Archive for Europe

Road to Rome, Day 8 (cont.) – Arriving in Venice

Shortly after crossing the Italian border, we left Domenico and the coach behind and boarded our water taxi to “The Floating City”. We coasted along the Venetian Lagoon, taking in the sights and soon, Venice emerged in the distance, an amalgam of light and color.

One again, Insight Vacations impressed us with their choice of accommodations. Hotel Gabrielli sits on the waterfront known as Riva degli Schiavoni and offers incredible views of the lagoon. The hotel is furnished in authentic Venetian style and we were charmed when the desk clerk gave us an actual key for our room! The room was spacious and comfortable, with a small balcony overlooking the inner courtyard below.

After settling in, we met Ruth and the rest of our group for a short walking tour of the waterfront. We marveled at the Bridge of Sighs, which is an integral part of Venetian folklore and the only covered bridge in Venice, and world-famous Piazza San Marco, also known as Saint Marks Square. “La Piazza”, as its called by the locals, is home to Saint Mark’s Basillca and perhaps the most photographed landmark in Venice, Saint Mark’s Campanile.

 

Everyone listened intently to Ruth’s history lesson about the area and then we followed her to a small dock, where several gondolas awaited to take us on a tour of the canals Venice is famous for. The gondolier carefully guided us onto our gondola and away we went. One gondola was occupied solely by musicians, who serenaded us with lovely Italian music for the duration of the trip. We later enjoyed a relaxing dinner at the Bar Ristorante Bucintoro right outside our hotel. Sunset over the lagoon was a spectacular sight and we were super excited for the evening excursion, a twilight cruise of the majestic Grand Canal via private water taxi!

Venice’s Grand Canal is the largest and most populated canal in Venice. The canal is bordered on either side with buildings of various classical styles, which house everything from cafés and businesses to private residences. This is also where Venice hold its Historical Regatta, an annual boat race that draws thousands of spectators. The “grand finale” to this incredible experience was an invitation to the exclusive Café Florian in St. Mark’s Square. Considered to be the oldest café in Europe, Café Florian was the perfect place to conclude our evening. We indulged in their specialty drink, the Florian Spritz, and a dish of gelato while we watched a delightful quartet play both Italian and American music.

Strolling back to our hotel, it was hard to imagine a more perfect day than this, but there was still many amazing adventures to be had on the Road to Rome. Check back soon to read about our second day in enchanting Venice!

 

 

 

Video: Trafalgar Square

Enjoy this little video of Trafalgar Square from our Road To Rome vacation.

Video: Cruising Lake Lucerne

We hope you enjoy this short video of beautiful Lake Lucerne, Switzerland.

 

Photo of the Week – Venice

Venice Italy

Venice Italy

Road to Rome, Day 8 – Eagles Nest

Our journey thus far had brought us to many fascinating places, but on the morning of Day 8, we found ourselves heading toward perhaps the creepiest destination on the Road to Rome: Kehlsteinhaus in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

For those history buffs out there, Kehlsteinhaus is more commonly known as the Eagles Nest. Situated atop Kehlstein Mountain, this “teehaus” was a gift from the Nazi Party to Adolph Hitler for his 50th birthday and was used to entertain guests. During an air raid by the Royal Air Force on April 25th, 1945, the structure survived when nearly everything else around it was demolished. Today, the building is managed by a charitable trust and serves as a restaurant and historical tourist destination.

At 1834 meters (6017 ft.), the Kehlsteinhaus offers spectacular 360-degree views of the Bavarian Alps. The building is considered a feat of engineering even today, and getting to it is not easy. We had to transfer from the Insights coach to a special shuttle designed to traverse the narrow four-mile road along the rocky cliff face of the mountain.

Tunnel at Eagle's NestThe bus dropped us off at the tunnel entrance, which bores 407 feet into solid granite and brings you to a brass elevator that rises 407 feet to the building. Walking through that tunnel gave us an extremely uneasy feeling and it was a relief to step out of the gaudy elevator! Our guide walked us through the main rooms, including the “Scharitzkehl Room” where Eva Braun spent a lot of her time, the dining room, and conference room.  The fireplace shown in the photo below was a gift to Hitler from Benito Mussolini for his birthday. We ended the tour on what is now a beer garden and open air terrace. There is also a small kiosk which sells postcards and water. Here, we rested for a bit and admired the incredible Alpine view.

Bavarian Alps

Once back on the coach, we settled in for a relaxing drive through the Tauern Mountains and Carinthian Lake District of Austria, and before long, we were at the Italian border! Ruth exited the coach to present our papers and we sat idle for what seemed like a long time before she returned to inform us she had been given a ticket by border patrol for not wearing her seat belt. After a chorus of boos, someone passed around an envelope to take up a collection to pay Ruth’s ticket. We would later appreciate the importance of wearing a seatbelt after seeing how the Italians drive…Boston has got nothing on the Romans!

We invite you to join us on the next part of our journey, as we explore the magical city of Venice and move a few steps closer on the Road to Rome!

Eagle's Nest - Germany

The Alps from the Eagle's Nest