People are often envious of my job jetting around the globe on a Gulfstream. It's not a bad gig. In my twenties, my friends working their 9 to 5’s growled at me when I'd say I couldn’t join for drinks on Friday; I was headed to Hawaii or Bali on a private jet. This level of envy escalated with my mom-friends when we had young kids. Isn't it every mom's dream to have night away in a hotel room where you get to sleep the whole night through, and then maybe stay in your cozy hotel robe the next morning enjoying room service? I was living their greatest fantasy.
Here’s the perk that they didn’t know they should be envious of. I get to "test drive" vacation spots before I buy. Traveling with my crew, I can "recon" the destinations before I buy five plane tickets and two hotel rooms and 75 meals. I can save my family a lot of disappointment and a lot of cash.
Every destination has its surprises, even when you have done your due diligence, and Venice was no different. I was stoked to go, and I didn't let cautionary tales of summer crowds and garbage keep my romantic notions at bay. I was in awe as we jetted over the web of islands, staring down at this iconic destination with a deep-seated history.
We had to load our luggage in a water taxi to get to our hotel. Pro Tip: Keep the suitcase small. It was all so new, so exciting! Once we settled in, we did what every tourist does. Explore! What did I love? A highlight was definitely the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. (Please don’t miss!) Of course the gelato (duh), the quieter streets and squares, the colors and forms of Murano glass, the bridges canals and architecture, the Aperol spritzes that were appropriate regardless of the hour. Breakfast spritzes? It may have happened…
What surprised me? The Gondola ride. As a crew, we discussed whether or not to commit to this tourist trap cheese, and my colleagues were less than enthusiastic. It was expensive and clearly over rated. It never feels good to “fall for the trap.” Yet, in my mind, it had to be done. I had to check off this box of the classic Venetian experience. So off we went to the docks to support the Venice economy and my dream.
I understood it would be very crowded, and that the canals may not be all that clean, but here’s what I didn’t expect: The physical health/status of the Gondoliers. In my mind they were all young and handsome. In reality they were old, some with cigars or hand rolled cigarettes, most with exceptional stomachs pouring out freely over their waistlines. This is where I had to draw the line. Though I have the utmost respect for the training and knowledge required to be a licensed Gondolier, there was no way in hell I was getting on one of these boats with an overweight grandpa. I needed part of my romantic vision to be my reality, so we hunted through the sea of well fed, salty men until I found my man. He was just the right amount of handsome, and there was no muffin top. He was perfect. He tolerated our questions he had heard a thousand times, he took us down some quieter canals, and I was beaming. There was no serenading or flirtatious chatter, but I could live with that. I sang Amore in my head as I soaked in the magic.
I was happy I had my crew to share the experience (and the bill) and I have to tell you…I have no regrets.
After my “test run” of the Floating City, I realized there probably isn't enough room for my family of five in Venice. But I would tell all my boys, if they are lucky enough to get there: Don’t skip the three G’s…Gondola, Guggenheim, Gelato. And choose your Gondolier wisely. ; )
Addendum-Random things I learned on test run trips:
Honolulu is only part tropical paradise. It is a booming city, wedding central, and a shopaholics dream. Road to Hana only if you love going painfully slow. Hike and take a surfing lesson! Try a Mai Thai and the home made chips at sunset the Halekulani as well as a Pineapple Martini at Roys. ; )
Paris is sooo much more than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
Staying on the executive floor in Hong Kong is definitely worth every penny.
Dubrovnik has definitely changed/since and capitalized on Game of Thrones.
Hiring a knowledgeable tour guide in interesting places enhances the experience, as does having a few drinks with the locals.
Wear appropriate attire to the Weeping Wall if you don't want to get yelled at by the local elders (It wasn't me). Also you just can't be prepared for how deeply moving the experience is.
Always explore outside of the boundaries!