Torcello, the last of the islands in the Venetian Lagoon that I visited, is the lowest populated with only 11 permanent residents. Most of the island is untamed nature, however there is a group of buildings from 11th and 12th century including the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
And in case you were wondering, even on this almost deserted island, there are still plenty of souvenir stands ifyou have a burning desire to buy little magnets or bracelets to commemorate your time.
Burano is another island in the Venetian Lagoon, known for handmade lace and the brightly painted houses. A main industry of the island was fishing, and the houses were painted bright colours so they could be seen through thick fog. I was told different theories to explain the colour scheme, one being that each colour is associated with a particular family, and another saying that it is actually in accordance to a strict pattern enforced through government (although I failed to see any logic in this ‘pattern’).
As you approach Burano, there are smaller islands with crumbling ruins. While Burano continues to thrive, the monasteries of these islands have long been abandoned and the waves and wind erode what used to be. I would have loved to explore these islands, however I don’t believe it is particularly safe to trapeze through ruins, and I don’t think there is a way to access them without your own boat.
Murano is a small island (or series of islands) in the Venetian Lagoon known for glass making and glass blowing. Glass manufacturing was moved to Murano centuries ago to protect the central city from potential fire hazards and, I have been told, to protect the secrets of the trade.
While I was there, I got to witness a demonstration of glass blowing. It was interesting to watch him work, moving quickly and fluidly – it is clear he had been doing this his whole life. It is a dying art, with no new generation to take over once the current generation retires.
I was particularly impressed when he made this horse in a matter of minutes. It was so beautiful – until someone brushed the table as they walked by and the figurine toppled over and smashed on the floor. Although, seeing glass go from being pulled and stretched to smashing a minute later was a testament to unique quality of the material.
This past week I traveled to the islands of Venice to enjoy warm weather and an abundance of Italian gelato and pizza. The whole city feels like it is designed for the tourists with souvenir shops down every street, overpriced gondola rides, and the perpetuation of a historical and romantic atmosphere. And with that, swarms of crowds!
Despite the eerie feeling that this city has turned into a giant tourist attraction, I was still absorbed into it and loved walking along the narrow streets. Every detail of the city added to the character.
The charm of the city during the day continues past sunset when the dim reflection of the moonlight on the water turns into an entirely poetic experience. And it is through these little details that Venice is able to enchant you, and suddenly you realize that all of the great things people say about Venice are true. Despite the crowds and frequent smell of sewage, you fall in love with the city.
This is the last of the posts about my trip to England. It has been a couple weeks since I left England, and since then I find that the thing I miss most is the simplicity of being able to speak to everyone in English (living in Paris with the daily challenge of trying to learn a new language makes everything just a little bit more complicated).
I wanted to share the final few images from London – to prove that I did all the things a good tourist ought to do.
There are free museums throughout London, and you can bet I took advantage of that fact. On the edge of Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery (as well as the National Portrait Gallery) sits proud, as the classic art gallery, filled with the works of many greats from centuries past.
And in the center of Trafalgar Square are the famous lions.
I was mostly intrigued by the architecture of the Natural History Museum, as the exhibits are hosted inside an exquisite building. Also note the crowds of people (due to it being ‘half term’ in England for the school children), making it difficult to actually see any of the exhibits.
For a night we stayed in a hostel located in Holland Park. We arrived late at night, when everything was dark, meandering down this long path in hopes we would eventually find it. After a fair walk we arrived at reception and almost immediately went to sleep (in our 33 person room!)
When I woke in the morning, I had some time to wonder the premises and what I had not realized the night that we had arrived was that it is actually a beautiful park with history.
The Holland House was a grand house built in the 1600’s. However, during the Blitz of World War II, it was bombed. Today, only the east wing and some of the ground floor remain – and have been turned into a hostel! I hadn’t realized at the time, but I had slept (or at least tried to sleep among the field of snoring and coughing) in a historical landmark.
The park itself was gorgeous – and strangely enough filled with families of peacocks.
Watching the changing of the Horse Guard at 11 am can be found in almost every London tourist handbook, and so naturally, with the love of horses shared by myself and my travel companion (although her love would be considered to be of an entirely other level above mine) we made the effort to see the tradition.
The ceremony itself was rather uneventful, and so I question the legitimacy of the suggestions in a tourist handbook, but we did enjoy seeing the horses and watching them as they tried to stand still (some more willing than others) for half an hour.