queue quite far, especially in tourist season.  If you are there in the winter months, you may get the chance to wait in line with water up to your ankles. If this doesn’t sound exciting you can opt to stand on the flood platforms they set out.  In a past visit to Venice (winter season) water was flowing up through the drains flooding most of the square even into the church. It is a city that is slowly sinking, so sad!

The Rialto Bridge is a famous bridge over the Grand Canal. It’s packed with shops just waiting to be browsed by you. Not to be missed.

And of course, make sure you ride a gondola down the waterways of Venice. What could be more romantic than this?

Some other sites I’d recommend to see in Venice: Doge’s Palace, home to past the ruling Venetian power. The Accademia, art museum and there is also a Guggenheim museum.

Where to stay?

I think staying in Venice can be very romantic. In the evenings when many of the tourists leave the islands it can be such a romantic place (assuming no kids this trip). It can also be very expensive to stay in Venice but it is possible to find some cheaper hotels in Venice.

If you are cruising out of Venice, and have a car, you may want to stay near Venice. This hotel is a great option.  We stayed here when we left on a cruise and the hotel even offered free parking for the week, great deal.

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Padua is beautiful city

 

Another option is staying in a surrounding town, like Padua. In the past, we have used Padua as a home base for exploring the area and Venice. Not to mention Padua has fabulous restaurants which, I think, can be tricky to find in Venice.

 

 

 

IMG_1190.jpgTraveling with 3 or more people can make it harder to find accommodations especially all together.  Our last trip to Venice we traveled with 6 people and opted to stay in an Agriturismo further outside of Venice. We found a great Agriturismo as a cheap alternative to the expensive Venice hotels, that housed all 6 of us and a dog.

*Some useful information when traveling with kids.  Sometimes we like to grab a pizza to go. I have read it is illegal to Picnic in Venice. (I think they have had problems with littering) We are guilty of this crime (a slice of pizza on some steps) but have never been caught.

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But if you want to follow the rules (always a good idea) find a local cafe and buy a drink. You can sit for hours if the kids will let you. Or better yet, cafe hop, from drinks to pizza, to gelato. Our kids have also enjoyed finding squares with local kids to play football with. Score!

Lastly, my advice would be to get lost in the streets of Venice. You’ll always find your way back to the main square but being lost for a moment is part of the adventure in traveling. (I don’t recommend losing your kids, though)

I have tried to highlight some of the points that I would find useful when traveling to Venice.  I am sure you will fall in love with Venice.

The Matterhorn

Many are familiar with the Matterhorn because of the Disneyland ride, but a visit to the real Matterhorn will not disappoint. The Matterhorn is located in Southern Switzerland on the border of Italy and Switzerland.  It actually is not the tallest Mountain in Switzerland, standing at 14,690 ft. Monte Rosa, located in the same Alp range stands at 15,203 ft.  Although,  for me, the Matterhorn is more of an impressive site.

Getting to the Matterhorn?

Yes, it is true.  No cars are allowed in Zermatt.  But no fear, a horse and buggy can pull you along. Or just hop on one of the small electric cars provided by the hotels and merchants.  Because cars are not allowed, your only option in is a train.  If you do decide to drive you will have to park your car in Taesch and take the train from there.

 

 

Once you arrive in Zermatt. I highly recommend taking the Gornergrat Bahn up to Gornergrat for the best views of the Matterhorn. It’s not cheap, 80 francs RT, but if you make it all the way to Zermatt, you have to go to the top.  Check out the Swiss tourism site for offers.
And while on top of the world (or Swiss Alps), why not enjoy a Swiss lunch on their patio.

 

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Zermatt for a few days, skiing is a must.  But most of all, just pray for blue skies, and your views will be spectacular.

Trip Snapshot: Sardinia

For this week’s trip snapshot will be on the relaxing beaches in Sardinia


Fly, Drive, or Boat?

We flew to Sardinia on Easy Jet. (Not sure why we constantly torture ourselves with discounter airlines, but sometimes the deals are too good to pass up) There are quite a few discounter airlines that fly into Sardinia. Another option would be to take a ferry.   If you buy ahead, flying is usually cheaper than the ferry, but I’ve heard from friends that the ferry is relaxing, that is after you have made it to the departing port.

 

Home Base?

We stayed just outside Cagliari in the Quartu Sant’Elena, about a 15 minute drive.  We rented a holiday home that fit our needs. To be honest, the search for available holiday properties in Sardinia was pretty slim pickings.  Olbia, in Northern Sardinia, has more resorts than Cagliari.

 

A must see?
 The beaches. Beautiful, blue, breath taking beaches, it doesn’t get better than that.

We did do a few trips into the biggest near by city, Cagliari. It’s a typical Italian city, where great food can be found, but the beaches have way more to offer.  Mercato di Dan Benedetto, a large  market, was high on the list in what to see in Cagliari, not a winner for me. The shopping was sparse but gelato was plentiful. Overall Cagliari wouldn’t be a top pick. I’d recommend staying outside of the city. The smaller local towns & restaurants seemed to have more charm.
*A side note, the entire city of Cagliari has a free wi-fi by the port,  if you haven’t complete checked out of reality.

We spent most of our days relaxing on the beaches.  Since we were still in the off season we had the beaches pretty much to ourselves.
We sat on a beach with hundreds of umbrellas set up, awaiting the on coming crowds, so I imagine the summers in Sardinia are packed. (Travel in the off season months of April, May, & September, if you don’t want crowds but still want good weather)

There is plenty of ocean out there when there is no room on the beach in the summer…

Sardinia is a perfect holiday getaway if you want beautiful beaches. You have the added bonus of being in Italy and having great food at your disposal, so how could you go wrong?




Trip Snapshot: Strasbourg

One of my favorite cities to visit in the Alsace regions of France is Strasbourg.  Strasbourg is a enjoyable mix of France with a German influence, from food to shops.

A must see is Strasbourg’s main attraction the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg. This breathtaking church was built in the 1200s.  Visitors are always welcome, even during mass you can stand in.  Check out their website before visiting for events held. We had the pleasure of enjoying a late night performance in the catacombs, which was astounding.

 

Fly, Drive or Train?

If you are visiting Paris and want to explore more of France you have all 3 options.  Since we are nearby in Switzerland, we opted for the 2.5 hour car drive. Strasbourg has a main train station as well as an intentional airport. If you are planning on spending sometime in France you may want to consider buying a France rail pass. I find renting a car  can be cheaper when traveling in a group but remember to take France toll roads and gas into consideration.  You can also check out the discounter airlines ahead of time if you want to find a deal.

One of my main draws to France is the shopping and the food. Boutique stores are abundant with styles hard to  resist. The food, well, it is amazing everywhere.  I like to research restaurants before we visit cities.  It did not surprise me to find out that the Alsace region of France was full of Michelin stared Restaurants ,with a few in Strasbourg.  One of our favorite meals to date was a priced fixed menu at  Michelin starred Le Buerehiesel.  A must do if you are dining without little kids.

 

Where to stay in Strasbourg?
I’d recommend staying in the city center.  You can read my earlier post on finding a hotel or I have a few recommendations that we have found comfortable.  My favorite would probably be Hotel Maison Rouge (3 star), a clean, perfectly located hotel. If you are looking for something centrally located but cheaper you may consider Hôtel de l’Ill (2 star). It’s very basic but good for location and price. The most charming and romantic place we’ve stayed  is Villa Novarina (4 star), a bit outside the city center but within a 10 minute walk.  The benefit to staying at Villa Novarina was we were within walking distance to Le Buerehisel. 
 

Le Petite France is at the center of Strasbourg’s charm. The river runs along cobblestone streets with shops, cafes and restaurants dotting the way.  I’d recommend taking a boat ride. You can even board an entertainment boat for those coming for the nightlife. There is quite a night life here because of the nearby University, (largest Universality in France).

 

And my last piece of advice, you must visit all the darling cookie shops along the way. Step in for a sample or take home a box full of delightful treats. I find Strasbourg to be a charming city, and a breath of fresh air after the hustle and bustle of Paris.

Trip Snapshot: French Riveria

Destination:  Nice, France

The city of Nice is located on the French Riviera in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.
Fly, Drive or Train?
We drove from Zurich to Nice.  We use Mappy to calculate what the road tolls will be. Switzerland requires a Vignette to drive on their highways. It’s only chf 40 yearly but driving in other countries can add up fast.  This paticular trip was only 6 euros ($8.50) in tolls, but, for example, driving to Paris and back costs us over 40 euros ($56) in tolls.  It’s nice to be prepared so you will have the appropriate change.

Home base?

We were just outside of Nice in a resort town called Antibes. We found our apartment, on Venere.

A must see in the area?

Nice has the most amazing water front and beaches. The beaches stretch on for miles parallel to the Promenade des Anglais,  where you can enjoy great restaurants and some fun people watching. 

A must see in Nice is Carnival.  Carnival in Nice takes place in February for a few weeks, the last day of Carnival  always ends on Mardi Gras. The floats were amazing.











 

There are plenty of day time actives for the whole family to enjoy.

 



Another must visit in the area is Monaco.  It’s about a 30 minute drive from Nice. A visit to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco is a must. The changing of the guards takes place each day at 11:55 AM., and is a big hit for the kids. 











Another great site, is the famous, Monte Carlo Casino




If you get a chance, stroll by the parking lots near by, boat and car, they are pretty fun to look at.  The French Riviera has so much to offer besides it’s enjoyable climate. It’s an area I could go back to again and again, much more relaxing and slower paced then some of the big European cities.