48 hours in Venice – Kid Free

This fall I had the rare opportunity to get out of town and vacation with my sister and our friend.  We planned to meet in Venice, Italy for a couple days and then embark on an eight day cruise to the Greek Islands. Woohoo!


I used my American Express Points for my flight and took Iberia Air out of Granada’s very small airport through Madrid and landed in Venice, Italy.   When I got there I took a waterbus or water taxi, which I had never done before.  Before I left Spain, the hotel I booked offered me a private water taxi for 130 Euro but that was way out of the budget.  I found out that for 15 Euro I could take a public water taxi – The Alilaguna.  It really was a small boat, and it took about 40 minutes to get to my stop.  Being October, it was quite chilly at night on the water so if you do this, I definitely recommend bringing a sweater and jacket.

I met the girls and they had a glass of Chianti waiting for me (classy move!).  We lugged my suitcase to my hotel, which is not really easy on the cobblestone pathways.  There are not really “streets” or cars or taxicabs but you get through Venice by walking through the intricate pathways up stairs, downstairs and over the many canals.  Right away I was taken with the city.  It’s just so unique.  I found every turn to be magical, with a cafe, Italian restaurant, great shopping and the gondoliers available to take you where you want to go. But getting luggage to the hotel is not so easy. I recommend good walking shoes.

My sis and our friend stayed at the Splendid Venice which was a really cute hotel. They had booked it before I had planned to go and got a good deal. By the time I committed to going it was out of my price range.  The hotels in Venice are really expensive – I was surprised to see that prices are comparative to New York City.  After quite a bit of surfing I found a hotel – The Duodo Palace on Booking.com.  It was $342 for 2 nights which was really good for Venice and included breakfast.  This boutique hotel was located near the Teatre la Fenice. It incredibly charming and the staff was so kind.


I got there around 9:30 p.m. and dropped off my luggage at my hotel.  We went out for dinner and things seemed to be closing up so we chose a restaurant close by Al Theatro, right next to the Teatro la Fenice.  We were the last people in there (one night without the kids and I’m closing down the joint) and after dinner we were offered Limoncello.  We weren’t quite ready to go to bed and we were so excited to be in this fantastic city.  One one of the waiters made us a special Italian concoction of gelato and an eclectic mix of Italian spirits then showed us around town.  They brought us to a fun bar and introduced us to a random crowd of locals as well as fellow travelers including a nice honeymooning couple from the states.

The next morning we slept in then visited St. Marks Square and St. Mark’s Basilica.  We got a skip the line pass through venetoinside.com with a time slot in a 10 minute increments.  We were instructed to go into St. Peter’s door which is to the left of the main entrance.  You’re not permitted to bring backpacks in and you must be dressed appropriately – no shoulders showing, or sleeveless or low-cut dresses.  Also taking photos or video inside is not permitted.  Inside was truly beautiful and right away you wish you could snap a few shots.

For lunch we had big decisions to make – pizza or pasta? Pasta or pizza? And what kind.  So many restaurants to choose from! And so what if some of us are lactose intolerant…isn’t that why God made Lactaid?  Oh, and my sister drank Italian beer out of a boot!

We stopped in at the various vendors and little shops and bought some Venetian masks and earring made out of Murano glass.  I usually don’t get time to shop when I’m on the go with the kids so it was nice to take my time!


Next we had to do a gondola ride, which was the highlight of my trip to Venice.  It is as amazing as it looks and we had a gorgeous day.  The gondola ride cost 80 Euro for about 30 minutes.  There were people trying to negotiate and the gondola owner was getting really upset and offended.  These guys take their jobs very seriously and they were NOT going to make a deal.

It amazed me how the buildings are actually under water and the first floors of many building can’t be used.

Our gondolier was so cool he wanted to pose for pics with us.  I love the striped outfit so we had to get shirts to send home to my little nieces and nephew (you can find them in every other store).

Saturday night we popped into the Ateneo Di San Basso at the Piazza San Marco and got to check out a little opera.  It was a last minute decision as we walked by the place, the man outside gave us information. Tickets were only 28 Euro and we had the time to spare. It was really beautiful and it’s not necessarily my thing but it was a small crowd, not stuffy at all and the music was Omaggio a Antonio Vivaldi-A Tribute of Le Quattro Stagioni Di Vivaldi (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons) Most of the music was highly recognizable.

After the opera we hit Harry’s Bar and got a spot at the bar – this is supposedly the home of the Bellini.  It was a cozy place on the corner right by the water and it’s legendary for being a great restaurant and watering hole for celebs and famous folks in Venice.  We didn’t see any there but we did enjoy a very expensive – I want to say it was a 16 Euro Bellini!

The next morning I got up and enjoyed a cup of coffee (ALL BY MYSELF!) and the breakfast that was included. It was a simple spread but had all the basics.  No crazy omelet bar, but a European selection of breads, meats, cheeses and fruits.  I planned to meet the girls at their hotel and getting my luggage there seemed like a task so I called on Constantino, a cool porter I met walking around town.  He is available 24 hours and will throw your luggage on a cart and take you where you want to go.  He’s small but mighty powerful! He can be reached at 327 1346658.

From the Splendid Hotel we took the water taxi to the dock where we got ready to sail off into the sunset.  I would certainly come back to Venice again, I fell in love with it’s charm and I know it would be a different experience each time whether it’s with the kids, my husband or my parents we would have a fantastic time in this magical city.



Uphill Battles

I was pretty excited when I learned that  Granada was a walking city and I kept hearing that I could walk everywhere.   I could stand to lose a few pounds and I thought it would be nice to see the city on foot.  I think I focused on the word could.  I could walk everywhere. I took that to mean that everything I needed was probably within a quarter mile of me since I could walk.  What I’ve since learned is that it’s more like I need to or have to walk.  Things are just as far as they were in Los Angeles but now we are doing them on foot.
The uphill climb to the Albayzin


It’s very difficult to park your car in our neighborhood, the historic Albayzin.  We have a garage but getting a car out requires us to perform a 22- point turn.  The main roads in the heart of the city are reserved for only buses and taxis.  So we’ve opted not to have a car and just rent one when we want to travel on the weekends.  Living in the Albayzin requires us to walk around town to a few different places to get the items we need – food, paper towels, and Dunkin’ Coffee.  It’s reminiscent of how my grandmother got things done living in Long Island, New York in the 1950’s when she didn’t have a car visiting a carnicero (butcher for meats), panaderia (bakery) and the  papeleria (for school supplies).  Some of these places are up to two miles away.  Getting back to the Albayzin is a steep uphill climb.

After visiting Italy  this summer and enjoying pizza, pasta, wine and gelato I wasn’t prepared for such a workout.  With the summer heat, it felt like walking uphill in both directions, to and from the Albayzin.  I had a couple major meltdowns and accused my husband of secretly signing me up for a season of the TV Show Survivor: Granada Edition and I kept looking for hidden cameras.

As my daughter pointed out right away “There aren’t that many fat people here in Spain”.  It’s true and I’m in training.  Our daily constitutional involves walking the kids to school, to our Spanish course, two miles to and from the gym, grocery shopping, and taking our kids to their sports practices.  I no longer complain about being a taxi driver – there is no taxi.  It’s all on foot! My husband laughed when I needed a nap after taking them to practices- they are the ones working out. Im just walking and watching!   There are taxis and buses but the truth is, it takes just as long or longer to catch one.  I’ve certainly taken my fair share but realize it doesn’t make that much sense if there’s a direct route on foot.

We’ve learned to conserve the things we have, like paper towels.  We are creative with our cooking, using the things we have in our refrigerator and cupboard, or we keep meals very simple.  We limit the things we buy since we have to carry them home.  There is no overbuying at Costco or Target.

Now I realize this is a part of the lifestyle – it’s not something I’m used to coming from Los Angeles.  I’m starting to enjoy the walks with the kids.  We stop for dinner or a helado (ice cream).  We look for different routes and stop in the interesting shops along the way.  We find new, creative ways to get things accomplished.  I’m working towards getting in better shape and my FitBit is going wild!  Now I just need to avoid the churros y chocolate and sangria along the way!