A Few Things

December 28, 2012

By Gabrielle. Image of The Great Clock in Rouen.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Has this been a funny in-between week for you? It’s been a little strange at our house — unusually mellow with lots of hanging out in pajamas. Kind of nice, actually. : ) And really, it’s best I save my energy, because, did I tell you what the main gift was under the tree this year? We are headed to Venice on Monday! Since it’s off-season, we found bargain tickets on EasyJet, so we’ll be ringing in the new year in our wellies — hopefully in a gondola. Hah!

Last year at this time we were on a Belgium Waffle Tour, with Cologne, Germany as our destination. That was a cold trip, and I think this one might be even colder! So we are trying to get psyched and commit to bundling up and getting out there to see what Venice has to offer, no matter the weather.

Almost 16 years ago, Ben and I spent a couple of days in Venice but I was so sick on that trip that we hardly left the hotel, and I feel like I’ve never really visited. All that to say: I’m a Venice novice and I’d love your tips and recommendations! Favorite restaurants? Don’t miss activities? Have you ever been during the winter? Have you been on New Year’s Eve?

And while I get the laundry done for our trip, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share — but I’ve hardly been online this week, so it’s a mini-list. : )

- A cool new calendar with no gaps between months.

- Multicolor search. Thanks, Heidi J.

- Loving this video series called The Amerikans. Try episode 7. Thanks, Justin.

- Little Jack desperately needs an O-type kidney. Any leads?

- An essay on staying in for New Year’s Eve (fast forward to 9:12).

- A sweet + modern + vintage nursery.

- 100% of proceeds from this stunning print go to Sandy Hook families.

I hope you have a wonderful long weekend full of New Year’s festivities. I’m crossing my fingers you have an excuse to wear something sequin-y. I’ll meet you back here next week. I miss you already.


P.S. — I won’t be keeping to my full posting schedule next week, but I’ll be sure to check in from the road with some fun posts, and you’ll be able to find me on Instagram as well.

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December 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm

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1 The New Diplomats Wife December 28, 2012 at 10:09 am

you’ll love venice! the off season is pretty quiet but it’s still such a phenomenal city. i went a few times when younger and didn’t appreciate it as much as i should have, but now luckily have seen the error of my ways. one of the things we’re most looking forward to when we move to copenhagen is carnivals in venice again!

for venice, restaurant recommendations here: http://www.thenewdiplomatswife.com/2011/03/venetian-feast.html (though some may be closed during the off season)

coffee/sweets/breakfast recommendations here: http://www.thenewdiplomatswife.com/2011/03/venetian-coffee-hour.html

Definitely make a trip to the Rialto market if you can, a ride on the vaporetto around the city, and i love the (relatively) new palazzo grassi museums (both!), and the peggy guggenheim is also wonderful.

Definitely definitely bring layers and bundle up – it gets cold and the dampness has a way of sinking in – hats, gloves, scarves, and warm under things are a must. Walking around is pretty much the only transport (apart from boats) so feet and hands need to be warm. A carrier if June still hitches a ride since strollers are pretty much no dice in venice (though we did it once – just be prepared to carry up and down stairs a LOT – carriers are easier!)

Finally – lots and lots of battery power for your cameras!

Buon viaggio!


2 Wendy/Blue Lily December 28, 2012 at 10:36 am

Hopefully I can meet you there and document a few hours for you. Let me know if you are still interested!


3 Cathryn December 28, 2012 at 11:30 am

We went to Venice one February. There was a blizzard. We got engaged. Would strongly recommend it ;)


4 Deborah December 28, 2012 at 11:34 am

Ah Venice! Have a wonderful time! My last trip to Europe I was just weeks pregnant and very green. I think I must’ve seen the dirt in every province of Tuscany while I puked on the road. It was awful, and I too have very little recollection and good memories of the trip. Hopefully one day we will return and I can see everything I missed!


5 Megan December 28, 2012 at 11:58 am

My husband and I visited Venice this past October. We loved trying some fish soup while we were there, it was one of our favorite meals on our trip. We also liked seeing the brightly colored houses in Burano. Have fun on your trip! What a great Christmas present! :)


6 caroline from france December 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Est-ce qu’il reste un endroit sur terre où vous n êtes pas encore allé ? :)
bon souvenir de notre conversation au sunday supper de ALT à Nyc cet été.
Bons voyages pour 2013 !
Amicalement !


7 Ariana {And Here We Are...} December 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Oh, have such a wonderful time! We have had our passports tied up in visa negotiations for several months now, and I am just *dying* to go somewhere! I’ll look forward to some pictures!


8 Beth December 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I don’t have any specific tips (partly because we had a very brief visit). What we enjoyed most was just the wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere, and getting a little bit lost in the maze of streets. I second the suggestion about a carrier – we had a 1 year old with us and I think that is the way to go.

I think in another post you said that you try to eat at restaurants at off-peak hours because of your large-ish family. I think that will be especially helpful in Venice where I seem to recall most of the restaurants as very ‘cosy’ (i.e., tiny).


9 Louise December 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Such a fun gift! The moment when you enter Venice is truly like you are being transported into a living museum. It’s amazing! We’ve been in the middle of winter (Jan) and the height of summer (June). It poured in the summer, and was dry in the January, but I have never been colder anywhere than I was Venice in the winter. Take as many layers as you can, lots of pairs of socks, and the thickest scarves and hats you have! Enjoy roaming the streets and getting lost – and if you can get out in the late evening and early morning (before Venice wakes up), those times are magical too! A boat out to Murano and Burano (my favourite) would be fun to do if you have time. Enjoy, enjoy!!


10 Christi December 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Funny– we rented a house near Verona next week and are taking my in-laws to Venice one day. We were there two years ago the week before Christmas and it was wonderful, felt like we had the whole place to ourselves..much different than when I had visited in the summer months. The person we are renting the house from told us there is something in Venice for NYE called White Night or something…they want all to wear sparkly white- I think he even said masks and there is some sort of show, starts at 1030, which since we aren’t staying there, is too late for my crew. Have fun!!


11 Angel December 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Make sure to just wander around aimlessly! I’ve been to Venice twice. The first time I stuck to the touristy attractions, and the second time we made sure to wander around the non touristy places.


12 Giulia December 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Oh! I spent new year’s there three years ago! I sent you an email a while ago when you said you were going in october. i am soooo happy for you that you are finally going!!!

ps: some specific things for this season: there might be acqua alta, inform yourself (it’s fun, if you are a kid… or think like one..) when i was there it snowed, i hope it snows because it’s wonderful. if you are staying at an apartment i recommend finding a good gourmet store and buying food for dinner there instead of going out. buy pandoro at a grocery store. they always do this group kiss in st marco’s square at midnight on nye, but i’m not sure your kids will want to go (i mean, they’d have no one to kiss, and that could be a little awkward…haha).


13 Judy Boswell December 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm

We liked the restaurant Ai Barbacani. Seemed less touristy. Have fun finding it!


14 Christa the BabbyMama December 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I may wear something sparkly for New Year’s, but it will be seen only in the house and will probably come off long before midnight because *yawn* I’m tired!


15 Heidi December 28, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Been a few times and always loved it. Make sure you go off the beaten path there are beautiful areas where the tourists never go. Orienting yourself is difficult, I found a small compass that hung on my jacket zipper was the best bet. We once planned to be there on new years eve, but somehow got the dates wrong and ended up spending New Year’s eve on the train! (still not sure how we mixed that up :)


16 Gia December 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm

We were just in Venice for a family holiday this past May and June. It was such a great time. Our kids loved the Da Vinci exhibit and the free music museum, both in the Santa Margharita area. There were also places you could make your own Venician masks (we saw several, so just ask for one near by). On the back side of San Marco square there is a wonderful little music shop where we found a mandolin for my dad’s 60th birthday. They had all sorts of amazing instruments and were very gracious to let the children try out the flutes and look at the accordion – even playing a little concert for us. Our favorite parts of Venice were getting lost on the back alleys and just wondering into a cafe for food or gelato. We also took the vapparetto out to the Lido and if we’d had more time would definitely visit Morano too. We did see glass blowing in the downstairs forge from our apartment which my 7 year old thought was amazing, especially when they seemed to pull and pull on the glass and finally it made the shape of a horse. Our biggest tip would be to follow those with large shopping bags. The locals were the best indication of where to go – for groceries, for sweets, for the morning cafe and were also helpful if we needed anything like the laundry service or a great place to buy vegetables.
Have a great trip!


17 monica lee December 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm

My mom and dad spent a romantic New Years in Italy near Venice, I was born 9 months later! Careful! ha!


18 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay December 28, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Bless you Gabrielle. You know why. Wink. (( ))


19 Yulia December 29, 2012 at 10:11 am

While in Venice last november bought these 2 books (in different bookshops) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kids-guide-Venice-Allegra-Agliardi/dp/887874199X
http://www.edizionilapis.it/it/libro.php?id=124. Love them.
the second one contains 7 walks with all the info and questions/tasks/ Very nicely done.
Hope your kids and you will appreciate them.


20 Lisa December 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

Visit the cemetery island. I am very uneasy in cemeteries usually but this one is unbelievable. Seriously. If you can, study the Italian’s way of paying for plots forever. Yes, that’s right. No money, your bones get moved into a tiny box somewhere else. Wealthy families own their own tiny mosoleums (spelling?). This cemetery in particular is HUGE. It is shocking to see how organized and unique it is. For example, one section will all be children. Another will all be those white boxes stacked up and up. Others will all be crosses. It is simply amazing. Take pictures if you can. I was too freaked out that you have to walk through a Church right off the boat to get to the main cemetery. Under the Church several people are buried, of course. As someone go has never been comfortable walking on graves, that made me a bit uncomfortable.


21 Lisa December 29, 2012 at 10:31 am

I have another suggestion which is a bit unique too. Knowing I was going to Venice an didn’t want to spend the crazy up charges they mark the blown glass for I bought myself a blown glass bracelet at a store back home sonI wouldn’t be tempted to buy it there. Crazy, I know! But a trip to their amazing glass blowing factories seems to create a need to bring home these pieces of art. The cost of buying the glass there is at least 10 times more than I paid. And my bracelet was made there too! ;)


22 Lisa December 29, 2012 at 10:34 am

Personally I feel no visit to Venice is complete without a trip to San Marco Square for a tour of the Cathedral. There is a tiny gelato shop right by the entrance that sells homemade pistachio gelato. It doesn’t get better than that. ;)


23 Lisa December 29, 2012 at 10:39 am

Public transportation boats (like a bus anywhere else!) are economical and efficient. Plus you can ask locals where the best spots are while you are on the boat together. ;)


24 thecreamline December 29, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Watch “Wings of the Dove” on the plane (not with the kids!) to get inspired. It’s a little sad, but Venice looks beautiful in it!


25 Jan December 29, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Wow – have a nice trip! Happy New Year!


26 Macarena December 29, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Enjoy it!! You and Ben have to tru Fragolino, kind of stawberry sparkling wine from the region, really nice!! And black pasta with blac ink sauce, incredible. We went there 6 years ago for your honeymoon in december, cold cold cold, but sooo nice. The kids will love the vaporetto trip to Mutano to see glass artisans doing some impresive glass sculptures. Hace a nice strong expresso in our honour!! Besos from Guate


27 Shelley December 30, 2012 at 2:57 am

We were lucky enough to stay in Venice for a week in the summer last year? Year before…Anyhow, we noticed that during the day the place was crammed with people, but everyone seemed to leave around 5 or 6. After dinner the city was a completely different place, really quiet and beautiful. If you can get to see that, after all the shops are closed, it’s very special. Mind, in the little back alleys there are places where one step too many could end you up in the water, so be careful!



28 barbara wendell December 30, 2012 at 6:23 am

Buon Viaggio!

I just read that a gondola fits 6 people. An alternative are the traghettos, which cross the Grand Canal at various places. They cost about 1 euro per person, and tradition is that you stand.
Speaking of gondolas, there is a gondola “factory” which we unfortunately did not have time to see.
The churches are filled with amazing art. The golden gem encrusted screen (extra charge) at St. Marks is amazing, as are the mosaics on the outside.

Sample Venetian snacks, cichetti, another thing we missed doing.

Great ideas below:


29 carla December 30, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Hi Gabrielle,
I studied at the architecture institute in Venice and you’re in for a treat. January is cold, but its also the most atmospheric time of year! My advice would be to get some pastries at “Tonolo” (near campo Santa Margherita). They’re the best in town and I promise you won’t regret it. The little pizzeria in Campo Santa Margherita, “Pizza al Volo”–where you buy pizza by the slice and eat standing up, is quite good too. There are a half dozen cafes in this square and it’s a nice place to sit and have a drink if you’re so inclined. My favorite is Bellini, the peach cocktail invented in Venice, but if you want the local drink of choice then get a “Spritz.”

If you’re looking for a sit-down meal then you could have lunch at Pizzeria ae Oche. It’s neither romantic or touristy but is a fun and grungy place that locals eat at. I love their gorgonzola and walnut pizza. Another small place that is popular with locals is Osteria La Zucca, it’s pretty and they have only about 40 seats and their food is all local and quite good–plus it’s off the beaten track. If you want to see the old-school fisherman’s Venice than head up to Castello which is to the North of Piazza San Marco. This is where Venetian families live and it’s the most traditional neighborhood. I love it and it’s rare to see tourists there. You can find good cicchetti there, which are traditional seafood appetizers which are lovely.

I hope you and the family enjoy yourselves immensely and wish you all a happy new year!



30 Jillian in Italy December 31, 2012 at 2:00 am

A traditional Italian New Year’s custom is to eat lentils and cotechino (type of sausage) at midnight to bring wealth for the coming year (the lentils symbolize coins.

Another custom is to wear red underpants on the 31st to bring luck for the following year.



31 Tricia Rose December 31, 2012 at 10:35 am

We conceived our last child in Venice – we didn’t pack wellies.


32 Leafynell December 31, 2012 at 11:39 am

Like another commenter, I’ve been in Venice when it snowed. It was magical! People were making little snowmen in St. Mark’s square. And the gardens in the Guggenheim were spectacular all in white. I also second the comment for the pizzeria in Campo Santa Margherita. My poor husband got food poisoning when we were there, so we didn’t go out much, but the best food summer or winter is always cheese and fresh bread anyway!


33 Anneliese December 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Venice is my favorite spot in Itay! I’ve been three times and can’t wait to go back. In addition to the beauty and walkability I love the trinkets! No where else have I found such inexpensive souvenirs in such plenty and quality. I wish I had loaded up on glass bracelets and necklaces last time I was there. That’s my tip–buy more than you think you should! And have some hot chocolate on the Piazza San Marco. I love seeing the Tintorettos too… So much there…


34 jen December 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm

oooh! have a fabulous time. i spent oodles of time there a decade ago. there are a few unmarked restaurants around town for locals, mostly, with the best food. see if you can ask around. i second the comment about exploring back alleys and little shops. there’s an awesome mask shop that used to exist, perhaps it is still there, it is AMAZING.
happy new year!


35 Bea December 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm

We were in Venice for New Years four or five years ago. We went to the main square to count down to the New Year and it was great fun… until midnight when drunk Russians started spraying everyone with champagne and the whole crowd tried to leave at once. I suddenly understood how people get trampled to death at soccer matches… the crowd pressed so tightly together, literally spinning me around in circles. It was scary as a grown-up; I would definitely recommend avoiding it with kids as I don’t know how I could have kept a little one from being lost or trampled.
That caveat aside, Venice is my favorite city, and San Marco my favorite church. Get a good map, but let yourself wander aimlessly and get lost. Make sure to make it out to Burano (lace) and Murano (glass). We were so lucky to rent an apartment with a nearby grocery… I don’t know where to tell you to eat because we were too busy eating everything that I love to cook that’s too expensive to buy in the US!


36 Kelleyn January 1, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I don’t think you can do Venice wrong! Make sure you take advantage of the water ferries. They give you the best view of the canals. The gondola is expensive and might be out of your budget as a family unless they give you a group rate. When we went there they have always wanted a 100 euros per person, but you can check. The square is lovely at night St. Marcos that is and is worth venturing out to see. Might want to ask if they play the music in the winter because that is the topping of the adventure, so if not you might want to skip because of June. We had fun looking for the spots captured in Raiders movie . Sorry can’t remember if it was 1,2, or 3 at the moment. Have fun and Happy NEw Year!


37 Catherine January 2, 2013 at 6:01 am

I’m probably a bit late but my tip is to go to the Jewish quarter and take a tour of the synagogues with a guide – they are not open to the public without a guide but are absolutely amazing and reveal a side to Venice I knew very little about even though we go quite often as we live just down the road!


38 Jennifer January 3, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I dont have any tips, but today I decided to start planning my side trip to Venice that I will take in May/June 2013! I will be in the Netherlands for 2 weeks and will travel to Paris and Venice while there. I live in the USA so I am trying to get ideas on where to stay in Venice that has availability and won’t cost a fortune. Preferably under 75 euros a night.


39 Design Mom January 7, 2013 at 3:20 am

Oh my goodness! I just have to tell you how helpful all the suggestion were on the trip. You guys are better than any guide book, I swear! Thank you a million.


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