Category Archives: Venice

Comedy Mask Tower

On August 27, 2012, Ivan and I got breakfast at the buffet.  Lil Dave decided to find some monkey friends on the cruise ship instead of going into Venice with us.

We got the vaporetto (water bus) right to St. Mark’s Square which was a company had running right from the cruise port which was very convenient.

We did the St. Mark’s Clock Tower tour that Ivan booked. 


It was really cool!!  It was only us and a Japanese couple and they looked and sounded like they couldn’t understand a single word of English, so in essence it was just us on the tour!  We love small tours since it’s private and feels very intimate.  The tour guide Elena was very nice.  She explained the parts of the clock.  The wing lion is above the church and the next to the lion was the Doge.  The Doge was the duke of Venice for over a thousand years.  The Venetians didn’t want to be part of Italy…  The Doge was removed though by Napoleon when Venice was taken over by the French.   At the top of the tower there’s a terrace with two Moors who ring the bell. 

There are beautiful views of St. Mark’s Square from the clock. 


They have a procession twice a year with the 4 statues that a man does – he’s supposed to check on the clock once a week as well. 


In the old days, the doge got the engineer to run the clock and got asked to live in the clock to run it.  The engineer asked if he could bring his family – so for payment, he got a big apartment inside a clock tower.  The clock was run from family to family for over 500 years, but then the last guy didn’t want to do it, even though his dad really enjoyed it. 


So, it was bought by a company and now it’s mostly digital.  It was done manually to wind the clock and the bells which took 5 minutes every hour.  The digital clock was created in 1858 inside it which was the first digital clock in Europe.

The group headed to the roof and got to see the two men with the bells.  What a beautiful view of Venice from up there. We could see all the crowds below in St. Marks square and we felt rather smug to be standing on top of this tower with just a few other people, rather than with the huge crowds below!!!


I really enjoyed the clock tower tour.  If you’re ever in Venice, you should check it out. 

Our mask making class was up next.  We were running late so we had to rush to the class.  It didn’t really matter since it was only us taking the class at that time.  There were already a group of kids making masks in the back.  First, we had to choose what kind of mask we’d like to paint on – there was a bit variety like jesters, cats and the masks with big noses (which is my favorite!).    Ivan picked the guy with the big nose and I picked a cat.

We got to choose a technique with different color combinations that were on the wall.  The lady told us how to do it with the paint colors we picked. 

So, we colored with one color of paint and then went over it with the next color.. which created a new color.  We had to dry it with a hair dryer.. and then we got to put detail on it with black. 


The lady gave us a sheet that had different examples of what you could do.  I took some of the ideas and added some of my own. 

Next, it was time to dry again and then varnish the mask and dry it.


The last step was putting on silver or gold.  We both picked gold.  At the end, we got to pick two different color (or the same if we wanted) ribbons for the holes.  I really like my mask, I think I did a great job. 


What do you think?  Ivan’s turned out good as well.


Next, we went souvenir shopping and then had a snack at a cicchetti place.  Then, we decided to get gelato at Grom.  This time we had cones with two scoops: I had chocolate sorbet (cioccolato extranoir) and lemon while Ivan had chocolate sorbet and raspberry. 

We got the water bus (vaporetto) and then the People Mover which is 1 Euro per person back to the port.  Ivan had food from the Indian tandoori.  I got a tasty cheeseburger at Guy’s Burger Joint (Guy Fieri from Food Network).  I made it with sautéed onions, banana peppers and chipotle mayo.

We went to the pool and checked out all the slides Twister and Drainpipe.  The best time to go on the slides is around 5:30 pm since people are getting ready for dinner and it’s really quiet.  Ivan always checks it to see how long the line is – we don’t like waiting in line for a long time.

We chilled in the jacuzzi and read our books. 

We had espresso before heading to dinner.  Ivan changed our dinner table so we would have a table on the main floor since it’s good to be part of the action.  Unfortunately, we had a horrible table of French Canadians who ignored us and barely spoke to each other even though they were a family.  I don’t know if they knew any English or not – my guess was no.  It was nice to hear Ken singing and actually see him from this table.  There was also dancing from the waiters and servers.  Ivan and I were sure that we’d try to find another table.  Hopefully, it would be better than this one.. Ivan thought it couldn’t be any worse which I thought it actually could be.

There was time to spare after the meal, so we went to the room to chill before heading to the comedy show at 10:45 pm.

The first comedian was a large black man named Thomas Brown who was hilarious.  The second guy was named Dwight Slade.  He made fun of us since we were sat in the front row.  He said we were boring… how could you really tell by asking us one question.  He was quite mental and funny.. not as funny as the first guy though.


Windy Carnival

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up early at 9 am on August 26, 2012 and packed everything up.  We said good-bye to Gabrielle and left the apartment.

The weather was overcast and it would probably rain later.  We took the bus and then the vaporetto (water bus) to the People Mover. 

The People Mover takes you right to the port – we got on that and proceeded to the luggage check-in for the Carnival Breeze.  We are taking a 12 day cruise through the Mediterranean with Carnival’s newest cruise ship.  Ivan told me to head to the check-in in case there was a line.  Thankfully, there wasn’t a big line since we were really early.  It can be an hour or more wait later in the day.  I was trying to get in and I said I’m waiting for my husband – the lady didn’t want to let me in..I told her he’d be a second since he went to put our big backpacks in the check-in.  Good thing, a manager was there next to her.. she said it was fine to let me through.  The lady is dumb because I could have checked in without him.  Some people don’t know about customer service.

We were on board at 11:30 am – but the rooms wouldn’t be ready for 30 minutes.  Ivan and I were really hungry and got food made at the Mongolian Wok at the Lido Marketplace (buffet).  The line wasn’t line since not many people were on board.  I got mine with Thai BBQ sauce with lots of vegetables and thin noodles. 

It was time to check out the room.  Our room was a lot bigger than our last Carnival cruise.  We checked out the balcony.  Ivan and I were really tired since we didn’t sleep much last night.  We took a long 2 hour nap. 

We started unpacking everything.  It’s great to be in a spot for such a long time – usually we’re moving around so much it’s pointless to unpack if you’re only staying a night or two in a city.

We took this Carnival cruise because we love the cruise director John Heald and his funny assistant Calvyn Martens.  Unfortunately, before the cruise started we heard through John’s blog that he wouldn’t be on the Carnival Breeze because he was having surgery.  We were really bummed about this since he was one of the main reasons we were doing this cruise.  He’ll be on the ship during the end of the cruise.. but he won’t be cruise director probably since he needs to take it easy after the surgery.  The cruise director is Butch Begovich who we’ve actually seen before on the Carnival Dream.  He’s a great cruise director.. but we think John Heald is HILARIOUS!!  John is also very down to earth and he’s from a city near where Ivan grew up in Essex, England.. and funnily enough he now lives in Southend-on-Sea, England where Ivan’s parents live. 

We checked out the cruise ship – it’s always so quiet on the first day so it’s a perfect time to take pictures.  The Liquid Nightclub looks like space or something from the future.


It got really windy at one point.  The chairs outside were moving and the divider which is a divider for the next balcony came undone.  It got foggy as well.  We looked outside and there was a boat that wasn’t docked correctly and we saw it keep moving.  The Carnival Breeze was moving as well since the bad weather.  The boat crashed into the Carnival Breeze and the little boat got hit and started leaking oil.  The storm passed really quickly.. about 30 minutes.  We’ve never seen anything like it.  Thank goodness we weren’t on a vaporetto (water bus) at the time – that would have been scary!!

The cruise director Butch made an announcement saying that the gangway was closed and the Carnival Breeze had to move because of the high winds.  There was no mention of getting hit by the small boat.  They would let us know when we would be able to get on board.  We later found out that one of the gangways got damaged.

Ivan went to explore the boat while I wrapped his presents for his upcoming birthday.  I worked on the blog. 

Later, we went to the Blush Restaurant for dinner. 


We were glad that we had Ken’s room who is the coolest singing maitre’d. We met our tablemates who were Marc and Clare from Northern England, an Latin/French couple called Andres and Caroline, and a Boring Scottish couple (they ain’t gonna be reading this blog, so what the heck – and if they ARE reading it – STOP BEING SO BORING!!!)

They were all really cool (except for the Scots) but we hated the position of the table – it was a long table like something you get at school, and it was upstairs so we were not in the ‘action’ downstairs which is what we usually like.

For dinner we had tomato soup, and salmon with apples.


For mains, we had tofu steak which was very, very tasty. For dessert, we had the classic chocolate melting cake which was amazing as always.

Afterwards we went to the main theatre for the welcome abroad show hosted by Butch. It was okay…but no way near as funny as when John does it. Afterwards was the ‘Motor City’ show. We are disappointed that Carnival have got rid of their live band on the stage. They have these huge LED screens which are quite impressive, but we miss having a live band on stage. Also there are only 8 dancers/singers whereas before there used to be a lot more. I mean sure the singing and dancing was great, and with all the led screens it was quite an impressive site….BUT…it just didn’t blow our minds like previous Carnival shows have.


Walking around Venice

On August 25, 2012, Ivan, Lil Dave and I had breakfast at the apartment.  We got the bus and then the vaporetto (water bus) to the island of Venice. 

We went to St. Mark’s Basilica which is located in the beautiful St. Mark’s Square.  Ivan signed up online for 1 Euro each to forego the line – he read that sometimes the line gets really long.  The line wasn’t actually long.  If you’re wearing a tank top or shorts, you have to buy a cover for 1 Euro.  I bought one, but I didn’t remember that I had my sarong in my bag until after I bought the cover.


The church was lovely inside.  I lit a candle and prayed for friends who passed like my ex-boss who passed recently.  I joked at the end that the cloth I was wearing looked like a table cloth.. and at the exit there was a box of table cloths!  I was actually wearing a table cloth!! Obviously somewhere in Venice there is a restaurant with a confused waitor outside saying to anyone who would listen ‘Has anyone seen that box of table clothes I left outside?’ And there running away in the distance he can see some guy in a priest outfit with the box under his arm and a cheeky grin on his face!


People were being stupid and putting back the table cloth that they bought for 1 Euro.  I kept mine so I can have a picnic on the cruise ship we’ll be boarding soon.

It was time to search for some lunch. Ivan checked out a few different places.  We decided to eat at a restaurant (can’t remember the name).  There was a set menu which was a pasta dish with a glass of wine for 12 Euro, so we went with that.  Ivan and I each had black ink spaghetti with cuttlefish and a glass of white wine.  Lil Dave got got the banana lasagna with a glass of banana juice.  Ivan and I looked like we had turned goth with our lips turned black from the black ink.  The food was tasted great.

It was time to go shopping.  I love walking around Venice since it’s a lovely city.  I checked out all the Murano glass shop, the souvenir stores and Venetian mask shops. 


I could spend hours just walking around here – thank Goodness for GPS, it’s really confusing with all the winding alleyways.  I thought there weren’t any dead ends, but during our time in Venice we ran into two dead ends.

We did lots of walking around.  I see why Venetians eat so much… you spend a lot of energy walking around the streets that you need more energy before you go walking even more.

We stopped at Cantina Do Mori for cicchettis.  Once we did a Cicchetti of Venice tour and the group stopped here. 


I remembered the bronze buckets that line the ceiling.  Ivan and I shared tuna fritters, cheese and fish and veggies on bread. 


Lil Dave had to special order his cicchetis: banana on bread, banana with cheese on top and banana fritters.

We walked around even more checking out the souvenirs.

Ivan thought it would be a great idea to get some gelato.  I think any time is a good time for gelato unless you’re super stuffed from a big meal.  Ivan had choccolata extranoir (dark chocolate sorbet), mango and pistachio while I had blueberry, choccolata extranoir and lemon.  Lil Dave got 3 scoops of banana (of course!).  The blueberry wasn’t the best, while I really enjoyed the lemon and the chocolate sorbet. 

Ivan and I were feeling a bit tired, so it was time to get an espresso at a café.  If you sit down, the café will charge a service charge.  Most Italians just stand at the bar and drink the espresso from the cute little cups.

Next, it was time for wine.  Ivan can’t remember the name of the wine bar.  We had artichokes in oil and sparkling water. 

St. Mark’s Square is huge compared to the one in Las Vegas’ Venetian Hotel and Casino.  It’s beautiful – it’s definitely a must see in Venice.


We wanted to do the pub crawl again.   We saw the guide again and nobody showed up again.  I don’t know why.. maybe he’s lying that he has 20 people on his tour sometimes.  Ivan and I reckon they need to fire their marketing guy and hire somebody better.

It was a very tiring day, so we thought we’d head back and have dinner at the local restaurant near the apartment.

Ivan, Lil Dave and I got the vaporetto (water bus) back and then the bus.

We had dinner at Ristorante Tizano.  Lil Dave got a special banana pizza.  Our meal was lovely again with a tunno e cappolla (tuna & onion) pizza and some amazing pasta, and a white wine to wash it all down.


Gondola Mask

Ivan and I slept 10 hours and woke up feeling refreshed on August 24, 2012.  Our room at Airbnb included breakfast for free.  Ivan and I had saltine crackers, cereal, a peach and yogurt.  Lil Dave had two bananas. 

We got the bus and then the vaporetto (water bus) to the island of Venice.  We rushed to meet up with Jane for Row Venice.  Today, we would be able to drive a gondola!!


How freaking cool.  I knew Ivan would be better at this since it took me awhile to be alright at kayaking.  Ivan seems to pick up things a lot quicker than me in some things.  Ivan was up first.  Jane steered in the back while Ivan was in the front.  Jane told him to do the rowing.  It seemed easy, but I didn’t think it would be easy once I got to do it.  Jane is an Australian lady who has lived in Venice for 22 years – she’s married to an Italian. 

It was my turn to try it.  I wasn’t as good.  I felt a bit ganged up on since Jane and Ivan were telling me what to do.. and I was a bit confused.  I guess I wasn’t very confident about doing it since I thought I wouldn’t be good at it for some reason.  I was getting a hang of it though.

The views were beautiful with all the buildings with paint falling off the building and the lovely canals.


Jane told us that up to the 1970’s deliveries were done via gondola. Not many locals take gondolas since they are expensive to take. Some people have their own gondolas or boats. It’s 2000 Euros a year to have a spot at the marina. Jane doesn’t use her gondola much – mostly for the tours since it’s easy to walk somewhere then get the gondola ready and boat there. The scenery was quite lovely.

We rowed out to the open ocean.  Jane asked if I wanted to steer in the back.  I wasn’t too confident, so I let Ivan go first.  Jane let me row in front while she was telling Ivan what to do.  Ivan kind of seemed to be getting the hang of it. 

I got to try the steering next.  It was pretty hard.. I think I was better at the rowing in the front.


Ivan went to steer again in the front while I was in the front.  We had to head to a certain point Jane said.. but Ivan was making us go in a circle.  Eventually, we started heading in the right direction.

Jane told us that 2 people have proposed to their girlfriend on the gondola ride.  We had an awesome time rowing in the gondola.  Ivan was excited that he got to wear the gondolier hat.  Ivan got to go in front again while Jane did the steering in the back. 


He even sang us a little tune.  This is a great thing to do.. I’m sure it’s lovely riding in a gondola, but rowing it is EVEN better!!


Lil Dave wanted to try the rowing, but he was way too small for it.  Unfortunately, there aren’t any small monkey gondolas – I’d love to see that.. it’d be soo cute.  Jane liked taking pictures with Lil Dave.. although, she didn’t want to take off her glasses – maybe she’s hiding from the mob or something?


Ivan, Lil Dave and I were so hungry.  Jane recommended a restaurant for us for civvitechhia?? (look in old blog), but it was closed for lunch.  So, we found a nice place that looked good.  Ivan and I shared a huge plate of vegetables and another plate of seafood. 


Lil Dave went for a banana spaghetti.  The food was delicious and REALLY filled us up.  We had a spritz which is a local Venetian drink – a bit bitter… better with Aperol which is sweeter than the Campari which can be really bitter.

A short time later, we walked to Grom which is a great sorbet place in Italy.  Ivan had a dark chocolate sorbet, pistachio and mango in a cup while I had dark chocolate, fig and raspberry.  I’ll let you guess what flavors Lil Dave got.  Can you guess it?  Our favorites were the raspberry and the dark chocolate sorbet.  The dark chocolate had little bits of chocolate in it.

It’s so lovely walking around Venice – it’s a very picturesque city.


It’s also nice to do some window shopping.  We checked out the Venetian masks stores and Murano glass stores filled with figures and jewelry.

One store had great masks, but they told me No Pictures.. but I was able to get in 3 shots. 


Lil Dave was happy that he found a monkey mask.. but unfortunately the banana to Euro ratio isn’t very good now, so he wasn’t able to buy it.

We went to the mask place where the masks from the movie “Eyes Wide Shut” were created.  Ivan and I signed up for their Venetian mask making class for Monday.  The Venetian masks are beautiful in Venice and they’re not that pricey. 

We went to check out The Original Venice Pub Crawl and met the guide named Allen who’s Russian.  Unfortunately, nobody showed up which we thought was odd since it was a Friday night.  He thought it was because the barman said that a few girls wanted to do the pub tour but there was an opera on.  I doubt backpackers are going to the opera instead of a pub crawl. I guess it’s just slow or their advertising is really bad. 

It was time for dinner.  We went to eat at Ristorante S. Stefano.  Ivan and I shared a good tuna and onion pizza and a spaghetti with tomato and basil.  Lil Dave got the banana fettuccine. 

We took the vaporetto (the way  to say water bus in Italian – which sounds really cool!) and then the bus back to the apartment.


Venice via Newcastle

Ivan, Lil Dave and I had to wake up early at 9:30 am on August 23, 2012. 

We packed up which took quite a while as all of our stuff was spread around the room as if an explosion had gone off in our suitcase.

So by 11am or so we were done. I realised that I had way too much stuff-before I had about 10kg in my bag but now I’ve got 13kg and that is just way too much for a little girl like me. Before we go to South America, Ivan’s going to get rid of a whole bunch of his smarter clothes and I’m going to get rid of some clothes as we are not going to need these while overlanding on the Oasis truck.

We got the train to Newcastle from the main Edinburgh train station. The train took an hour and an half and the journey flew by with the help of a tasty crayfish and noodles salad, and a couple of episodes of weeds and beaver falls on the laptop.

Once in Newcastle, it was another metro ride that then took us to the Newcastle airport. We were flying from here to Venice rather than from Edinburgh as it was much cheaper. The line for check-in was deserted and security was pretty fast as well – always the great thing about small airports I guess!

The flight was pretty uneventful…I just worked on the blog and read a bit of my book. Once we arrived and had got our luggage we headed towards the boat station to get our boat into the centre of Venice. Its always nice to get off a plane and onto a boat rather than a bus or taxi isn’t it!

We were staying on the Lido rather than the main island of Venice and luckily the boat we were on took us right there. A short taxi ride then took us to the Airbnb place Ivan had booked for us. We were greeted by a lovely Italian lady called Gabrielle who was quite the character and fun to talk with. We were staying in a room in her house along with her and another lodger. She recommended a local Italian restaurant, and due to the fact that we were pretty hungry , we ignored Gabrielle’s requests for us to ‘relax and maybe take a shower ‘ (in fact she was very insistent that we SHOULD take a shower – did we smell or something?), and headed to the local restaurant nearby called Ristorante Tizano.  The tuna and onion pizza, cod dish (which was creamy) and a pasta with olive oil, garlic and chili.  I don’t know how they make pasta so simple, but it tastes delicious.  The pizza was amazing and the cod dish was really good. 


The cod looks like a penis and balls though haha… I think the chef has a sense of humor.

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