Sunday, November 20, 2016

Traveling to Venice with a Toddler - What Not to Do

I started off my whirlwind work trip to Europe last month with a quick pleasure trip to Venice for my birthday - the one place on my must-see bucket list we didn't make it to before moving from London back to the States a year ago.

For several reasons, I needed to take Esther along. It presented a lot of fun opportunities.  It also presented some interesting challenges.  In many ways (though not all!), it was a lesson in what not to do, and I share a lot of what I learned here:

1) If you are traveling to Venice, don't take a toddler.

I arrived at the Marco Polo airport after a near-sleepless red-eyed night to steps off the plane, a bus, a border control line, then collecting luggage--all without the stroller.  Though I had gate-checked it, it was not, by policy, waiting for me plane side.  Esther had also gotten little sleep (she requires dark and the Boston-London flight only turned the lights off for three hours) and was near hysterical by the time we got our bags.  Managing bags by myself seven months pregnant, a tantruming toddler on the floor of a foreign airport, and sleep deprivation myself may have caused a few mamma-tears!

2) If you must travel to Venice with a toddler, don't take a stroller.

Venice is designed for boats and pedestrians who climb steps, not strollers and cars.  If you cannot afford a water taxi (enormously expensive), you must travel by foot, which means walking over their many charming bridges with many steps.  There are no taxis.  Charming flights of steps every few hundred yards becomes a large back ache when you must navigate them with a stroller.  Once we learned to ditch the stroller and (gratefully) Esther demonstrated what an amazing walker she was, we hit our stride.  We only had problems when she needed a nap or threw a tantrum.

3) If you must travel to Venice with a toddler, don't do it seven months pregnant.

When traveling with babes, I normally only take a carrier.  Being seven months pregnant, of "mature maternal age," and navigating back issues prevented my go-to solution, and a stroller was necessitated, creating the problems above.

4) If you must travel to Venice with a toddler, a stroller, and pregnant, make sure you travel with help.

Thankfully, once I actually arrived to our apartment (with it's metal canal door over which a stroller had to be lifted - another reason not to take a stroller!), I was met by our old au pair from London, Danna.  I should have met her at the airport instead, but didn't know about the no taxis, the 1/2 mile to the water taxi, and navigating all those steps! Traveling with her meant that when nap time or bedtime approached, Dana could take Esther home for much needed sleep.  And the trip back to the airport wasn't quite so horrid!

Although I learned a lot of what not to do, I also loved being able to experience a new place through my baby's eyes.  She sees the world on such a simple level - "water!"- "boat!" - "bird! tweet, tweet" - "dog! ruff ruff" - "cat! meow" - that it makes you realize our sameness despite differences.  I also learned how strong-willed and determined she was.  She generally did not want to stop walking, and when I thought she was tired, she simply wanted to change hands.  I loved having my little sidekick, and also grateful she got her naps while there thanks to Danna's help!

I wouldn't recommend traveling to Venice as I did - seven months pregnant with a not-quite-two-year-old by yourself.  If you can knock out one of those contingencies, it can be quite doable and pleasant.  Just wear your toddler, take some help, or try not to be there heavily pregnant. :-)

Unreal to go to the opera there - something I've wanted to do ever since my mother told me about going as a little girl. La Traviata was beautifully performed. Here's what I posted to Instagram with this photo: "Tonight a dream came true.  My mother was a student in Europe nearly 50 years ago and used to come to the "penny opera" at the Treatro La Fenice in Venice, sit on the fifth floor, and listen to the beautiful music. Her tastes were cultivated then such to bless her family, requiring us children to become musicians with years and countless hours of practicing.  I always dreamed while practicing the piano, violin, viola, recorder, and voice that someday I would walk in her footsteps and listen to the beautiful music in Venice.  Tonight on my 37th birthday, thanks to her dedication in getting me to practice all those years and inspiration from stories of her student days, I have, also on the fifth floor, possibly in the seat she used. I am grateful for a mother who bore me all those years ago and also gave birth to music in my heart and a desire to see the world and its beauty."

I met Ilaria, my wonderful Italian friend whom I know from London, there.

Great bar/cafe/restaurant on the waterfront. 

Gelato on a stick!

I found a vintage store.

Hand-made puppets

San Marco Square selfie.

don't expect much when you hand others your DSLR :-)

Was surprised to find a Rhodin in Venice, and loved it.

And a Klimpt

We learned to use her blankies as scarves so they wouldn't drag

We made it to Murano to see the glass-blowing.  I got my chandelier!

Amazing little bookshop with gondolas full of books

With a staircase made out of books!

Small Wonders
* Gideon wants to read.  He pulled over his copy of the Book of Mormon the other day and "read", "And behold, I say unto you, do what the Lord commandeth you. And the cars and the trucks said Vroom! Amen."
* Esther also loves having her little copy of the Book of Mormon in the mornings.  She will take it in her grubby hands before I've had a chance to wash her (I figure what's the harm? it's her own copy), turn each page, and just revel in having it.  The other day, while turning each page, she said "prophets," "prophets".  Something is getting through!
* Gideon participated in his first Primary Program last week.  He said his part loud and clear, "Jesus loves me and I love him," and sang the song he participated in, "Jesus Said Love Everyone" clearly and with gusto.  He is very ready to graduate from nursery and move on to be with the big kids in Primary.  I love how he loves learning the gospel - usually. :-)
* Esther has been quite ill.  Despite antibiotics, she hasn't been able to kick it.  I'm taking advantage of all the snuggles she needs (and I'm sure she is, too!).  Here's hoping she sees a full recovery this week and it's not something more serious...
* Little Ingy's head (my in-utero babe) is finally down.  Phew!  Can't exclusively use midwives if the baby is breech.  Attempting another natural water birth.

1 comment:

  1. Such a lovely post! I am glad your au pair was eventually there to help you. You are a brave lady to do this trip this way.