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We went to Venice without the children - a very good decision! Our trip was a rather luxurious one, arranged through Goodwood Travel, and we spent the previous night at the Sheraton Skyline hotel at Heathrow. It was a good decision as there was a champagne reception there in the morning and it saved the agonies of trusting to the traffic etc.  Our hotel in Venice was the Excelsior, situated on the Lido, the hotel used, I am reliably informed, in the film Death in Venice. It is a beautiful hotel, less ostentatious than the Danieli, a sister hotel just a few yards from St Marks Square. The advantages were that we were away from the noise and bustle of the city and had we wanted it, had our own each on the doorstep. The drawback was having to catch the water taxi every time we wished to go into town, but that was free of charge and very pleasant.

We arrived to some rain but were able to escape it during our first evening by careful timing of a visit to the Guggenheim Museum and a restaurant. The Guggenheim is a great contrast the rest of Venice, being full of modern art by people such as Picasso, Dali, Pollock, Kandinsky, Moore, to name just a few.
 The following day, which was sunny and hot, we had a guided tour of St Marks Square, The Basilica and the Doge's Palace. Our guide was excellent and the tour was most enjoyable. The Basilica is incredibly rich in its decoration and it was easy to see why religion had such a great hold over people in earlier times. But the real highlight was the Doge's Palace and indeed, the fascinating history about which we were told. The art on the walls and ceilings was magnificent, and as I said before, in complete contrast to the modern works of The Guggenheim. We walked along the Bridge of Sighs and saw the prison which was in use up until the 1920s iirc. 

 We couldn't quite run to lunch in St Marks Square so contented ourselves with a beer which was accompanied by music. After some shopping and exploring - the most surprising thing about Venice was the way in which one moment you would be in a noisy and bustling street, and the next you could be alone with not a sound to be heard - we went back to our hotel to get ready for the evening's Gala Dinner. The dinner was held in the most beautiful room, all white and light. We were seated at tables of 10 so it was nice to swap thoughts with fellow-guests. Throughout the excellent meal we were regaled by a group of singers & musicians in full gondolier regalia. One of our party was celebrating his birthday so there was also birthday cake to eat :-)

 The next morning we went back into Venice for our last morning. Our first stop was the campanile which is almost 100 metres high. The views from the top across Venice are amazing. We were there when the bells went - a bit of a shock as we had supposed them not to be in use! They went on for ages and were VERY loud. After that we found ourselves a gondola and spent a luxurious half hour on the water. Well, you can't not, can you? Then time for lunch and back to the hotel. Foolishly I fell down some steps on one of the little bridges and hurt my foot so that by the time we arrived back I was in agony. We arranged for a wheelchair at Heathrow as I'd never have made it home otherwise. Had a great flight back via Concorde, flying out over the Atlantic to reach mach 2. Although a small plane, there is loads of legroom and it is so smooth you just don't know you're in the air apart from take off and landing and the moment of acceleration to mach 2. I think we reached almost 56000 feet. Probably the most awe-inspiring part of it was the view of outer space, all black and mysterious. Everyone got a chance to visit the flight deck, albeit briefly, and I was delighted to find that our pilot was a woman, the only female pilot on the Concorde team.
So all in all, an excellent trip and well worth the extravagance. Venice has so much more to offer than we had the time for so hopefully we will go back again one day.


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