Friday Oct 3, 2014

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If you ever come to Venice, you’ve GOTTA arrive on a cruise ship. You’ve GOTTA be out on deck as your ship sails magnificently along the elegant Grand Canal. And you’ve GOTTA watch this remarkable city, unique in all the world, rise from the lagoon like a mirage … the sun’s rays caressing her palaces and towers … the sound of church bells echoing across the water … and gondolas gliding along the canals under graceful archways of stone.

We did precisely this yesterday, and we can tell you for a fact: there ain’t nothing quite like Venice!

It all started in 421AD, when the people of Veneto fled their mainland homes ahead of the invading Goths. They founded this extraordinary city on marshy, flooded islands, using wooden pilings and impermeable stone for foundations – an astonishing feat of engineering. By the 13th century Venice boasted a formidable navy, capable of turning out a warship a day. And for some 1000 years it was home to big names – like Casanova, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, the sculptor Canova, and the explorer Marco Polo.

Venice, today, continues to exceed all expectations – its onion-domed cathedrals, priceless Renaissance art, and criss-crossing canals (more than 400 of them) attracting hordes of adoring, camera-toting tourists – just like us!

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Yesterday afternoon, we took a couple of vaporettos (water-taxis) to the popular central area around St Mark’s Square, where we visited the Basilica di San Marco (a church of unquestionable beauty) … explored the opulent, gold-encrusted Doges’ Palace … and crossed the lagoon via the Bridge of Sighs (so-named because this was the olden-days route that prisoners took on the way to their execution).

Last night we enjoyed our final gourmet dinner aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, with a menu that’s sure to make your mouth water:

Appetisers & Soups

  • Latin-American Style Gravlax (salmon)
  • Argentinian Guisso Soup (beef)
  • Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Chicken
  • Shiitake Salad with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette
  • Mediterranean Mezze Plate
  • Scandinavian-Style Seafood & Potato Chowder
  • Brie in Crispy Phyllo with Apple-Cranberry Chutney
  • Chilled Pumpkin Soup with Cinnamon & Ginger


  • Bourbon Glazed Beef with Grilled Portabella Mushrooms
  • Poblano Stuffed ‘Pechuga de Pollo’ (chicken)
  • Wattleseed Roasted Duck with Apricots
  • Tofu & Vegetable Korma
  • Lebanese Lamb Shank
  • Asparagus & Fontina Cheese Risotto with Sautéed Cod
  • Sautéed Shrimp Provençal
  • Orecchiette with Italian Sausage & Escarole


  • The ‘Big Apple’ Cheesecake
  • Kiwi & Passion Fruit Pavlova
  • Mohr Im Hemd (chocolate nut sponge)
  • Baked Alaska

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This morning (after still-more food, at breakfast!), we disembarked and said a sad goodbye to our floating hotel. Over the past 12 days she and her crew of 880 have taken us a total of 1816 nautical miles, and we’ve had more fun than we’ll ever have time to tell you about.

Leaving the ship, we climbed into a couple more vaporettos and roared off through the vast, scenic Venetian Lagoon to two fascinating islands:

  • Murano has been the region’s glass-blowing centre since 1291, and tradesmen still practice their jealously-guarded craft today. We got to watch them do it at one of the famous glass-blowing factories, and enjoyed a (careful) nose-around in a showroom filled with the most intricate creations.
  • The equally famous island of Burano has a well-earned reputation for exquisite lace-making – and while those women who wanted to eyeballed this handwork, the rest of us roamed picturesque streets and canals lined with quaint multi-coloured houses.

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Finally, after returning to Venice-Central and freshening up at the Hotel Saturnia – a beautifully-restored 14th century merchant’s mansion on one of the city’s countless lagoons – we grabbed another special take-home memory: a Gondola Serenade, drifting along the Venetian canals as darkened waters lapped against the sides of our sleek black boats and musicians serenaded us in the traditional fashion.

“O sole mio …”

PEOPLE NEWS: Not many Quacky Yellow Duckies still remain in the nest after a mass exodus this morning:

  • Rob was nominated for our ‘Waiting for his Ship to Come In Award’ – when he was spotted standing in the Nieuw Amsterdam lobby, waiting for a lift to come and take him to the deck he was already on.
  • Keith received our ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion Award’ – for copying the tour leader’s excellent choice of clothing, by wearing an identical t-shirt and shorts on exactly the same day.
  • Trish B walked away with our ‘Human Rooster Award’ – for, well, here’s what Gloria (her room-mate) told us: “Trish starts snoring around 6am each morning, and she wakes me up – I don’t even need an alarm clock!”
  • Michael was granted our ‘Cross-Dressing Award’ – when he was seen sporting a lady’s handbag over his shoulder yesterday. (Gucci, I think it was.) He claimed he was carrying it for someone else, but yeah, sure, Michael!
  • Kevin received our ‘Safe-Cracker Award’ – for jiggering their hotel safe in Venice, making it inoperable, and requiring middle-of-the-night attention by the hotel’s repair-man – not just once, but twice on the same night!

TOMORROW: We begin the final chapter of our Mad Midlife Mediterranean Adventure by bidding Venice “Arrive-derci!” and flying to Istanbul in Turkey. Something completely different? You bet … watch this space!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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