Review · Series · Travel

Venice: Gondola or Go Home (Day 3)

On the same day we visited the glass factory, we also took a shuttle boat back to Venice! I couldn’t wait to experience my first Gondola ride, despite it being the most cliché activity. Johnny warned us ahead of time about the importance of “Church Attire” to show respect and to make sure we get into the Basilica. Shoulders and legs need to be covered. No short shorts or sun dresses with thin straps. The weather reminded us of New England since it was raining during the morning so I of course donned my trust black trench rain jacket. As soon as we reached St. Mark’s Square the hot sun burst through the clouds and I had to tie the jacket around my waist! Johnny pointed out the key locations for meeting in one of the corners of the square and across from the Corinthian columns. He made sure to let us know not to walk between them since that’s where executions would take place!

We met the first of our various local tour guides, Sylvia. She confirmed the info that Johnny had told us on the shuttle boat that the residential population of Venice itself is shrinking. Now it’s only about 50,000 when it used to be 200,000+. However, the tourism is still increasing. We definitely noticed this on Monday where bodies filled almost every crevice from the Pier to Piazza San Marco at 10 AM! We reversed our original plan of visiting Doge’s Palace first for our group appointment then to the Basilica. All the while Johnny was still coordinating the timing of the optional Gondola ride with musical serenade.

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Review · Series · Travel

Magical Murano (Days 1-2.5)

Travel Tuesdays now considering we still have yet to post a review about TV Shows from the schedule? Magical Murano because we had the pleasure of seeing live the process of glass blowing AND a Double Rainbow on our last day on the island!

Venice and Murano was our first stop after an overnight flight at 9PM from Boston with a connection in Munich. We we thoroughly enjoyed all the modern amenities of the modern Lufthansa Airline. I watched 2.5 movies (Moonlight, Trolls and half of Fantastic Beasts before falling asleep.) A woman next to us in the aisle seat also kept giving us her extra food so I had plenty of snacks. The meal was edible, but nothing amazing however we had as much wine and alcohol as we wanted. (Probably the standard for international flights!) The connecting flight with Air Dolomiti was much less impressive, since everything looked like it was from the 70s. It was only 1 hour but I slept the entire time!

Luckily for us just as we landed there was someone from Gate 1 ready to direct us and there was a Water Taxi ready for us! We encountered another couple too from New England area. The taxi driver dropped us off right in front of our beautiful hotel LaGare on the charming island of Murano! We were a bit early so our room wasn’t quite ready but they said it’d be ready within 30-45 minutes. We were both so tired from our red-eye flights so we stopped by the caffé next door for some caffeine and a rare find of NO COVER CHARGE. Dana ordered a hot drink and I had an iced drink. They came with complimentary biscuits/cookies for us to dip. The place was so beautifully decorated with colorful artisanal glass all along the walls. Feel free to check out my Yelp or Trip Advisor review for more details about the hotel itself coordinated by Gate 1. Originally the travel documents said we’d stay within Venice, which would have been nice to explore however I did not mind the quiet charm of Murano.

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Review · Series · Wedding · Yelp

Judy’s Village Flowers

Fresh floral arrangements can tie together your wedding colors quite nicely. Unfortunately for us the flowers we received from Judy’s Village Flowers (JVF) missed the most important accent color along with a few other elements! In fact anyone with eyes can plainly see they were not the flowers we agreed upon at all. For once my incessant photo taking proved quite useful when looking back on the ones we originally selected months before the wedding back in February. As you can tell from the harsh intro, this review is more of a cautionary tale for potential customers looking for a florist.

Orange / Coral flowers are clearly missing!

Thankfully we were able to coordinate with the venue, Raffael’s whom we purchased the package for a refund. They must have negotiated an amazing rate with JVF for $10 per low centerpiece per table. Good on Raffael’s for responding immediately by calling me as soon as they saw my e-mail and cutting us a refund check for $120.

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Announcement · Brand · Series · Travel

Ciao Italia! – Summary

We’re back from Italy ! If you haven’t seen our Honeymoon Travel Map yet, you can follow along with our journey! We have quite the treasure trove of stories to share with you (while we recover from jet-lag and procrastinate packing for the big move)! Overall the tour of Italy was quite memorable with only a few hiccups and surprises along the way. (We’ll get to those in more detail in subsequent blog posts.) When we revisit in the future, we will plan our own trip now that we are more familiar with the country! Thanks to our wonderful family and friends we were able to add all of the optional tours to our itinerary as well! For the Italy travel blog series/reviews this will serve as a landing page, similar to the engagement/wedding series announcement. Please subscribe on the side for updates!

travel
Cute and functional organizer!

We used the tour travel company, Gate 1, since they offered the most destinations we were interested in with a variety of departure dates.** I spoke casually with a fellow Yelper who had a very positive experience a few years ago for his Italy trip too, so we were excited for our honeymoon trip! We had a local Tour Manager the entire trip giving us live “tips”, sharing local culture, coordinating our accommodations, and answering our probing questions. Giovanni (Anglicized to Johnny) had a wealth of knowledge as he was born in Rome, traveled around so he also had an English accent, quite a bit of sass in his biting humor, and a strange obsession for Rick Steves. (Never heard of the guy until this trip.)

I know most other travelers my age tend to be more adventurous and plan their own trip as they go. I did not however, expect that the demographic of our tour group to be mostly affluent retired couples! The company’s website and social media photos did not reflect this at all. Not a big deal, and it makes sense that it’s difficult for most people to take 2 weeks off and spending a hefty sum for a vacation. All the other travelers were quite pleasant and a few of them even took candid photos and shared with us. I will add the in-depth stories about our adventures and reviews for the hotels we stayed at for each location as a separate blog post in the series! I’ve got a lot to say about several of them exceeding the review site character limit.

 

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Announcement · Review · Series · Wedding · Yelp

Dance Lessons: db Studios

Between my me and my husband we have 4 left feet… The thought of awkwardly tripping all over each other or swaying lifelessly for our first dance as our friends and family watched on me queasy. My original plan was to DIY our dance routine by just using our favorite resource, YouTube! (Seriously I used this to learn how to swim.) Time slipped by — fast forward to February with the wedding around the corner! While browsing Groupon I noticed a deal for dance lessons at db studios which was very conveniently located for us. Of course I browsed reviews ahead of time to make sure we weren’t walking into a trap, and noticed that they had several glowing reviews. What did we have to lose trying them out? (BTW they also just started April 2016.) Congratulations to db studios too for celebrating their 1 year anniversary!

Another similarly priced location is Dance in Boston (DiB). Many other dance studios do not even publish their rates online and you have to call to get more info.

JM1
Us with Jon McLaughlin himself!

We decided that our first dance song would be I Am Always Gonna Love You by Jon McLaughlin [1] before we started our lessons. That way we could hit the ground dancing!

The owner and instructor, Kendall, responded immediately to our initial e-mail inquiry and we set up a FREE consultation dance lesson with her. I may have inadvertently made her update the website since it now says the Groupon/Yelp deals can’t be combined. Oops!

Free lesson cannot be combined with any other offer, including Groupon/Yelp etc. Groupon- Not eligible for free consultation offer.

True to their website slogan, Kendall is an extremely knowledgeable, patient and friendly instructor! She has a strong background in competitive ballroom dance and has over a decade of experience teaching adults and kids. We felt comfortable trying new steps the entire time with her guidance. We even overcame my biggest fear of being dropped while doing the dip finale. We did not create specific choreography for the dance so each time we performed the song, it was slightly different. There were so many times where we were either too early or too late for the ending!

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Announcement · Ideas · Series · Travel

Italy Honeymoon Travel Map

2 weeks away from our 2 week Tour of Italy honeymoon! We are eternally grateful for everyone who contributed to our honeymoon fund to make our trip even more memorable! In addition to uploading photos on social media, we will share details about our trip here since we don’t travel often enough to warrant a separate travel blog. Of course there will also be reviews and stories integrated for all the main stops!

Gate1Italy

 

I also created a Google Map, which you can browse of some locations we will visit on our adventure. Thanks to my friend MlleJia for sharing how she embedded the map while she’s documenting her adventures in SE Asia. I think that is an upgrade WordPress feature that’s not available for the basic package we have. You can just click on the image and it will take you to my Google Map for more details about each of the stops laid out over the course of 14 days!

ItalyMap

If you have any recommendations please share we would love to add more places to check out while we are in Italy!

Review · Series · Wedding

Mail Time: Save the Dates & Invites

Cue that Blues Clues song ♫. Last pre-wedding wedding series post! Fret not, the actual vendor reviews are not far yonder. Let’s talk about the lovely Save the Date reminder and actual Invitation to send your beloved guests! You’ve got to think of something fridge worthy to compete with the limited real estate in some instances. I’m sure it’s always a pleasant surprise to break from the endless litany of bills and spam offers to receive personalized mail!  I’ve seen cute custom fridge magnets, postcards, announcement cards and online graphics. You can show off those snazzy new Engagement photos you took to test out your potential photographer right. OR if you skipped the photo session, you can send out a beautiful graphic with all the key details. (TIP: Don’t forget to insert your wedding website so guests know where to look for info.) However you wish to present yourself, this will be your guests’ first glimpse what to expect for the wedding!

We sent our Save the Dates 10 months prior, and painstakingly wrote (with Wai’s help) each guest’s name and address. I personally used Vistaprint, since one of my other friends used them, and hers turned out amazing! (I actually used hers as a reference along with all of the other weddings we attended last year.) My bridal party decided on using Minted for my tea party themed bridal shower invites. Then for the actual wedding invitations, thankfully they were included with our venue package through Raffael’s! (I’m still sleuthing to figure out what vendor they used. We had a huge book of invitations we looked through.) We learned from the Save the Date struggles and created our own design to print the addresses directly onto the envelopes. (We also fiddled with labels but the coloring just looked off.)

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