C is for Colour

 

So yesterday I blogged about our second day in Venice and about our boat ride to Burano, one of the two main Islands you can catch a water bus to for around 7 euros each. I feel like Burano was wasted on my lack of photography skills, but regardless it was somewhere that seems a little bit like a dream now that we are back home.

There was colour around every corner on this little island covered in canals. The windowsills were a practice in the beauty of contrast, its leaning tower pops up over terracotta roofs, and the people found us awe-struck tourists rather amusing.

So if you are ever in Venice, take a few hours to get out to Burano and soak up all the colour.

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G is for Gondola

Our second day in Venice had a lot to live up to, and it didn’t disappoint. We had a pretty restless night in the pretty unbearable Italian heat that was made even worse by the late night discovery that there was a heater in our room that was perpetually on and thus made our room 10x hotter than the hallway outside. Fun times.

Luckily we were too excited by the prospect of spending another day in Venice to worry about the heat or spend much time in the hotel. We had spent the night trying to decide whether to splurge and do a gondola ride for our second morning in Venice. After realising that this could be the one and only time we are ever here (although I have many fingers crossed  that it is not the last we see of the beautiful city) we decided that to save $80 by not taking a gondola ride in the city where boats are pretty much the only way you can see the back streets of Venice, was silly. So our first, wonderful task of the morning was to find ourselves a gondolier and try not to fall into the canals.

We went back to our favourite courtyard spot from yesterday where there was a string quartet playing and a small but happy crowd watching. Now that I am back home in New Zealand, the idea of sitting beside the canal waiting for a gondola with a violins and cellos providing a backing soundtrack sounds  a little unreal. Almost as unreal as sitting on top of Montmatre in Paris and watching the sun descend whilst a little old man performed a puppet show before the crowds. These moments seem so long ago now, but they still bring a very satisfied smile to my face (which probably comes across pretty creepy to everyone around me).

We happened to get an awesome gondolier who not only took us on the best little boat tour of Venice imaginable but also spent his time explaining what we were seeing and also describing the history of Venice and its gondoliers. He made an already amazing experience even better (taking extra special care to point out the palace Angelina Jolie had stayed in whilst filming here, and not forgetting to point out that he featured in one of the takes). Not only was he proud of his stardom, he was in adoration of this beautiful city where he worked and lived, and where his family had all worked and lived. It was the kind of attitude one came to expect in Italy, and especially in Venice. I can see why.

We reluctantly left the gondola, somehow without falling out, and parted ways with our fantastic host. And I have never felt happier about parting with a well spent $80. So my one tip for Venice (well after my other tips of getting lost and eating gelato at least twice a day), my third tip for Venice is take a gondola. It is worth every cent and is a great way to see the parts of Venice that are only accessible by boat, which is a lot of it! From back yard secret courtyards, to giant Venetian palace facades, it was a perfect start to the day.

After getting just a little bit lost, we made our way to the ferry terminal to catch a ride to one of the outlying Islands, Burano. No walk through Venice would be complete without something to distract us from our goal, this time it was our little cat of the canals who we found balancing precariously on a bridge as he decided how best to catch a bird. We named him Giovanni. No judgements please, we obviously have a cat problem. Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step right?

We got off the boat at the island beside Burano where we felt like one of the only human inhabitants (not counting the many sun bathing lizards) until we found the island’s one restaurant which was buzzing with Italians and seemed like the perfect place to grab a cold beer and a big bowl of pasta with beautiful fresh tomato sauce. I don’t think i could live in Italy (a lie, I would live there in a heartbeat) because me plus unlimited parmesan to pour over my pasta is just not a sustainable life plan. Every restaurant we went to set down a bowl of parmesan, undoubtably meant for multiple uses, that together with Edd I managed to decimate. YOLO (cringe).

Full of pasta and parmesan we waddled across the beautiful island and started to catch glimpses of Burano, a vision in bright pinks, purples, oranges and greens. We crossed the foot bridge and immediately fell in love with this little island of rainbows where every house is coloured so that when the boats come up the canals, the houses are clearly defined. It is such a pretty and quaint little island, and quite a beautiful contrast to everything we loved about Venice. It was also a photographer’s dream, with contrasting colours and reflective water around every turn. My favourite part was its town tower, which was on a decidedly adorable lean. Ah, Italians and their leaning towers.

We spent a while in Burano, turning down every side street and admiring every window sill. Kind of like Venice, my words are far to meagre to explain how picturesque this little Island was. So scroll down to the abundance of photos below. They do a much better job. I think my favourite part of Burano was the people, who stood hanging out their washing whilst staring at the weird tourists taking photos of their door ways and window sills. Creeps.

With the afternoon sun beating down on us we reluctantly clambered aboard a busy ferry back to Venice where we wandered for as long as our legs would carry us before starting to say our sad goodbyes to this sweet little city.

Of all the places we went, Venice is the one that sticks in my head the most, as I drift to sleep or as I day dream in front of my work. It is the one where the colours were in abundance, the people were proud, the food was delicious and getting lost was the best idea we ever had. It was the place where we saw people kissing, people arguing, people drinking Prosecco at 10am and eating pasta all day round. It was Italy and it was amazing. I loved all of Italy, but I think I left a little bit of my heart in Venice.

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I had so many photos of Burano that there is no way they would all fit into this post. So to do them justice I will post them up tomorrow by themselves 🙂

L is for Lost (in Paradise)

The question I get asked every time I catch up with someone since we have returned from our trip is “What was your favourite bit” and it is so indescribably hard to choose a favourite place after two months where I saw and experienced so many amazing cities. I have loved 90% of the places we have been to, and people regret asking once I start thinking out loud about what an amazing place Europe is. But, long story slightly less long, if I had to choose one city that really blew me away, one city that I fell head over heels for, it would be Venice. Maybe it was because I wasn’t expecting to love Venice, after so much hype around this little city located on a lagoon I wasn’t that excited. Italy itself I knew would deliver in terms of food, but in general I kind of thought the highlights of our trip were done.

How wrong I was.

We arrived in Venice after a ridiculously long but beautiful train ride and walked in the burning hot Italian sunshine to our little basic room in a suburb just outside of the city of Venice called Mestre. We were exhausted, and without much excitement for Venice we decided to just use the afternoon to look around Mestre and do a much needed laundromat run, whilst drowning ourselves in ridiculously cheap sparkling water to fend off heat stroke (and to think it wasn’t even the middle of summer). We grabbed dinner at a little “Snack Bar” which turned out to be common throughout Italy and are an amazing, cheap way to grab food and drink in Italy.

This little snack bar kind of became our second home in Mestre, mainly because Venice itself is ridiculously expensive and this place did pizza, pasta and beer (aka everything we needed to survive, at a ridiculously cheap price). Plus the people were friendly and it was always stocked with enthusiastic, noisy, gesturing Italians. The people didn’t speak a word of English, and I was struggling to adjust to speaking Italian but somehow, in Italy not knowing the language wasn’t really an issue. Who knew hands were so great for communicating.

Our second day, after spending a restless night in a relentlessly hot room, we caught a morning bus into Venice itself (after a cappuccino with the locals at our new local). We stepped off the bus and immediately headed in the opposite direction to the main street that our hotel had recommended as an easy way to hit the sights. Best decision ever. Who would choose one large street, crammed with tourists and tourist shops over small walkways winding alongside canals, empty of tourists and with little hidden shops and restaurants full of locals. We got lost within five minutes and that was the best part of the day. Every turn, every little path held a new surprise, from peaceful canals, magnificent churches somehow hidden behind a corner, tiny little pizzerias and gondoliers suddenly appearing around corners.

It was breathtaking. I have never been so quickly taken with a city but there is something so utterly unique and characteristic of Venice that we had smiles on our face the entire time. I was drawn into a little shop, almost empty apart from the owner and stocked from floor to ceiling of handmade venetian masks. We ooohed and ahhed at the beautiful masks and the owner who was so wonderfully Italian couldn’t resist telling us all about Venice’s Carnivale where the city packs full of masked Venetians. He donned a cape and a mask and then dressed me up to so that Edd could snap some photos. It would have been creepy if it was anywhere else, but in Italy this enthusiastic attitude just made so much sense. He wasn’t trying to push a sale (my immediate fear) but was so incredibly proud of his city, his traditions and his talent that he wanted to tell us all about it. He was just one countless Italians who made them one of my favourite nationalities to interact with.

We stopped in at the Scuolo Grande di San Rocco where we admired the huge number of works by Tintoretto, concentrated in one beautiful building. They had basic wooden mirrors to walk around and see every artwork on the ceiling without hurting your neck, a detail that was kind of genius. It was quiet, peaceful and full of incredibly religious imagery but it held nothing to the city itself so it wasn’t long before we were back on the streets of Venice, exploring (read- getting lost again).

We ate deliciously hot calzone, stuffed full of fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella whilst sitting canal side as the gondoliers went past, occasionally with a song proudly belted out. We made our way through winding streets in the general direction of Piazza San Marco, but we were drunk on Venice’s charm and a short walk took much longer as  we lapped up the views that only Venice can offer, couples celebrating a surprise engagement over a glass of prosecco, Gondoliers waiting for eager explorers, melting gelato in the hand of every second tourist and those beautiful emerald canals that play host to it all. With no cars, bikes or scooters everyone is on foot, which is great after a month of nearly being run over countless times.

We eventually met up with the many tourists at Piazza San Marco, staying long enough to gaze adoringly at the pink marble of the gothic Ducale palace and laugh along with many others at the pigeons who were more than a little daring. It was busy but the piazza is so grand and spacious that it doesn’t feel crowded until you try to leave, back into the narrow streets. We attempted to follow the Lonely Planet walking tour, and kind of succeeded, catching the main sights such as the Rialto bridge and the ancient seafood market. But no where did we enjoy Venice more than when we took a wrong turn, ended up in some little courtyard and decided to break for either gelato, a spritz (venetian cocktail/wine mixer) or both.

At the beginning of this trip, 8 hours of walking felt like murder. In Venice I could have kept walking forever (well I would like to think so) but eventually we took a rest and sat beside the canal with half a bottle of Prosecco, the Venetian answer to champagne. I tried and failed to blog, too distracted by the beauty of this unique and wonderful city, and its local characters who come along as part of the deal.

I have never fallen so hard and fast for a city. With Venice, I was head over heels from the moment I took a wrong turn.

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My first photo in Venice.

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In our new favourite mask shop

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I won’t caption all of these…because they will all be the same. Take me back

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The Grand Canal, which was a whole other type of beautiful

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Waiting

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Waiting

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Piazza San Marco

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The guy who sang for all of us who watched. It was one of those moments that was so perfect you kind of expected a flaming meteor to come down and kill everyone…just me? Oh.

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I took photos of the canals mainly, but the architecture and churches were also beutiful

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Attack of the pigeons.

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This little girl was braver than most of the adults, just sayin’

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Piazza San Marco

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The Ducale Palace

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Looking out over to some islands

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Walking tour begins

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But soon we were lost and crossing over more unknown but charming canals

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My kind of mask

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From the Rialto bridge

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The Rialto Bridge, prettier to look at, a little too busy to try and walk over

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A Spritz. Prosecco, soda water, some kind of italian liqueur and an olive? I wasn’t paying much attention, but everyone else had one.

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Saying good bye was hard, even though we were returning the next day.