ITALY

Florence In The Eye Of The Beholder

I spent less than 48 hours in Florence as it was a last-minute add-on.  As the days leading up to the trip were rather hectic, any sort of planning that could have been done – wasn’t.  Instead I decided that no real sense of direction was going to be the best plan for me so I stepped off the train in Florence and decided I was going to roam the streets armed with a map and a camera.  As usual, the map did very little to help me but the camera on the other hand was what made my aimless roaming worthwhile.

I fell hard for doors in Florence - this was the first and probably my favourite of the photos

I fell hard for doors in Florence – this was the first and probably my favourite of the photos

Don’t get me wrong, once the lady running the B&B found out about my plan, she took my map and circled all the must-dos in Florence to ensure that I did and saw as much as I could in my short time.  As it was closest to where I was staying, I was instructed to start with the Piazza del Duomo and then make my way around to the other important building and museums around town.  Being the good girl that I am, I did as I was told.  Sure the Piazzas with their beautiful buildings and the museums containing amazing works of art were all checked off my list along with the Ponte Vecchio bridge and a quick tour around Boboli but these weren’t the things that left a lasting impression on me.  Looking back on my photos, the ones that make me smile now aren’t the ones that resemble the postcards or look like the pictures that every other tourist snapped but are the quirky ones taken at the random as I found myself lost in yet another city.

A bin with personality!

A bin with personality!

I use the term lost quite lightly as Florence isn’t really big enough to get lost in.  Essentially, when I tired of pulling out my map just to learn that I had gone a few blocks in the wrong direction, I decided the best thing to do was to just kept walking around until it was time for another gelato break.  The one catch with the gelato is that there are places that can be a little pricier than a scoop of gelato ever should be.  The reason why I bring this up is because I saw a cafe showing off its gelato goods without prices in a window display and before I knew it, I was clutching onto a 2 scoops in a waffle cone in one hand while I was raffling through my wallet to come up with the 9 euros that damn cone just cost me with the other!  Just encase you’re curious, I was close to the Ponte Vecchio and later found out that I wasn’t the only one I knew that fell victim to this window display either.

The White Tree - Favourite Tree in Giardino di Boboli

The White Tree – my favourite thing in Giardino di Boboli

All in all, my trip to Florence was short but sweet.  I did a lot more than I thought I would have the moment I walked off that train and I had gotten just enough of a taste to know that this is a region worth returning to when it warms up a little outside.

Wrong turn and I wound up here...

Wrong turn and I wound up here…

 

Categories: ITALY, italy: florence | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Snow Day – Seriously?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m fully aware that it’s still winter and being winter, there’s always a chance of snow.  For some strange reason though, there was a bit of a disconnect from the obvious and what goes on in my head and I didn’t believe that there would be any chance that the fluffy white stuff would impact my Venice Carnival trip in any shape or form.  Once again, I was very, very wrong!

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It all started out in the morning when we opened the front door to step out for the day and noticed that there were a few random flurries in the air.  Nothing to worry about as it looked minor and so we made our way to Piazza San Macro to catch a glimpse of all the action before heading to the meet up spot for our gondola ride.  Upon arrival to Piazza San Macro, we realized that the snow was getting heavier and nobody was hanging out in the otherwise crowded piazza.  The smarter people had decided to take cover where they could and taking another look around, we came to the realization that there didn’t seem to be any gondolas on the water either.

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As we stood there shivering and wondering what to do next, it didn’t dawn on us that our gondola ride would be cancelled.  After all, we had made the effort to come in full costume to make the most out of the experience and had decided that the photos of us on the water would just so much better if it could really start snowing hard.  After another hour outside roaming about, we finally made the executive decision that enough was enough and that we were cold.  So we did the only thing 2 Canadian girls in full Venetian outfits could do – eat!

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After a 2 course meal that allowed us to warm up enough to face the elements once again, we decided it was best to give the tour organizers a call before making our way to the Gondola Park.  Thankfully we did, as we found out that they were going to cancel the event for the day due to high tides and snow.  This information was followed by the advice of go somewhere inside and stay warm today.  And that was it – Venice had decided to call it a snow day.  There was a light dusting on the ground with just a threat of a bit more snow but it was like we were roaming around in a ghost town.   Some shops were closed while other storekeepers were trying to figure out how best to clear the snow with their brooms.  The crowded streets were empty except for a few hooligans goofing around in wannabe snowball fights as they struggled to stay upright.  It was comical and entertaining but nevertheless, my last full day in Venice was cancelled due to the weather conditions.  It was sad but maybe just the excuse I was looking for to return – after all, who can say they’ve been to Venice without experiencing a gondola ride right?

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Categories: ITALY, italy: venice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lost On The Mean Streets Of Venice

I’ve been told that getting lost in Venice is the best way to discover all the city has to offer.  I’m not sure if friends have fed me these lies due to my ability of getting lost while trying to navigate my way out of a paper bag or if there’s actually some truth behind it all.  Sadly, it didn’t take long to figure this out first hand as all it took was one wrong turn near the Rialto Bridge before we were lost in the alleyways and piazzas on the mean streets of Venice.  Before the mistake occurred, we stood at Piazza San Marco and talked about having enough time for a nice long gelato break during the slow stroll back to our flat to get ready for the festivities that evening.  Fighting words may have been tossed around regarding a quick nap as well to help us cope with long night ahead of us as well.  What we didn’t account for was the one wrong turn that would change a 15 minute stroll into an hour-long journey where we were the equivalent of 2 mice running around in a labyrinth.  There were actual signs and homemade signs for the challenged and still everything looked the same but different.  We weaved right and then left and tried to follow the signs to the best of our ability but knew that we had no idea where we were and the clock was ticking away ever so quickly.  We were cold.  We were tired.  And most importantly, we were without gelato.

With all the canals and gondolas everywhere - every turn looked the same!

With all the canals and gondolas everywhere – every turn looked the same!

Eventually, we finally found ourselves at a recognizable bridge near the train station.  Turns out we had practically walked every inch of Venice that we could have that afternoon and overshot our flat by 30 minutes in the wrong direction.  Nevertheless, we knew that we only had another 30 minutes left to walk before we were home.  The sad part was that since we had wasted so much time walking around aimlessly, all we could do was dash into the flat and do a quick 5 minute change before we had to rush out the door once again.  The only outstanding problem was that we had no idea where our next event was.  This being the case, we did the only imaginable thing in this situation – called a friend.  The friend we were meeting up with had already sourced our how we were going to get to the next location and due to her getting lost earlier in the day as well – she made the brilliant decision to jump onto a water bus that would drop us off exactly where we needed to meet up with the group.  Ahhh, if we had only thought of this mode of transportation hours before than that quick power nap might have actually happened.  Oh well, you win some…you loss some but I doubt I’d go as far as saying that this was the best way to discover the city.

 

Categories: ITALY, italy: venice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

100% Eye Candy

Words can’t describe the brilliance I’ve witnessed.  Sure, before leaving for the Venice Carnival, I knew I was in for people watching at it’s finest but what I saw simply blew me away.  After 2 flights and a shuttle bus, I found myself smack dab in the middle of all the carnival action.  On arrival the weather was mild and the professionals and festival merry goers all paraded around in their best get-ups of the day.  There were face painting stations set up all over the windy streets and vendors selling everything from the simple 2 euro masks to the elaborate outfit that made you look like one of the professionals.  On top of that, the homemade costumes and creativity that went into them were simply amazing.  The variation was extreme from 6’4″ men pretending they were Batman (trust me, I use the term pretending lightly) to costumes so complex that it looked as though they had taken all year to make.

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Right off the bat, I got an eyeful and without a shadow of a doubt, knew that my decision to attend the Venice Carnival was hands down one of the smartest things that I’ve done all year.  The outfits were so magnificent that it was hard not to get swept up in all the excitement and start dressing the part myself.  Yes, I started collecting masks and capes like nobody’s business and wound up in a handful of tourist photos myself (posing ever so badly I might add) but at the end of the day, it was my inner paparazzi that kicked some serious ass!

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Sorting through what I liked the most has turned out to be a difficult task at this hour and so I’ve just chosen my favourite images that I haven’t plastered all over instagram whenever I could get a little wi-fi in my life.  Despite my love of photography, I was armed with nothing but the simplest of all of the point and shoot cameras (one that I lovingly refer to as the terminator due to the “damage” it endured in Berlin) and an iPhone.  Granted, I was rather jealous of all the digital SLRs surrounding me and wishing I had the ability to pull focus like a mofo as well but reminded myself that I’m not on assignment and to sit back and enjoy all that was around me.

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With all the activities going on, that was simple enough to do.  After a crazy photo shoot, we would duck into some food spot (truth be told, most likely anywhere that was serving gelato) to chill out and regroup before heading back out into the crowd once again.  My plan for Venice Carnival was to just get a taste of what it was like and that’s exactly what I did.  We participated in a handful of events, dressed up like complete nutters ourselves as well as showed full appreciated to those who did it well.  All in all, I would have to say that this is one of those events that everyone should attend once in their lifetime.

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Categories: ITALY, italy: venice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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