Getting Lost in Venice

Venice is one of those cities that I’ve spent years drooling over the pictures and reading travel blogs about. Its waterways and bridges have long been plastered on my Pinterest boards. I just had to see it in person and my 27th birthday presented the perfect opportunity for a cultured weekend break.

Before I delve into the details let me just say that the Instagram models or even Pinterest for that matter do not do this incredible city justice. It’s truly a place you need to see with your own eyes to appreciate its intoxicating beauty. Venice is a marvel of engineering, perfectly situated across a group of 118 small islands, separated by canals and linked together by bridges. This city of water is nothing short of a dream land.

I arrived at midnight and even under moonlight, you could still appreciate Venice’s untampered beauty. I stepped off the ferry and was confronted by the breath-taking beauty and romance of the city. Under the moonlight, the buildings were gleaming, standing tall in their ornate grandeur. It felt like I’d stepped back in time. The city is oozing with character and authenticity. There is no pretentiousness. I completely fell in love and our walk through the narrow lanes to our hotel filled me with so much excitement. I couldn’t wait for the sun to rise so I could see the city in its full glory.


I booked to spend 3 full days in Venice. The spontaneity in the way the trip was planned meant that I  didn’t know what exactly I was going to do or see till I got there. Luckily the owner of the gorgeous guest house I stayed in was more than happy to drop her pearls of wisdom about all things fabulous in Venice. This invaluable local insight, in conjunction with the help of the Get Your Guide app helped us make the most of our time there.

So instead of boring you with how we woke up every morning and had breakfast on a terrace overlooking Venice’s tiled roofs and gorgeous canals, I thought I’d just give you a breakdown of the highlights from my perspective.

  The three-island tour.

I usually HATE organised tours. It’s that feeling of being a herded sheep I cannot stand. But this one was so worth it due to the limited time we had. Venice can be overwhelming so sometimes organised activity helps structure your visit. We used the Get Your Guide app to book the tour and it was perfect. All the tour company did was to take us to the location and then they told us what time to come back, so we were free to wander, marvel and explore.

First, we visited the Murano Island where famous Murano Glass makers can be found. The talent on this island is incredible. Watching glass objects made right in front of your eyes is most definitely one for the bucket list. I watched a glass master mold a horse in less than a minute- by hand. It was simply mesmerising. There we had the opportunity to watch a glass blower practice his craft, followed by a tour of the workshop gallery showcasing breathtaking glass items made by the Master Glass Blowers. It’s amazing what you can do with glass, from the fluorescent colored chandeliers to the grand floral mirrors, each petal, and leaf painstakingly crafted in glass. It was all just amazing.

Next, we went to the island of my dreams. Burano. Imagine a rainbow just exploded and covered all the houses in right happy colors. That’s Burano! The houses on this island are an eclectic mix of broad and vibrant colors. Every single house was the backdrop for a stunning picture. Some colors you’d think they’d clash on a normal day but not in Burano. A baby pink house and a fluorescent green house can stand side by side and look like the perfect blend. It was simply amazing.

The last island was Torcello, which confess by the time we got to this island I was TIRED and probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I should. BUT, It was simply stunning and picturesque and had some of the coolest bridges I’d seen in my time in the region. Torcello also had historical churches which were well preserved and I enjoyed the best fast food I’ve ever had there!

 The Libreria Acqua Alta
As an avid reader and lover of book shops and libraries, I couldn’t leave Venice without visiting the Acqua Alta library. It was everything and more. The eclectic mixture of books was a reader’s dream. What makes the bookshop so unique and special is the presentation of the books. In the center of the store you find a gondola packed with books and as you walk around the store you will also find bathtubs filled with books. My favorite pastime is sitting in the bath with a good book. I have so many waters stained books at home so seeing this literature filled baths made my heart smile.

The Gondola
“You can’t go to Venice without going for a Gondola ride”. That’s what everyone back home was saying to me when I told them I was in Venice. Personally, I didn’t see what the hype was about, it’s an overpriced ride on a long boat seeing the exact same sights I can appreciate by foot. But anyway, peer pressure got the best of me and I gave in. We found an experienced deal on the Get Your Guide app for €27. I’m glad I had the experience. It was the perfect goodbye to this incredible city. Everything looked so different when gazing from the water. It was very peaceful and serene as we floated through the canals. The views were spectacular including our hunky gondola driver (I’m sure that’s not what they are called?)! What they say about Italian men is true! Phwoaaarr!!!!!.

 Getting Lost in Paradise
The super cool thing about Venice Is that it’s a pedestrian city. There are so many picturesque narrow alley ways and bridges connecting different parts of the city that it’s easy to just get lost exploring. In almost every square you find something new. A cluster of unique shops or cafes, or my favorite, old grand buildings, and churches with the most amazing doors. I loved wandering into the residential areas, seeing the clothes hanging up high and seeing native Venetians go about their day. They must feel like fish in a bowl. Tourist eyes peering into their private courtyards with vulgar curiosity. I’d have loved an opportunity to go into one of their homes.


Now I can rave about the beauty of Venice all day long but I must highlight at least one thing that annoyed me. Venice is EXPENSIVE!!!!! Getting food alone particularly in the more central parts is costly. Every restaurant seems to have an obligatory 12% service charge (but I must say the service is top notch, everywhere I went I felt welcomed and the waiters were consistently attentive) and an extra charge, ‘Coperto’ which is basically a charge for you sitting down. The mistake we made was going to eat in St Mark’s Square, as its more central, it’s pricier. I suggest eating at around lunch time where the lunch menus are a bit cheaper. On a positive note, the food was incredible, I can still taste the mouth-watering carbonara I had on my first day. And the Bellini!!!!! OMG, that was just wow.

Oooooh and the freaking pigeons. OMG! Now everyone who knows me knows I have a profound phobia of winged creatures. The St Mark’s Square area is infested with the flying rats and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw people having them perch on them and posing. One particularly distressful episode was when I was happily enjoying my Lasagne on one of the terraces and the woman on the adjacent table decided it was a good idea to start feeding her bread to the already obese pigeons. They were flapping all around my legs I almost had a heart attack. So, if you’re like me and you hate pigeons then avoid eating around St Mark’s Square.

But other than those minor annoyances, Venice is spectacular and I highly recommend you go.

Here are some bonus snaps just for you 🙂


 

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Discovering Bulawayo’s Chill

I’m sure a lot of native Zimbabweans would agree that Bulawayo is THE coolest most chilled city in the country. I’ve seen Bulawayo described as a ‘hidden jewel under the sun’ and this is so true. It’s a beautifully laid back city, full of character and its residents are unapologetically busting with style, charm, and personality.

Just driving through Bulawayo, you fall in love. The wide tree lined streets, the towering street lamps (a bit of trivia; Bulawayo had electric lights before LONDON in 1897) and the charming colonial architecture all add to the city’s appeal.

When I last visited, I decided to spend one full day being a tourist. My day started at the Bulawayo National Gallery. The gallery is housed in one of the city’s grandest buildings, an imposing 100-year-old Edwardian double-terrace. There, I had breakfast in the courtyard surrounded by some of Zimbabwe’s artsiest and brightest. The café was buzzing with creativity and talent. My eaves dropping self-was overwhelmed by the diversity of cool spilling out of my fellow diner’s mouths. The overall vibe in there was just infectious. This was followed by a tour of the gallery which showcases some the best of Zimbabwean creativity. From the old to the contemporary sculptures and paintings there’s something for every artistic palette.

Next, I decided to take a stroll through Centenary Park. It was once regarded as one of the city’s best tourist attractions and leisure spots. As a child, I remember it being the go to place for lovers. You’d see them walking around hand in hand, posing for photos by the flowers. It was also the venue for almost every wedding photo shoot. On any given Saturday, you’d see car after car of motorcades filled with bridal parties zooming through the streets, car horns and music blaring all the way to the park. The atmosphere was euphoric. I’m sure countless couples have a wedding photo in front of that iconic circular water fountain.

Centenary Parks signature water fountain.

I’d last been in the park as a child when my parents got married but I’ve never really seen it. Sadly, over time the park has become dilapidated and overgrown; but the beauty in its design and landscape is still apparent. Walking around, I stumbled upon an old mini railway track going around the park and a mini golf course.  As I walked through further I found old water fountains and ponds, even a small pond for sailing model boats. It was like walking into a ghost town, nature is slowly reclaiming it. Standing there I could picture how it must have been when it was fully functional and families coming to spend time. It’s now disappointingly a place for vagrants and truanting school kids. But on a positive note, the lovers are still there, not as many as before but they are there, posing for photos in front of the fountain and on the grass. It warmed my heart to see them, it showed that the park though on life support still has a glimmer of life. I’d love to see it restored to its former glory one day.



Also in Centenary Park is the Natural History Museum. It’s an imposing circular building which has always fascinated me. Though the exhibitions are a little tired, I was quite impressed by how well preserved everything is. The museum is very well set out and tells the history of Zimbabwe from pre-colonial times to independence in a visually stimulating way. We paid for a guide who was extremely knowledgeable and gave us an animated tour. From the images to the models it was a captivating few hours. The most interesting exhibits were the exhibit of life in pre-colonial Zimbabwe, the mine replica, followed by the live reptile collection, then the Zeederberg Coach that colonial settlers used to travel in and lastly the Gun Carriage used to carry the infamous Cecil Rhodes body up to his final resting place.

The Gun carriage that carried Rhodes to his final resting place.

Traditional Medicine
The coaches used by colonial settlers
An African Warrior
Natural History Museum, Bulawayo

I finished off my day with a lunch time meal at the Indaba Book Café. As a  lover of books, this café was the perfect resting place. The food was incredible and the friendly staff made it even better. The collection of books was also very impressive, a perfect place to get acquainted with local writers.

There’s so much more to be discovered about Bulawayo beyond these highlights and I look forward to telling you more about it, hopefully, I can inspire you to visit one day. It’s also worth mentioning that Bulawayo is the gateway to some of Zimbabwe’s most famed tourist attraction. Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, and Matopos are not too far.

Join me on my travels from Zimbabwe to the World