St. Petersburg Garden

St. Petersburg Garden

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just like Venice...but with Fireworks.

The Grand Old Gondola. We've all heard of it. Seen pictures. Envisioned floating down the canals of Venice as your gondolier belts out beautiful music. Well, perhaps most of us have. And perhaps it doesn't always go exactly as you have might have dreamed it would. It usually doesn't but then again, that's what makes the best memories. I was in Italy with my cousin Margaret in the summer of 1998. We were staying at an apartment in Florence but we had a Euro rail pass and on the weekends we would travel all throughout Europe. We decided it was time for Venice. We didn't have a game plan. We never did.

I'm generally a wing-it type of girl. A basic game plan is fine but nothing was set in stone. We had a few ideas. Shopping. Check. Drink wine. Check. Did I mention shopping? I wanted Venetian glass. I knew my shopping. I was a professional. Oh and of course we knew we wanted to go for that gondola ride. I mean, seriously, who goes to Venice and skipped out on the gondola? We didn't waste any time.

Day one - shopping. Mission complete. Drink wine. Mission complete. Day Two. Uh oh. Drank too much wine. Get on a gondola after too much wine. Damn. Apparently I didn't think this through. I knew I couldn't skip out on this so I had to suck it up. We were pretty excited. We boarded our gondola and couldn't wait for the music to begin. What fine opera would we hear this morning? Pavarotti? Bocelli? Nope. Elvis Presley. That's right. Our gondolier excitedly pressed play on the tape recorder and said for us he would play Elvis. We couldn't stop laughing. Don't get me wrong, it was an amazing ride and I like Elvis but we were in Italy. On a old fashioned gondola. But hey, he was thrilled so we went with it. The history and architecture of the buildings was absolutely amazing. I could have ridden all day. Almost. When you decide to ride a gondola, or any kind of sea-going vessel, remember to do it on an alcohol-free stomach. I learned my lesson that day.

It's ironic. Italy had never actually been one of the countries on my "to visit" list and yet I had the best time ever and I have always been plotting a return trip. The gondola is also another ride that I needed to revisit. I didn't know when it would happen but I knew it would. I put it out of my head though and moved on. Then came my birthday. Mike had a surprise for me. I'm not a good surprise person. I detect. No, I don't snoop, I detect. It's not my fault if I just figure things out. Sometimes with no clues at all. It's a gift. But I promised that I wouldn't even try and I didn't. So this time I had no idea what I was in store for.

We headed South. When we reached our destination I still didn't know what we were doing. We were on Coronado Island and that's when Mike pointed it out to me. There it was. The Grand Old Gondola. Whoa. I smiled and started to tell him about my first gondola experience. It brought back so many memories. This one would bring new and different ones. For starters, I could happily say I did not drink too much the night before. This is always a great start to any boat excursion. This time we actually had the wine with us. This is definitely the way to go. Drink the wine on the boat. On the boat.

I've definitely learned so much through the years. We also had snacks and a blanket. Now that is what I call planning ahead. We settled into our gondola, food in lap, wineglass in hand and pulled our blanket all around us. We were toasty warm and settled in. All we needed was our musical selection. Uh oh. What would we get? A flashback to my 1998 Venice gondola ride where the gondolier was trying to be more American? Or would we actually get an authentic Italian experience, right here in the heart of San Diego? Authentico it was. We cruised the bay for the next hour, relaxing to the sounds of Italian opera, enjoying our Italian wine - compliments of our friend Kevin - and eating our antipasto. For a brief moment, we didn't think about anything else. It was just the two of us. And the gondolier. Enjoying the peace and tranquility of everything around us in San Diego. One last time.

It was a perfect day. No rushing, no worrying about what to do, where to go or who we were going to do it with. It was just us. And for that day Mike transported us back to Italy. It started with homemade pizza for lunch. Compliments of Chef Mike. After we left "Venice", we went to Il Fornaio for dinner and completed the taste of Italy. There was even a fireworks show put on outside our restaurant window. How many people can say that they have a fireworks show put on just for them on their birthday?

That Mike sure is an amazing guy. I don't know where we'll be for the next birthday but it doesn't matter. We can transport ourselves to anyplace with an idea and a little imagination. As long as we enjoy ourselves along the way. And don't drink too much the night before getting in the gondola.

If you'd like to experience a taste of Venice in San Diego, visit The Gondola Company at to find out how.

For an alternate ending and for different pictures, go to my other blog at:

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