Worldwide travel consultant Jules recently celebrated the start of 2016 in Venice. Here she explains why we should all consider getting away for a memorable New Year’s Eve…
I have always thought New Year is a bit like Marmite – people either love it and celebrate, or hate it, find it totally underrated and go to bed early. I am the former, and along with Christmas look forward to those magical days every year with anticipation. I have celebrated it in some pretty special continents but this year I persuaded my other half Long Legs that La Serenissima – Venice was the ticket and what a magical time we had.
Getting up early to catch the 8.45 BA flight was relatively easy as the roads are empty to Heathrow on the 31st and we had no regrets leaving behind the half-light of a rainy December morning. Having carefully selected the seats on the right hand side of the plane we flew over the Alps and as our final destination grew closer, the glorious landscape of Venice was framed perfectly in the window. A cloudless sky and bright sunshine had us descend from the plane like moles blinking in the sunlight and a painless 8 minute stroll from the airport terminal took us to the water taxi marina where the sleek wooden vessels that are unique to Venice waited to whisk us across the lagoon. They say that on a sunny day this is the best view you can get of Venice and it is true. Flying over the sparkling waves, we approached the dramatic skyline of this gorgeous city. Tucking into the canals we marvelled at the myriad of colors of the houses, ochres, pinks and yellows blended into the endless little bridges we squeezed under, the crumbling facades of a time gone by – and drank in the stunning architecture that changed at every turn.
Half an hour of bliss passing gondolas and ancient palazzos and then suddenly there we were, drawing up to the Bauer Palazzo’s private entrance where the welcoming staff full of smiles took care of everything. Within minutes, we were shown to our beautiful Suite overlooking the side canal (which runs down the hotel next to the Grand Canal) and the magnificent baroque church of San Moise.
It was 1.30 and time for lunch, so following the advice of Danilo who had painstakingly booked all my requests for lunches and dinners – half personal recommendations and some gleaned from Rick Stein’s fabulous program from Venice to Istanbul – we set off for a delicious plate of fresh pasta and wine in one of the small local eateries – Vinovino. A few minutes from the hotel and almost next to the famous opera house La Fenice, this is a small friendly restaurant serving simple delicious food at reasonable prices. Full of locals. A few minutes away next to La Fenice is its grander parent – Antico Martini where we had a marvelous dinner overlooking the floodlit square – Campo Teatro Fenice. This was winter but the sun was shining and after lunch we took a long walk back through Piazza San Marco, marvelling at the wonderful Campanile clock tower, St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.
Every part of this incredible Piazza has a different architecture and the sheer visual impact in winter time, minus tourists, was incredible. We walked through and along the waterfront, passing the famous Hotel Daniele and other hotels before the looming twilight alerted us that New Year’s Eve was approaching and we had better return to don our finery. I hasten to add that for old time’s sake rather than anything, I persuaded Long Legs to rid himself of some euros at Harry’s Bar where we had the prerequisite martinis that have made this place such a legend. I am glad the exchange rate of 1.35 was in our favour…
We headed back to the Bauer Il Palazzo and to our Suite in the art deco wing, poured ourselves into long dress and black tie and descended to discover exactly what lay in wait for us at the Bauer’s New Year’s Eve Extravaganza – the theme being The Waltz. There is not enough time or words to describe the evening which was a marvelous sequence of champagne and canapes in the Ballroom, endless beautiful courses with pairing wines made up the most delicious dinner followed by champagne on their terrace overlooking the peerless Santa Maria della Salute, possibly one of the most beautiful Basilicas in the world. The fireworks started at midnight and the atmosphere on that starry, moonlit night was incredible – romantic, fun, full of music, light, joy and happiness as everyone cheered in the New Year overlooking the Grande Canal.
It never seemed to end and for those ‘Strictly’ fans we were spoiled with a succession of amazing dancers throughout dinner, tangos and finally the famous waltz written by the inimitable Anthony Hopkins. It was a truly wonderful evening.
Sitting at breakfast the next day overlooking probably one of the most glorious views from a dining room – the Salute to one side and the Campanile to the other, framed against a cobalt sky with the bells ringing out – is a memory I will never forget. We had to have the Prosecco fix and just sit and drink in the view, nibbling on fresh croissants and the delectations that the chef had prepared so soon after such a delicious dinner.
The next two days were spent wandering through the streets brightly festooned with Christmas lights, eating at wonderful restaurants like Antiche Carampane, Osteria Santa Marina and the tiny gondoliers restaurant Alla Rivetta where we cheerfully joined the queue before devouring plates of fresh clams, the most delicate deep fried prawns, amazing soft shell crabs all washed down with jugs of the local wine. Next some shopping – to one of the best shirt shops in the world I visit every time I go to Italy – a jacket for Long Legs which kept him quiet about the retail element of this trip followed by a slow walk around the Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim museums to satisfy the cultural tick box.
There was a little rain one day but Venice with its Christmas lights, misty canals, rain slicked squares and a moody sky was almost more enchanting than the previous sun filled days.
With our long weekend coming to an end, we wound our way through canals to wish a final goodbye to the silhouette of the Salute, Campanile, Doges Palace and waterfront as our water taxi offered us the last brilliant photo opportunity. As Venice faded into a smoky distance and the birds wheeled overhead as we cruised through the yet again blue waves, I looked up at the clear blue sky and realised we had had one of our best New Year’s ever thanks to the beautiful Bauer Il Palazzo and La Serenissima.
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