Contributed by Donna Marie
On my way home from Dubrovnik I decided to take a side trip to Venice, a city that held a great fascination for me. Besides the uniqueness of its construction, I’ve always thought of it as a romantic destination. You know, the kind of place you visit with a beau or partner or companion or some other. Well, I was undeterred and planned my two-day visit with anticipation and a strong desire. Buoyed as I was by the personal accounts of so many friends who described Venezia as one of their favorite cities in the world, I wondered if this city would live up to my high expectations. I came armed with many ideas about what to do, what to see, where to go but nothing prepared me for what I experienced from the moment I arrived in Venice. I landed at Marco Polo Airport (which is on the mainland I soon learned) on the evening of September 12th where the full moon seemed like a welcoming beacon on the clearest of nights. I was picked up by a service offered by Luna Hotel Baglioni which was going to be home for the next few days. After a short ride I was whisked off by a water taxi that would deposit me at the entrance to my hotel, mere steps from Piazza San Marco.
Besides seeing many Venice highlights (including St. Mark’s Church, Rialto Bridge, The Bridge of Sighs, Murano), there was one activity I had always dreamed of doing—taking a romantic gondola ride. Before my Free to Be Single realization, I had imagined taking a gondola ride with a partner—that’s what a romantic gondola ride used to look like. But, here I was in Venice on my own, totally psyched to enjoy a romantic evening which would be capped by a ride on the Grand Canal.
My evening began with a spectacular meal at Ristorante Canova in Hotel Luna Baglioni … a delicious salad of seasonal vegetables with olive oil & balsamic vinegar, Black Tagliatelle with clams and asparagus and cold Zabaigone (the best dessert I’ve ever had – amaretto cookies & gran marnier!) complemented by a most delicious bottle of Refosco. Everything, especially the dessert, was orgasmic!
After dinner I took the short walk to the gondola station in front of the Hard Rock Café, which stood out like a symbol of crass modernity, near San Marco Square, smack dab in the midst of this ancient yet contemporary city! The evening was perfect, the setting delicious—the warm Venice air caressing my skin, the full moon casting its perfect light (along with the myriad of buildings) that magically glistened off the canal, being helped aboard by my gondolier Claudio and settling in for the ride.
For a moment I was reminded of another ride along a river in Europe, the River Seine in Paris, France. As I traveled along Seine in the Bateaux-Mouches surrounded by magnificence … the Tour Eiffel behind me and Notre Dame ahead … I felt sad being there without a partner.
As Claudio navigated Venice’s Grand Canal and the many side streets (or waterways) I relaxed into the beauty of a most romantic ride, totally immersed in this experience I had dreamed of, totally present and happy to be there—a girl in Venice in a gondola!
My discovery is this: I no longer have to postpone any bucket list experience because it doesn’t look the way I have fantasized it. I can actually do it now by bringing an attitude of discovery, fun, pleasure and self-love!
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