Monday, February 4, 2013


My first trip to Italy!!
I expected great things from Venice. All the pictures and stories I've heard about it just make it seem like a cute watery paradise. I was expecting to feel like Kevin Costner in Waterworld...except more romantic...lots more romantic... Venice was undoubtedly beautiful, but instead of falling in love with all the canals and romantic scenery I fell in love with...Venetian masks. So intricate, so colorful, so glittery (Oh man anyone who knows me from my grade-school Limited-Too obsessing, holographic Sketchers-donning days, also knows that a little bit of sequins or glimmer makes me go wild) the masks were just anything I could ever want in a piece of art. I wish I had taken pictures of more masks, but the best ones were located in stores where they had huge signs saying NO PHOTOS. Of course all the tourist stands had their own share of cheap masks, but I knew I wanted a legitimate, hand-crafted mask from a little store on the off-beaten path of Venice. Did I end up finding one?...

I could go on for days about how gorgeous Venetian masks are, and the Masquerade wedding that I am planning for myself (NO ONE STEAL MY IDEA..), but I reckon I should also share some information about visiting the city itself!

Upon arrival to Marco Polo airport in Venice...everything still seemed normal. I think I was secretly hoping that the entire airport was floating off of some sort of dock, like the rest of Venice. Haha but alas this is quite impractical and was not the case. Once we started walking toward the water taxis...and even more so once we'd boarded and made our way to the island of Venice, things seemed a bit surreal. There is water EVERYWHERE. In the distance I could make out the skyline of some buildings, but other than that. Water. Water water water. We could have been in the middle of the Atlantic ocean for all I knew. Good thing the  water taxi ride was an hour long, I really needed some time for this abstract idea to settle into my head.

We finally docked and made our way toward the apartment. It was definitely chilly the entire time we were in Venice, a chill that rivaled that which we had felt in London. Undoubtedly, if we had gone to Venice at a later time in the year with warmer weather, I would have fallen in love with more than just the masks! Anyway, we had a nice route to traverse on the way to our apartment, a few bridges to cross, many restaurants and shops to pass. Our apartment itself was just...the EPITOME of cute. Adorable. mono, as they say here in Spain. I mean, wood-paneled beams on the ceiling, the cutest little kitchen and living room area, view from the windows overlooking some canals, just awesome. We were living in our own little cottage on some little island in the middle of the Adriatic Sea.

Our apartment
The first thing we did was get something to eat. Wait, no, the first thing we did was go to plaza San Marcos...right? Hmm... In truth, it is difficult to distinguish in what order we did all of the activities we did. Every time we set out somewhere, EVERY time, we ended up getting lost through the narrow and windy streets of Venice. That was how we were best able to get a good tour of the city, though! We saw the main sites, such as Plaza San Marcos, Bridge of Sighs, and the Realto Bridge at night, all very pretty! I also got my first sneak peak at the artisan masks this night. UGHHHHHHHH pretty...

The next day, we essentially did the same haphazard exploration of the city, but the views were quite distinct in the sunlight! I need to pause here for a moment, though. I need to get something off my chest. Lots of the canals and sites of Venice reminded me of my days of playing Tomb Raider 2. Especially this photo. I can just imagine Lara Croft, swimming underwater, holding her breath for an inhumanely long amount of time, all the while bad guys in speed boats search for her on the surface! Ah nostalgia...

Back to real Venice. We purchased a city museum pass which granted us access to over 20 different museums around the city. The first location where we took advantage of this pass was the National Library (I think...) It was very pretty and we got our first taste of genuine Murano glass. So pretty! Sometimes garish, but always prettyyyyyyy.

We stopped at a local place to load up on carbs for lunch before continuing on in our explorations. I have to say, the food in Venice was the most enlightening of the three places we traveled. Not to say that it was necessarily the best food, but it was just so darn FULFILLING. So much genuine pizza (not the sauceless kind we got here in Spain...) so much hearty, oozing-with-flavor pasta. I made the solemn vow to not eat a meal in Italy unless it was comprised primarily of carbohydrates. Despite my struggles (LOL not), I'm proud to say I prevailed and achieved my goal.

That night we experienced Venice "night-life"...although it's about as lively as a retirement home afterhours. Haha okay that's probably a bit harsh, but really, there was only one plaza dedicated to night life, it seemed, and within this plaza I saw the youngest population of people since I'd arrive to Venice. This is something that struck me about Venice: the demographic of the tourists. Yes, I expected it to mostly be couples since Venice is known for its picturesque romantic atmosphere. I guess I didn't realize that along with the "mostly couples" demographic comes the "mostly older people" aspect to it. You aren't gonna see teenage or young twenty-something couples take a spur of the moment trip to Venice! Well, at least I didn't see any. So along with this demographic it makes sense that the young party scene is all but non-existent. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that Venice is the first European city I've been to that is this way!

The next day, we used our museum pass to visit Doge's palace. A Doge was essentially the main leader of the city of Venice, so of course he lived a lavish life and had a sweet place to live. So the palace was awesooooooooome. Room after room of Murano glass chandeliers, awesome weapons and artifacts, some of the most intricate ceiling art I've ever seen, just lots of interesting things. After this visit, our main objective for the remainder of the day was to visit the island of Murano, where all the murano glass sculptures are made. We finally got there and got to experience some live glass-blowing! I'd  never seen anything like that before, they don't call the glass blowers "masters" for nothing. That is pure art and entertainment all in one. Like Cirque du Soleil. I didn't take a video of the glass-blowing we saw, but here is a video I found on YouTube of a glass-blower making a horse. So nuts! : Glass-Blower Makes a Horse

Intricate Murano Glass Sculpture
We had a lazy night at home after Murano. We shared some wine and pasta together, as it was our last night together :( The next day we had some time in the morning to explore around a bit, and get some last minute souvenirs and gelato before catching our flights. Alex, Jill, and Kevin's flight took off about 2 hours before mine from a separate airport, so I had to go through the depressive agony of hugging them all goodbye and then watching my 3 buddies sail away from me at a dock, slowly disappearing into the horizon :( :( :'(

I had a couple of hours before my own flight left, so I decided to dive back into the maze of Venice to find me a good ol' artisan-crafted mask! This was my first time venturing into the Venice abyss on my own. I am quite fortunate to have come out alive and in one piece...Dear LORD is it confusing.

My Mask :D
The sequence of events surrounding my final acquistion of the perfect mask was quite the stressful tale. After about 40 minutes of only coming across stores with touristy, cheaply made masks, I finally happened upon a shop with a gorgeous display of colorful masks, and I went inside to see every inch of the ceiling and wall covered with beautiful hand-crafted masks. I chatted with the owner as I perused the masks, I asked him if he made the masks, and he explained that he did, in fact, that the store is a family-owned business and everyone in the family has made masks for generations. YES. This is the kind of place I want to give my money. (Mannn I really hope he wasn't lying to me...that would shatter my experience!) The one drawback of this experience: the guy wasn't wearing an apron. Come on, man. True artisans wear aprons. lolollol anyway he recommended some mask shape and colors to me as I was totally lost, and finally, I settled upon this beaut: 

Anyway, as the story usually goes, I got lost on my way to this store and also on my way back to the apartment. The extra 20 minutes I gave myself to get back to the apartment, pick up my suitcase, and head to my boat was not nearly enough time. I sprinted to the apartment, tidied up as much as I could, sprinted back to the docks with my rolling suitcase making an unfortunately large amount of noise, ignoring the Italians who were definitely laughing me...only to arrive at the dock 3 min before my goal time!!...and see my boat to the airport sailing away. I was CERTAIN this was a mistake, this had to be the boat from the hour before, and it was just really delayed. As it turns out I read the times wrong (dangit Europe and your 24 hour time schedule! Although I really have no excuse for not being used to it by now...). I was trying to catch a boat around 7pm (19:00), but the time I had looked at and was trying to make was 17:06 (5:06pm). The boat I saw pull away had left at 18:59. The point of the story: I had to wait another hour for a boat to take me to the airport. Hmm, first excessive waiting for the bus in London, and now this. I totally brought this one upon myself, though. Luckily, I arrived to the airport and was able to get through check-in, security, and to my gate within 15 minutes. I had a fairly enjoyable flight back to Barcelona, where I then had to spend the night on a hard wooden bench before my flight to Santiago at 8am.

I cannot explain the relief I felt when I finally got back to my bed in Ourense. I had an aweeeeeeesome time traveling with Alex Kevin and Jill, I'm super happy that I got to experience all of these cities with them, and I definitely missed them as soon as they disappeared on that little boat over the horizon. I had probably the best New Years of my life, and an awesome birthday as well. I can't wait to see what the remaining 4 months of my time in Europe holds :)