Venice With Kids
Ah, Venice. Many say going to Venice with kids is a bad idea. I completely disagree. They’ve been captivated from the start. Taking a boat down a “street” marked in the ocean with the window down, your hair blowing in the breeze. Getting rocked to and fro as water taxis rush past – it’s a kid’s wonderland…at least for my little guy.
I have to admit, this small part of our year long journey is completely selfish. Venice has been on my list for twenty years and I’ve just never made it a reality. I’ve been slightly turned away by comments of the smells, expense, difficulty to reach….and then life happens and so it goes. So, when our planning began and we decided to start in Europe, Venice became a definite; a non negotiable destination on our list (and the kids didn’t know anything about it so it was easy to have stick!) So, finally, after several countries here we are!
Paris was unbelievable but hampered slightly by two trips to doctors and two kids with colds. It was a bit of rough going getting here but nothing like previous journeys so all things considered, while we arrived a few hours late, we weren’t doing so bad. Arriving at the airport we figured out where to get the local transport and away we went. When we arrived at the dock I realized there were actually more options available to reach Venice than what we could figure out quickly inside the airport and I had a sinking (and correct) feeling that we had inadvertently opted for the longer (yet cheaper!) method of getting to Venice. Mistake 1.
Now this all would have been great and part of the grand adventure if it wasn’t for two sick children that really needed to get in bed and the fact that evening was already upon us. I had wanted to arrive around dusk as I felt it would be a magical time to approach Venice but I of course didn’t account for the delayed arrival. Mistake 2.
So, as we wait for the water bus to arrive (and the water taxis zoom off) the kids run to grab some water – with my wallet- while I wait in line waiting for our boat to arrive. Mistake 3 – more about this later
Kids return happy, drinks in hand and after a few minutes the water bus approaches. We board, find seats and within minutes we are off. The kids are instantly mesmerized. It quickly becomes clear that there are roads of sorts marked by tall pylons set every 40 ft or so that the “buses” must cruise between.
There are also speed limits posted and seemingly a system of slowing when another boat approaches from behind so they can pass as well as when overtaking other water buses heading the opposite direction. And like in any real city, the taxis seem not to follow any of the rules, go the speed they so choose & pass people at whim – they did however appear to “stay within the lines”.
After about an hour I was really regretting the decision to abandon said water bus and take that 100 euro water taxi that clearly was faster than our water bus to seemingly nowhere. As we all started getting weary we discovered the windows opened. Bingo! Problem solved. From that point on my little guy was experiencing pure bliss! His cap tightened, he spent the remainder of his time with the wind in his face, checking out the boats, the islands and the new and unique architecture. He was silent and happy and utterly at peace.
Now the girls and I on the other hand were slightly queasy and wondering when we really would arrive. After the first hour there was finally a lot to be seen. Different islands, stops to take on and let off additional passengers, a local hospital with boat ambulances lined up out front. Avery jockeyed for position when passengers arrived at their destination and Kaitlyn finally convinced Liam to let her have a turn with her head out the window. Everyone finally seemed thrilled.
I knew from very recent past experiences I needed to be prepared. Really prepared. I knew I needed to know precisely where our hotel was located when we arrived in a new location. So when I say know, I just don’t mean directions I mean checked on a map, have my bearings, know the metro, bus, or now water bus stop and all possible landmarks. While in theory I want the kids to help with all this, in reality, typically when we arrive somewhere people (I say people not kids because I’m really talking about our collective group – me mostly) are tired, thirsty, hungry and have had enough…no matter how well we’ve planned, how much sleep we’ve had the night before and how well things have gone….We. are. done. Realizing I had already made three big mistakes I had just a few minutes to figure out the next steps.
So, hotel confirmations pulled up, map open, I went to work. I studied the map, oriented myself, saw where we would arrive. I mentally walked ourselves through described plaza and walked us to the east side of the square, went under the clock tower, took a right on the first “street” and a left at the third alley…this was a little reminiscent of directions in Costa Rica twenty some years ago…sometimes easier than street names – sometimes not so much. So, knowing and doing – two different things…could I pull it off? Not so sure – but I was going to try.
As we pull up we are more enchanted than ever. It is gorgeous. We struggle off the very rocky boat, gain footing, backpacks, maps and all try to take a deep breath and take it all in, and we are off.
It’s not hard to find our way. Obvious really how to find the main square. The kids aren’t complaining as they too are captivated as we navigate the hoards of people. Yes, even at 8:30 pm it is unbelievably crowded. Tourist season is supposed to be winding down but I have yet to see any indication that it’s really happening.
As we walk through the crowds I can’t help but marvel at my children who so politely but adamantly decline the roses shoved in their faces and respectfully turn away those trying to pedal their wares – cool flashing lights, balls that instantly splatter on the sidewalk and magically form into pigs before their eyes and all… [however, on occasion there is a little pretending they don’t understand English and are actually from Mexico (they know about 20 Spanish words) that gives them great delight as they try to throw off these persistent individuals by spewing forth whatever Spanish they’ve recently managed to learn].
So, as we walk under described clock tower I have to stop and play tourist. Tired children and all, there is a picture I must take. It is utterly stunning and I was right. Night was the correct time to approach this city.
As we navigate the alleys, tourists and all, we uneventfully find our hotel, check in, drop bags and head out for what is sure to be the start of four glorious days in Venice with kids.