...pound the cobbled streets and crowd the ferries zig-zagging their way up and down the Grand Canal in Venice. Everywhere you look there are tour guides holding up their umbrellas, shops selling Venician masks and gelati, pizza restaurants, museums and throngs of people speaking every language imaginable.
During our long weekend as part of the throngs, we contemplated the draw of Venice. Why do so many people see Venice as an essential European experience? There are so many wonderful cities in Europe with a rich history, beautiful architecture and picturesque canals. But it is hard not to be enthralled; the numerous waterways and bridges and the beautiful gelati-coloured buildings, along with the museums and art have lead to it being a World Heritage site and the warmer weather (at least compared to London), the ability to get lost despite all the people and all the pizza/pasta/gelati you can eat are a definite bonus.
We spent our Queen's Jubilee weekend doing very little but walking around, although we did find some time for a little shopping and quite a lot of gelati eating. Our room was in a sweet 4 star hotel and we had a view over the Grand
Canal which was beautiful. But, our bed was so big and our room was so small that only one of us could stand up at a time, you had to sit and have a shower because the eaves were so low and the TV didn't work, but we didn't really mind, the view made the sacrifices worth it.
The crowds hanging around in Piazza San Marco
outside St Mark's Basilica put us off trying to get in, but intent on doing something 'cultural' we entered the Doge's Palace which was not disappointing. The Doge was the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice and his palace is nothing if not grand. Built in the Venecian Gothic style around a large courtyard, it has intricately painted ceilings and frescoes in many of the rooms, it also gives you access to walk through the famous Bridge of Sighs, which connects the Doge's Palace to the prison.
After our fill of culture we did a little shopping. Venetian shopping is quite good depending on your tastes. Leather is cheaper here than in many places in Europe and glass ware and masks are everywhere. Italian foods such as pasta and olive oil
are lined along many of the most popular walkways and when we weren't having a beer by a canal or a glass of wine with some pasta, we may have been avoiding one of the few afternoon downpours by looking in the shops.
We also managed a trip out to the famous glass-making island of Murano. Although not particularly interested in Murano glass it was a chance to see a different aspect of Venice, to lose ourselves next to different canals. Murano itself is very pretty, it has the lovely canals and pretty pastel buildings but is more relaxed and lacks the granduer of the much larger Venice. We strolled, ate seafood and gelati and enjoyed the sun and the sea breeze.
These weekends in which we manage to pop off and visit somewhere in Europe make us want to pack our bags again and get back on the road - but at this point in time it isn't possible, so we will have to make do with our brief visits to see sunshine and eat gelati.
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