Venice Day 2 – Part 1 Murano and Burano

We had a late, leisurely start on the second day in Venice.

We lazed around, had a nice huge breakfast. Did I mention the coffee in Venice? I must have, but delicious as it was, it is certainly worth mentioning again. Such delicious, flavour-full coffee!

The plan was to visit the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. There are tours from Venice but all the reviews and traveogues I read recommended using the public transport to get the real feel of the place. So we decided to use the public transport instead. We went back to the vaporetto station and took a 12 hour ticket which allowed us to use any water bus for 12 hours. Later we realized that we should have gone in for the 36 hour ticket – would have been far cheaper in the long run, but at that point, both of us missed it.

On route to the vaporetto station, we stopped at a church. Check out the ceiling!

We decided to go to Murano first. Murano is the island famous for the glass factories. The water bus that we took, actually felt like a ‘bus’ in the real sense. Check out the crowd. Clearly loads of tourists had read the same travelogues as me 🙂

The sights we passed enroute to Murano..

The wooden pilings apparently show the route that the waterbuses have to take. We saw these sort of pilings on the way from the airport as well. Apparently the whole of Venice stands on millions of pilings like these. The wood came from Slovenia, which now has barren regions because of all the wood that was cut and used to keep Venice afloat.

As soon as we landed on Murano, we were directed to the glass factory, which would close at noon. We hurried towards the factory, along with all the tourists from our water bus. In the factory, we were treated to a wonderful exhibition of glass blowing, and the art of making glass artifacts. He made a glass horse in minutes! It was breath-taking to watch.

And he blows it out!

Look at him fashioning a horse from molten glass!

And within minutes the horse is ready! What expertise!

After the session at the glass factory, we refused to get seduced by the charming salespeople at the glass exhibitions, and decided to walk the streets of Murano instead.

Fodder for the boats – a filling station for boat.

I loved the look of this boat, full of vegetables! I couldn’t help wonder if it were a vegetable shop or just the way the restaurants get their veggies delivered.

Murano has glass everywhere.. Glass Flowers..

Glass gardens…

As I browse through my pictures, I realize that we have loads of lovely pics, but all of them with us in them, so I’ll just skip ahead to our next destination – Burano. I found the way the Italians pronounced the word, so very charming! So off we went, back to the water bus station, and got on the water bus to Burano.

We saw some abandoned islands with ruins of houses on them.. Doesn’t it make you wonder who lived there, in the middle of the sea, all alone on an island? I’m not surprised that whoever lived there decided to abandon it..

Burano, I understood from what I had read was famous for it’s lace and its coloured houses. Here’s a picture that captured both.

Another thing that struck me about Burano was the greenery. It was the greenest among the islands we visited. May be it just was not as populated as the others..

The multi-coloured houses of Burano.

When daughter was little, she used to watch a programme on Cbeebies, and it had coloured houses(to teach the little ones colours), and the houses in Burano reminded me of that!

And soon it was food time. Hitchy, finally some food pics, that can be posted 🙂

That was one of the most delicious meal we had in Venice. The bread was oh-so-delicious! Dipped in Olive Oil – yum!

Grilled veggies – we polished off a few before we remembered to take pictures!

The pasta I fell in love with. I don’t remember the name, the menu was in Italian, all I knew while ordering was that it was a vegetarian spaghetti, but the taste! It was amazing! I think it was spaghetti in pesto. I came home and tried to replicate it with basil pesto, and the taste was quite similar. Delicious! The thought of it makes me drool!

And the pizza.

We also had a delicious dessert, a local biscuit and ice-cream, drenched with chocolate sauce! I can’t find any pictures of it. Clearly, both of us were more interested in attacking it rather than waste time taking pictures 🙂

Tummy satisfied, we walked around the little island. Colours everywhere! Such a lively, cheerful looking place it was!

The plan was to visit Murano, Burano and Torcello, but it was almost 3 in the afternoon by the time we were done with lunch, so we decided to skip Torcello and return to Venice. We had booked a day tour to the Hill Towns of Veneto for the third and final day in Venice, so we really wanted to experience more of Venice. Torcello seemed less attractive than Venice.

So off we went, back to Venice, and what we did there, shall be fodder for the next post 🙂

PS: Remember me moaning about not being able to select pics to post? Well, WP decided it for me – no more pics. Apparently I am the limits of my media capacity, so I had to delete all my headers, and ran to Hitchy in tears, thanks so much, Hitchy, for all your help 🙂 So has any of you faced this problem? Any option, apart from using Flickr?

Venice – Day 1

As usual, I had big plans of going completely prepared to Venice. This time, in my defence, I did read up, I did plan well.

I even had all our stuff packed in time. Husband arrived at 10 in the night from Glasgow, and everything was in place. Eat, sleep, wake up and fly was all we needed to do. Despite all the hoping and wishing, the weather forecast did forecast showers and thunderstorms. The weather here was not great either. It ensured that we got wet in the short walk from the taxi to the airport terminal.

After a long, long queue for the security checkin( we always seem to be in queues at airports), we managed to reach the gates, just in time for boarding. Flying a low cost airline  has in it’s disadvantages, the fact that no meals are served in flight. So, me being, super-planner for a change, had brought along lovely buttery croissants from Waitrose. Why worry about butter and fat, when on holiday, eh?

So we took off, even the cramped seating couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm. Daughter insisted on reading the in-flight magazine end to end, while I tried to grab a nap.

And now the time for the mandatory, in the air pics. No matter how much I travel, I can’t stop behaving like a woman on her first flight 😦

If you look very closely, you’d see a green lake nestled between the mountains.

And finally after two hours in the air, we landed in Venice. It looked clear, and gorgeous! Daughter always complained that she never gets to see the blue sky in England, well, she certainly couldn’t complain here. Clear, gorgeous blue sky! Thunderstorms, rain showers seemed a lifetime away. Of course, none of this meant anything because the weather changes in Venice in minutes, guidebooks told us.

At the airport, it dawned on me that I had forgotten to take a printout of the map of where the hotel was. We went to an information desk, where we were told to take the water bus(vaporetto – doesn’t it sound wonderful? Everything sounds wonderful in an Italian accent, me thinks :)) get off at Fondamenta Nouve and then walk 10 mins to the hotel. Sounded easy enough. Couldn’t be more difficult than our trek in Greece, could it?

We were told the direction to follow to reach the water bus. There was a long tunnel like passage way, and we walked for about five minutes before we reached the water bus station. We were accosted by a young man, waving pamphlets and telling us that the water taxi would take us to our hotel in 20 minutes for 110 euros. For a minute, we were confused, but then realised that most people were walking towards the next stop. On checking realized that the water bus was the public transport, while the water taxi was like the taxi we use – private, and more than double the cost of the waterbus -both ways. So we decided to take a chance with the water bus. Most people seemed to make the same choice, which reassured us  and had us worried. After all, it’s called a bus! What if we have to stand all the way to Venice? Thankfully, we did not.

A water bus getting loaded with it’s passengers.

Finally after about 30 minutes, and some whining by daughter about how hot it was(she did not sleep on the flight, and was tired, sleepy and hungry by then), we reached our destination. Getting off, we checked at a trattoria, the directions to our hotel. The fragrance of food, made me long to just sit there and eat! We went the direction he told us to, only to get a confused and asked someone else. He directed us in another direction, and we went off again, in search of our hotel. Now, just to give you an idea, this is what that area looked like.

Now, Venice is a lot of islands(118, to be precise), connected by bridges. So each time you cross a bridge, you are crossing over to the next island. In search of our hotel, we ended up crossing about 10 bridges, until we finally found it. In reality, it was just 2 bridges away – 5 mins walk, at max, but we had to get lost! I read in some guides that the best way to see Venice is to get lost in Venice. Well, we started off doing that 🙂

I have to say, the happiness at reaching your destination is amplified when you have to go to such lengths to reach it. Husband had to haul our big suitcase over all those bridges. And all of us were very, very hungry. The hotel room was a huge relief. Although we had checked out the reviews in Expedia and Tripadvisor, we were not expecting very spacious rooms, because almost everybody mentioned how rooms are small in Venice. Ours was a  welcome change – nice, spacious, and such lovely staff! We checked in, and then ran out to grab some food.

There was this nice main street that we had passed, while searching for our hotel, and we went back there. We had the most delicious ravioli, and spinach and ricotta cannelloni. We practically inhaled it – hungry as we were. All we wanted after that was a nice nap. Bliss!

A nap was just what we needed. The hotel had a complimentary tea spread from 2pm onwards, and we did full justice to it. Well, not full, but we had the best coffee I have had in recent times. The spread of cakes, pastries and biscuits made us wish we had the space for it all 🙂 Never mind, we had 2 more days to try out everything on the buffet.

So off we went. To get lost again, but this time it was much more fun.

A Campo(square). Apparently, we went at a time when the mad rush of tourists hadn’t quite started.

The first sighting of the Grand Canal from under the Rialto Bridge.

Someone walking up the bridge for a better view.

And the view from up there…

And we meander through bridges, and squares and little lanes… watch gondoliers parked, waiting for their customers…

.. to finally reach San Marco, and the Campanile, from where we took these pics. We went up the Campanile, and had the most wonderful view of Venice.

Basilica San Marco, doesn’t it look gorgeous?

The Grand Canal adjacent to San Marco. Gondoloas, anybody?

The famous Bridge of Sighs! Yes, we did kiss under the Bridge of Sighs in a gondola 🙂

By then, our tummies were rumbling again. Walking is tough work, so is taking pictures of every single thing. We take way too many pictures! I’m having such a tough time selecting pictures. We got lost again, in search of food this time.

I can’t help wondering if these are houses, and who gets to live in them! Must be such a romantic existence!

Isn’t Venice gorgeous at night? I could live there forever! And eat in all those lovely trattorias every single day!

Food time again, delicious risotto and pizza this time. No pictures, because husband did not take pictures! He’s got us eating it, and no pictures of the actual food! Time to get back in bed, but not before we tasted some of the delicious chocolate mousse cake that was still waiting for us back at the hotel. Husband stuck to gelattos. He loves gelatto. Last time we were in Italy, he practically lived on gelatto, and he did not want to make an exception this time 🙂

The first day went off so well, with no sign of thunderstorms and rain showers – we couldn’t believe our luck! Needless to say with all the walking we did, we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit our pillows!

(to be continued..)

Venice – A Bird’s Eye View

So this is for all of you who wanted pictures -first installment 🙂 More about where we clicked all this – in the next post.

St Mark’s Clock Tower

Check out the Bell and the two figures on the top. The winged lion with the book is considered the symbol of the City of Venice.

The Doges Palace

The top of St Mark’s Basilica

The Grand Canal

Isola San Giorgio Maggiore

Piazza San Marco. There was a concert going on there.

Look at the restaurants dotting the square.

More to come in the next few days 🙂

Holiday Tales – Part 2

The start of our trip was memorable to say the least.

We had an early start at 5 in the morning. Our flight was at 8.40 am and we were driving to the airport instead of taking a taxi as we usually do. We reached the airport parking with just about enough time but to our surprise, had a tough time locating a free parking spot. Even the airport parking in the country is almost full!

Just as we managed to get our luggage out of the car, we spotted the airport shuttle.
Missing it would mean having to wait for another 10 mins in the cold. Not a very attractive option. So we raced towards it, managed to get on it, just in time. Just as we reached the terminal, husband asks, ‘Do you remember me locking the car?’. We had left the car unlocked! I was sure that it would be safe – who in their right mind would go around that huge parking lot for an unlocked car? If thieves were so hard-working, they would not be thieving! Husband thought that he could run back after we check in, just before security check.

Check in went off smoothly, and we rushed to Security check to figure out it were crowded. Well, lets just say that ‘crowded’ would be an understatement. We could not see the end of the line. It extended right out of a hall, into the exit. It was the longest queue I had ever seen in an airport. And this is not even one of the huge airports. Guess lots of people had the same plans as us. The last term break before proper winter set in  was to be made the most of.

Then on, the flights were uneventful. We even managed to banish worries of the unlocked car.

Finally we reached Athens after a five and a half hour in flights and airports. Athens looked bright and sunny. The mere feeling of warm sunlight is so refreshing and comforting.

Now, normally, on all our trips, I would have planned what to do next. I would have done the research on the best mode of transportation to the hotel. This time, I was busy with other stuff, and somehow managed to forget to check out all these essential details. So I asked a lady at a shop at the airport, the best way to reach the city. ‘The Bus’, she said, ‘No Taxi, taxi big money, take bus’. She even told me which number to take.She seemed horrified at the idea of taking a taxi. Husband was a bit cynical, he wasn’t sure if we should do something like this, on our first day, with all luggage.. But finally, we decided to give it a try.

So off I went, trying to figure out where to board the bus, and get the tickets and stuff like that. In any foreign territory, I am the automatic info-gatherer. I talk with my hands and eyes, and get info. Husband gives up immediately if people don’t understand him 🙂

So I locate the ticket counter, who tells me, ‘Not here, there’. We searched for the counter, but every other counter was closed. Finally, we managed to get the tickets, and boarded the bus, when it dawned on me, that we had no idea how we would know where to get off. So I went around asking. There was no driver in the bus, at that point in time, so I asked others travelling with us. All of them had no clue. Most were tourists themselves. It made me worry if I had taken the wrong decision in taking a bus. Finally the driver came on, and told me, ‘Don’t worry, next metro, sit down’. That made me feel slightly better.

Of course, it was not to last too long. The bus started stopping, and we were still clueless about where we were. We were worried that the driver might forget about us. What if we landed up somewhere else? Finally we saw some people board the bus who looked like locals. So I mustered up courage and asked them. One man, turned and asked, ‘You Indian?’, I replied in the affirmative, and that had him smiling broadly,’ Don’t worry, sit down’!

Finally with no other advice coming our way, we decided to just enjoy the ride.

Now at this point, I have to tell you, that Athens felt a lot like Bangalore with a lot less traffic. The weather was gorgeous, and we were having fun soaking in the atmosphere.

Finally, we managed to reach the city centre. We wanted to take a taxi from here, but our new Greek friend refused to let us. Too expensive, he said, and insisted that that we take the bus. He was going the same way, and said would guide us. Have to say something about this man. He was so very friendly, went all out to help us. Would not take no for an answer, and was so very expressive. He managed to communicate beautifully with hand gestures, facial expressions, and even his tongue 🙂 to show displeasure when he was talking about the Greek economy.

While we were waiting for the next bus, our eyes and nose started itching. Apparently that was due to the left over tear gas, that was used a few days ago during the protests. There were several signs that this beautiful city had been through some turbulent times recently. Despite all that the people, seemed so cheerful and friendly.

To cut a long story short, we took another bus, and got off where he asked us to. The hotel was on the other side of the road. Untl this point, our bus ride had been comfortable and fun. Now started a real ordeal. Crossing over the street with our luggage was no mean feat. There were steps and lugging the suitcase up and down was a pure torture for poor husband. I could not help much, my hands being full with our hand luggage, and daughter to keep track of.

This was also the point that we realized that when a Greek says ‘Five minutes’, he means it just like we Indians do. It is more than likely to be 15 mins. The driving was quite similar to India as well, the pedestrians had to move out of way of the cars.

It was a huge relief to reach the hotel, after escaping speeding cars, huge, dangerous looking stray dogs, and endless asking of directions.

That trek to our hotel was probably the most scary bit of walking I have done. All we had energy for to hit the pillows and sleep…

to be continued…