Venice, Italy

Northern View from the Rialto Bridge

*Yet another delayed travel posting, this trip was in August 2010

The first thing I noticed about Venice is that it really is just that exquisite. The second thing I noticed was how this beautiful place had clearly taken the slave role in its relationship with tourism.

It was August, and the peak of tourist season. While I had been warned that the canals often smell on hot days, I never noticed. What I did notice were so many bad tzotches for sale, restaurants selling pizza with laminated multi-language menus. and so many fanny packs.

Yes, I’m a hypocrite… sort of. I love to travel, and I think that people should sieze every opportunity they have to go experience new places and cultures.

A Garbage Boat

Thing is,  I think tourism can ruin a place when it ceases to be a place where real people live.  In Venice, the real estate prices are so high, many flats are owned by foreigners. The venues aren’t open late because staff vacates the city via the last commuter trains. I only saw one supermarket in nearly a week of walking around. Where does one buy cleaning products?

Restaurants, and really, everything is extremely expensive, as it all has to come in via boat and trolley.

Thus, I found myself feeling a bit guilty, as I wandered around wishing that half, or really, all of  the people would go away.

So, some highlights…

Starting with my favorite, The Culinary:

Bancogiro's Lamb Carbonara

After a few nights of food that would be regarded as mediocre for the price point, we discovered what we nicknamed the Golden Stretch. The Golden Stretch is several restaurants, all in a row, Northwest of the Rialto Bridge.

1. Osteria Bancogiro: The best Carbonara I’ve had outside of Rome, and theirs had the unusual twist of lamb. I actually went and ordered this dish twice.

Me & Al Pesador's Almond Pudding

2.  Al Pesador: I love this restaurant, and it was my favorite. The service was impeccable and welcoming and the food excellent  both times we dined. The restaurant has no cold storage and sources all of its food daily. During our last meal, I had an almond pudding that may have changed my life. The Insalata Caprese  was the best I’ve ever tasted.

3. The restaurant next door to Bancogiro that isn’t Al Pesador: While we very much enjoyed this venue and would recommend it, go to the other two first. The food was nice, but I’m not still dreaming about it. I’ll keep trying to dig up the name

Al Merca

and right around the corner from the stretch…

4. Al Merca: (Campo Cesare Battisti, San Polo 213) is a storefront wine bar serving sandwiches, wines by the glass and wine cocktails (ex: +aperol or campari)

5. Grom: Of the many gelatos I ate over the course of the week, this was definitely a favorite, specifically the dark chocolate flavor.

Of course, there are the museums and churches: (Unfortunately for me, as with many of the museums and cathedrals, photography was forbidden, so check out the weblinks)

Darren outside of San Rocco

If you enjoy modern art, The Peggy Guggenheim Collection (right) is a must see. Not only is the collection impressive, but this personal collection is located in the late philanthropist’s home.

Piazza San Marco offers the The Doges Palace was home to the city’s chief magistrate and of civic activity. It is linked to a prison, whose inmates included Casanova,  via the Bridge of Sighs. As the queues to enter San Marco itself and the tower were massive, we opted to eat gelato instead.

The Frari is definitely a must see as well. This Italian Gothic Cathedral includes works by a number of noted artists including,  Donatello, Vivarini, Bellini, Titian, and Canova; the latter two are entombed there as well. Unfortunately for me, as with many of the museums and cathedrals, photography was forbidden.

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is covered in Tintoretto frescoes. Make sure you take advantage of the mirrors provided upstairs, as they make lengthy views of the extraordinary ceiling much easier.

Rialto Bridge

Other stuff:

In terms of accomodations, we stayed at the Centurion Palace, a beautiful but at times impractical hotel, located on the Southern Island. Getting to and from the airport, we opted for a combination of car service and water taxi. The water taxis are pricey, but I so enjoyed my ride to the airport on one. It seems the most efficient and easiest way to go.

View from the Water Taxi

The thing I enjoyed most in Venice, in addition to all the eating and art history was simply walking around, stepping away from the beaten path and taking the place in, admiring beautiful buildings and ornate bridges.

By the end of trip, days and days of walking left us comfortably knowing our way around, but still, I kept spotting new and wonderful architectural details about this city.


Red and Multicolor Knit Stitch Scarf

The whole thing, folded.

So, I’ve finally finished a second thing, which is an accomplishment, given my tendency to start 5 things at a time.

I made this scarf for my friend, Elisabeth, who visited us for Thanksgiving. When I saw this yarn, at the store, she immediately came to mind.  The picture on the left better shows the yarn’s coloring.

The Details

It’s all knit stitch, using a US 15 sized set of needles. There was no pattern, just 44 stitches across and two skeins of yarn.

I found that using larger needles, it was much easier to identify the cause of mistakes, as well as fix them, because the stitch is a bit more loose.

Next, I’ll actually make something that involves purling.

Tiny Iced Cakes

As  a part of my efforts to appreciate my new free time, I signed up for a few baking courses.

I had my first one, “Mini Iced Cakes” today at Cakes 4 Fun, and it lived it up its name. I had a blast. Our instructor, Rachel, was lovely, and our small class of seven students proved to be a fun group.

In the course, we learned how to level, shape, fill, and ice our cakes, plus how to roll fondant icing, sculpt flowers and bows, and other fun decorative stuff.

One thing was very clear at the end of the day… decorating cake is far more fun than my old day job.

Remembrance Day Poppies

One tradition I’ve observed here that I really like is the wearing of poppies on Remembrance Day.

In the weeks leading up to the 11th November  holiday, poppies like the one in the photo are sold by volunteers or available at store tills (registers) in exchange for a donation to veterans’ charities.

While writing this post, I read that similarly is done in the US, I have never seen it, really.

In England, however, seemingly everyone buys and wears one.  It’s nice to see so many people participating in this show of support for the members of the armed forces who have protected and continue to protect us.

Hastings, UK

View from West Hill

As I’m basking in having a bit of extra free time, I’m catching up on some travel notes. This trip to Hastings actually occurred back in July, so I’m only four months late in finishing this posting.

We headed to Hastings on a 915 train arriving around 11 and headed directly towards the Blue Reef Aquarium.

Hastings Snack

We were deterred only by an inquiry about Winkles and Cockles, which was immediately answered by immediate provisioning by Darren. For the record, these are like little snails. We ate, decided we collectively liked them, and remained focused on getting to the Aquarium.

The Blue Reef Aquarium has a reasonable collection, and we enjoyed our wander thoroughly, especially the sea horses.

We wandered out, nearly caved in for snack two, and wandered over to the Shipwreck Museum. If you ever wondered how a crate of muskets lost at sea might have looked after many years, this is definitely a must see. The exhibits cover several local shipwrecks and the recovered contents thereof. For the record, the Shipwreck Museum is very close to the Hastings Lifeboat Center.

It was around this time that we actually were derailed by the prospect of ice cream, but actually indulged in a beer and decided to go for lunch after a walk on the temporarily sunny beach. The restaurant we planned to visit,  Maggie’s, which supposedly has the best fish and chips in Hastings, was booked all day, so we admitted defeat and opted for a nearby option,Webbe’s. Webbe’s had a completely reasonable lunch offering, and the massive portions left us all in a bit of a food coma.

East Hill Funicular

After a mighty lunch, we went to the Fisherman’s Protection Society museum before taking the East Hill Cliff Railway, one of two funicular railways in Hastings.

The clouds cleared just for Vera & Roland.

From the top of the East Hill, we finally had our ice cream, enjoyed the view, and took an unplanned path down the hill to return to town.

The town center has lots of cute shops and restaurants, which we wandered in and out of while heading to the other funicular railway on the West Cliff.

Up the West Hill Cliff Railway lies Hastings Castle and the Smuggler’s Adventure. The Smuggler’s Adventure is a tour of St. Clements Caves, which were used by smugglers in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The attraction itself is very geared for kids, with lots of games in the exhibits, but the caves are still very interesting to see.

After taking the funicular back down, we went to the waterfront, which has all the trappings of a beach town: minigolf, arcade games, rides, and of course, even more ice cream, before heading back home.

Top Secret Evil Lair Selected


I'd ride this escalator all day whilst cackling madly.


I’ve often considered what sort of top secret lair I’d have if I were a supervillian, doesn’t everyone?

Today, Central Park’s Belvedere Castle was usurped by this… escalator to Earth’s core, discovered at London’s Museum of Natural History.

It’s all part of the Visions of Earth Exhibit. Feel free to check it out, but I called first dibs! It’s an ideal lair. I could easily see the enemy approaching, via the escalator, of course, and it’s conveniently located next to the snack bar. Happiness!

Orange Scarf


I made it!


I’ve been teaching myself to knit, with a little help from the internet and more recently, my mother. After many attempts, I finally stopped unpicking everything I made and decided to finish something.

That something is this little scarf, which I made for my friend’s son. I’m not 100% sure I’ll send it, as I’m also making one for his sister, and I won’t be mailing them for a little bit.

I think a little more practice and maybe some stripes would be a good idea.

This scarf is all knit stitch, as I’m better at knit than purl. I probably should have practiced the stitch to remove the scarf from the needles beforehand, but it worked out well enough.