White Christmas

Almost. It snowed in London Yesterday for the first time in 4 years, narrowly missing Christmas day. Kathryn and Sarah were still at Lodge Farm; I had come up to London on Wednesday. After some hesitation I decided to brave the freezing (literally!) weather and ride through the snow to work. Hyde Park looked quite lovely under a thin dusting of snow and I arrived at work unfrostbitten but with numb feet. Photos to follow…

Venice (at last)

We went to Venice in June. It was amazing. Even if you haven’t been to Venice you have an idea what it is like. It is even better than you could imagine. It is unlike any other city I have been to. It has this air of faded grandeur about it that does not detract from its beauty at all.

My number one tip for anyone planning a trip to Venezia is to buy the best most comfortable shoes you can find as you will be doing a lot of walking. Transport options in the city are limited. If you are romantic you can travel by gondola. If you are very rich you can take a water taxi (these make a gondola ride seem cheap). You can take the equivalent of a bus on water: a vaporetto or you can walk. Walking is a great way to explore Venice. You can get to most places in Venice proper by walking (eventually). Venice is one of the most touristed cities on earth but the remarkable thing is if you take a few steps off the main thoroughfare from San Marco to the Rialto and train station you can quickly find yourself alone. You also quickly find yourself lost. But this is not a bad thing in Venice. A map is essential as there are many signs but none of them seem to lead you in the right direction.

Unfortunately I have misplaced my notes so I may not be able to give you a day by day description of events but I will give you the highlights. Here goes…

As I stepped off the plane onto the tarmac at Venice airport I wondered why I had not thought it would be hot in Venice. We passed through customs uneventfuly and managed to obtain a couple of tickets for the next waterbus to Vencie as Marco Polo Airport is on the mainland. The surroundings here are fairly industrial and unpleasing but after half an hour we started gliding past the buildings and canals of the city. Stepping off at San Marco we blended into the thronging tourists and proceeded to look for our hotel.

Hotel Doni

Now if luxury is what you are after, I could not recommend it, but if you want an authentic experience, a fantastic location and don’t want to spend much then the Hotel Doni has a lot going for it. It is situated on Rio (street next to a canal) del Vin a stone’s throw away from Piazza San Marco. The owner is a stout woman who speaks no English and did not seem to move from behind her counter. Everything she said was accompanied by a large chuckle. Click here for a view of our room.

The first thing to do in Venice is to take a trip down the Canal Grande. We got on Vaporetto No. 1 and claimed a prime postion on the little open deck at the back. Having been up since about 3.30 that morning we just sat back and let the scenery slide past… look. here too.

We decided to do the mega touristy things first and nothing comes bigger than the Basilica di San Marco. It was lucky that I hadn’t brought any shorts as visitors are not permitted to wear them and Kathryn had to carry a lace cardigan to cover up her bare arms.

Just around the corner is the Palazzo Ducale. A beautiful building with stunning walls.

The Piazza San Marco is amazing. One famous guy whose name escapes me described it as the finest drawing room in Europe. Ahh, ok. It is very cool. There are two cafes on either side of the square and rich people flock to one or the other depending on what time it is (and where the sun is). They both have indoor sections but the place to be is outside in front of the band they have playing salon music out the front. The prices are incredible ( you will pay £10 for a drink including the music charge) but there is nothing finer. The musicians are real virtuosos and the drink to have (because you won’t be able to afford food) is the official cocktail of Carnevale, the Bellini. The waiters are snooty and as I said the prices are astronomical but there is simply no better way to spend a warm evening as the sun is setting over the Basilica casting long shadows across the Piazza. Nothing like it.

We went to popular places like the Rialto Bridge and the Campanile di San Marco but we also visited less touristed places like the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, the Scala Contarini del Bovolo (meaning snailshell) which we practically had all to ourselves.

A highlight of Venezia and a place hardly anyone goes to is the island of Torcello. It is a fair boat ride from San Marco but it is worth it. The island is very small with only a couple of eating places, a couple of houses, a tiny museum and a glorious cathedral: the Cattedrale di S. Maria Assunta. Inside is a stunning gold mosaic.

I shall sign off here as I have square eyes and a sore head, but will continue my tale soon with stories of Verona and Padova…

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