I studied abroad in Grantham, England for a semester in the spring of 2010. Start from the first blog post to follow my adventures throughout Europe!

Venice and Murano, Italy & Home

Wednesday morning we left Florence on a coach around 9:30 and arrived in Venice around 1. I drug my poor suitcase across the streets and bridges of the city (since cars are only allowed in the city to a certain point) and we waited outside our hotel in a little alley as everything got checked in and ready. We stored our luggage in an open room since we couldn’t check in yet, and then we headed out to grab lunch. Sarah, Kyle, Nate, Andy, E-Ho, Natalie, Marilyn, Maria and I went to a little restaurant on the water and I tried risotto, which is a creamy sauce with cheese. It was an interesting taste but I’m glad I tried it.

As we were walking back to our hotel, Sarah and I found Clay and Molly hanging out beside the canal, and we all decided to go to Murano together (but not before breaking down and buying some Kit Kat gelato—amazing). Venice is famous for the isle of Murano, which makes glass of all sorts. We took a boat taxi (how neat!) to Murano and immediately were ushered into a glass making show, which was so awesome to watch. You could tell the guy creating the glassware had done it a million times before. He made a pitcher and a horse standing on his hind legs right in front of us. We looked in their showroom, but it was a little pricey, so we spent the next hour or so looking at all the shops along the water. They were all virtually the same, but some of them had really different things. Most popular were tiny little glass creatures ranging from frogs to lions to monkeys, bottle stoppers, funky looking clocks, among many other things. I bought plenty of little creatures for myself and as gifts, and then we headed back to Venice (after we freaked out that we were going to get fined 40 euro on the bus taxi and jumped off).

Clay and I walked around a bit and found an Italian restaurant that looked pretty tasty, and I stuffed myself with bread and olive oil and spaghetti carbonara. It was really good. I went to bed fairly early (this traveling is wearing me down!) and the next morning Molly, Clay, Sarah and I set out to explore the city. There were only a few specific things we heard we should see, so for the first time all semester, we just wandered around the city without a plan. The isle itself is not very big at all and we covered most of the area in the day. I absolutely loved Venice. The canals and old buildings are so picturesque and perfect.

We wandered around and stumbled upon a few really beautiful churches, and then we found a Leonardo da Vinci museum. I am absolutely fascinated by him, so we all paid 5 euro to go into this interactive museum that had reproduced many of his sketches and showed how they worked. There was an example of his bullet design to his military ideas, and drawings of how he thought the body and muscles worked. It was so so neat to me because if one person had invented only one of the things he did, it would be amazing—but he studied and revolutionized so many things. Not to mention he was an incredible artist. I just loved it!

I got a piece of pizza for lunch and it was one of the best I’ve had in Italy. So delicious! As we continued walking we noticed all sorts of masquerade attire and especially masks. Apparently Marti Gras is a huge deal there and it seemed like it would have been awesome to be there because those mask shops were everywhere. We walked to San Marco Piazza and listened to a musical group including four stringed instruments and a piano by ridiculously beautiful music. It seriously gave me goose bumps. We saw the San Marco Cathedral, which was incredibly intricate and beautiful from the outside, aside from the fact that half of it was covered in scaffolding (of course). The line to get in was tremendously long, so we skipped out and headed toward the Grand Canal, which was lined with gondola boats. We found another cathedral and saw the inside of that one before finding our way back to the hotel in the maze of streets that is Venice. We settled on another siesta and slept for a couple of hours.

That night a huge group of us (Matt, Marilyn, Natalie, E-Ho, Clay, Molly, Sara, Maria, Kyle, Sarah, Nic, Andy, and I) set out to find a restaurant that Hillary had recommended to us. She said she ate there the second time she went to Venice and it was far better than any other touristy spot. So we walked for a good while to Da Paolo and I sat down to a tasty dinner of sausage pizza. We all recounted memories from the semester and did a lot of laughing. We took some pictures together as a group and Clay and I got some gelato from the place right next to our hotel, which was of course wonderful. My roommates were asleep when I got back, so I followed suit and got a good night’s sleep.

I got up around 7:30 Friday morning to take a shower, charge some electronics, ate a weird sort of breakfast downstairs, and get my back packed and ready by 9:30. We all placed our luggage in storage for the day, and I headed out with Chelsea, Ali, Jessi, Jeryn, Emily, Kara, and Jacob. Several of us wanted to go on a gondola ride and we found a deal for 70 euros for six people. We took the guy up on his offer as this was a pretty decent deal, and he paddled us around Venice for about 30 minutes. It was so cute and Italian! It was only about 12 euro per person, so I’m glad I did it.

As we were deciding where to go for lunch, the thought of free refills was brought up (a concept unrecognized in all European countries). We had heard rumor of free refills at the Hard Rock Café, and we were sold. I enjoyed a heavenly meal of sweet tea (kind of) and a huge juicy cheeseburger and garlic mashed potatoes. I knew I was coming home so soon and it was my last Italian meal but I had eaten pizza and pasta for nine days and I was really dying for American dining. We all indulged and decided lying by the docks sounded good. We walked to the Grand Canal and enjoying the sun and warm concrete until—alas, we were awoken by the Italian police! Apparently sleeping in the streets is illegal. We aren’t hobos, but I suppose breaking the law is breaking the law!

Chelsea and I stopped in the only McDonald’s in Venice to get Wifi but to no avail. So we got one last scoop of gelato (Kit Kat again) and went back to our hotel to gather our luggage. We did just that and hung out in the garden area for about an hour. My suitcase somehow made it to the bus stop area (it is literally falling apart) and Sarah, Cheslea, Ali and I hung out on a bench in the shade as we waited for our coach to arrive. The weather was so perfect! Finally our bus came at 5 o’clock and we drove to the airport and waited to check in for about an hour. Chelsea and I had fun just hanging out and talking. We got all checked in and boarded our plane, which took off at 8:20. Once we landed at Gatwick, we got on a coach to Heathrow Airport, where we met our luggage and said goodbye to Doug one last time. Chelsea and I had quite an experience transferring our luggage (we each had four suitcases) on the carts and mine even took a spill once.

We found Clay and spent the next hour or so moving around everything in our suitcases in order to have each one weigh less than 23 kilos. I was actually underweight on all of mine, so go me! After that was all figured out, we went to Arrivals, where there were open seats. I stayed up the ENTIRE night so I could sleep on the plane the next morning. At that point, I just wanted to be home. I was not feeling too hot when we got on the plane, but Chelsea’s sleeping pills knocked us out pretty quickly. I slept for most of the plane ride, and then Chelsea and I were flying through the airport in order to make our connecting flight from Chicago to Nashville. It was so weird knowing we were back in America! My suitcase had to get inspected (and they stole my face lotion AGAIN) but we made it to our gate in time.

We were a little late landing and we were told it was a bit stormy outside, but there were no problems other than that. On the way to pick up our luggage, dad, Sloan and Paige were waiting for me and I hugged them all for about five minutes each it seemed like. I was soooo happy to see them! I said bye to Chelsea once her parents arrived, and I finally had my favorite meal of all time: Cracker Barrel dumplins with biscuits and sweet tea. It was amazingly wonderful. We got on the road back home before all of the flooding hit Nashville—we got so lucky! I did all I could to stay awake (by texting, mostly) and finally I was back in my kitchen and living room (with an awesome banner, I might add), hugging Diamond and Baxter.

It really wasn’t as strange to be home as I thought it would be. Everything is basically the same as when I left it—the only thing that has changed is me. I love this town and all my friends and family here. I know now the big world that lies outside of this place, and I can say I’ve been changed for good. It’s not something you can easily put into words, or pinpoint exactly what has changed. I’ve just grown from my experiences in so many different ways, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am so thankful to WKU and the Honors College for giving me this opportunity, and I owe the most thanks to all my family and friends who supported me every step of the way. I will miss my traveling adventures, the running to catch my train, the bland English food, the tasty Italian food, the Bistro parties, the cramming for British Studies exams, the running of certain miles, and all the wonderful people I met and lifelong friends I made this semester—but I will always remember Harlax10.

Katie KnechtComment