If you told me a few months ago that I would soon ride a gondola in the middle of the Pacific Northwest, I would’ve thought you were crazy. A gondola in the Pacific Northwest? It seems like such an absurd notion, but it’s an experience that was all kinds of awesome once I experienced it for myself.
The only other time I stepped onto a gondola was in Venice, Italy back in 2011 when I was on a TopDeck tour around Europe. None of the 20-something year olds I was traveling with could afford a gondola ride by themselves, so 5 of us split the cost and piled into one together.
I don’t know if it was the gondolier we had or my beginning realization that touristy and well known activities are not always the most fun, but it wasn’t everything I imagined it to be. The waterways were crowded, whenever we would ask questions to our gondolier he would snap back at us, not in the mood for chit chat. He barely said two words to us the whole trip and I don’t remember any singing.
The experience itself was still a surreal one. Venice is a stunning city and I had always dreamed of riding in a gondola through the maze of waterways. That in itself still made it worth it for me.
With that said, my recent experience in a gondola was the complete opposite of that time in Venice – both in terms of the surroundings and gondolier. The groups I had for each experience were just as awesome.
John “Cinque” Synco was everything you would want in a gondolier: accommodating, friendly, knowledgable, funny, and a talented singer! He started his work as an American gondolier in 2002 in Southern California and quickly became enamored with the gondolier and venetian rowing culture. He recently opened up his own gondola business – called Gig Harbor Gondola – after relocating up to Gig Harbor with his family.
The city of Gig Harbor was founded in 1840 and is considered to be one of the most picturesque cities in America, although a lot of out-of-state visitors still don’t seem to know about it. I know I didn’t before this trip to Washington and it was the perfect little hidden spot to discover. If you’re wanting to get up close and personal to Puget Sound, and the best of maritime Pacific Northwest history and beauty, this place is it.
I never realized that gondola experiences existed in North America until I met John. He explained that there are not a whole lot but quite a few more than you would expect in the States. This is the first gondola experience to come to the Pacific Northwest, however, and the boat that we rode in was straight from Venice.
As we started our journey in the harbor, John was quick to point out historical buildings on the shore. He was a storyteller and kept us entertained but he also let us enjoy the peace and quiet of the harbor in the morning, before most boats were out on the water.
I believe the ride was about 45 minutes, although I must admit I quickly lost track of time. Gig Harbor is a stunning location with a lot of seaside scenery to drool at. We saw a seal at one point and plenty of other wildlife in the form of birds and jellyfish.
And the singing! Oh my, it took me right back to my summer in Italy.
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind activity in the Pacific Northwest, this would be it. It was an unforgettable way to start our morning and just reminded me more of why I love living near the ocean. I was impressed with John’s professional yet easy-going demeanor and the great experience he provided to us, gliding through the water ever so gracefully.
Related: Where to Stay in Seattle
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