July 6th 2017
Some of you will already have seen the photos of Venice and Donald's 60th birthday celebrations. I am a bit behind with getting the blog out to accompany them. Sorry about that.
We had already taken some group photos at the Cinque Torre above Cortina as Cazz had come up with some great group t shirts, which added to the group bonding, if we ever needed it. I have started the photo album with these as they tie in with the whole birthday event. We left Cortina on June 13th and transferred to Venice. Our car took us to the airport where we connected to Venice itself via water taxi. This was a brilliant experience in itself and gave us great views of Venice whilst experiencing the water highways. The canals are literally the streets in Venice and it was funny to see all the usual street activity with police boats pulling taxis and others over for speeding! We were dropped at the canal just in front of our apartment, which was only 100 yards or so off the Grand Canal. We had booked the Ca Pesaro Premium apartment and there were two separate flats which accommodated the ten of us. I can highly recommend the apartments for quality and location. In the upstairs apartment the air-con works better mind!
On arrival it was Anna's birthday so the Prosecco was opened.
I had last visited Venice briefly in 1983 and back then the Cathedral was covered in scaffolding. This was a more leisurely examination of the city. A list of activities we covered is as follows: The markets are all grouped together and are colourful and vibrant. St Mark's Square is the tourist hub. The Cathedral had no scaffolding this time and we took in the interior. I didn't climb the tower in St Mark's Square (Campanile) as I had gone up last time but the views from there are great. I had viewed the Doge's Palace and the famous Bridge of Sighs last time but took a trip round the interior on this visit. The opulence is staggering, with gold all over the place, beautiful wood, paintings galore, amazing ceilings, all on an overwhelming scale. The biggest room called The Hall of the Great Council is worth the entrance fee on its own.
On the second full day Donald, Brian, Cazz and I took in a boat tour around three nearby islands. Murano (pop. 11,000) was the first stop and we saw an amazing demonstration of glass blowing. On to Burano (pop. 3,000) an amazingly pretty island with multi-coloured houses and a lace making industry. Hard not to take too many photos! The final stop was Torcello (pop. 11!). It was very different and reminded me of the bayous in Louisiana.
On the day of Donald's birthday we took a trip around the Basilica de Frari, which has a stunning interior. The group then split up and whilst the majority visited the Museum of Art, Eddie and I took in the Peggy Guggenheim Museum which is packed out with Dali, Warhol, Picasso, Miro etc. A bit of an antidote to the ancient art with which Venice is dripping.
Another highlight on the day of Donald's birthday was a taxi trip up the Grand Canal, which gave another perspective on the city and avoided overpriced gondolas. Ten of us paid 12 Euros each for a fairly short trip but good value when you see what is on offer elsewhere.
One spectacular experience was on a visit to St Mark's Square. Packed with people a storm suddenly whipped up. Wind and torrential rain in incredible proportions. The whole square emptied in less than a minute and everybody ran for it. We eventually found shelter in a lovely wee place called Pieros, which had old wood and upholstery like a railway carriage, serving us snacks and a cold beer.
Venice is not cheap. This applies to pretty much everything, so not really the best place for the budget traveller. Expect to splash the cash a bit if you visit. However the sea food is fantastic. Dining beside a canal one evening we shared Duck Carpaccio and soft shelled crabs to start and then I had a seafood tortellini main packed with flavour some sea bream. A couple of restaurant names I can remember are Osteria Mocenigova . I had scallops and Tuna Steak. For Donald's birthday we ate at Osteria Boccadoro. We had three rounds of starters of fishy finger food such as razor clams, shrimp, octopus, sea bream and many other dishes, before moving onto a pasta main. On this occasion we had to be taken inside as there was another downpour. We soon got back to our outside table. I don't think we had an average meal the whole time I was there, so all of the above places are highly recommended. The food will make your mouth water and the prices will make your eyes water.
This is a trip that will live long in the memory: a major event in the family which brought us together from all over the world. Four from New Zealand, one from Japan, four from England and myself from the homeland, united in a close bond.
We wish Donald every blessing as he passes another milestone on the road.
Enjoy the photos. Next stop .....A new country for me. Portugal!!!
All the best