Introduction – What is a Backpacking Honeymoon?
Planning – The $100 Challenge
The Departure – Airberlin Flight & 20 Hours in Dusseldorf
Four days in Ancient Rome
Visiting Paradise in Cinque Terre
Relaxing in Florence
Westin Europa Regina Hotel and Exploring Venice
Park Hyatt Vendome Paris and Surroundings
Grand Hyatt Berlin and 18 Hours in Berlin
We spent two nights at the Westin Europa Regina Hotel in Venice. We took a 3 hour train ride from Florence to Venice. Once we got to the Venice train station, we had to find our way to the hotel. We could have either taken a water taxi for over $100 or bought a 3-day HelloVenezia Card (ages 14-29) “bus” pass for about $25 per person. Guess which option we took?
We bought the 3-day “bus” pass that included unlimited “bus” rides for 48 hours. I call it a “bus” because Venice’s public transportation is a big boat that goes up and down the main river. Venice is a unique city where the city is completely on water, it was weird not seeing any cars for 2 days! The bus ride took about an hour to get to San Marcos Square. We got lost a bit and then found our way to our hotel, the Westin Europa Regina Hotel! Finally, months of collecting points paid off! We used 24,000 SPG points for 2 nights and the going rate per night was over $500! (I believe the hotel changed to a category 6 hotel requiring 20,000 points now).
Review of Westin Europa Regina Hotel, Venice
We arrived to the hotel by foot, weaving through tourists and high-end shopping stores instead of by boat. Checkin was quick, but they gave us a key card that did not work. We had to exchange the key card for an old fashion key. The hotel was nice with a vintage look and has its own private boat dock. However, we did not spend too much time in the hotel or eat there.
The hotel room was clean with a renovated bathroom. Like many European hotels, it was 2 twin beds pushed together. It was nice to finally have air conditioning again (our previous two stays in Cinque Terre and Florence only used electric fans). Since we were Starwood Gold members, we got a slightly bigger room, 2 bottles of water, and free internet. Unfortunately, we had a view of… a wall. Sorry, I can’t report on the free breakfast given to Starwood Platinum members. Enjoy this short budget clip of a tour of the hotel room.
Overall we enjoyed the hotel because it was clean, had air conditioning, and was in a perfect location. It was about a 3 minute walk from San Marcos square, where all the lively action was happening, and 3-5 minutes to the “bus” station. The hotel itself did not blow us away, but it was great by European standards.
We spent a full day exploring Venice. The city is completely walkable, so we walked from the south side in a counter-clockwise motion. The most enjoyable thing to do in Venice is get completely lost. Since Venice is a small island with many signs you cannot ever get completely lost. We noticed that Venice was more expensive than the other cities we’ve been to in Italy. It was still hot and humid in Venice so we ate lots of gelato to cool ourselves off. The main attractions to see and do are definitely San Marcos Square (especially at night), Saint Mark’s Basillica, Rialto Bridge, and ride a Gondola.
Of course we had to do the gondola ride (I’m not that frugal). The gondolas hold up to six people and are the same price regardless how many people are in there. We found another couple that wanted to ride the gondola as well so we were able to split the fare in half. Plus who else is going to take pictures for us? Free photographers and 50% off? Deal, I’ll take it! It cost 80 euros ($100 USD) for about 30 minutes on the gondola. The ride was fun because our gondolier sang to us (usually a singer cost extra) and took us down some extra alleys. In the end, $50 plus some tip was not that bad.
At night, we headed back to San Marcos Square to watch the live concerts play. It was somewhat touristy, but its nice to listen to a great live orchestra. The musicians become very intense when they play. I think Italian culture is just very intense, and they are very serious about their art and food. Venice was a great experience and I definitely recommend visiting it before it sinks!