Tuesday, March 21, 2017

out and about vaporetto style

my travel sidekick
Playing catch up here with the blogging after some busy travel times.

On our second day in Venice with vaporetto tickets, or in other words day ten of our spring break vacation (please try to pay attention), we vaporettoed the heck out of our travel privileges!

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First stop - the Lido. Where we experienced cars on roads and the faded excellence of a seaside resort out of season. Closed down arcades and fenced off lookout towers. A chilly beach and grey skies.

Guidecca seaside stroll
Followed by a a counter-rotatory trip around Venice and on to Guidecca, another island but no cars ... just artist studios and a lot of dog poop along the seafront ...

dragster from 18th century Venice, i presume

Day Eleven
... which of course is day four in Venice and thus day -1 of unlimited 48-hour vaporetto travel (you are paying attention?) was palazzo or bust. We ticked off the textile and costume museum at Palazzo Mocenigo and then navigated thru Dorsoduro to Ca' Rezzonica. The displays are incredible but what's even more impressive are the surroundings they are in - these are impressive palaces along the Grand Canal.

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Even if you don't like the subject matter, the ornate staircases, mouldings, strangely lopsided door hanging and remnants of an opulent days-gone-by lifestyle are worth the visit. Again, the museums pass from Venezia Unica is worth the price. We didn't stay longer than about two hours in each museum so far on this trip; we stayed longer in the Doges Palace on our last, but paying full price imposes an arbitrary time-to-cost benefit ratio that discount passes don't guilt you with.

yes, of course i managed another aperol spritzer :)
Homing instinct kicked in for late afternoon. On hostess Giulia's recommendation, we stepped inside Fondaco dei Tadeschei, the Venetian answer to the luxury shopping mall. It's right beside the Rialto Bridge, on our route home, and is yet another palace I think. Formerly a German merchants building and then a post office with a side association with Mussolini, the building lay empty for a number of years before its recent (and sensitive) transformation. It is four floors of opulent shopping, each floor with amazing views of the Grand Canal and rooftop Venice. The top floor contains an exhibition area and the roof terrace is free to visit. However .... the tickets are timed so we didn't get out for the views. Hint: visit the ticket booth on the top floor first, then go for a coffee.

lots of floors of really expensive shopping
and a good cafe

Packing took the rest of the evening, punctuated by taking the recycling out and then worrying about the Italian air handlers strike for the next day ... spoilers!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Art and Technology: When Worlds Collide


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Friday, March 17, 2017

out and about offshore

in my happy place
Today we activated our travel passes then headed off to the glass mecca that is Murano. Everyone has heard of Murano glass but the tricky thing is getting your hands on genuine pieces. Every single shop on Murano sells glass; many of them just sell glass cheaply; most state that all the glass sold therein is genuine Murano glass; some say it is Murano glass handmade on the island; a handful have Murano accreditation.
A lot of the shop windows contain identical glass pieces.
Some shops are expensive.
Some are very cheap.
Some loudly proclaim No Chinese Glass.

sigh ... glass
I am still not sure how to buy Murano glass made on Murano ...

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The glass museum, refurbished since our last visit was a treasure to view. The displays are beautifully spaced out and a feast for the glass lover's eyes. Historical pieces flow chronologically from Roman to modern, with educational videos on the various techniques exploited so brilliantly by the Murano artisans.

sailing up to the Rialto on our budget tour
After Murano, we made excellent use of our travel passes by sailing all the way around the southeastern end of Venice, past Arsenale and the shipyards, to the Biennale site where we disembarked. By uncanny accident we found ourselves at the every same cafe as we had collapsed at three years ago. Enter cake, hot chocolate and an aperol spritzer. No cat this time :(
Making even more use of the travel pass, we completed our Grand Canal voyage via ACTV vaporetto line #1, getting off at Casino and then walking home.
My ankle aches but my heart soars.
Already I want to come back to Venice!

plotting the next trip?
The Details

  • Venezia Unica for travel passes - buy them online in advance then swap the voucher for tickets on the day. Choose from the daily or single tickets, or splash out on the far less restrictive multi-day options. I noticed that there is also an ACTV smartphone app that allows you to buy and download tickets to your device. Haven't used it yet but noting for the future ...
  • Murano is easy to reach  just check the ACTV routes and timetables. Check before boarding - a single word, Murano? is usually all that is needed. The vaporetto crews have been wonderful on both our trips.
  • DIY budget tour the Grand Canal courtesy of your travel pass. Line 1 zigzags from San Marco all the way through; line 2 takes a faster passage through. If you're lucky and the boat is not packed, try sitting at the front and pretending this is your private gondola.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

out and about circling back

still not quite believing we're here ... St. Mark's Square, with the Doges Palace
We are in Venice.
We were in Scotland, but thanks to EasyJet, we're now in Venice and staying in the same apartment as three years ago. :)

We arrived late last night and remembered our way thru the maze of calles and alleys and snickets little wider than a handspan. We carried our case over the bridge steps, followed the blue dot on Google maps, and buzzed in to see the amazing Giulia once more.

apologies for the frenetic slideshow but google pics doesn't do movies from desktop :(
scenes from the Natural History Museum, Ca' Pesaro Modern Art Gallery and various navigations

This morning we shopped in the most elegant grocery store I have ever seen, then missed a traghetto (OK, we couldn't find it), walked the bridge route across the Grand Canal to visit the Natural History museum and Ca' Pesaro, the modern art gallery.
In between the dead animal abundance of the former and the inspirational canvases of the second, we had our first gelato ... priorities.
And we keep pinching ourselves cos surely we must still be sleeping ... #backinvenice

putting our heads together - Rodin, ebb and Martini/Gish
the details

  • easy peasy Easyjet flight from Edinburgh to Venice, limits us trans-Atlantic travellers to only one piece of carry-on luggage and a max of 20kg for the suitcase #packlight
  • purchase the onboard vouchers for food etc ahead of time ... but don't go nuts. They are only valid on the flight you specify :( #boughtalotofkitkats
  • depending on where you are staying, the Alilaguna boat shuttles direct from the airport make a lot of sense. They are more expensive than the train or bus transfers and much cheaper than a private watertaxi. Book the voucher online and exchange on arrival at the ticket office. For us, the convenience works. It's also a great way to arrive in venice during daylight - there's nothing quite like seeing the city skyline 'floating' emerging above the lagoon surface. Maybe not an option if you don't travel well by boat ...
  • visit the Venezia Unica website for all sorts of discounts and travel tips before arriving. We bought a museum pass for all 11 civic museums and have two days of unlimited vaporetto travel sorted. You want to do it ahead of travel since you need the printed vouchers to claim your tickets, etc. 
  • crossing canals is easy on foot if you can find a bridge; vaporettos are an expensive way of getting around for tourists unless you buy a pass (see above). The alternative is a 2 Euro ride on a gondola ferry or traghetto. Street maps of the city show where these cross the Grand Canal (apparently) but note, they are not regular and seem to run to their own schedules. It is however a cool way to get on the water.
Schrodinger's traghetto perhaps - we saw it on the water but not at a landing




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

out and about back to school

Interactivity rules at the museum

Still bucket listing.

Day Five (Monday)
Wee Guy and I headed back in to Edinburgh, on an earlier train so we could get back before the dreaded end of off peak. Stopped for coffee in the excellent cafe in the basement of the National Galleries on the Mound and added a couple of pastries to start our day. He picked up the book he'd spied on our earlier visit; I mapped out a quick sketch.
Gazing into the old town from the new

From there we headed up the steps towards the Royal Mile and on to the museum in Chambers Street again. We highly recommend the interactive exhibits in the science and technology wing ... they all worked, unlike some other places we've visited recently cough cough hrmacmillanspacecentre ...
There's also a wonderful fashion and textile display, focusing on the influence from Scottish fabrics and designers.
School and workplace

For our lunch, we headed south past the university buildings - McEwan Hall where I graduated, Teviot Row student Union with the showers with unlimited hot water, and my beloved Green Banana Club of yore at Potterow - to the Dick Vet at Summerhall for lunch. For a former student, wandering the hallways and stepping into the old library brought back lots of memories (good, bad, terrifying). Instead of hospital kennels there are now a distillery, sweet shop and art installations. No more radioactive cats in quarantine! Summerhall is home to the largest Arts complex outside London. We had a very tasty lunch in one of the surgery lecturer's offices under the surgical suite that I worked in briefly!
Late for a lecture?

It felt almost as odd revisiting the Dick as it did working there immediately after qualifying ... and with my son along for the ride too.

From there we headed back to the museum to catch a few more exhibits (museums - best in small doses), before catching our off peak return.
Rooftop Panorama at the museum
The Details

  • Family and Friends Railcard (£30) make train travel even cheaper
  • Entry to the galleries and the museum is free; pay extra to see certain exhibitions. Free access to the museum roof deck is a must for sunny and clear days
  • Summerhall is open all week though certain galleries are closed on Mondays. The lecture theatre were closed when we visited and so was the dissection room where the formalin fumes from the cadavers killed off my respiratory cilia :(


Achieving Equitable Minority Representation in Biobanking


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Monday, March 13, 2017

out and about making a splash

lifeboat ahoy, but no whale ...

So far ... family, friends, beaches and whales ...
Family - check
Friends - check
Beaches - check
Whale - so far unseen, even though we were in the right area :(


Day Three (Saturday)
Day three was family and friends day, catching up with an aunt, an uncle, a neighbour and a childhood friend. Also, catching up on bits and pieces of work that travel with me. Wee Guy went to hang out with a local friend and also learn that 'tea' means dinner over here.

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Day Four (Sunday)
This morning we travelled along the coast to Kinghorn, to visit the lifeboat station. This charming little seaside village fields three full inshore lifeboat crews out of a population of 2,930. All boat crew must live within the village, and must not leave it while on call unless they arrange cover.
We saw the boat returning from a practice run, when the tractor unit picked it up on the trolley by driving into the waves. Then we chatted with crew and other volunteers (yes, the crew are volunteers too - they don't get paid for training or for going out on rescues).
... they're recruiting too, but I think the Wee Guy is a little young.
Kinghorn seaside

Later, we made our re-acquaintance  with the local castle, another beach, took two busy terriers for a walk, and resumed a conversation that was started a year ago while shrugging off a few more grams of jet lag. Happy travels :)


daily snapshot: March 13, 2017 at 05:36AM


exploration: very inspiring fashion exhibit at the national museum. "sadly, the definition of beauty is getting narrower" and discussions on using fashion, appearance to empower. fits right in with my blue hair, selfie-obsessed artist exploration development #feisty50 persona.
from instagram

Saturday, March 11, 2017

out and about home and away

sunshine, in march, in scotland ... #endofdays

(subtitle: a real blog post)
We're on holiday.
To clarify, the 'we' is myself and the Wee Guy, and 'on holiday' means back in the UK visiting family.

So far, we've kicked jetlag (ok not quite but this time has been brutal), missed the off peak train travel back from Edinburgh and spent dinner time in the city, walked along the harbour, walked the dog, and walked round Edinburgh.

We've caught up with family, friends, old haunts and coffee.
We've caught sun and grey days.
We're missing home but having enough fun to not miss it too badly.

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The Details (in case you were wondering)
  • Flight from Vancouver to Edinburgh via Heathrow.
  • Use free airport wifi to Skype grandparents to let them know of our arrival and when to expect us. (Turn off all data, roaming etc. to avoid a nasty shock on return home).
  • Test Canadian bank card in UK ATM - success!
  • Airport shuttle into Fife.
  • SIM cards from Three.co.uk - If you have a UK delivery address, send off in advance for a free pay-as-you-go SIM then pick up a top-up voucher at WH Smith or similar. Credit card top ups do not work unless you have a UK billing address :( Once topped up, convert your top up into an Add On that will last for 30 days for additional value. 
all sunny at the end of the harbour
Day One (Thursday)
lenses from lighthouse in museum main hall
  • Ugh jetlag migraine ... glorious sunshine not helping (scotland ... march ... sunshine ... wtf?)
  • Slow walking with dog ... left behind by grandparents going longer route (oh the shame)...
  • Pooh sticks from the bridge ... realise parenting failure as Wee Guy thinks nana is actually going to make him handle poo sticks ... 
  • Fail to obtain pre-booked rail tickets from station ticket machine a too jetlagged/post-migrainish to remember which credit card ... increase anxiety in Wee Guy who now does not believe he is under care of competent adult ...
  • Afternoon nap ... unconscious for several hours ... Wee Guy discovers Doctor Who on Netflix again ... holiday plans now sorted!
the Writers Museum: free entry and worth it to see
inside this amazing building

Day Two (Friday)
  • Ticket success requires insertion of most of my credit cards into machine.
  • Train travel bucket list item checked
  • Yo Sushi! lunch bucket list level achieved
  • Brief arting stop at National Gallery to giggle at books, then onwards via Writers Museum and Royal Mile to National Museum on Chambers Street to catch up with soon-to-be Dr. Ryan for tea and cakes (and museums)
  • bounce down the marble Scotsman Steps
  • Off peak hours pah! Dinner in town. Bonus: seeing Edinburgh all lit up

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Follow along on Rebel Mouse for more pics!


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