Venice Carnival

Trip Start Jan 01, 2012
Trip End Aug 15, 2014

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Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Friday, February 17, 2012

Hey Guys,

I can't remember exactly when I first heard of Venice Carnival, I think it was one of those places I heard someone mention and then mentally added on my ever growing list of places to go and things to do. It wasn't till I saw some photos online that I decided to lock it in for this year.

It turned out that two of the girls in my office, Kylie and Carmen were wanting to go as well so before we knew it the three of us plus their partners were booked for Carnival.

The most affordable way of booking was through a tour so we booked an extra nights pre-accommodation and headed to Venice. It took us a long time to find our hotel, it turned out to be in the middle of nowhere and left us walking on the edge of a motorway to get to it. On checking in we were told our extra night's accommodation had been cancelled by the tour company. You can imagine saying this to a bunch of three travel agents did not go down well.

It turned out the tour guide was already on site so was called down to assist us. And so this is how I came to meet Michaela, little did I know at the time that I would be spending more time with this woman later in the year. Her answer to the accommodation mishap was to advise us that it was not her problem. This went down like a lead balloon. Pretty soon her in your face manner and reluctance to assist had me wanting to slap her. I am not a touchy person so to have a stranger who is rude, and arrogant keep touching me and practically sitting on me did not endear her to me. Eventually the issue was resolved and we had somewhere to sleep however as a result we lost an evening of free time.

The next morning we had a free day before meeting with our tour so we decided to head out to a few of the Venetian Islands that weren't included in our itinerary. My first taste of Venice was navigating the canals by water taxi as we headed out to Murano a small island famous for glass blowing.

The island itself was very cute and more petite than I was expecting, I had envisioned an industrial area yet in reality it was quaint and very beautiful. It was interesting to see how the glass was blown and learn the history of the island and how all the glass blowers were banished there for fear of fires on the mainland.

From Murano we continued our water taxi journey to Burano. I don't think I had many expectations for the island and perhaps that was maybe why I was so blown away by it. Typically famous for its lace making what actually impressed me the most was the vibrancy of the colours. It was originally a fishing village and the fisherman used to paint their houses in bright colours so they could identify their homes from sea and knew where to aim for when returning late at night. As the years passed it became a bit of a tradition and now houses must have approval from the council when repainting.

Today the island is just bright and bold and colourful, and unlike anything I have ever seen before. We spent the afternoon just wandering around admiring all the unique paintjobs. One house was Sesame St themed and others with their bright colours made me think that if Willy Wonka was in the market for a second property he should settle here.

After our leisurely afternoon we decided to head back and have dinner at a little local restaurant near our hotel. The food was cheap and cheerful and the pizza's freaking massive. We had to trek back along the motorway after dinner to return to the hotel, we weren't the only ones walking the motorway and we soon came to see some of the local prostitutes and had to be careful not to stand on the used condoms thrown on the path. Ah the joys of having a cheap hotel in the dodgy part of town.

The following morning we met up with tour group and headed back into central Venice. We had a 40 minute walking tour winding through the canals. Despite seeing the islands the day before we still hadn't seen Venice mainland so this tour was our first real introduction to Venice. It was even more beautiful than I could ever have imagined, winding cobbled roads linked by small bridges crossing the canals.

Somebody once told me that the best way to experience Venice was to get lost. 5 minutes into the walking tour and it soon became apparent that one couldn't go to Venice and not get lost. With a unique numbering system and no detailed maps of the canals getting lost was the norm and I knew that as soon as the tour was over I would find myself aimlessly wandering the streets. The gondolas floating in the docks were as cheesy and as awesome as I had expected. The gondoliers did wear stripy shirts-my only disappointment was that they don't sing.

Our tour ended with a glass blowing and lace making demonstration followed by our own chance to take a Gondola ride. The ride was amazing and it felt very surreal to be rowed around while drinking champagne at 11 am. I couldn't help but calculate the figures that a Gondola holds six people and they charge GBP20.00 per person for a twenty minute ride. With the share volume of tourists in Venice it's a really profitable business.

The rest of the day was spent milling around the streets viewing all aspects of the carnival. The history of carnival is that it is supposed to be the last celebration before Lent. The word Carnival coming from Carne-meat and Vale-farewell. So quite literally Carnival traditionally marked the start of Lent and the sacrifice of meat.

Today tourists flock from around the world to take part and the festival is renowned for the beautiful costumes and in particular the masks that the locals wear. Those dressed up compete for the best dressed and each couple comes complementing their partners outfits. Venice was flooded with people, literally thousands soaking up the music and atmosphere and taking photos of all the amazing costumes.  

I can't even begin to describe the effort and skill and craft put into each of the costumes, some were so clever and well-made you couldn't help but admire the work that you know went into creating such beautiful garments.

We spent the afternoon roaming the streets enjoying the atmosphere and of course shopping for our very own masks. We even went to the shop that made the masks for Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut. Very quickly we learnt to differentiate between the Chinese knockoffs and those hand made in Venice.  Eventually I settled on blue metal half butterfly mask. Definitely not a typical papier mache mask but hey when have I ever done things the same as everyone else?

Looking back the afternoon was a blur and merged with evening. We didn't really do anything in particular apart from wander around in awe at all the incredible outfits. In the late evening the main square transformed into a giant party with live bands playing. It gave me the same feeling as I had all those years ago at the outdoor rave in Barcelona. There is just something magical about dancing to the music in the streets and feeling part of something much bigger.

The following day was much of the same. I knew I would be returning to Venice later in the year so didn't feel the urgency and need to fit all the tourist attractions in as I would normally do so I felt very relaxed and no under pressure. We had dinner with our group but our guide didn't know where to take us so Nathan, Kylie's husband found a local restaurant that was large enough to accommodate us and at a reasonable cost. What got my back up is that our guide quite obviously got a kick back and her meal free for bringing our group to the restaurant. I thought it was really inappropriate of her to do this A, because she didn't locate the venue and negotiate the deal and B, she shouldn't be doing that in front of the group, it just wasn't professional.

That night marked the end of our carnival experience and it was time for us to pack our bags and head back to the airport the next morning. The party atmosphere was amazing and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to experience such an incredibly unique event. I can now cross Carnival off my list of things to do however Venice is still on my list of things to further explore.

So until next time dear readers,

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