Thursday, September 27, 2012

Venice, Italy - The Last Day

After an amazing twelve days aboard the ms. Nieuw Amsterdam, our ship pulled into Venice and the cruise was officially over. There is only one flight from Venice to Atlanta each day early in the morning, so we had no choice but to spend another day in Venice. We couldn't have been happier about that! We stayed at the same hotel as before the cruise, so we dropped off our bags and headed out for the last day, the grand finale of our big summer vacation.  We already knew our way around, and we had already seen the sights so there was no pressure to do anything in particular. It was the best way to end such a fantastic trip.

Venetian flag

During our first three days in Venice, I took a ton of pictures of bridges, especially along the Grand Canal. Apparently on our last day, I was obsessed with taking pictures of the tiny side canals. These are just a few of our favorites - we are thinking about having a collection of them made into canvas prints to hang up in our bedroom, which would be a nice change from all of the framed photos we have in our home. Realistically though, it might be a few years before this actually happens, seeing as I am still "working on" our honeymoon photo book...maybe by our tenth anniversary?

Bo went into the Frari Church, which he really liked. I didn't bother bringing my shrug this day - I was a little church'ed out - so I wasn't allowed in. We found a side door so I could sneak a peak inside anyway. Very pretty!

While Bo was inside, I took some more pictures of the canal just outside the church...

We also walked by the Scuola di San Rocco, which contains Tintoretto's ceiling painting of the Sistine Chapel. We thought about going in, but it was pretty pricy and they had pictures of it on the outside that we could look at for free. Easy choice.

We stopped to eat at a cute, outdoor cafe along yet another canal. We had some amazing beef carpaccio and gnocchi - so good that we remember what we ate even though I don't have any pictures of it.


 While roaming the streets, we thought this place looked interesting, so we stopped inside. We were pretty curious when people kept stopping by to take pictures, and then realized the walls were covered in newspaper and magazine clippings all containing rave reviews and pictures of celebrities at the restaurant. Apparently, Ostaria Antico Dolo is pretty famous!

We told the waiter we wanted white wine and asked for his suggestion, which is one of our favorite ways to discover new wines - and this one was a big hit. He recommended Soave, which is a dry Italian wine and we both loved it. Bo declared it his favorite from the trip and it was our summer drink of choice after we returned from the trip.

After his discovery of Soave, Bo wanted to try a few others for comparison purposes to make sure he really loved it. He did :)

Our hotel was pretty close to this pub that we had passed at least twice every single day we were in Venice, so we were determined to finally check it out. 

I loved this sign on their front door - this picture is for you, Leslie and Paul!

We both tried Gradisca draft beer - which was pretty good

skull & crossbones hanging from the ceiling, even in Venice! chi o all the damn time ;)


After all that wine and beer, it was time for some food. And a little more wine. We found another outdoor restaurant along the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge, Osteria al Pesador. We had a great view of all the gondolas going out for their last rides of the day.


And what is a trip to Venice without a gondola ride?! I was very excited about it, even though I know it's pretty cliche and kinda cheesy. At least our guide didn't sing to us like most of them do! We went just before the sun was setting and it was such a nice ending to the day. It somewhat reminded us of our previous trip to Italy, when we saved the boat ride through the Blue Grotto of Capri for the last day of our honeymoon. Pretty different sceneries, but both gorgeous in their own way.

fyi: they let you bring drinks aboard!

Some of these bridges reallllly cut it close.


the sun setting over the Grand Canal

And that concludes this series of Our 2012 Summer Vacation posts. We had an absolutely amazing time, and it was our second favorite vacation, only to our honeymoon. Hope you all enjoyed reading about our trip as much as we enjoyed reliving it! The End.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Split, Croatia

Our last port stop was Split, Croatia - the fifth country we visited on this trip.

Once again we tendered into the harbor. From the docks, we could see just about everything we wanted to visit, so it was very easy to get around Split.

the Riva

the Riva; Diocletian's Palace behind it

the Croatian flag

the Riva

the Riva

We first went to Diocletian's Palace. Diocletian was a Roman Emperor who grew up near Split, and this was his retirement palace. Not too shabby. Maybe one day I'll have a retirement palace, too?

street band in the palace

The Golden Gate
another, lesser-known and non-functioning, bell tower

Statue of Bishop Gregory of Nin

At this point in our trip, the Olympics had just started. We were extremely disappointed that our ship didn't play them on TV (apparently the rights are really expensive on international waters, and most non-Americans don't really care about the games! Insane!). We wanted to eat lunch at a sports bar so we could catch some of it on TV. We found a really cool fish market but it wasn't quite what we were looking for.

Finally we found a "Sport Bar" (aka, smoothie shop) that had a bunch of outdoor tables and TVs. But silly us, other countries don't broadcast American games...and they don't speak English. We weren't exactly interested in watching the Croatian Men's Waterpolo team's, with Croatian announcers, but we embraced it and cheered them on anyway. They had a special place in our hearts so we followed them throughout the games, and they ended up winning the gold! Obviously, because of our cheering.

After the waterpolo game was over, we went back to Diocletian's Palace to climb the Bell Tower. I'm glad we waited, because if we had done this first I would have gone right back to the boat without seeing anything else in Split.

Bell Tower of the Cathedral of St. Dominus

Bell Tower of the Cathedral of St. Dominus

After climbing (part of) the Kotor Fortress, the Acropolis, and riding a donkey up a cliff, we didn't think twice about climbing up this tiny bell tower. But let me tell you, this bell tower kicked our ass. I can't remember being so sore in my life, and we didn't fully recover until a few days later when we got back home to Atlanta. Each step we took was extremely tiny but very tall so it was as if we were doing vertical lunges the entire way. The stairway is also very narrow, so you can't really stop or go too slow because you will hold up everyone else. It was a great workout, but not ideal while on vacation - especially in a dress and sandals. The view was breathtaking, and the platform was a decent size so we could hang out up there for a while. Good thing, because the downward lunges to the bottom of the bell tower were almost as hard, if not harder, than going up. It was brutal. For this reason alone, we were glad this was our last port!

After that trek, we were more than ready for some beers and an early dinner. We went to Sperun, another Rick Steves recommendation (his tour books are our vacation bibles!) and it was awesome.

Croatian beer was amazing - and dirt cheap (about $1 for a large beer). We actually liked Kaltenberg better, but it was on draft and didn't have a matching glass with the name on it, so here's a picture of the other beer we tried that was still very good.

Bo's dish - pasta cooked in cuttlefish ink. We've only had this once before. Rare but good!

my seafood risotto - third favorite meal of the trip

After lunch, we walked along the Riva back towards the docks.


We really liked Croatia. Everyone was really friendly, the food and drinks were really good, and it was really cheap. I think we've seen all we cared to in Split, but next time we go to Croatia, we'd love to visit Dubrovnik.