I believe in miracles.
I try to change the world every day.
I love my husband, my friends, and my family.
I plan my next great adventure constantly.
I think most occasions call for a dress.
I write what I know and believe.
I had high expectations to get this post done last week, but taking off to Philly in the middle of the week and the subsequent dumpster fires that ensued in my departure meant that this didn’t happen – so here we are. If you haven’t noticed, I’m a creature of habit. I rarely make time for self-care and I rarely buy new beauty products. I’ve found a couple of things in the past few months worth sharing though. Linking up with Amanda and Christina today.
My mom gave me a gift certificate for Bliss for my birthday last month. I noticed that it expires at the end of this month, so I booked a triple oxygen facial after wrapping up the January 15 deadlines. I loved my esthetician, Allie, and the facial was incredible. She used products that didn’t have an overwhelming scent and were perfect for my sensitive skin. I enjoyed the experience, but the spa itself didn’t feel as luxurious as it used to. The last few times I’ve been there, I’ve had to ask for the basics, including spa sandals. (Also, I was not impressed by the kid in the relaxation room listening to cartoons on her iPad without headphones. If you need to bring your kid to an expensive spa, please be courtesy of the other guests who are there to relax and make them use headphones.) The service was friendly and courteous and Allie was amazing at her job though. I have another gift certificate to use by the end of January (which isn’t looking likely on their online schedule). I’ll report back with final thoughts on bliss Dallas after that visit.
Influenster sent me this radiant rouge lipgloss to try. I’ve been using it for over two months and I’m officially obsessed. I was initially dubious because it felt a little sticky at first and the color (No. 14) looked a little pale when I put it on, but as I smoothed it out, the color ended up looking rich and consistent. It didn’t taste waxy or have an overwhelming scent. I’m excited to try the other colors. The staying power of this product is impressive, and I like the small size of the tube and the applicator.
getting rid of dark circles
My mom has called me rocky raccoon since I was a kid because of the dark circles under my eyes. They are especially pronounced when I am sick. Every time I watch Teddi’s instastories, she looks radiant. While I attribute that to her pregnancy glow, I also wanted to know what her secret for hiding fatigued eyes is. She sent me her favorite beauty products, and I purchased the concealer and the brightening powder, and I could definitely tell a difference. I should have snapped a picture when we went out last weekend because I loved my whole look – but truthfully, I felt so confident because I knew I didn’t look like I hadn’t slept in a month.
Last week, I got to meet up with Steph in Philly and discuss all things that cause the aforementioned dark circles. She’s one of the good humans. It was nice to spend sometime with someone who sees the world the way I do and wants to DO SOMETHING to fix it, rather than just opt out and wait for it to change. (I’ve actually had a note about this on my phone for a year. I should finish that.) It was nice to start a trip where I would be immersed in one of the most privileged spaces of higher education with someone who could remind me why my voice is important. Side note: This picture only underlined why I’m glad that I ordered something for the dark circles. If I’m going to solve the world’s problems, I need to not look like a raccoon.
When a $400 flight showed up last year, I couldn’t imagine a more romantic getaway to Venice than our anniversary. Surprisingly, my husband and I have found ourselves in Venice four times in the last three years. I think Venice is a place that most people either love or hate. I’ve been six times and I still find it completely fascinating; it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. You can surmise that I fall in the “love Venice” camp. With four trips under our belt (and Valentine’s Day coming up), I thought it would be fun to share all my favorite things for a romantic getaway to Venice to welcome #WanderfulWednesday back for 2018. (Linking up with all these amazing blogs.)
We’ve made four trips and we’ve stayed four different places. I’ve outlined the pros below of each below and made recommendations based on the type of traveler you are. If I had to rank my favorite Venice hotels, it’s Hotel Danieli, Palazzo Veneziano, Hilton Molino Stucky, and the JW Marriott for me. All of these are solid options though; you can’t go wrong with any of them. You do need to think through what kind of experience you are aiming for though. For example, we missed early morning and late evening tours on our honeymoon because the JW shuttle wasn’t running early enough and we didn’t want to pay for a water taxi. That wasn’t an issue when we stayed at the Danieli though. I think both types of experiences can be an equally romantic getaway to Venice – it just depends on you.
If you want respite from the crowds with easy access to Venice
Hotel shuttle to Dorsoduro (my favorite sestieri) and San Marco but easy access to vaperetto stops as well for early morning and late night adventures in Venice
Offers some resort-style amenities (spa, rooftop pool and bar, club lounge, and multiple restaurants) but can also enjoy local life on Giudecca island
More traditional rooms with Venetian chandeliers, windows that open, and beautiful views of the city (Photo above taken from our room. No idea how I didn’t end up with a picture of the room. Bad blogger.)
Delicious prosciutto and hazelnuts if you have lounge access (I’m easy to please.)
My husband and I pull double duty when we travel. This means that we’ll get up early to experience cities at daybreak (without crowds), rest during the middle of the day, and head back out in the early evening and stay out late. This works especially well in Venice when the crowds and daytrippers are at their height in the middle of the day.
Whether it’s in the early morning or late at night, a gondola ride is a must do in Venice. I was definitely in the “this is too expensive and definitely cheesy” category, but when we took an early morning gondola ride on our honeymoon, I was hooked. On a later trip, we ended up grabbing one of the last gondoliers of the night for a moonlit ride around the canals. It was extremely romantic and a great way to end the evening. If a gondola rid still seems too expensive, I recommend this tour that includes a gondola ride. We opted for a late afternoon tour and boarded our gondola just in time for blue hour. Even though it was a shared ride, it was still magical. It’s one of those “only in Venice” experiences, and it would be a shame to miss it.
Buy the Vaparetto Pass
Single tickets for the vaperetto are 7.50 euro and good for 75 minutes in one direction. This adds up quickly when traveling as a couple, so we grabbed day passes instead. You can download a free audio guide that points out all the sights on the Grand Canal along Vaparetto #1 route. I suggest grabbing a seat outside and doing this in the early morning or in the evening (or both!). The day pass ensures that you can grab a boat when you feet start getting tired and it’s a lovely way to see the city.
Roam the Streets at Night
Blue hour is romantic, particularly if you can find a spot on the Academia Bridge or walk down the Zattere promenade (or venture through the Dorsuduro canals). Seeing the last rays of sunlight disappear sets the stage for evening in Venice. With the crowds gone, you can stroll through piazzas holding hands. You can follow your nose to find dinner on a beautiful canal. You can see the stars. You can feel like you have the city to yourself. Venice is incredibly safe after dark, but if you don’t feel like navigating it for yourself, we really loved this night walking tour. We were the only ones on it, so our tour guide took us to the areas he thought we would enjoy the most. Romantic balconies and tiny alleyways? I’m in.
One of the perks of staying at the Danieli or Palazzo Veneziano is that you don’t have to concern yourself with shuttle schedules. On our last two trips, we have found ourselves in San Marco late in the evening. Two of my favorite memories are the nights when we found ourselves dancing on the square under the stars (you can see them in Venice!) and the time when we grabbed wine and dessert and enjoyed the live music. Whenever I ask my husband what he wants do if we go back to Venice, the music in St. Mark’s Square always makes the list.
The midday crowds in San Marco and Rialto can be completely overwhelming. We’ve definitely been known to hop on a boat to Murano, Burano, and Torcello to get way from the crowds. Murano for a souvenir, Burano to fulfill my love of bright colors, and Torcello to fulfill my husband’s love of history. (If you’re looking for lace, Burano has a lot… but if you’re looking for romantic lace souvenirs, I’ve been shopping at Jade Martine since 2010.) This tour is the best deal out there, and it’s a more efficient use of time than the vaparetto.
Head to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum / Nasher Sculpture Garden
My favorite museum in Dallas is the Nasher Sculpture Center (specifically the garden and Tending Blue, before Museum Tower ruined it), so it should come as a surprise to no one that I love the Guggenheim and Nasher Sculpture Garden in Venice. The best views of the Grand Canal are from inside the museum. It’s fun to sit out there and watch the world go by. We did an audio tour together and learned a lot about the collection. Visit early or late in the day to minimize the crowds. (Bonus, it’s in my favorite area… so wander in and out of the galleries before or after your visit.) In another life, I will own a Giovanni Pulze piece. I found him on the side streets of Dorsuduro and now I have a pinterest board for art I love/want to own. Sigh.
One thing that gives my husband the greatest joy is when we pop in a headphone splitter and listen to one of these guided tours together. We’ve boarded the #1 vaperetto early in the morning to see the sites, walked through St. Mark’s Basilica together, and even admired the details of St. Mark’s Square. In this way, we can pause to discuss, point things out to each other, and are completely immersed in our own experience, regardless of what people around us are doing or saying. I’ll admit that I was definitely dubious, but it’s one of my favorite things we do. (We even listen to them as we’re trying to fall asleep sometimes. It gets us excited for the next adventure.
What better way to commemorate a romantic getaway to Venice than pictures?? I think it’s totally obvious by now that one of my favorite travel souvenirs are our portrait sessions. This is my favorite way to capture photos of us together on a trip. It’s easier than a self timer or asking passerby to snap photos and the quality is always good. We loved hanging out with Ksenia and the pictures turned out absolutely gorgeous. (This is also how I knock out our Christmas cards!) I’m always amazed at how the crowds disappear (even in Florence!) when a professional is behind the camera.
Last year, we snapped up $400 tickets to Venice for our anniversary in September. When I finally got around to looking at hotels, I found out that the La Biennale Film Festival was taking place at the same time. This meant that the Hotel Danieli was basically sold out, and since we wanted to stay on the island, I needed to find a new hotel. I focused my search on our favorite sestiere, Dorsoduro, and found Palazzo Veneziano. For me, this hotel is equally as great (in different ways, obviously) as Hotel Danieli, and I can confidently recommend either one as a great place to stay if you want to be “in Venice.” (Extensively covered in my guide to planning a romantic getaway to Venice!) I’m making it a point to travel link up and share this year!
Our flight landed at Marco Polo at 9:15am. Customs took about an hour and we boarded the #5 bus to the island. From there, we hopped on a vaperetto to San Basilio (Zattere also works). By 12:00, we had deposited our luggage with the hotel and were on our way to grab water and snacks from the conveniently located Conad. (We love grocery stores when we travel.) You could walk to Palazzo Veneziano from the train station or the bus stop, but we decided to make it quick and easy with our luggage using the vaperetto.
The service was one of the best things about Palazzo Veneziano. From the moment we checked until the moment we checked out, we had everything we needed. On the days when rain is in the forecast, there are sturdy umbrellas available. When we were planning our airport trip, they were willing to walk us to the right vaperetto stop. If I was drinking water with breakfast, they offered to make me fresh coffee. When we wanted to store our luggage for the last few hours of sightseeing, it wasn’t a problem. The staff was always personable and always at the ready to assist with anything we needed.
Palazzo Veneziano Rooms
We actually had two separate stays while we were in Venice, so we got to see two separate rooms. (The night before we left, we decided to head to Prague during the height of the Film Festival to escape the crowds.) We had a deluxe double room for the first part of our trip and were upgraded to a duplex jacuzzi suite for the second part of our trip. Both rooms are spacious, beautifully decorated, and have every amenity you could imagine. Our rooms overlooked quiet side canals, but even if you were overlooking the Zattere promenade, the hotel is set far enough back that I don’t think any noise (if there is any) would bother you.
The ivory and aqua tones of the room are the epitome of relaxation, and I love the silver accents. (I am still obsessing over the textured wallpaper and textured drapes.) I love the velvet accents, the four poster beds, and the hardwood floors. The mixing of textures allows the rooms to feel luxurious with a nod to Venetian flair.
As far as practicalities, the whole room is wired perfectly with more than enough switches to control the lights (from anywhere) and plug in electronics for charging. (I am constantly charging my computer, two phones, a camera battery, and portable internet.) There is an armoire with plenty of shelving and a clothing rack for hanging clothes. We needed a few more hangers than what we had, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Everything, including bath amenities, is perfectly on brand.
The water pressure at Palazzo Veneziano is AMAZING. No joke. The first shower after a transatlantic flight is one of my favorite small luxuries, and this one didn’t disappoint. Most newer hotels seem to have weak water pressure, but not Palazzo Veneziano! Between the strong shower and the jacuzzi, my body was able to easily recover from all the walking we did. (Bonus: could the marble bathrooms be more beautiful?!)
We don’t typically eat breakfast, but since we made it a point to get out early for blue hour and sunrise, we were back at the hotel by 9:00 and usually starving. Our room rate included breakfast, and it was worth it. Though I didn’t manage to grab any pictures of it, it included a number of hot options, savory options, fresh fruit, and my new favorite almond torte. I would load up on protein with proscuitto, salami, and add in fresh fruit and torte (of course). My only regret is that we didn’t take advantage of it often enough. They usually offer deals that include breakfast – take them up on it! It’s a good value. They also have tables in a courtyard. There’s nothing better than a quiet breakfast in the fresh Venetian air.
Final Thoughts of Palazzo Veneziano
This hotel is truly one of the best deals in Venice. Seriously. For the size of the rooms, for the service, for the breakfast, and for the location, it was an incredible value. The rate may have been good because it is a newer hotel, but it is the cheapest room we’ve ever had in Venice. (The rate is even comparable to what we paid at the Hilton using Hotwire in September 2010. That rate is gone.) Our favorite restaurant is in Dorsoduro. The best gelato in Venice is in Dorsoduro. My favorite art galleries are in Dorsoduro. The Conad is in Dorosduro. And now, one of my favorite hotels is in Dorsoduro. If you’re looking for a fantastic stay INVenice that won’t break the bank but won’t compromise quality, Palazzo Veneziano is a great option.
One Short Note on Staying In Venice
It’s important to note that this is a great place to stay if you’re looking to stay IN Venice but not be in the middle of the crowds of San Marco and Rialto. I’ve never experienced crowds in Dorsoduro. I know some people who opt out of experiencing Vencie at all because they’ve heard about the crowds. This hotel is a great way to miss the crowds and experience the magic of Venice. Anyone who tells you staying in Mestre or the mainland is the same as staying in Venice is lying to you. It’s not the same at all. Just look at the pictures below. We got up at 5:00 to roam the streets and take pictures of the city before it woke up. That’s not something you can do if you don’t stay IN Venice.
Yesterday I posted a quote on my instagram from MLK Jr. on courage. Courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear. This seemed especially apropos because I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately. I know I’ve posted on being fearless previously, but I think courage is something drastically different. I believe that a successful (and examined) life requires us to be courageous.
As many of my readers know, I run a non-profit focused on college access for all students in urban schools. This job, while rewarding, is subject to local and national politics, policies, and other things that have nothing to do with college access. I’ve always prided myself on being about the students and immersing myself in the direct service of helping students, but I eventually realized that – in order to have and continue having a broader impact for students – I needed to start being a part of conversations on the national level.
I started submitting conference proposals. My first year, I put in a presentation letters of recommendation with two of my favorite people (one from admissions and the other a teacher). We were blunt and honest about the fact that most of the time, adults fail students in this process. I thought it would make people hate me (I’m sure some do; here’s looking at the woman who told me I was appalling and stormed out of the room), but we received a lot of positive feedback. Many people rated our session as one of the best they had ever attended at the state conference.
I was further emboldened. I took that proposal to the national conference, where it was accepted. We received the usual throat-clearing, but we received rave reviews for our honesty. In addition to recommendation letter development, I submitted proposals on how to create and leverage a college access village, essay writing, and most recently, the new application for access, affordability and success.
Ah. The Coalition. The single most controversial thing in college admissions right now.
It took courage to publish this piece about it in the Washington Post. It took courage to read the critiques of me (and my work) on our profession’s Facebook group (I did start to opt out of that). It took courage to take the stage multiple times over the past year to talk about what the Coalition meant for our students – and students like mine – the marginalized, the underserved, the underrepresented.
Yet I did it.
I did it at the Super Conference with three ACACs. I did it at WACAC. I did it at AP Nationals. I did it at NACAC. I did on a College Board webinar. And, I ended 2017 with it at College Board Forum. I didn’t talk about the application, however, I talked about the realities of the challenges facing low-income students. I’m going to share a few of those realities with you right now, lest you think that this presentation is about an application. (This is relevant, I promise.)
At least 24% of our students don’t know if they will be a first-generation college student (and that’s not to say that the ones who answered yes or no understand what the term actually means)
40% believe that dual-credit is more rigorous than AP because it’s “taught by a college”
69% believe that you should have many activities, rather than one or two where you make an impact.
41% believe that it’s more important to be a club member, rather than a leader.
If you read those stats, you should understand that helping these students understand the college process can’t and shouldn’t start with a college application. It should start well before then but it often doesn’t. It’s not about an application. It’s about a fractured process that isn’t serving students well. It’s about a knowledge gap that exists in our schools with fewer and fewer resources.
As a result, in the last year, I’ve lent my voice to several institutions and organizations who are trying to work towards equity in the admissions process. This is a space where my voice is desperately needed because it is underrepresented in the college admissions profession in general. This is a space where few people will ever understand how devastating (and debilitating) it can be for students when your district sends out the wrong essay prompts to English teachers for a college essay writing unit. This is a space where people call for rec letters to be dismissed without realizing that’s the only place where I can successfully communicate for my students. This is a space where adults are comfortable blaming kids for failures without ever looking in the mirror to acknowledge the role that adults might play in it. (And the only place where people can shut down their offices two weeks in advance of deadlines and feel comfortable blaming kids for not adhering to arbitrary, fake deadlines.)
I am, in many ways, the thorn in the side of the profession. And I intend to stay that way, regardless of whether it’s popular or not. I am an insanely zealous advocate for students – all students. It’s fundamental to my being.
So. Imagine my surprise when not once, but twice in the last year, I have been approached to “choose” who I am going to serve on behalf my students. The first time it happened, I slept on it, and then gave it a thorough tongue lashing about how my position was the best possible position to inform students and counselors about options. (Because it is. I serve more than 16,000 students year in a myriad of settings.) I felt a myriad of emotions. Disappointment. Frustration. Sadness. Ultimately, my email served its purpose and everything worked itself out. The second time this happened, I felt all of those emotions again, but with added rage. I thought about resigning – no one gives ME an ultimatum. I thought about quitting. I thought about slinking off into the January deadlines and immersing myself in student work.
Two things happened, however. 1) I spent the last few weeks of the month working with our students who sincerely don’t understand the process and it reaffirmed why I need to advocate for them. 2) A college readiness teacher gave kids the wrong scholarship essay prompts, told students to turn the essays into her (instead of putting them into the scholarship application), and then went on leave with no further direction on how to apply to this very generous scholarship that few of our students even qualify to apply to.
Not today, Satan. Not today.
I screwed up all my courage and wrote an email affirming my position, refusing to choose, and putting everyone on notice that I was not to be messed with on this. The response I got back was what I expected, “Sorry, but we are going to require you to choose based on this circumstance…” Except their circumstance didn’t actually apply to me and I told them that. I also did my research to find out that it wouldn’t apply to me in the future. How this plays out is get to be seen, but I can assure you that I’m resting a little bit easier knowing that I didn’t just give up.
Life is hard, friends. It’s particularly hard for the least among us. The ones whose voices are drowned out by the people who believe that the playing field is equal, that people just need to “work harder,” and the ones who think that racism is dead and equality has been achieved. (Please watch this keynote by the fantastically courageous Shaun Harper.)
Be courageous and strong. Lend your privilege to the least among us. Stand up and say no when a situation demands it. The conversations that I have had to engage in for the last year or so are not comfortable. At times, they are straight up uncomfortable. They require me to be vulnerable. They require me to be honest.