It is to state the obvious that Venice (Italy) has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Stepping into Venice is like stepping into an alternate universe. You are in a land quite unlike anywhere else. For a moment, you can forget all the problems of the world and enjoy the wonderland you are immersed in. One of the things that I love about Venice is that it has got to be one of the most confusing places to navigate through. I know that sounds strange, but I am proud to have a pretty good sense of direction and can usually find my way around most places after being there for a short time. Venice humbles me every time.
You want to avoid Venice at peak tourist seasons. Even at the end of March, it was packed. However, it was bearable. I happened to be on work trip nearby and so took an extra day to go and visit this amazing place. It is quite easy, even if you have a rental car. There are places to park near the entrance to the city. Go to this website to find out where to park (parking near Venice). Another real option (and cheaper if you are going to be there for a number of days), is the airport parking.
Once in Venice, everything is expensive, including transportation. Restaurants can be ridiculous. My solution was not to eat at restaurants that often, but to eat the sandwiches and other things sold in many of the smaller shops. Transport can be expensive if you take the public “water taxi”. There are ways to reduce this cost, but the best is not to use the taxis. Walk. It is not that far. Venice is tiny. I reduced my costs of going to the islands (Burano, Murano & Torcello.) by going to them 24 hours from my departure from Venice. An all day pass to get you to Burano (and the other 2 islands) is 20 Euros and was still valid when I needed to leave for the parking the next day.
The photo above is a view of the iconic, Grand Canal taken at dawn. I was surprised that I was by myself on the Academy bridge (Ponte Dell’ Accadamia). Venice is full of photographers and even before dawn you see many out taking photos. I was a little late this morning and was concerned that I wouldn’t get a place on the bridge. When I started, happily I was alone. I continued taking photos right the way through sunrise as the sun showed itself from behind the buildings on the left bank. But this shot, my second of the morning, with the lights and the soft pink glow, was the keeper.
When I travel, food can be a double edged sword. Sometimes I just have to close my nose, eyes and mind and just eat what I am presented. I employ a kind of don’t ask, don’t tell policy. I figure ignorance is bliss in these circumstances. But then there are other times when the food is a real perk. In fact, I have to admit that this is more frequent than the other scenario.
On a recent trip to Northern Italy, my colleague, who lives there, took me to an absolutely incredible restaurant in Sacile, Il Pedrocchino. He knows the owners well and I got treated to Italian hospitality and food at it’s best. As is common in Italy, there were many courses, most based around fish, which I love.
The owner’s son had recently returned from a year in London where his father sent him to learn English. He had done an excellent job of picking it up, thanks to the disciplined approach of his host family. He was really chatty and made the even a lot more fun as he talked about the food, the restaurant and the experience in London.
The following are just some of the courses we were treated to. Sorry about the color rendering. For some reason WordPress messes with the colors on all my photos. I must get to the bottom of this!
First course, based on asparagus.
Second course, I guess I should have written the ingredients down!
Next course! They just kept coming (I didn’t photograph them all). By the way, there was no menu. You were presented food, by the chef, based on what was fresh in the market that morning.
We were treated to a tour of the place after dinner, including the wine cellar, only a part of which I show you in the next photo. The wine cellar was absolutely amazing with wines that many would die for.
I cannot overstate what a great meal and experience this was. Thanks Pedrocchino!
This is the mecca of car lovers, maybe not for Ferrari or BMW lovers. But if you are Mercedes or Porsche fan, this is a good city to visit. I’m here on a work trip, staying in a gorgeous little village called Korntal which has a really interesting history… more of that in a bit. Yesterday we took a break from our meetings and visited the Porsche Museum. This is the second visit for me, but I still really enjoyed it. The following photos were taken by a good friend of mine, Harun with his iPhone. I am always amazed by what these phones can produce.
The “model” in the next shot is another good friend from Morocco, Latif.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that Porsche takes on a lot of projects for other companies. One of those is Harley Davidson. I bet this is one of Harley’s better engines.
Back to the town of Korntal. Originally an estate, it became a town in 1819 based on the model established by the Moravian’s – a kind of civic/Christian community where you had to be Christian to be able to live in the town. This status was terminated in 1919 by the Weimar Constitution. However, the strong Christian presence remains in the town with a very active church community (by German standards). There is also a seminary based in the town.
We are staying in the Landschloss Hotel. This morning I was able to go for a run and within a mile I was in a gorgeous little forest that is a bird sanctuary. This is about a mile from the Porsche Museum and factory. Hard to believe you are in an industrial location.
I have grown to love Southern Germany. Everything is so organized, neat and clean.
Often this part of Jamaica is famous for all the wrong reasons. Home to many of the adult resorts and clothing optional beaches, one can be forgiven for thinking this is a place to avoid if you want a family vacation. However, it is worth a second look. Home to one of the longest and best beaches on the island, it is definitely a place you should consider if you are looking for a beach vacation. The entire beach known as the 7 mile beach, stretches for a long way and is gorgeous. Blue, warm waters invite you dive in. I guess from point to point it may well be 7 miles but I think this is a stretch. But that doesn’t really matter because there is plenty of beach to be had for everyone. We were there over Spring Break and it did not feel overcrowded in any way. Part of the reason for this is that it is far away from where the cruise ships dock.
We travelled there from Montego Bay for the day. Although only about 40 miles (75km) it is a 2 hour drive given the single lane road and lots of traffic. Access to the beach, if you don’t stay at a local resort or hotel is not easy. We chose to eat at Cosmo’s Restaurant which gives you access to the beach for J$400 per person. Cosmo’s, found as you enter Nigril from Montego Bay side has been around for at least 40 odd years. Websites like Trip Advisor give it good, if somewhat mixed reviews. Service is definitely of the laid back, Jamaican variety, but you’re on vacation ‘mon’, so who cares. The food is reasonable, mildly expensive for what you get. But the atmosphere is great, with tables just off the beach and soft, iconic music playing in the background.
There are many hotels, condo’s and resorts to choose from if you want to stay in the area. Do your research well because the quality varies greatly. There are a lot beach activities from snorkeling, parasailing and more available on the beach. Of course, you will be offered weed. That is just par for the course in Jamaica. Many reviews online speak of public nudity. In my more than 5 mile walk along the beach I did not see any of this.
One of the aspects of travel I like the most is experiencing the food of the nation. Of course, it can be a little “hairy” at times, depending on where you are. If there is one ubiquitous taste found in Jamaica, it is the jerk flavoring applied to virtually all their food, chicken, pork or even fish.
One of the best places to experience this is at a restaurant in the suburbs of Montego Bay called Scotchies. Found on the A1 just near to Iron Shore. When a restaurant is frequented enthusiastically by the locals, you are usually onto a good thing. The offerings are fairly simple, chicken, pork or fish cooked over an open fire, flavored by their secret mix of jerk spices. Added to this blend is the island’s local Scotch bonnet pepper. This concoction is rubbed into the meat and allowed to marinate for 12 hours. The meat is cooked on large fire pits of hardwood coals and covered with corrugated sheeting (normally used on roofs) to trap the smoke and heat in. The result is very tasty. Beware, the pork, in particular, has a kick to it (which I loved).
The food is served to you in aluminum foil and you are provided with a pretty useless plastic fork, but that’s OK because you really just eat the food with your fingers. On the menu are a variety of sides, the best two of which are the festival bread (shaped like a large finger or a mini baguette) and the sweet potato. Wash it down with the local beer, Red Stripe.
A big part of eating at Scotchies is the ambiance and experience. Pretty rustic, but really nice. Mixing it up with the locals makes the experience worthwhile. You can also buy the food ‘to go’ from the window, shown in the photograph above, and take it with you to the closest beach.
First full day in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This is the main beach in the town called Doctor’s Cave. Not bad! Get there early to avoid crowds and get a good spot on the beach. There are trees at certain spots for shade, or rent an umbrella. The water was warm, especially nice since it was snowing back home!
We are doing Jamaica the unusual way, not through a cruise ship or resort. We found a house through Booking.com and rented a car (a must in my view if you don’t stay in a resort). In the next few posts I will talk about the food / restaurants and other aspects.
If you stay in a resort, you are a little insulated from the culture of the island. You may have all the comforts and amenities (at a price) but you miss interfacing with the people. What you choose depends on your style of tourism.