We were glad that everything fell in place in the end and that it was a good trip.
~*The Drive from Milan to Venice*~
We rented a Renault Clio over the Internet and as soon as we landed in Milan, we took less than half an hour to get all the paperwork done.
Unlike in Singapore where motorized traffic drives on the left in vehicles with right-hand drive configuration, it is the opposite in Italy. Hence, it took some time getting used to driving on the left especially with a manual gear. Daniel, our trusty voice in the GPS was a great partner to work with. We would have gotten lost in Italy if not for trusty Daniel.
A road trip to Venezia! Here we come!
Mountains ranges and hills lined many parts of the highway. It was lovely to see houses dotting them.
Our first meal in Italy was from Autogrill which we very soon found out, seems to monopolize the whole country's highway.
~*Venice Day 1*~
After recharging our body fuel and some distance of driving, Daniel finally brought us to where we were supposed to park for the night before hopping onto a water taxi.
The views from the water taxi were not that spectacular until we slowly saw colourful quaint buildings and bridges full of tourists. And then we knew that we have reached the heart of VENEZIA!
"Venice never quite seems real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water."
Whatever Frida Giannini uttered up there echoes my exact sentiments about Venice. It felt surreal to be in a city of waterways and at times, I did feel as if I was on a film set.
We took some time to find our hotel-- Hotel Galleria.
"Hotel Galleria is a charming small hotel with only nine rooms placed in an unique location right on the Grand Canal, by the Accademia bridge in the Dorsoduro district, one of the most suggestive places in Venice. Looking out of our windows you can gaze at the traffic of the most beautiful main street of the world: The Grand Canal."
There were only 9 rooms available in this charming little hotel built in the 17th century. Via prior Internet booking, we were glad that we managed to snag a room with attached bath and a view overlooking the Grand Canal. We were given Room 7 which is a rather small room but the privacy of an attached bath and awesome view were all that mattered.
I love it when hotel keys are actual keys and not key cards.
Quaint furniture with an old world charm. I could almost feel that they have souls in them.
The room is rather elongated. Left shows the view when I was standing at the door. Right shows the view when I was standing at the window.
The modern amenities like the toilet bowl, hair dryer and shower screens vastly contrasted the antique mirror and the wooden shelf. I felt like a trapped soul from the 1800s in the mirror.
Our window view with Ponte dell'Accademia (Accademia Bridge) towards the left. The number of tourists on the bridge remained the same throughout the day before I realised that it was a Sunday.
A video tour of our room better summarizes all my words here.
If you haven't already caught it in my past post, this is the instavideo of Hotel Galleria.
Before: We were like 2 country bumpkin Asians clad in airplane clothes (aka jeans/sweat pants with jacket) scouring the streets of Venice for Hotel Galleria while dragging our luggage along uneven cobblestone pavements AND perspiring profusely.
After: After a refreshing shower, we were all decked out in outfits befitting of the Venetian backdrop and ready for some exploration of the city.
The hallway outside our room. See that little black box on the right? That's the fridge where we could help ourselves with cold bottled water and other soft drinks.
Ornate Venetian masks were ubiquitous in the city.
The spiral stairs leading from the lobby to the ground level was such a charm. I wondered how many people and ghosts from the past walked the stairs.
Our first stop was to go up onto the Accademia Bridge, blend into the tourist crowd and like a typical tourist, snap some pictures on the bridge. It was too crowded to snap pictures of us and so we quickly headed down after snapping this picture.
Strolling along the streets and alleys of Venice, I felt as if I was transported to the past onto a faraway land.
Or probably on a film set with highly realistic backdrops.
The first photo of us on the Venetian street. There were tourists everywhere that we had to find tranquil, forgotten spots to snap this. (Ironic words coming from a tourist)
I really love it when lovely flowers bloom in burst of colours on the window ledges.
One of the many gondola stops. It costs €90-- €100 per person for a Gondola ride. Even with the mentality of "since we were already in Venice, just take the authentic gondola and float through the waterway of Venice", I told kh it was really daylight robbery. Plus, I did not think it would be a once in a lifetime enjoyment to sit on a gondola in the scorching heat and glaring rays.
And then snap, I was transported back to globalization era when I saw HARD ROCK CAFE! Are you those who love checking out Hard Rock Cafe stores when in a foreign country? I do! Though I don't buy their merchandise, I love checking out their T shirts.
We reached Piazza San Marco. I did not notice the single lovely cirrus cloud up in the clear blue sky until I was editing this picture.
All I could think of when I saw this picture was to tell my good friend Cyn that my legs are stumpy in flats and in certain length of dresses. She always insisted that I have model legs but it really is just the angle of the photos and my heels doing the trick.
St Mark's Basilica. We did not take any photo inside the church.
The people over there were obsessed with feeding pigeons.
The photo at this bar depicts pigeons forming the words "COCA COLA" at the very same piazza some many years ago.
The weather was so scorching that we needed something icy to cool ourselves.
Left: I thought that fruity-berry gelato would quench thirst and fill rumbling belly a little so that would be my first choice.
Right: Mint slushy which truly quenched and refreshed though at times it might tasted like cough mixture.
Slurping slushy by the beautiful white building.
Outfit of the day:
♥ Secret Island floral dress
♥ FleurFaerie Silk Chiffon Flower Hair Clip
♥ Fleurfaerie Mini Rosette Flower Hair Tie in Pink
♥ No label brown sling bag from Bangkok
♥ No label dusty pink flower flip flops from Far East
There was a bazaar along the main waterway and very soon I realised that there was a pattern and system of touts. By the time we explored Florence and Rome, we were already very used to these touts whom we affectionately termed the "opportunists".
The bells in Venice (and in Italy in general as we soon found out) do not chime at the hour or at the half hour. We got pretty confused about when they chimed and many clocks on the clock tower do not depict the actual time. Anyway, kh insisted that that was the Leaning Bell Tower of Venice. Yes, it does seem to lean a little perhaps.
We did not want to visit any museums in Venice and the timing was a little off anyway. Hence, we decided to dine at Ristorante Terrazza del Casin Dei Nobili which was recommend by the owner at Hotel Galleria. We were so hungry that the we wolfed down a soft bread each and finished all the bread sticks.
Soutè di cozze e vongole (mussels and clams in white wine sauce) was the first authentic Italian dish we had since we touched down. Boy, I really love all these shelled stuff in white wine sauce if you don't already know me. We drank every single drop of soup with the huge ladle provided. SLURP! I feel like eating cozze and vongole right now.
Perspective shot... Big bowl of cozze and vongole in relation to kh.
Soaking up the golden rays of the setting sun.
I thought that for my first main course in Italy, I would try how a very simple bolognaise in authentic Italian style taste like. It wasn't too bad.
I forgot what kh ordered.
Our first sunset in Italy. We did not literally see the sun sighing into the horizon though we witnessed the sky transform from solid blue to lovely hues of orange and then to purple and pink of dusk.
Dining in Italy is usually a more than one hour affair as we soon found out over our course of time there. The service at this restaurant wasn't tip top as the wait staff seemed to be always preoccupied with something. Generally it was alright with nothing much to gripe about and the food was comforting. Out of all the al fresco dining restaurant over this stretch of the water, this restaurant was the most packed which probably explained the lack of attentiveness.
I noticed that in European countries, people love to fill up the al fresco dining areas leaving the indoor areas empty. In Singapore, typical Singaporeans always request for the cool indoor ac comfort before filling up the outdoor areas.
From Trip Advisor, there were people opining that the noise from the water traffic, the streets and the Accademia Bridge was distracting for a good night's rest in a non-airconditioned hotel whereby the windows had to be left open. We had no issues with that as we were so tired by the lack of sleep during the long haul flight that we feel asleep almost immediately after we got back from dinner. Even though the room wasn't air-conditioned, the cool breeze from the open window and the ceiling fan cooled us enough for a good night's rest during the summer.
~*Venice Day 2*~
The sun rose at about 6 am and this shot was taken from the window during that time. In-room breakfast was provided but since we opted for it to be served between 8-9am, we decided to head out to the Bridge for our touristy shots first.
It was a cool Monday morning and the bridge was finally empty. The only people walking the bridge were Venetians along their way to work and just a few tourists every now and then. We finally took many shots without people photo-bombing our pictures.
My chi cats with Hotel Galleria in the background. Guess which window belonged to our room?
I've always found the lock practice on bridges very sweet and no, we are not Michael and Kristy.
We could only get into our hotel by ringing the bell. Hence, the poor person at the counter must have had really good bladder and bowels control for him to be at the counter 24/7. By the way, we saw 3 different people at the counter during our 1-night stay and only communicated with the actual owner of the hotel for only a brief period of time. I read that the hosts Luciano and Stefano are really friendly and offer impeccable service.
The smell of breakfast wafted all over the 17th century hallway. The croissants were heavenly.
Left: Kh was intrigued by yoghurt in banana flavour and thought it was quite delicious. I felt that it tasted like fever medicine when we were still young and unable to swallow tablets.
Right: A variety of tea bags were given when I opted for tea.
We were attempting those 17th century way of dining where subjects sit at each side of the table with the chair facing the front.
I haven't the slightest idea if any famous person sat on this exact window ledge but from hotel's homepage, I do know that Robert Browning (English playwright and famous Victorian poet) sat on one of the room's window ledge in 1878. Oh I do hope it is this window sill.
I told kh that there was something very intriguing about this cracked antique mirror. I think part of my soul is already captured in this, like you know a Hocrux. Haha...
Bye bye to this charming little gem and thank you Luciano for helping us to take this shot.
All packed and ready to go.
Outfit of the day:
♥ ClubCouture Regina Crochet Blouse
♥ Cotton On Carissa Inca Tribal Printed Shorts
♥ Louis Vuitton Totally MM
♥ No label brown sling bag from Bangkok
♥ Converse shoes
Our shared luggage for the whole trip with the big one less than half full in preparation for shopping without a shopping list.
On the water taxi with the last white washed Venetian building in sight.
Kh felt that this building called CS Tucky looked a lot like Alcatraz and wanted to take a picture of it no matter what. He said, "Im sure that's the Venice prison." I tried googling about this building which warranted no search result except for an aerial view of the place. It is definitely not a prison. A school or a library perhaps?
The hubby in reality with his iPad.
Jo in "sur-reality" with her wandering mind.
Our shoes had explored Venice. Checked!
Anyway, this shoes photo reminded me of an incident. Throughout our time in Venice (and later in all parts of Italy), kh and I were stared at a lot. And when I mean stare, these people really looked at us blatantly with their heads turning and eyes following us as we walked past them. Some of them continued to look even as we looked at them. The locals, the tourists, the whites, the blacks, the browns and the yellows. I don't mean to be rude with my previous sentence but we noticed that majority of the Caucasians and Asians really eyed us intently like nobody's business. We weren't like the only Asians aliens around in Italy and we certainly did not get stared at so often in Paris and London back then.
When we were at this area which was the main water taxi station, there was a large group of Chinese PRC tourists who kept looking at us and talking amongst themselves. And no, it wasn't because I was weird taking pictures of our shoes. They already locked their eyes on us once they saw us getting down from the water taxi. As I was snapping this shot, a few of them broke away from the group and stood very near us, all this while looking at us. It got a little annoying and I felt like shouting at them "看什么看?!" just to show them that we are Chinese and understood Mandarin even though we aren't PRCs.
Up till now we were still wondering why we were stared at so much in Italy though I kept attributing it to kh's sunglasses which I would talk more about when updating about Florence or Rome.
The drive to Florence was beautiful. There were lots of beautiful landscapes which were hard to capture on a car moving at 130--160km/h and with railings along the highway. Furthermore, whatever beautiful sceneries I saw with my eyes didn't look as good as when captured on photo.
Oh, beautiful Firenze here we come!
I've yet to edit a single photo after Venice and I wonder how long I would take to update the next installment to our Italy travels. I would probably intersperse my blog posts with other updates as soon as my photobucket bandwidth on one account resets itself on the 10th (which is supposedly today).
Nonetheless, stay tuned for more to come. I really love connecting with all of you so keep the comments rolling in! Have a lovely weekend!
Yay! My bandwidth is reset.
This is the post with photos some of you missed due to the bandwidth limit:
Birthday 2013 with My Family