Before we move on, I would like to backtrack a bit to Burano; we sort of skipped over it in Part One, but one thing that Burano had was some pretty awesome Mask Makers. . .Amber's mask was bought there and photos will come at the end. . .We will not only have photos of the masks we bought, but also - photos of some FANTASTIC mask shops :)
But first - onto Parte Seconda:
We emerged bright and Early the next day with a plan of attack. Being our last full day in Venice we decided that we should get to the San Marco Basilica before all those annoying tourists turned up. The Basilica is enormous and we were able to get up to a lookout point for some very good views of the piazza.
Once again we had to resort to the internets to get a decent photo of the outside of the basilica
(In the above photo (which is a very iconic view of Venice) you can see the Doge's Palace on the left and on the right, The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, which was a really HUGE library!)
This is us about half way up the Basilica
Probably not the four horses of the Apocalypse:
Our next stop was the bell tower which thankfully had a lift (otherwise I doubt Amber would have done it; I would like to interject here and say that that's to do with my issues with height and not exercise!) so we were able to get some really good views of the city.
The obligatory photo of Amber with her head in a guidebook!
The next thing on our to-do-list was probably the one thing that we had been looking forward to the most since we had first starting planning our Venice holiday. The Gondola Ride!
We found a very nice English speaking man who agreed to Amber's request that we go beneath the Bridge of Sighs.
A history lesson: The Bridge of Sighs is the bridge that prisoners were led over on their way to begin their incarceration. The bridge is completely enclosed but has windows and the story goes that the prisoners would look out these windows and sigh because it was the last view of Venice they would see. Also Casanova escaped prison via this bridge, or so the legend goes. The much more soppy legend is that when two people kiss under this bridge on a gondola at sunset while the bells chime they will be destined to be together forever. It is quite a famous bridge. Get it? Right.
This is our Gondolier
If you are wondering what what is going on in my head in this photo it is pretty much 'Eeeeeeeeeeeeee'!
View of the Grand Canal from the water
Random crumbly buildings
Things we learnt from our Gondolier:
* His gondola belongs to him (and is called Sandy).
* It is 11 meters long.
* To be allowed to be a Gondolier he had to go to a school to learn how to drive his Gondola and then he had to pass a test
* It took him 3 years to learn how to "drive".
* After he got his "license" he had to learn how to speak English, French and Spanish and, also, the history of Venice.
* When coming up to a blind corner he calls out to let other traffic know he is coming (much better than a horn).
* There are over 300 Gondoliers in Venice and only one of them is female (and she's only just recently become one).
* Now there are over 3000 bridges in Venice, however there didn't used to be any and the canal entrance was considered the "main" entrance to a building.
* Nobody in Venice lives on the ground floor due to rising sea levels/amount of sinkage (when it still was). The ground floor is only used for storage or shops.
The other thing we noticed was that when we went under a bridge all the tourists that were were walking over that bridge had to stop and take a photo of us (being that we were in the gondola)
It seems like this automatic reaction, see this is our photo of complete strangers that went under the bridge we were standing on.
The Bridge of sighs (and although it wasn't sunset, we did dare a little public display of affection and Amber kissed Shelley on the cheek)
More pretty crumbly buildings
After we finished our gondola ride we decided it was tiramisu time so we went looking for this restaurant that we had seen several days before. Now the problem with this is that after walking all over Venice one crumbly alleyway starts to look like all the other crumbly alleyways and it gets pretty hard to remember just where certain things are. It took us about 2 hours and lots of walking in circles before we found it. The same thing happened with a boutique I wanted to look in, we went back the next day to find it and it only took about 3 hours but we did and the clothes were totally worth all the trouble. As was the Tiramisu:
The next part of our plan was to go mask shopping for me. We had seen lots and lots of amazing masks in our travels but I still had not found the right one. Amber told me she just wanted one of everything and she would never be able to choose for herself so I picked her mask for her. I figured that when I found the right one for me it would be easy to choose. This was a good theory but in the end Amber picked my mask because I had decided that I was not going to get one. it wasn't so much that I couldn't choose, it was that the one I had chosen was expensive and I did not want to spend that much on me. Amber decided that I was worth it. She told me after that she had an ulterior motive, that it would look really good displayed on our wall at home and she would be able to wear it!
Now for some masks. The first mask shop is one that we saw after visiting the islands. The quickest ferry that would get us back to the main island dropped us on the other side from our hotel. We decided to walk back and try to find a shoe shop that we had read about in our guide book. The shoe shop sucked. But, we found this awesome mask shop:
Sorry about the reflections, its really hard to take photos through a window. . .
yes, that is a cat :)
THIS mask shop is the one where Amber bought Shelley's mask. . .They claim to be the same mask place that did masks for Nicole Kidman and the scientology freak in Eyes Wide Shut and also for Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo and Juliet. They have their autographs and everything so it's pretty believable :)
And now. . .the ones you've all been waiting for - Our Masks
Guess which one is Amber's :)
And finally - A stamp which we bought for our books. (the initials were added to personalise it and ours is EXTREMELY unique because he had run out of 'w's and had to turn a 'm' upside down. Which means that even if someone else were to pick the same stamp and have the initials SW (Shambles Watson), ours would still be different :)
Just to rub it in, this is all "the loot" we scored while we were there :)
So anyway, that was Venice. Next up is ..... Prague (maybe)