Venice, Italy – So Much More Than Glass and Gondolas!

invoking thoughts of women in masks and powdered wigs roaming through the city after attending yet another outrageous masked ball in the 15th century.

Venice, Italy – So Much More Than Glass and Gondolas!

I’d heard Venice was smelly, damp, expensive, sinking and outdated. Well they got that wrong!

Venice canal
Stupidly big boats are not friends of Venice

OK, maybe it’s sinking, actually it’s tilting and sinking. Yes it’s pricey. However it certainly wasn’t smelly and it was so packed with gorgeous art, stunning architecture, history and irrepressible wow factors that I would have forgiven the city the smell anyway.

Venice - pillar



Venice is awesome, you arrive at the airport and get the boat, yes boat, from the airport to your hotel.

On the island there are no cars, which is no wonder as the pathways wind adventurously between the high and ancient architecture.

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Vietnam – Through My Eyes

The cities are bright, busy and packed with energy

The countryside is wild and awe inspiring

Vietnam – Through My Eyes

Vietnam is a beautiful, breath taking country

The cities are bright, busy and packed with energy

The countryside is wild and awe inspiring

Taste the best coffee in the world

Go and see stunning dynamic Vietnam for yourself

It has some of the most iconic views in the world

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Why You Should Go On A Bike Ride In Hoi An, Vietnam

My untrained eye didn’t deceive me on that one as the seat dug into places it really shouldn’t, or at least not without due invitation!

Why You Should Go On A Bike Ride In Hoi An, Vietnam

What better way to immerse myself in the culture of Vietnam than to cycle. While somewhere in town a tailor was creating my beautiful hand made clothes, I decided to pass the time seeing a bit of the ‘real’ Vietnam.

Now let me admit I can ride a bike in the tradition of ‘you never forget’ however I have still to master the art of jumping up kerbs and no hands trick cycling a la BMX style. This basic skill of mine is enough to enable me to get from A – B but not in any artistic, or too speedy, fashion.

You can therefore imagine my trepidation / terror…

…when the cycle man arrived with a bunch of bikes with varying degrees of rust and dents, in my amateur opinion very aged brake cables and decidedly uncomfortable looking seats. My untrained eye didn’t deceive me on that one as the seat dug into places it really shouldn’t, or at least not without due invitation!

 

Well I had decided to try everything I could

I would embrace all new learning experiences with a smile so I got in position and set off. Wobble wasn’t the word to quite cover the way the cycle heaved quite violently at every bump, and let’s put it this way Vietnam is not known for its smooth pot-hole free highways.

Cycle_ride_in_Vietnam_with_local_cow

We took our life in our hands…

to cross a major junction, remember I can’t do hands free so…mirror ( what mirror), signal (WHAT NO HANDS) manoeuvre (don’t go too fast they will hit you!) took on a threat level as significant to me as a two year old walking across the UK M1 motorway. OK I admit it I was scared. It lasted approximately one minute until I reached the other side and then the absolutely stunning beautiful although rather bumpy raised grass pathways between the rice fields.

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5 Things To Do In Doha, Qatar – The Up And Coming Jewel Of The Middle East

The good thing about Qatar is that whilst it isn’t cheap, it isn’t prohibitively expensive so try it now before the crowds.

5 Things To Do In Doha, Qatar – The Up And Coming Jewel Of The Middle East

I’m sure most of you have heard of Dubai, but Qatar may not be on your radar, unless of course you’re a soccer fan. In which case you’ll be aware the FIFA World Cup will be held there in 2022. I’m not going to dig any deeper on that, just please don’t judge a place or its people until you’ve been there.

Dubai is leading the field in this area in the development of tourism but Qatar is not far behind, and with all the positivity and enthusiasm I’m sure they will soon be not far behind. The good thing about Qatar is that whilst it isn’t cheap, it isn’t prohibitively expensive so try it now before the crowds.

The modern hi-tech airport in Doha is an award winner and their staff are probably the friendliest airport staff I’ve come across. I’m impressed as I’m sure it’s not easy to keep your calm when stressed travellers are shouting in every language you can imagine. The taxi rank is easy to find, the taxis are all aqua blue.



You’ll no doubt be ferried down the city centre roads which are 6 lane motorways. They are packed with the biggest variety of 4x4s doing U turns and lane jumping you’ll see. If you don’t need to drive, don’t, it’s a skill here so let the taxis take the strain. The taxi drivers are mostly Indian, I asked ours if he liked driving in Doha or India. He laughed, much preferring Doha, as in India he advised us the traffic is just as chaotic but there are people, cattle, dogs and tuk-tuks as well. He thought the actions of the Ferraris, Bentleys and 4x4s were much easier to predict!

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If you’re heading across the globe you may be offered a stopover in Qatar, you can do much worse. Try to arrange a long weekend in Doha, it has some real gems.

1. Museum of Islamic Art

Doha_Museum_architecture

I could easily spend a full day here, on a regular basis. It’s a huge well designed modern museum, packed with well protected and well labelled artifacts from across a huge swath of the ancient and modern muslim world.

The various galleries span three floors. The fourth floor was closed on our visit, I think probably to prepare another exhibit. There was a temporary ‘threads’ exhibition on the ground floor, all of which was stunning in it’s beauty and history, it included unique an no doubt highly prized historic pieces. The whole museum is an educational, artistic and informative haven from the heat. If I lived in this city this would be a regular haunt.

Doha_jewelled_falcon

The cafe at the entrance is worth a visit too, although menu quite small, it’s ideal for a drink and snack. The free parking and free entry is great, and unexpected.

They should ask for donations as I’m sure all the tourists and locals alike would give generously. The fund could go towards continued protection of our art and histories, vital work in these troubled times.

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What to do in Rome (And an easy way to save money whilst doing it!)

Remember your memories are in your head. As much as it’s great to take photos, I do all the time, it’s also great to see stuff with your eyes not your lens.

What to do in Rome (And an easy way to save money whilst doing it!)

Off to Rome? Fantastic! Flights booked? Awesome! Now deciding what to do ‘when in Rome’ well, I’ve a few tips.

Colosseum
Colosseum

Firstly, there is no way you will ‘see it all’ on a short break to Rome. Just accept it.

The city is so packed to the rafters with beauty, history, art and culture, and tourists, you need to have a plan. Your plan could be ‘let’s just see how it goes’ which in most of my life tends to be a mantra of mine.

HOWEVER, I don’t suggest this for Rome. I’d suggest a bit of pre planning to make sure you don’t miss out on some exceptional, awe inspiring, breath taking and unique experiences.

When you arrive in Rome

We got the public bus from the airport, boy it was packed, and late, and hot and not fun with a large backpack but it was cheap and we arrived safely. The locals helped us find the right stop otherwise I think we’d still be on it! I guess you pay your money you take your choice.

Oh, and remember, there are two airports!

Roman rabbit
Roman rabbit – bit random

Where to stay in Rome

It’s not cheap, it’s a city and it’s a busy one. However you can bag a bargain if you shop around. I noticed the hotels offered with the flight companies didn’t have great reviews, so booked separately.

We stayed at the hotel Mimosa, I’ve posted a review on Trip Advisor if you want to get more details.

It’s in an ideal location for everything central in Rome, with helpful staff.

BIG TIP!

Talk to locals and staff, we found extra iconic Caravaggio paintings which weren’t mentioned in the guide books by chatting over breakfast.

If you are staying in a smaller hotel, you may find they lock up, not just at night. Make sure you read all the small print and can gain access when your flight arrives. Make sure they know you’re coming.

How to find things in Rome

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Do you value Art, are you a scribbler?

Anything that helps us appreciate art at whatever age is going to feedback into a stronger more wholesome society.

When we talk about the value of arts and culture to society, we always start with its intrinsic value: how arts and culture can illuminate our inner lives and enrich our emotional world. This is what we cherish…

However, we also understand that arts and culture has a wider, more measurable impact on our economy, health and wellbeing, society and education. It’s important we also recognise this impact to help people think of our arts and culture for what they are: a strategic national resource…

This quote from the Arts Council resonates strongly with me.

I firmly believe art is essential for wellbeing. In the large societal sense but also just on a personal level. You only need to look at the MASSIVE growth in sales of colouring books this year to see that we need art in our lives. If you have ever done any babysitting you will soon recall the joy of colouring in. Have you fought the temptation to buy a book and pens? Are you a few tip pen or an old school pencil fan? Do you keep strictly within the lines or are you a reckless scribbler? Does colour matter, or are you a fan of monochrome? I am a bit of a neat freak however I often get impatient so go for a minimalist look.

Anything that helps us appreciate art at whatever age is going to feedback into a stronger more wholesome society. If you want some inspiration you could drop by Art Finder and see where some have taken their artistic skills. Art is in the eye of the beholder, I’m sure you’ll find something there that inspires you. There’s something there for everyone, although I’d keep the kids and their crayons away if you do indulge your passion for paint and instead of drawing your own you buy a canvas or print.