We zip down to Florence, Day 19

•June 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Goodbye Florence. Will miss our little mini room, with its canal view and funky courtyard coffee location. Before we go I take a picture of the Bridge of Sighs at the back of the Doges Palace at St Mark’s Square. As per yesterdays’s blog, this particular bridge was the last visual opportunity prisoners had of freedom, before sighing and and going to prison. One of my fave guitar players, Robin Trower, named his most successful 1974 album after this very bridge. And to think that I thought the title of the album was an original stroke of genius. Apparently there is some sort of boating regatta underway today. End result? We have to walk up up to St Mark’s Square to meet our water taxi. Eventually we find a bearded version of Giorgio Armani. On to the water and off to the station. How weird does that sound. Water, railway station? We’re early, but thats good. On to the bullet train. First class on the Euro trains is the way to go. Doesn’t cost that much more. Really a pretty chilled out experience. A cup of tea. Yes. Peanuts. Yes. In actual fact our little 15 minute voyage to the station via Giorgio cost 75 Euros whilst 2 people to Florence on the bullet costs 58 Euros. Sometimes you have to cop the extra expense when you are captive to a particular situation. On the train I read books by Graham Nash and Keith Richards. They appeared to be treating their bodies like amusement parks. Upon getting to Florence we navigate our way out of the station to our hotel, which is virtually next to the station. We dump our stuff and have a bit of a walk around. Its really late in the arvo. We do see Ponte Vecchio bridge in the distance. But we have to eat. We meet a nice couple from San Diego about to return home after a 2 week European sojourn. Back to the hotel. Really bad wifi. Sleep. Off to the Tuscany region tomorrow. A bit of hire car action again

 

we leave our digs in Venice

we leave our digs in Venice

 

bridge of sighs

bridge of sighs

 

inner Florence

inner Florence

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Walking tour, Peggy Guggenheim, Day18

•June 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

We finish our breakfast in a beautiful courtyard connected to hotel. Brilliant. Time to get to the Royal Gardens for the start of our walking tour. A little tour group starts to gather. We are issued with in- ear headphones and a receiver. A few of us struggle with the audio quality, but off we go with a knowledgeable tour guide (3 years training and accreditation). Alot of time is initially spent around St Mark’s  Square, taking in the historical backstories relating to the Doges Palace, the Basillica Church (we actually got to go into the Church briefly) and the admin buildings connected with the Square. Off to the back of the Doges Palace is the Bridge of Sighs, a pathway to one of the Palace prisons that contains windows for a final view of freedom, hence the resultant sighs by the prisoners before they are incarcerated. Inspiration for Robin Trower’s successful album of the same name. We are actually standing in the spot where Venice was established in the third to seventh centuries. Pretty amazing. The history of Venice is one of commercial success, in turn attracting all of the art and investment and architecture. In addition there are massive elements of religion, politics, money and corruption. Sound familiar? We then zip out of the Square and go into the labyrinth of little alleys and canals. Alot of sights. In actual fact all of the backstories seem pretty logical explanations of how certain buildings and events came to be established. Its all about getting the context. We actually saw the house and immediate area where Marco Polo lived in the 12th century. Marco Polo! How good was this? The great merchant traveller/ trader of all traders of his era. Tour finished we make our way back to the Square and grab some lunch. In the afternoon we head for the Peggy Guggenheim art museum. Her own private art collection housed in her former home. For starters, Pollock , Dali, Picasso, Warhol.  Amazing the sort of interests that you can cultivate in life when you don’t have to work and you have unlimited income tumbling in from family mining and smelting interests in the USA.

andy warhol

andy warhol

walking tour

walking tour

 

marco polo's house

marco polo’s house

 

 

 

 

 

Venice is bringing it man!!!!!!, Day17

•June 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

A nice breakfast and out we go. Great to have these breakfasts built into our accommodation. Time to hit St Marks Square and buzz around here for a while. What a sensory overload. People, pigeons, couples getting married, music, coffee, massive queues to get into the Basilica, you name it. Admittedly we are getting here late morning, but the volume of people here is staggering. Its interesting that the borders of the Square itself are full of retail opportunities, with the big names again taking positions in an iconic location. They don’t want to miss anything those brand guys. Clearly they must be getting their quota of  business out of this push to be where the action is. After spending some time here we move around to the back of St Marks to find the Royal Gardens, the starting point for our walking tour at 11: 10 tomorrow. We decide to have lunch and watch the action on the water. Incredible. We weave our way back to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, but we can’t find an ATM. We’ll do the Guggenheim thing tomorrow after our walking tour. We decide to do a gondola ride. How could anyone not do a gondola ride in Venice? We opt for the standard 80 Euro for half an hour ride. After late arvo, the rates go up a little, and you can add in an opera singer, a guitarist or an accordion player. Whatever. Quite a gondola industry exists here. It doesn’t take much to do the math and suss out what these guys might be making per day and per week. But hey this is the birthplace of capitalism. Double entry bookkeeping was invented around here, and Marco Polo based himself here as a merchant trader. Having said that, we did notice a number of gondoliers resting in their respective vessels as we sashayed past them. Tired capitalists? For the rest of the afternoon, we check out the Grand Canal, rustle through a few outdoor markets, grab some coffee and snack on strawberries. Back to the hotel. Out to dinner.

 

gondola ride

gondola ride

Church on the Grand Canal

Church on the Grand Canal

image

St Marks/ wedding

St Marks/ wedding

 

 

 

 

 

Venice man!!!!!, Day 16

•June 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

An early start, no breakfast. A quick goodbye to Marseille. We literally fly along the ground to the airport with our taxi driver, who is a cross between comedian Lenny Henry and Goodluck Jonathan. The term driving doesn’t really fit with what this guy does. I would probably describe it as hollywood stunt work. At the airport with plenty of time to spare. We fly Air France to Venice. After some nice savoury nibbles and a cup of tea, we’re there. We connect with our transfer who was looking for Fary Hodges. Hey thats me, the birthday boy. Must be a bit of transfer humour. Yeah, very funny. After a short wait we are on the water. Strange experience with all of the boats buzzing around. Great feeling. Soon enough we are moving through to the Grand Canal and on our way to our Hotel. We opt for getting out of the transfer speedboat to our hotel, over the top of three gondolas, or is that gondolae? Rock n Roll. Up into our hotel, and into our room. Clearly the smallest room ever built. But, this is Venice man. First world problem. After setting up our phones and ipads we set about calling our girls in Oz. Don’t think the dogs recognised us over the phone. Strange. We take a bit of a stroll around the precinct near our hotel and find a nice spot for some lunch. Our appetites satiated, we start walking. I’m keen to see the Peggy Guggenheim Art Collection at her publicly bequeathed gallery on a canal. We find some great stuff on the way. Alot of very original art work, including glassware, jewellery, clothing and so on. Its getting late in the afternoon so we resolve to check out the Guggenheim thing tomorrow and perhaps do a walking tour as well. I’m asked for a donation to a drug rehabilitation centre. I sheepishly engage with a woman who is, supposedly, an ex heroin addict. Good person? I give a small amount of money and we move on. So much history crammed on to this island. Apparently the printing press was invented here. In regard to the island itself, there are something like 400 bridges and the place was started in the seventh century. Weatherwise they struggle with humidity when the temps ramp up. Back in the hotel I speak with a young guy who has jetted in from NYC for the architecture component of the Venice Biennale, starting today. A pretty cool dude. Very sophisticated. Very Creative. Very stylish. They are probably my first impressions of Venice, along with Very Mind Blowing. Now some dinner for the birthday boy.

 

grand canal?

grand canal?

open air dinning

open air dinning

backyard garden

backyard garden

 

pensive Gazlington

pensive Gazlington

 

 

Transition Day, Marseille, Day 15

•June 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Gee I’m going to miss these euro breakfasts. Late start. Lets get to the station and lets get to Marseille, our one night stop off before flying to Venice. On to the bullet train. All good. Not travelling so bullet like today, but thats ok. Prefer this train thing to trying to navigate a rental car down into Marseille, into a car park over night and then on through peak hour traffic tomorrow morning to the airport. Another old woman on the train with her pooch. Really nice vibe. Sue does her crosswords. I read books by Graham Nash and Keith Richards. Extraordinary stories from these guys with regard to their respective womanising, drug taking and music making. Three hour trip and we’re into Marseille. I decide that I’ve made the right decision on giving the rental car the flick when during our taxi trip from the station to our hotel, a fairly aggressive road rage incident occurs in front of us. One protagonist gets out of his car, then (in a fit of rage) drives into the other car. I’ll repeat that, drives into another car. Bizarre. On to the hotel, and yes, a big hotel room for once. We have a late arvo walk around Marseille. Back to the hotel and out to dinner. Early start tomorrow. Venice man!!!!!!!

rooftop Niece

rooftop Niece

 

la Magoa Church Marseille

la Magoa Church Marseille

 

rooftop Niece

rooftop Niece

 

rooftop Niece

rooftop Niece

 

Car hire, Marseille, Day 14

•June 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

“And so it goes….” (Kurt Vonnegut). Down to the breakfast scene again. A nice vibe. Pretty significant occupancy at the hotel by the looks of things. We discuss the Top Gear type motoring quest before us tomorrow, in terms of driving the rental car from here to our Marseille hotel, organising parking for the vehicle in Marseille and then dropping off the funky eco centric fun wagon to the hire car bay at the airport the following day during peak hour traffic. Nup, we’re not taking this on, particularly after yesterday (we’re not even mentioning the eccentricities of driving in places like Nice and Marseille). We decide we are going to  hand the hire car back and train it, bullet style, to Marseille. After breakfast we head to the station. We purchase 2 tics, first class (don’t want to be interfered with by itinerant gypsies) to Marseille at 12 tomorrow. Done. Now the hire car. We head to the hire car office and explain what we are going to do. No probs. During the course of our little chat with a young female car hire officer, a guy comes in wielding a pram saying that his hire car had to be towed to a garage. He looked pretty reserved until another young female hire car officer  asked a few questions. He then slammed the counter, and started yelling like a stuck pig. The icicles in the office started to form and its 26 degrees outside. Upon witnessing this customer outburst, our car hire officer runs out to look for a gendame. She comes back, they are out to lunch. With all the confusion still going on, she gestures us to move to the office door to try and concentrate. Upon doing this she bursts into tears and we attempt to console her outside the office on the pavement. The dude causing the scene promptly grabs his pram and strolls out and away. After a few minutes we regroup in the office and sort out how we are going to the get rental from the carpark (that we are now paying for on a daily basis) down through the narrow streets of Nice to the hire car garage. Up to the carpark. We negotiate the path to the hire car garage. Done. Back at 2:30pm we notice. Nice siesta? On to the promenade for some lunch. Back to the car rental scene. A few Euros paid and its all done. After ingesting quite a bit of water I head for a urination station. We discover some sort of excretion paradise in a public park area. Down a few stairs and I notice a woman supervising this little bathroom type oasis taking .50 euros per_and watering some plants. A bizarre but tranquil scene. Time for some more walking. I pick up a Nice T and we walk around exploring the outer reaches of the Nice Centre. Suns out. Heaps of jets coming into Nice airport every 3 mins. This place is set to really explode in a few weeks. Back to the hotel. Out to dinner at one of the hundreds of eateries in Nice. A cruisey couple of days after some fairly structured exploration at Dubai, London and Paris. Really looking forward to Venice day after tomorrow. I believe they started building it in the seventh century. In the meantime, Marseille beckons tomorrow.

photo booth?

photo booth?

main roundabout in Nice

main roundabout in Nice

more labels

more labels

After all of that, something to soothe one’s nerves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monaco and Hire Cars, Day 13

•June 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

A new  breakfast location downstairs within our latest hotel, and yes, we have toast. OJ, cereal, scrambled eggs, toast and tea. Down the hatch. Off to get some sandwiches for our trip down the coast. Another discovery…….the supermarket. Next we decide to sort out the hire car thing. Parking in Nice is at an absolute premium. We need to find and step out the car park recommended by the hotel. We’ve got a car to sort out now. Car park sorted. Check. Down to the promenade and into the Europa Car offices. After locating our passports, we pick up the car, some sort of funky eco centric Citroen. Lets get this bad boy started. What is going on with these keys? We seek some assistance from someone devoid of interpersonal skills. Oh, I see the keys (for want of a better word) plug into the dash and you press the start button. Right, right, righty, right, right. Silly us. Whats the story with the sat nav? Again we seek some help, but for some unknown reason we can’t with the assistance of a Europa Car representative put in Monaco as a destination. Take the coastal rd we are advised. Sue and I look at each other, and decide to give it a go. As we wind our way out of Nice, all seems to be going well. In actual fact all seems to be going too well. The ocean sights are really extraordinary. I can see why the Riviera goes off in summer. As we wind our way into Monaco, the look of the place spells out indulgence and luxury. And now for some parking. We go around in circles attempting to park. This is crazy. In the end we see a sign to Nice and head back frustrated. This is all good, but we are not travelling on the coastal rd, we are now on a toll motorway. And so the drive  gets crazy as we attempt to get back to Nice and hop off at the right spot. No sat nav, a map in French and a lot road signs in French. Hypercrazy. Eventually we get to aim for the Nice city centre and trickle down through the top of town to where we got off the train yesterday. Familiarity. Yes. Now where was that carpark? After some more craziness and abuse from other drivers we get to our carpark. Such a narrow entrance. Up to the 6th floor. All good, except how do you lock this bad boy? Certainly not by standing close to the vehicle and clicking the lock button. Some locals give us a hand. Oh I see, you’ve got to stand well away from the vehicle before locking it. Car locked. Done. We are both ready for a drink. Down to the promenade to gaze out to the ocean. Riveriera. Bang. Time for some shopping. Nice is a bit of a retail label spot, so shopping for normal human wants are a little limited at first glance. You need to look for some shops in some of the side streets. We grab a coffee then head back to HQ. A crazy day. Regret at not walking around the wharfs of Monaco. Is Monaco Nice on steroids? I suppose we’ll never know. Drive to Marseille on Wed, before flying to Venice. Probably no rental car action tomorrow. Kick back day/people gazing day tomorrow?

monaco residential opulence

monaco residential opulence

cruise ships line up to get into Monaco.

cruise ships line up to get into Monaco.

monaco roadway

monaco roadway

looking down the beach

looking down the beach