Holiday 2007 – Venice and Padua

It was a sudden decision to take a sleeper train to Venice. We didn't really know what to expect. By chance, we arrived at Carnivale (mask and costume festival), probably the busiest time of the year. Venice was filled to the rafters with tourists, prices were high and it was difficult to walk in many areas due to the number of people in the narrow streets! The solution was to take to the water - catching the ferry was fun and it got you out of the crowds.

Venice is really beautiful. The Doges (ruler's) palace and nearby Cathedral in St Marco square are amazing. The palace has huge painted ceiling murals by famous artists and enormous open halls. In the Cathedral, there are golden mosaics over the whole ceiling, and even the floor is an artwork in tiles. There's also some impressive golden relics from when the Venetians sacked Constantinople during the crusades.

In Venice, most streets lead to the water, and the best facades are turned towards the canals. It really is a city designed to be traversed on the water. The buildings are mainly standing on foundations made from hundreds of pine trees hammered into the silty mud under Venice. Historically, Venice's influence peaked in the 13th century or so, and from then on, it was a slow decline in power. But to make up for this, the wealthy families spent lavishly on buildings, clothes and decorations.

On our last day in Italy, we went to Padua to take a look at a more typical Italian city. It was a friendly and fun place with few tourists, but good food and a nice atmosphere. Last picture is of Padua, all the rest are from Venice!














 
26 02 2007

Holiday 2007 – Monaco

Monaco is easily accessible from Nice - about 1/2h by train. We spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening there, visiting the cactus "exotic" garden, castle, casino and cave. The cave was particularly interesting - it was about 18degC inside (despite winter temperatures outside), and walkways for visitors had been made using explosives and diamond drills! Despite the damage, it was still a lovely cave. Monaco was clean and tidy, and felt almost like a movie set.





 
26 02 2007

Holiday 2007 – Provence & Cote D’Azure in the South of France

France supposedly is the number 1 tourist destination in the world, and certainly it is one of my personal favourites! Besides the pleasure of speaking French, we had the opportunity to eat a lot of good food, and visit really pretty coastal areas, medieval towns, castles and ancient Roman remains.

Our itinerary looked roughly like this:
Marseilles -> Aix En Provence -> Avignon -> Nimes -> Arles -> Tarascon -> (Italy) -> Nice -> Antibes -> (Monaco)

In terms of hotels, it was very much 'get what you pay for'. We tended to stay in two star places around 40-50 euros per night. Our first hotel in Marseilles was only 37E per night, and it convinced us that the extra 10E or so was really worth it! Hotels were fairly easy to find (well sign posted), though often not too close to transport.

We tried the random approach to finding good restaurants to start with, but this led to a number of disappointments. The solution was to ask our hoteliers for their favourite restaurants - this led to some really great meals 🙂

We had planned to rent a car for some parts of the trip.. however, make sure you learn to drive a manual before attempting this! Autos in France are horribly expensive to rent, so we ended up doing everything by public transport - bit tricky in winter time especially, but we managed. Tourist offices were generally very helpful.








































































 
25 02 2007

Holiday 2007 – South Korea

South Korea is a great place to visit. People tend to be very friendly, the alphabet is phonetic, food is good and everything is excitingly foreign! Don't forget your phrase book though.. English is not widely spoken. This was my 3rd trip to Korea, and it was an opportunity to catch up with Soosun's relatives, improve my pitiful Korean and see some interesting areas.

Should you happen to go to Korea with a partner, I would recommend staying in 'motels'. They are around 30,000-40,000 WON in most places per night, are conveniently located near transport and generally have nice rooms. Despite their reputation as love hotels, they are often more comfortable and cheaper than other alternatives. Don't be surprised, however, if they don't ask for your name, and require payment in cash!

Also, visiting the local jim-jil-bung (sauna) is an experience not to miss. They are generally open 24h and provide showers, sauna rooms, hot and cold pools, massage and general sleeping and relaxing areas, as well as funny coloured clothes to wear while you are there 🙂

Some of the fun stuff I did this trip was catching up with friends and relatives, walking around fortresses, going to a hot spring spa, doing a little caving, taking in some amazing scenery and going skiing.
















 
25 02 2007

Back from Holidays

Back to Sydney after a very enjoyable holiday! Soosun and I were away for a bit over a month, and spent time in South Korea, France (Provence, Cote D'Azure), Monaco and Italy (Venice and Padua). The next few posts are going to give a little taste of these places 🙂

25 02 2007