Wednesday, May 17, 2006


We got to Venice after all, thanks to Phil's great parents still agreeing to mind the girls while we were away despite their recent bereavement. The flight was on time and the bus transfer went smoothly; we met with Carla as planned by the Rialto Bridge and she showed us our room in the B&B which was right off a shopping street in the heart of the city but three floors up! We unpacked quickly; the room had really high ceilings and built in cupboards with a very hight hanging rail for clothes - I thought at first it was a crazy arrangement until I found the hooked pole with which we lifted and lowered the clothes hangers!!

We went out as soon as we'd unpacked and headed down st Piazza San Marco which was hot and crowded. P wanted to try some candid people shots. I got a couple of ones I was quite pleased with. We wandered for ages and found the Teatro La Fenice which we'd missed last visit. P took some great photos of a mime dressed as a staue. We ate dinner at a little place we'd found last year with delicious food.

Sleeping wasn't easy as the street below us was noisy and so narrow that the sound sort of funnelled upwards! We eventually dropped off and awoke to the sound of RAIN!! Not rain! we'd left rain in England, or so we had hoped. We still got up for 6 am and went out to take photos. By mid morning the rain had cleared and the sun was out. We took a vaporetto down to Arsenale and just walked and walked - Via Garibaldi was really interesting. We ended up by Academia via the troghetto. That evening we tried a different restaurant near Academia which had wonderful food - caprese salad followed by beef stew and polenta. We went walking out to Santa Maria della Salute for the great view back across the Grand Canal to San Marco then got the vaporetto to San Marco and took in the square at night when it's much more attractive with bands playing at the various cafes vying to get the best audiences. Our favourites were a charismatic quartet playing selections from the Sound of Music with great verve and panache.

On Monday we got up at 6 again and the light was glorious. We had another early-morning vaporetto trip. After breakfast we went to Fondemente Nuove and caught a vaporetto out past the cemetery island of San Michelle to Murano. Murano was lovely but very hot. The basillica was lovely with interesting brick work outside and beautiful mosaic floors inside and a glass staue of Christ crucified that was gorgeous. We then caught the next boat to Burano which was really astonishing. We'd heard about the colourful houses but nothing really prepares you for them!! We wandred for ages before and after lunch taking lots of photos. Then sat in the shade for a bit by the side of a lagoon. Phil bought lovely silk scarves for me and his mum and got chatted up by the lovely shop assistant!

That evening we went back to San Marco after eating for a reprisal of the free concerts. That night we were feasted upon by mosquitos. It was only when I was packing that I realised what I thought was a plug-in air freshener was in fact a mosquito repellant!! I am now so covered in bites I look like I've been pebble-dashed.

On our last morning we rose at 6 as usual and went to Rialto. We explored the fruit and veg and fish markets there which are something to see - so many varieties of everything; I'd love to shop there instead of Tesco! It was very hard to say goodbye to Venice again knowing that this time we won't be back for quite some time.

I have even more great memories - I love prowling the streets and narrow calles early in the morning and late at night; I love the washing hanging above our heads everywhere we go, the little bar where we grabbed early morning coffees. The sound of Italian everywhere.....even the vu-cumpra (illegal bag sellers) with their cheek and their sales patter! I love the absence of cars and the light on the crumbling facades of the building; the way the police, the fire brigade, the ambulance service, the laundry service and the refuse collectors all use boats. I like people-watching on the vaporettos and in the streets, the food and the lights reflected on the waters at night. The way you can walk a little way out of the San Marco and leave much of the crowds behind. Italian ice cream. People walking into a bar and ordering grappa at 8 am and downing them as quickly as if they were an expresso. I love prosecco and fresh basil and tiny balls of mozzarella.

I love Venice.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I filled the car with petrol today. It cost me over £42. That's around $80 US. It's scary. It isn't as if I have a big car, just a medium sized saloon. Luckily it does good mileage. When I think that Phil does twice my mileage and what we must be jointly paying for petrol each month I feel ill. I'm certainly trying to drive less but public transport is both awkward and expensive for getting just about anywhere. No wonder most people drive; there is little alternative if you live outside the cities.
The weird thing is i can fly to numerous European destinations for around £45!!

Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm taking part in the Cancer Research UK "Race for life" on June 7th. It's my 3rd year of taking part. It's a 5km course and although I don't run (bad knees!) my friends and I aim to do it faster every year and are currently in training! The link above takes you to my personal fundraising page.

I lost a friend to ovarian cancer this year and P's auntie is currently at the last stages of lung cancer despite having not smoked for many, many years. Of course Dad died of cancer just over 11 years ago. I found out I was pregnant with S the day he died; we did the test after we came back from the hospital.

There's a great atmosphere at these women only fundraisers; lots of pink, lots of laughter, lots of enthusiasm. Participants wear pink cards on their back saying "I race for....." followed by names - sometimes there are several names. Cancer survivors also take part. You often find your eyes filling with tears as you read the names and talk to people as we all complete the course.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I had a lovely time visiting T in her new home in Leeds. S and I set out after her riding lesson, armed with my AA routeplanner directions and all went great until I got into Leeds. I somehow took a wrong turn and ended up somewhere I obviously was not meant to be! I turned the car around (it was a quiet street) and started back the way I came...only to realise it was a ONE WAY STREET and I was going the wrong way! I took a quick left turn only to find I was headed the WRONG WAY on a slip road to join a dual carriageway. At this point I stalled and screamed "Don't panic, Sian" which really meant "Don't panic, Julie!!". I headed back into Leeds central and ended up by a big car park. Rang T to see if she knew where I was but no luck. So off I head again and get on the Leeds loop road. This goes around and around the city centre. T lives near two tourist attractions and I figured they were sure to be signposted - they are signposted from MILES away!! Well, they were not! I toured my way past a hospital and the university and did several circuits of the shopping areas. It was boiling hot and I was getting worried..I managed to park in a side street in Chinatown and called T again. She suggested I ask a passer-by and I leapt out the car, spotted a parking attendant and screamed "HELP". He must have thought I was crazy!! Anyway he gave me directions (I wasn't too far away from T but just stuck in my loop!) and eventually i found the big museum near her building. T walked to meet me and directed me home! I was able to park with no problems. PHEW!!!

After that all went well. It's a great area that she's moved to and we had a lovely visit. Today we took a brief trip to IKEA which was useful as I was able to practice entering and leaving the city with T as my guide so hopefully won't get lost next time!!

Sian really enjoyed our "sleepover" at T's. We watched DVDs, visited some shops and ate way too much chocolate and junk. The drive home was fine except for heavy rain and a traffic jam. I can't wait to go again.

Now I'm off to bed.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

This morning I got up early and went for a four-mile walk with three friends. We're doing a bit of training for the "Race for Life" cancer charity fundraising walk. It was a beautiful day for a country walk and we all enjoyed it. After and afternoon of ironing I went to watch S and her classmates dancing in the May around the school Maypole. There's a pic of her here in her costume. She did very well; there were no mistakes at all from any of the dancers.

I slept badly last night; thinking a lot about my brother and the way things are. I can't keep things in proportion at night.