The surprise 40th birthday trip ended up being a weekend in Venice. It's a place that I've always had on my "mental travel to do list", so Pete chose well and kept it a secret right up to the last minute.
If you have ever been to the city, you will know that it's an amazing place and very alien in so many ways - no cars, tourists outnumbering locals, huge churches, canals at every turn and tiny pathways everywhere.
We started the weekend on Friday morning leaving my Mum and Dad's house at 5am with my parents dropping us off - they had arrived back from Cyprus a day before. Pete had gone overboard as he sometimes does and booked us British Airways Business Class tickets, which meant access to the lounge - Magazines, juice, pastries and good coffee.
At the gate, my parents appeared and were coming along (though they left us to explore most of the time and were in economy class!). It was only a slight shock. My friend Sonny should also have been making a surprise appearance, but due to the volcano fun, wasn't in Milan on business as he should have been.
On the plane, you get a full breakfast in Business Class and much bigger seats. All very nice. We landed and got a water taxi. Basically they speed across the lagoon which was great fun.
The hotel was plush and the room huge. Hotels in Venice are not the usual chains, so what you get for your money can be a bit random - we got lucky.
Venice has some stunning buildings which are even more impressive when you know some are 500 years old. To build on some mud flats would be mad today, but doing this hundreds of years ago with wooden piles and ancient techniques was simply crazy.
We spent the next 3 days just looking at the sites, visiting the various islands using the water buses, eating and drinking. We has some rain on Friday, but by Sunday the sun was beating down. It's a great feeling, sitting and relaxing looking over the lagoon and drinking a well made Espresso in the sunshine.
On the way back, we ate snacks in the first class lounge (having just had a 2 course meal) and then had a meal on the plane along with 3 small bottles of Champagne each. The teenage couple opposite/behind us were almost having full on sex and the sunset was beautiful. And... I treated myself to a watch. It was my birthday weekend after all.
I would recommend a trip to Venice to anyone. Pictures to follow when I get on my home PC.