Karen Holmes

I love my family, travel, people watching and the sun!
  • Day24

    Venice to Bracciano, Italy

    May 28, 2017 in Italy

    Bags went out by 12am last night so we set the alarm for 8am, nice to have a sleep in, this bed is amazing!!!!

    WE all had a nice long shower and popped on the last of our clean clothes before heading to Cagney’s for our last meal around 9am. Disemabarked at 10am and decided to walk over the bridge to Santa Lucia train station rather than the people mover train as it was packed!

    The sun is out and it’s another fabulous day, looking forward to seeing some of the Italian countryside as we fly by at 300kms an hour. Kids just want the internet kakaka.

    Found a table at a cafe by the train station grabbed some drinks and lazed around to wait the hour and a bit for the train to Rome. Decided to grab another sandwich for the train ride and the serivce was a bit slow and then our train platform which didn’t show until 15mins before departure was the furthest away so was a mad dash, and of course our carriage was coach 2 at the front of the train. I chose this as we wanted to travel business class and also be at the front as we had a quick change in Rome to get on the regional train to Bracciano. IN the end at coach 7 I said lets just get on and struggle down the carriages as I didn’t wanna be rushing alongside and watch it leave :).

    Found our nice leather reclining seats and really glad we paid the little bit more as we also got drinks, water and a little snack of bagel chips for the trip. The wifi wasn’t great so Matt and I enjoyed the views and read and the kids listened to music and minecraft and occasionally at Matt’s request looked out the window. heeheeehee.

    It was a relaxing almost 4 hour journey with only 4 stops.

    Luckily the train showed all the platforms for connecting trains before we got to our stop so we knew to get off and head to Platform 2, checked with the driver we were on the right train and found some seats by the doors. Bracciano is the last stop so no rush to get off.

    Unfortunately with the internet dramas we hadn’t managed to get hold of Marina the lady from Bracciano, or to find out how to get to the house. Arrived in Bracciano around 5.30pm and walked for 5 mins realised the village was a bit bigger than we thought so went back to the train station, unfortunately no taxis were there, so we text Marina as my phone was working and tried to find a taxi. at 6pm a lovely taxi driver arrived told us we could walk as it was close but if we wanted a lift it was 5euro, of course we walked, kakaka hopped right in that taxi
    and in 5 mins we were at our fabulous medieval house, it’s 3 levels and tight behind the castle with a great little balcony and small view of the lake.

    It is absolutely perfect, HUGE!!! central and soooo old, but has fabulous bathrooms and 3 bedrooms and 2 lounges. BLISS. Ooh and Marina had a bottle of Prosecco chilled for us on arrival. She showed us around the apartment and then left us to enjoy it. I could stay here for ever and write novels and paint, smelling all the delicious jasmine growing around the old buildings, eating gelato and enjoying all that Italy has too offer.

    Quickly unpacked and headed out to explore the old streets and avenues around our house. Friendly cats greet us as we stop too pat them, missing our fur babies but enjoying meeting some others.

    First stop a gelato whole in the wall, one minute from our door, the most divine chocolato ever as it was super dark and had big pieces of creamy dark chocolate ganache inside. I may have died and gone to heaven!!!
    The church bells chime every 15mins, it’s a lovely sound and the lovely animated Italian language surrounds us as we are greeted at the small intimate cafes and bars. It’s quiet so a perfect time to visit and everyone is so friendly.

    We find a tiny family restaurant with a seating area against the wall of the castle and sit down for the best pasta every, ravioli freshly made with a ricotta filling and a light basil pesto sauce. Oohs and argh could be heard from our table as it arrived. Delissimo!!!

    Gorgonzola pizza for Matt, Funghi for Belle and Prosciutto for Travis all huge and wood fired. We left with abig box of takeaways for our lunch tomorrow. As the sunsets we head into the town to find a supermarket so we can have some supplies for our first lazy day in Bracciano tomorrow.

    All stocked up on delicious cheeses, cheery tomatoes, fresh berries and cherries we head back to the house for a few glasses of prosecco for the evening, some computer time for our weary kids ;) then our heads hit the pillows around 10.30pm.
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  • Day23

    Split, Croatia

    May 27, 2017 in Croatia

    Woke up at 7.30am and checked out the view, Split is a lovely looking town. Let the kids sleep a bit longer, before we woke them for the day.
    Grabbed breakie at Cagney’s and were ashore at 9am to meet Marina from Adventure Dalmatia for our white water rafting trip.

    Took around an hour max to get to the departure point, got kitted out in wetsuits, helmets and life jackets and hopped into our rafts. The instructors were amazing, they asked me and the kids to go with one of them as they wanted t make sure the kids were 100% safe.

    It was only 2-3 level rapids, but it was really fun and we all really enjoy the 3 hours we spent going down the Cetina River. Grabbed a drink after, then our driver dropped us back at the old town of Split. We still had an hour half so we grabbed a very late lunch in the Old town and a few postcards.

    The town is very much like a small Riviera with a lovely promenade but he portside. Would be a lovely place to return to and rent a villa or a small boat to explore all the local islands from here….

    Had a great last meal in a booth at O’Sheenan’s Irish Pub watching the sunset. Kids were made keen to get to kids club for the last night Pyjama party and pillow fight :).

    Matt and I grabbed a couple drinks at a bar and headed back to pack, picked up the kids at 10.15pm and straight to bed.

    The cruise has been amazing, a great way for the kids to see all the beauty and history of Europe without flogging them and time out for us to relax and enjoy some great food and drinks. The week hasn’t flown by either it’s been perfect and we are ready to just hang in Bracciano, Italy for a few days.
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  • Day22

    Day at Sea

    May 26, 2017, Adriatic Sea

    After a great night last night we slept in until around 9.30am luckily the clocks went back last night so it was really 8.30am new time… gotta love that :).

    Had another yummy breakfast, too much Munster cheese for me, ooh definitely a favourite and the pancakes and fresh berries. Kids are all about the waffles though!

    Headed to the library which is nice and close to our suite, Belle has been reading a lot so needed to get a couple more books for our last 2 days onboard.

    Today is a day at sea, was planning on a day lying on deck in the sun, but the wind is chilly so headed back to our room to read instead. Kids and Matt had the morning in the hot tub and are now playing basketball up on the sports deck.

    So relaxing sitting on the sofa by the floor to ceiling windows in our room, it’s crazy to know there are a ton of people aboard but still so many quiet places to go onboard and enjoy the serenity of being at sea. I love just looking out at the waves in the huge empty ocean surrounding us.It’s so relaxing and great at quietening the mind.

    Had dinner at 6.30pm at the Versailles restaurant, then dropped the kids to kids club around 8pm. Matt and I checked out one of the fun game shows they were running, very funny and then grabbed a drink and headed to see the Paradiso show, again the dancers blew us away, they clearly don’t eat, like we are ;).

    Picked the kids up just before 10.30pm and all headed back to our suite to get an early night, big day tomorrow in Split.
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  • Day21

    Athens, Greece

    May 25, 2017 in Greece

    Athens - Greece

    Up just before 7am, I had ordered room serve breakfast so we didn’t have to rush to get ready. The ship docked at 7am and we were planning to get off at 7.45am.

    Breakfast arrived at 7.15am and we couldn’t stop laughing I had placed 4 guests and ordered the meals but obviously had done something wrong as we ended up with a trolly full of food, 4 plates of fruits, 3 creams, 2 hot chocolates, 8 plates of eggs, toast and bacon and a plate full of toast, croissants, muffins. We really should of taken a photo it was madness!!!

    We ate what we could, then headed down to get off, but were told to be sure we had photo id as they were sometimes tough when you tried to get back on the ship. A bit of drama as I wasn’t sure were my drivers licence was but all sorted and we were off the ship by 8.15am to meet our driver and guide for the day.

    I’d planned a private driver and guide for Athens so we could get too see as much as we could in the morning and then head out of the city for lunch and a swim so the kids and Matt could see a bit more of Greece than the city.

    Our driver Jimmy was amazing, he was from Sydney but was of greek heritage and married to a greek lady. He’d been in Greece for 20years and his knowledge of the city was incredible. We all learnt so much!

    Our first stop was too see The Pantheon on Acroplis Hill before the crowds, the area has changed a lot since I was here last backpacking in 91! Funny that ;)…. He then drove us through the old part of Athens and to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the unknown soldier.

    Then to the top of Lyttecius Hill to get the best view of the city. The story is that Athena was carrying the Hill to The Pantheon and dropped it upon the way. The view was unbelievable you could see all of Athens from Pireus (the port) to the beaches and hills beyond.

    We drove past the site of the first modern day Olympic games site, it was used for the archery in the 2004 Olympics and then past the Houses of Parliament and a lot more stunning old buildings around the city.

    We all got talking about coffee so he stopped at a lovely restaurant and while we used the bathrooms he surprised us by buying us some Freedo Cappucinos, they were amazing!!!! And drinks for the kids too go as well.

    He recommended we go to Vouligemena Lake a thermal spring area for a swim rather than the beach, it was brilliant, nice and quite and the lake was 26 degrees and full of time little fish that kissed the dead skin from your body. It was hilarious at first as they really tickled your feet, Belle was well into it, but Travis was not that keen at all. We just dipped our feet in as we’d ordered our lunch and decided to eat first and swim after.

    After a yummy lunch we all went for a swim, with lots of these tiny little fish kissing you all over your body, when you got out of the water your body felt so smooth and tingly for quite a while. It was a really fun experience for us all. Travis finally got up the courage and was laughing away by the end.

    Jimmy then drove us back to our ship around 3.30pm we arrived back after an unforgettable day!

    Back onboard we are all tired so headed back to the room via the ice cream machine, we’d had a cheese board, big bowl of M&M’s and chocolate dipped strawberries awaiting us when we returned. So bit smiles all round. So glad we have the coffee machine in the room as we tucked into the M&M’s and a nice espresso.

    Matt has decided to hit the gym at 5pm, hahaha been talking about it since day 1, but I’m impressed he’s made it there.

    Kids are booked for dinner at 6.30pm and are wanting to go to the kids club at 7pm for a glow night and Matt and I are going to the French restaurant at 8pm. We’ll pick the kids up at 10pm and head to the club for a dance at the White Hot dance party, was a lot of fun in Hawaii so all keen. Sea day tomorrow so we can all sleep in tomorrow.
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  • Day20

    Olympus, Greece

    May 24, 2017 in Greece

    Hello Greece, kids and Matt are very pleased to meet you for the first time and I'm very happy to be back in your warmth :).

    Got up at 9am as we have a late arrival in Katakolan, the port for visiting Olympia. The site for the first Olympics.

    Had another great breakfast at Cagney’s, and then headed back to our room, unfortunately I wasn’t able to get into my suite as it was locked and the cleaner Madonna was also unable to get in. She called the security team but they were all busy as we were just about ready to disembark.

    The kids and Matt had gone to the video arcade so when they arrived back I told Madoona we would be in the library waiting. By now I was a teeny little bit annoyed as people were already getting off the ship.

    Another 10mins and the security team had sorted out our door and we had access to our suite. We quickly grabbed our things and headed swiftly for our VIP disembarkation, thank god we were VIP's today.

    Seriously going to miss it next cruise, it is the way to cruise!!!!

    Got off the ship and saw 2 companies competing for cruisers on their coaches to Olympia so the coach we had prebooked was now half the price so luckily I hadn’t already paid, yippee more money for me!!!

    Got on the coach and headed to Olympia it was a short 30mins drive, we had a great visit at Olympia and used an audio tour guide so learnt a lot about the first games.

    It was nice and warm but there was shade along the way and it wasn’t that busy despite all the coaches parked up. We waked around for about 2hours and then popped into the museum before catching the coach back at 2.45pm.

    When we got back to Katakalon we grabbed a few postcards and some more euro for our big day in Athens tomorrow.

    Got back onboard at 4pm and headed to O'Sheenhans for lunch, before realising we were booked for the Teppaniaki special meal at 5pm whoops, town dinners in one day kakaka
    we gonna be full tonight :).

    Had a great first meal then headed for a walk on deck and popped back to our suite for 15mins before heading for our second meal hahahahahaha hilarious, well hilarious until we can’t fit into our clothes ;) Headed at 5pm for our booking at the Teppanaki, it was great, we had a nice family from Minnesotta with 2 little kids and Grandparents. They were really well travelled so were interesting to chat too. They’d honeymooned in NZ and said it was one of there favourite countries.

    Mirabelle had the seafood selection of scallops, shrimps and calamari and even the Japanese man was laughing when he put it all in front of her as the serving was HUGE. She loved it said it was her favourite meal ever. We all really enjoyed our meals but couldn’t eat our dessert of Green tea ice cream and cake with cashew nut brittle past a taster as we so full.

    Belle was keen to head back to the kids club at 7pm when it opened and T decided to hang with us and see the Vegas show. We dropped Belle off and headed to the bar for a few drinks at 7pm and T hit the ice cream bar, then we met up in the bar to head for the show.

    The show was incredible the dancers and singers were amazing and it was non stop for 45mins,if only I could dance like that!

    After the show, Travis wanted to have a look at the shops, we saw Belle and her kids club posse making their way around the ship dressed as pirates singing away on a treasure hunt of the ship. We headed back to the bar for a couple more cocktails then at 10pm Matt picked up Belle from kids club and we had a fairly early night as we have an early start tomorrow in Athens.
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  • Day19

    Kotor, Montengegro

    May 23, 2017 in Montenegro

    Up around 7.30am as we are tendering into the port today, I have a surprise booked at 9am in port for the kids.

    Arrived by tender a bit early, but the lady from Adventure Montenegro was already waiting for us, she popped us in a taxi for 5min drive around the bay to collect our Kayaks. I’d booked 2 kayaks for a half day so we could enjoy the scenery from the sea.

    Kayaked for an hour and a bit along the gorgeous coast, then stopped at a beach for an ice-cream and a swim. The water was super cold but so clean and so refreshing it was fantastic.

    We then headed back to where we started, at a slightly faster pace as we didn’t want to risk missing the last tender at 1pm! Made it back by 12.15pm and were back onboard at 1pm. Had a lovely lunch and a relaxing afternoon, reading, basketball and swimming.

    Belle is heading to kids club tonight at 7pm as they have a Mission Impossible night she wants to check out and Travis, Matt and I are heading to the Irish bar again, looking forward to the Fajitas as they were so delicious last night! ooh and the Brownie cheesecake, but after 3 hours kayaking and only using the stairs on the ship we are hoping we can defy the bulge teehee….

    Belle had another great night at the kids club, all in bed around 11pm. I'd managed to read a book in a day today and even after quite a few lovely cocktails on the deck.
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  • Day18

    First port Dubrovnik

    May 22, 2017 in Croatia

    Slept in until 9am, the bed is so comfy I could sleep forever… headed up for breakfast at Cagney’s, had a lovely breakie then the kids and I headed for the pool area, Belle made a couple friends while her and I were in the spa pool so she headed off with them for ice-cream.

    Travis went back up to the basketball area and Matt was busy in the room, little did I know he was stressing as he couldn’t find all the euro we’d withdrawn the day before. He found me in the spa and I headed back to the room, we found it quickly and then relaxed by the pool with the kids.

    Had a quick lunch before we arrived in Dubrovnik at 1pm. I’d left all the info on the Island I wanted to go to so we just headed to the old city, had a great couple of hours walked all around the walls of the city.

    Stopped for an ice cream sundaes and an affrogato for me yummy!

    At 5pm I had booked a surprise for the kids, a private Tuk Tuk tour of Dubrovnik, the owner John was driving our Tuk Tuk and he was amazing.
    Really charming and had so much love and knowledge about his city. We had an amazing 2 hours, he then dropped us back at the ship around 7.30pm. Dubrovnik was everything I’d hoped it would be, just as beautiful as all the photos you see.

    Back onboard we went to the Irish pub for a meal and had a fantastic meal and an amazing waiter. Kids tried there first Shirley Temple, I had forgotten all about them, a blast from the past when the waiter asked if they’d like to try one.

    Headed back to the room around 10.30pm for an early night as we need to be up early tomorrow for Kotor.
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  • Day17

    Leaving Venice today

    May 21, 2017 in Italy

    Up around 9am, won’t make it through all the cheese, coffee and cereal but that’s ok, we’ll pop them in our bag for after the cruise.

    Super excited to get onboard and start another adventure.

    Catching the Vaporetto to the port around 10.30am, figure it might take an hour to get there as we need to make a change along the way or did a little walk. Boarding is from 12pm but anytime after 11am should be ok and if we’re early kids can fit in some reading.

    Boarded the ship around 12pm and are loving being VIP’s again :).
    Will miss it on our next cruise. Had a lovely lunch at Cagney’s restaurant, then dropped our day bag in our suite. The suite is huge and has lots of dividers so we can all have our own space at night. Kids have a double bed each so happy with that!

    Bath and shower, double sinks, Blvgari products and even bath salts. Bliss, very happy family.

    Belle and I then headed to the pool for a swim and drinks and the boys to the basketball court. They found us an hour later in relaxed cruise mode.

    Grabbed an easy meal from the cafe and popped to the kids club around 8pm, checked the kids in for a couple of hours, Matt and I grabbed a glass of bubbles and headed to watch the welcome aboard show and then popped to a bar after. Some great new cocktails and a lot of my favourites from the last cruise.

    An incredible day first afternoon on the ship.
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  • Day16


    May 20, 2017 in Italy

    Woke up early, well 8.30am is early when you’re still on NYC time.
    I know poor us… ;)

    Had another huge yummy european breakie, Matt reckons he heard on the radio there was a crisis in Italy as cheese supplies were running low, teehee all in my belly or fridge.

    Wanted to go out around 10.30am but it was pouring with raining a big change from the last few days, so we certainly can’t complain and didn’t. NO use whining about the weather the we can’t control it.

    So we took the time too get some homework, reading and Minecraft in before heading out around 1pm. Decided to just hit Murano as it was late and Murano was around an hour on the ferry, glad we did as the weather brightened up but then changed again an hour later. We got a 24hr Vaporetto pass so we can use it to get to the port tomorrow as well.

    I know, we are sooooo smart ;)

    We still managed to get to see a demonstration with a master glass craftsman, it was incredible! He made a vase and a horse figurine to show us how it’s done, amazing, kids also really enjoyed it. Then we popped into a cafe for a coffee and gelato for the kids before catching the ferry back to San Marco.

    When we got back to San Marco we popped to St Marks Basilica for some photos, they have decreased the number of pigeons due to them destroying the buildings. But still a million tourists to make up for it.

    Now around 5.45pm we raced back to the apartment to change into something warmer and headed out to the Ghetto to surprise the kids. I’d found out about an amazing Gondolier Luca that works down there and we had emailed him and arranged for a 7pm gondola ride. We arrived half an hour early and the 6.30pm ride hadn’t shown up so lucky for us as he took us out, so it was 20Euro cheaper.

    He really was incredible and I was so glad we made the trip the Ghetto to do a ride with him, he comes from a family of Gondoliers and was so proud of his city, it’s history and his gondola. He told us so many interesting things about his city and then offered to serenade us with a song if we’d like.

    He sang us a traditional Venetian song and his voice was incredible, it was one of the most wonderful experiences ever. Travis said when we got out his cheeks were hurting from smiler so much.

    He told us how Venice is sinking by 2mm a year! Pointed out all the palaces and told us what century and who lived in them. Dating from the 1100’s so it blew us all away. The canals he took us along were not able to be accessed by walkways so we got to see things we’d never have seen.

    It really is a must do when you have the perfect gondolier!

    We then found a great little Italian restaurant, where we got a carafe of wine, pasta and pizza. Completely stuffed at the end of our delicious meal. We LOVE Italy!!!!!

    Caught the vaporetto back to Rialto and walked 5mins back to our apartment, home to finish off the Prosecco, Gelato in the freezer, Chianti and beers. Lets hope we can get up in the morning!

    The perfect day, despite the weather.
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  • Day15


    May 19, 2017 in Italy

    Bit of noise from the apartment above last night so Belle and I didn’t get too sleep until 2am. Woke up around 10.30am for another lovely breakfast in our room, Belle made some freshly squeezed oj for us to have as well.
    Kids did some reading and homework and we were all finally ready to head out at 1pm.

    First stop grab some walk and made a gelato :) and another day exploring the alleyways and canals of Venice.

    Had a lovely afternoon, we walked all the way to the end of the main island to a great park area where we could see the outer islands, ferries and private mega yachts.

    Grabbed a gelato along the way to keep up our sugar levels kakaka

    Saw some great art installations in parks along the way, including an amazing one where they had made life like models of people by the water out of resin, it was incredible!!!!

    Got right out of the tourist hub and mixed with the locals.

    Headed back to our apartment around 6pm for some lunch/dinner. Grabbed some things at the local supermarket, prosecco, olives, artichokes, fresh bread, chips and gelato …. and had another yummy feast back in our place.

    Got the kids in bed by 9.45pm and hoping to get ourselves down by 10.45pm as we have decided to head out to Murano and Burano tomorrow for a bit of an Island adventure. Neither of us have ever been out to the islands so will be a nice detour from Venice.

    Still hoping to fit in a gondola ride…. and a visit to St Marks Basilica and Doges Palace late evening if they are still open.

    All packed and washing done so we won’t have much to do tomorrow night, but finish of our booze ;).

    Had an amazing time exploring Venice and are really excited to be moving onto our next adventure when we emabark the ship on Sunday late morning.

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  • Day14

    Venice day 3

    May 18, 2017 in Italy

    Can't believe it was 2 weeks ago we left home, time is flying!!!!

  • Day14

    Venice day 2

    May 18, 2017 in Italy

    Kids woke up really early this morning, the noises of the city can still be heard even at our apartment on the 4th level. It was around 5am! At 7.30am I gave up trying to sleep and got up to make breakfast. We had a european continental breakfast of coffee, ham, cheeses and bread and the kids also had cornflakes.

    We all had a bath, not together ;). And really took our time to get ready.

    At 10.30am we were ready to go out and set off for water but as we were in the supermarket we decided to stock up for the next few days. Got more cheeses, fruits, breads, hams, salamis, so it's a feast again later. The cheese selection is amazing got 5 in total to try.
    Matt couldn't resist the beer and the kids wanted chocolate so with full bags we headed back to the apartment for morning tea, donuts and berries.

    Were planning on a quick stop but Belle fell asleep so decided to give her an hours rest, Matt decided to sneak in a siesta as well, it's now 2pm, Matt has just woken and we will get Belle up and head out to spend the afternoon getting lost in the alleyways of Venice and eat some more fabulous gelato....

    Kids woke up really early this morning, the noises of the city can still be heard even at our apartment on the 4th level. It was around 5am! At 7.30am I gave up trying to sleep and got up to make breakfast. We had a European continental breakfast of coffee, ham, cheeses and bread and the kids also had cornflakes.

    We all had a bath, not together ;). And really took our time to get ready.

    At 10.30am we were ready to go out and set off for water but as we were in the supermarket we decided to stock up for the next few days. Got more cheeses, fruits, breads, hams, salamis, so it's a feast again later. The cheese selection is amazing got 5 in total to try.

    Matt couldn't resist the beer and the kids wanted chocolate so with full bags we headed back to the apartment for morning tea, donuts and berries.

    We were planning on a quick stop but Belle fell asleep so decided to give her an hours rest. Matt decided to sneak in a siesta as well, so it's now 2pm, Matt has just woken and we will get Belle up and head out to spend the afternoon getting lost in the alleyways of Venice and eat some more fabulous gelato....

    Tried to wake Belle and she asked for more time, so we left her another 3/4 of an hour and headed at just before 3pm.

    Grabbed a gelato each and wandered for almost 2 and a 1/2 hours, was super busy when we hit St Marks Square so quickly moved out of there!

    Saw a great looking pasta to go restaurant, so decided to try there for dinner one night.

    Popped back to the apartment for some afternoon snacks and chianti and back out for dinner around 6.30pm. Got a bit lost looking for the pasta place but finally found it, was really good! T wanted pizza so we just grabbed him a slice and we sat on a bridge by the canal to eat.

    Strolled home by 9.15pm hoping for an early night tonight so we can get our body clocks on Italian time before the cruise.

    Another gorgeous day in Venice with perfect weather.

    The photo is the view from our lounge.
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