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Archives for February 2013

Venice, Italy: Masquerade!

One of the highlights for this trip had to be this mask and costume shop. These are masks and costumes worn during Carnival, an annual festival in Venice.

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The walls and tables were adorned with masks, full of fantasy, intrigue and sparkles! You can find these different masks in the pictures: full-face (bauta), half-mask (columbina), long beak/plague doctor (medico della peste).

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Completing the outfit, for a lady, here are a few selections for that:

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We were able to try some masks on. Clearly, we had a field day with that…

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While I wish I were able to remember the origins of Carnival, I found a few sites of the Carnival festivals: Photos of Carnival 2011 and a Video of Carnival 2013.

Even if you aren’t able to visit Venice during Carnival, you can still bring any of these ornate masks home. They sell them at almost every kiosk there 😉

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Happy travels friends!

Venice, Italy: Perks of Piazza San Marco

Being the main square in Venice, you can really do no wrong starting off your adventures here. If you go up in Campanile di San Marco, aka St. Mark’s Bell Tower, you can give yourself a 360 degree view of the square and Venice for that matter. It’ll cost you 8EUR, but you can hang out up there for as long as you like to soak in all the views!

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Here’s where we came in via water bus and a view of San Giorgio Maggiore (island on the left).

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As we continue panning right, we find ourselves overlooking the square.

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Still panning right, the focus is more on the rooftops of the surrounding buildings. Beautiful, isn’t it? Also, on the bottom right corner is the Clocktower, which was the first building people would see when they would come to Venice. It was made and shown as symbol of the wealth and stability of the Venetians. Also, if you make your way through the archway, you will eventually find yourself at the Rialto.

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Completing the 360 view at the bell tower is St. Mark’s Basilica.

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It’s just as ornate up top as it is down below!

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Just to the right of the basilica is Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace).
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We headed back down from the bell tower and in through Doge’s Palace. There is an entrance fee. I was definitely fascinated by the architecture. This is the Loggias, aka the inner courtyard of the palace.

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I think if you have a palace, you definitely deserve to have a Golden Staircase.

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The painting is the one I want to thank my Humanities teachers for my ever-expanding appreciation and knowledge of art: Paradise – Tintoretto. I could have easily stood there and just stared at this for the rest of the day.

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After unwillingly getting pulled away, we continued through the palace and made our way to the prisons by means of the Bridge of Sighs. The name comes from the last views of Venice convicts get to see and they would let out a sigh before making their way to the prison. Interesting and slightly depressing note after coming off the high of seeing that painting.

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  Here’s how the Bridge of Sighs looks from the outside.

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If you ever find yourself in Venice, enjoy the shops, appreciate the architecture and soak in the history. If anything else, feed the birds =)

Happy travels friends!

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Venice, Italy: Gondolas and Waterways of Venice

With a city that’s compiled of about 118 little islands, water transportation is definitely a way to get around. Once we walked out of the airport, we headed towards the dock to wait for our water bus (public transportation system). That would explain all the bridges, alleys and walkways around these routes. You can think of the Alilaguna being a public bus or subway system. Depending on which one you get on, it runs the different route. This other option is having a water taxi, which if I remember correctly, is more expensive getting picked up from the airport dock and getting dropped off by the Plaza.

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This was about a 20 minute ride, which included a few other stops before getting to ours. This was my first view of Venice from the “blue line” route.

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I’m sure gondolas come to mind when you think of Venice. Rightfully so, they were there. Although, they don’t sing as we may think they do. That’s only for the gondola rides at the Venetian in Las Vegas. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you sang to your significant other though =)

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Note – this is a tourist trap! The cheapest ride is from one side to the other. The cost? 2 EUR. Which means, the price can only go up from there. If your mind is on the beautiful view, maybe the cost wouldn’t hurt so much.

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Fun fact: majority of the gondoliers are men, although there are a few women who are full-fledged gondoliers (that was according to our guide).

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Of course, you can always walk around. That is, if you know where you are going. Just like in Mykonos, the buildings are high and the walkways are narrow.  In no way are the streets labeled, so a simple set of turns can send you walking in a completely different direction than you intended. This is definitely a place where you should be cogniscent of your surroundings. But hey, if you are all up for getting lost, go for it and enjoy the view!

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Keep experiencing beautiful things. Happy travels friends!

Sonoma, CA: Celebrations in Wine Country

We (parents, mister, and me) went to Wine Country for mister’s birthday. It was taking a late flight out on Friday to San Francisco, wake up early and drive to a few vineyards, drove back to SFO, went to the pier, and hopped on a flight back home! This was most definitely a quick trip weekend… if you can even call it that.

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The first place we checked out was one of the first vineyards on the road: Domaine Carneros, which specializes in sparkling wine.

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We opted to take the vineyard tour and tasting. First we got educated on the types of grapes they use and how they prune the branches. Here are little itty bitty grapes on the vine.

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We were started off inside with some bubbly while explaining the different sweetness levels. Going from sweetest to driest it’s: dry, extra-dry, brut, extra-brut (in some areas). That’s a little funny huh to called the sweetest one “dry”.

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These are the huge vats where the wines ferment. The temperature is adjusted depending on the type of wine in the vat.

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Storage for the sparkling wines when they use machinery to turn the bottles. This way the yeast isn’t floating around in the liquid and it’s by the cork. This was pretty cool.

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Here’s the old school way of going about it. People used to hand turn the bottles at certain times depending on where the bottle is in the process.  domaine_carneros_turn_wine_bottles_sonoma_day_with_kaye

Towards the end of the tour, we’ve already had at least 3 different samples of sparkling wines. Oh and there was more to be had!

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Mister was feeling good. Happy birthday!! The huge bottle people purchase for their wedding, or significant event and the guests sign the bottle. That’s a pretty neat idea for a keepsake.

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Our next stop was The Boon Fly Cafe to grab some lunch. It was right down the road, and in the right direction of our next vineyard. Perfect choice – a pseudo-upscale-country-farm vibe. After lunch, we continued our tour to Silverado Vineyards.

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With taste buds content with vino, we started our way back to San Fran to spend some time here: Pier 39.

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These critters were pretty hilarious. Flopping over each other to get to a comfortable position and warm spot. Oh and happy 22nd anniversary to these sea lions – how long they’ve been hanging around by the pier.

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Wish we had more time to check out more vineyards. We’ll be back though! Happy travels friends!