Clooney and the grandeur of the Belmond Cipriani Hotel
WHO could forget the gloriously sexy sight of George Clooney and his beautiful bride Amal sailing down the Grand Canal in Venice to make their wedding vows?
The appeal of it ... the allure, the charisma, the Hollywood razzle-dazzle of it all.
And all we could do was watch this fabulous fairytale in our lounge rooms, try to still our beating hearts and wonder why we mere ordinaries couldn't have been there.
Well, I was.
Not, for the actual wedding of course, but I was there a few months later at the Belmond Cipriani Hotel, the scene of so much glamour when George broke female hearts all over the globe and married Amal before a bevy of celebrities.
Located on Giudecca Island, just a five-minute boat ride across from St Mark's square, Cipriani is a lush hideaway, light-years away from the bustle and ceaseless throng of tourists who clog Venice every day.
An oasis of elegance, tranquillity and privacy in one of the world's most beautiful locations, Cipriani is a lure for the seriously rich, for movie stars and A-listers, for the beautiful people who want all the trappings of Venice, but also want their privacy.
George Clooney has been chilling out at the Cipriani for years. No regular Cipriani guest would be crass enough to point a camera at him while he lounges by the pool or dines in the hotel's Oro restaurant.
It was the natural choice for his wedding.
When I stepped out of the speedboat on to the Cipriani jetty and into its manicured gardens, I might not have looked remotely like gorgeous Amal in her stunning outfits, but I sure felt as though I'd arrived.
Sitting in the colourful landscaped gardens sipping a mimosa served by gliding waiters in cream jackets, looking out to the iconic Venice vista is pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming stuff.
Cipriani's general manager, Giampaolo Ottazzi, has seen it all - from Johnny Depp to Brad Pitt, the names don't faze him - and he considers George Clooney a friend.
"George loves it here," Giampaolo told us as we sat in Cirpriani's fragrant gardens. "No one bothers him here. Most of our guests could buy and sell George."
As for keeping the paparazzi at bay for the big wedding, we can only imagine the grand scale of security.
"It was crazy out there," Giampaolo said with an elegant wave. "The paparazzi boats were clogging up the water. But inside here it was all peace. Almost all rooms were taken for the wedding. The guests all had their phones taken and were given phones without cameras. George and Amal had given exclusive rights so the money could go to their charity."
Giampaolo took us on a walk around the hotel's exquisite gardens, past the flourishing herb patch to the 19th century converted granary, the Clooney wedding reception venue.
On this evening it had been transformed into a stylish market for local artisans to come in and exhibit their work.
"The hotel likes to share its facilities, to involve the local community," Giampaolo said. "We invite local artisans to use our space and enjoy our property. We have had more than 600 people come through here today."
After buying beautiful jewellery to forever remember my near-brush with George Clooney, it was into Oro restaurant for another peek. Over a salad and foie gras-filled pasta and then batons of pressed duck, we felt very George Clooney.
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Insider George Clooney goss
A CHARMING narrow alleyway connects the granary to the rest of the Belmond Cirpriani, but it is also a public "road'', open to locals living in apartments above.
We were told that on one of George Clooney's visits, as he was making his way along the alleyway, an old woman with heavy shopping bags stopped him and asked him to help.
She had no idea who he was. He carried her bags up to her apartment where she offered him a glass of ginger ale for his trouble.
A chance encounter with George Clooney could come your way too if you have a Cirpriani stay or just make a dinner reservation at the hotel's swish Oro restaurant...you never know.
Take the private boat (complimentary) over to Cipriani, have a pre-dinner mimosa (made only when fresh peaches are in season) in the garden, and then dine out on the deck overlooking the lagoon, as we did.
As you enjoy fresh seasonal food, you might be lucky to have a full moon bathing the calm water in soft blue light as the boats glide by.
You will need to calm your beating heart - even if George Clooney is not in the building.