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Day 2 in Venice: Yes, Gondolas!

I’m one of those incredibly fortunate people who’ve visted Venice before. The first time was the fall of 1996, on my honeymoon with a guy who didn’t want to ride in a gondola because it was 1. too touristy and 2. too expensive.

I accepted that logic, but I secretly always regretted not experiencing a ride in a gondola, mainly because I told myself that I’d never be back, that Venice was a once-in-a-lifetime offer, and I’d used mine up and blew my chance. Besides, it looked like total fun.

The Former Husband Guy had a point. Gondola rides are touristy, if you define touristy as something tourists do. And the gondola rides can be expensive, like more than $100 for a couple of people.

A word about the touristy part. In Venice, locals do use the waterways for everything. No cars. Just boats, and the boats  transport everything: garbage, laundry, fish, coffins, commuters, and packages. And people. Sometimes in gondolas.

Lo and behold, I got a miracle of a second chance to visit Venice on my way to Turin for the Slow Food conference. And while there, son Joe and daughter-in-law Marie started talking about a gondola ride. Despite all those years of wishing I’d done the “schmaltzy touristy” gondola thing, I heard the words of protest leave my mouth: 1. it’s too touristy, and 2. it’s too expensive.

I was overruled. Thank goodness. Joe and Marie treated us to agondola ride, and even upgraded it to one that would travel the more quiet parts of the city, to places where the only sounds were soft dip of the gondaliere’s paddle into the canal.

Here’s my travel advice regarding Venice (and not a word about phones, you’ll be glad to hear): If you are in Venice, and the weather is gorgeous, as it was for us, a perfect 70-something degrees, and if you have a chance to ride in a gondola, go for it. Get a cheaper room, eat more pizza-by-the-slice from sidewalk stands and less sit-down dinners. Do you whatever possible to scrape together the money and book that ride. I mean, if riding in a gondola appeals to you.

That advice goes for any place – a county fair, a hot air balloon festival, a long-awaited trip – where there’s some special playful thing that you’d like to do, but your practical, parental side intervenes. Pay particular attention if that side of yourself scolds that you need not see or do whatever you had in mind because it’s too spendy or silly or unnecessary or frivolous.

See it. Do it. Experience it.

It’s anyone’s guess what will happen tomorrow. All we have is today.

And the gondola.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.