Sometimes everything just comes together. The night of the Twitter chat for the North American Travel Journalist Association (NATJA) was one of them. That night they were giving away prizes, and I won the big bonanza prizes of a ride on the Gondola Paradisio. A Gondola Ride in the Channel island harbor what a grand thing to do.
When in Oxnard for the conference, owner Mark Schooling met my friend Linda Spanberger and I and took us on a ninety minute journey I will long remember. While not in the canals of Venice, Mark had on the traditional striped shirt and wide brimmed hat worn by gondoliers everywhere. We were charmed.
We cruised the harbor and Mark pointed out the beautiful homes and told us a bit of the history of the area. While the real estate market had been hit hard some of the homes were scooped up by vacationers, but now Mark said families were buying the homes and moving in.
We saw several electric boats moving about and even watched some young sailors taking lessons. Two untimely cruisers crashed into one another but we just cruised on by as Mark agilely maneuvered the harbor.
The afternoon was sunny and breezy and beautiful. Near the end of our trip, Mark serenaded us and we felt like we were in Italy or at least nearby. On the website Mark advertises, “Where Venetian Romance Meets California Sunshine”. It is a great combination!
Mark Schooling, got caught up in the romance of the being a gondolier after answering an ad he saw posted at the junior college he was attending. He first worked at the Gondola Company of Newport and soon was hooked. After a couple of weeks of practice he took the test and became a member of the American Gondoliers, which is quite a feat because he said most that answered the ad lasted only a day or two.
“Gondola’s are an amazing thing,” Schooling writes, “Few people learn the true art of handling these special boats. I have been fortunate to have the time and ability to learn how to row such unique vessels.”
Mark had his beautiful gondola hand built by a wooden boat builder.
After rowing for both the company in Newport and for both Sunset and Gondola Getaway, Mark obtained experience on a variety of the beautiful wooden boats. After rowing for over 16 years for others, Mark jumped in and opened the wonderful Gondola Paradiso offering rides in the Channel Islands Harbor of Oxnard.