A Day On The Lagoon – Lace and Glass

Wednesday was wet, we sort of knew it would be as we have been monitoring the weather via an app for weeks now (thankful snow has buggered off). We bought a 48hr waterbus ticket, such good value as it allows you to hop on and off at will instead of paying the €7.5 for each trip charged normally if you use the waterbus- locals pay much less, I guess that is one of many prices you pay as a tourist.

We wanted to see more of the lagoon, so decided to travel first to Burano, then back to Murano, the opposite of the day trippers surge and that worked a treat. Venice is a cluster of buildings built on platforms perched on piles sunk deep in marshland. The whole lagoon is huge, and dotted with other salt marshes and mudflats that clearly show how tenuous a grip on the planet Venice has. We motored past tiny abandoned islands being reclaimed by the sea, walled private islands and mussel beds on an interesting hourish journey to Burano, the lace island.

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Venetian Food and Culture

Any viewers of another culture take snapshots or impressions that they contextualise using their own cultural biases. For Australians, European culture generally seems so exotic, with such a history of culinary tradition and art history to draw upon it is little wonder we perceive the richness with awe and wonder.

When we travel, we like to mix self-catering with meals out. Generally we rent accommodation that has a kitchen, close to markets and providores so we can buy fresh local produce and cook it.

We both have sweet tooths and seek out regional treats also. In Italy generally we search for Dolce and Gelato, both of which are must haves in our opinion. 

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I think the best word to explain Venice is ‘Tidal’. Let me explain in a number of contexts.

Obviously Venice is located in an estuarine lagoon, nominally called a group of islands, in truth this city is a cluster of reinforced platforms that are built upon piles driven deep into the underlying mud. Already close to sea level, it relies on its waterways for the movement of nearly everything as the city grows nothing, farms nothing and produces little except an insatiable appetite for food, wine and stylish goods. The milkman and the garbage men have barges that weave among the canals daily, food and goods are transported this way as it is totally impractical to distribute this stuff any other way. As part of an estuary, fishing is big business, as such they are at pains to protect their waterways and have strict environmental enforced guidelines in place to ensure the quality of the water both in the canals and the lagoon more generally.

Venice, however, is in trouble. We see evidence of it all around us. During high tides (we have now seen a few of them this visit) lower areas are inundated by salt water that oozes from the cobbles. They use raised platforms in the worst effected areas to elevate pedestrians and stainless steel barriers at doors of buildings to stop the salty influx. Architecturally, Venice is unique. All buildings have an impervious “damp course” layer of marble which you can see clearly. In the past this layer has been well below ‘oyster level’ but things have changed. Above this is brick and stone which are porous and all being well this has worked well for centuries. But … rising sea levels and gentle sinking of the buildings mean that the damp course is often below water level, allowing salt water to rise in the porous layers above and this is disastrous. Brick buckles, flakes and disintegrates, other stonework expands, walls slump and shit happens.

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Volare And A Little Bit Doge-y

One of many reasons we chose this apartment is the fact that we are on a “block” that gondoliers use to cruise tourists around the canals. This leg they like the acoustics and much of the day we can hear guitar, singing, piano accordion and at 4pm some douche motors past with 80s Italopop blaring. There have been some lovely voices and music so far – we shall see if it grows tiring. Fortunately we are out most days. Venice has canals, right? Lots of them. Pedestrian walkways grid the same space and cross canals via bridges, right? Lots of bridges.

Easter Sunday we were up early to head over to the Doge’s Palace for a look around. Like so many official buildings, it has a number of sides. The regal side is plush, opulent and so burdened with lavish artwork as to almost seem grotesque by today’s standards.

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Return to Venice

With work over, the agonising wait to leave for holidays began. We had done a ‘test pack’ then reasoned that it made no sense to remove everything again so stayed packed from Wednesday eve. Our run was a little rushed at the end (partly because we were previously so organised) but we got to the airport in plenty of time and amused our son, our chauffeur, with little panics.I want to pretend that long haul (14 hours first leg) flight is nice. We flew Emirates so, unusually, had adequate leg room, but being strapped into a chair for that period of time is an exercise in managed misery, punctuated by increasingly confusing combinations of food and various bit of us going to sleep. Neither of us actually slept however so arrived bleary in Dubai in time for coffee/tea and cake.

Another 6 hour leg and we were at Venice International Airport in pouring rain. We then stood for what has been so far the most exhausting thing we have done – waiting in a ziggy zaggy snake queue to get through passport control. The nature of a ziggy zaggy queue is that you visit, then repeatedly revisit people with bad body odour as you progress. Helpfully it seemed the airport did not put on the aircon so that was a special game of guess that smell – over an hour of queuing and we were miraculously reunited with our luggage and off to find a water bus. Fortunately our time in the queue gave the weather time to clear up and it had stopped raining to reveal an overcast crisp afternoon.

For over a year Jo (and to a lesser degree me) have planned a return to Europe and we both agreed that our time in Venice was way to short last time. 2 days was nowhere near enough time to fully explore the city so we planned this return. Read more »

Categories: Italy, travel, Venice | 5 Comments

I can see you quiver with antici…..pation

For many, the joy of travelling is just getting up and going, making it up on the spot.

Neither Jo or I could do that, sorry. We are detail people, well, in truth, Jo is a details person, I like to be organised so we compliment each other really well.

So much joy has been garnered from exploring options, coming up with workable schedules, homebases, routes and menus again this time round that the trip is so close we can taste it.

We hope you enjoy travelling with us vicariously.

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A Picnic at Hanging Rock

As we were in a part of Victoria adjacent to the Macedon Ranges, it seemed inevitable that a trip to Hanging Rock as something we should do. We watched the old movie “Picnic at Hanging Rock” the evening before as a form of preparation (although I think the movie has not aged well, such shallow characters, wooden acting and so little happening for such a long time). Next morning we learned from the news that today was the 50th anniversary of the release of the book “A Picnic at Hanging Rock” so our timing could not be more on-point.

We started the day with a brilliant breakfast at “Redbeard”, a oldschool sourdough bakery at Trentham. We then booked out of our accommodation and drove to Hanging Rock Winery for some wine tasting. they had a wide variety of styles, but we needed 2 bottles and settled on the Moscato for Jo and a Sangiovese for Peter.

We then followed the signs to Hanging Rock – oddly our SatNav got completely lost close to the rock (but do not panic, our watches did not stop at 12). Read more »

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Rural Victoria

For our 34th Wedding anniversary (and just because …reasons) we decided to head south for a week of food, shopping and fun. We flew to Melbourne, picked up a hire car at the airport and drove out to Daylesford in regional Victoria.

Jo loves to research, and is really thorough so we had places to eat and visit planned out.

We had lunch at “The Larder”, a hipster cafe with tasty food and a relaxed seating plan (shared tables) which was a nice start to the day and a good way to unwind from the perils of transit. They made an awesome cup of tea also.

We then set out on a provisions hunt on the main street of Daylesford, seeking cheese and charcuterie.  The shops in this area were interesting, full of art, craft and things we had not see a dozen times over in other tourist regions. We afternoon tea’d at Lake Daylesford accompanied by a flock of mallard, then we drove to the Daylesford Cider Company for some cider tasting.

After trying all 7 on offer (some lovely, some just plain weird), we decided on a clutch of 4 bottles for later.

We then drove to our accommodation at Trentham – a lakeside “cottage”. We decided, even though it was fairly late, to walk up town to familiarise ourselves with the layout. We then headed back to Daylesford and Mercato restaurant for dinner. Read more »

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Postcard From Paris.

They say a change is as good as a holiday. They lied.streets

Our 6 weeks away has seen us explore cultures and food from many different countries, seen sights that simply do not exist in suburban Brisbane, met people from many walks of life, gained a little more international perspective and I think that merely makes us want to do it again.locks

As we plan to leave Paris, not sure if we will return (because there are so many other interesting places to visit), reflecting on the holiday that was means focussing on the notables, and there have been many, most mentioned in other blog posts – this post will focus on some memorable moments for us in Paris. Read more »

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Another Perfect Day in France – a bicycle, a baguette, a bottle and a garden

imageWe both had a passing interest in Monet and his art, Jo had done some research and found a bicycle tour run by a company we had used when last in Paris to skip the queue on the Eiffel Tower and so we decided to book the day out with them.image

It was no forgone conclusion we would go – both still battling coughs and flu symptoms, we had a restless night sleep but woke up feeling like it was worth a shot, given there was a cancellation fee so we girded our loins, dosed up and after a restorative morning pastry for breakfast (one of the advantages/disadvantages of being so close to Paris’s best Boulangerie) we headed off on the metro to Gare St Lazare, a regional train station. There we met up with our guides and the rest of the group – 30ish people, all ages and shapes which made us feel better and more capable of actually coping. Read more »

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