Friday, November 15, 2013

The Right Wrong Way

Want to get some interesting photos in Venice? Take one of the vaporetto boats the wrong way around the island at sunrise.

Giudecca Canal

I'd intended to take the boat on the most direct route to St. Mark's Square, through the Grand Canal (the "2" line), then explore the alleys before the crowds started showing up. However, the boats were still running few and far between since it was so early. I saw the "1" line was also going to St. Mark's Square, and thought, "How much longer could it be?"

It turned out to be much longer, much windier, and much colder, but much more interesting at the same time. I got a prime seat in front of the pilot's cabin, because no one else wanted to go this way. Their loss. I got to see the working side of Venice, and got a close up view of Giudecca since the boat made a couple stops there. I must have blown through half a roll on the Xpan, when I captured the picture above. All the working boats and cruises were on the move too. The poorly shot video below shows the overall atmosphere. It was amazing.

Seriously, it was cold, especially as we rounded the west side of the island and entered the open water of Laguna Veneta. I'm not a fan of the cold, but I loved every minute of it.

Sometimes getting lost or making a wrong turn is the best thing you can do when traveling.

Venice Flat Recommendation

Ok, you've seen the Paris edition, now it's time for Venice. Again, I found a great place on AirBnB, but it took a bit more searching this time.

Evening Rush

Initially, I'd booked a place closer to the heart of Venice, in Castello, which had a liberal cancellation policy. The reason I'd booked it was that it was so cheap. I was beginning to see why. A few days before we departed for Europe, I took another look at the place and got a different vibe. It looked like it was just some dude with some roommates and a spare room; not the kind of place I'd want to stay with my wife.

Thankfully by this point, the other costs of the trip had been spent, and I was a little more comfortable increasing the budget for Venice. I cancelled the original reservation and got all my money back, minus the AirBnB booking fee, which wasn't too bad. I applied for a better place, but the owner didn't respond within 24 hours, so the application expired. On to another place.

As they say, the third time's the charm. I found this place right near the Venice train station (Santa Lucia not Mestre). This made it incredibly easy to get settled on arrival. We met the host's assistant right across the canal from the train station at San Simeone Piccolo. The assistant was right on time meeting us, and even gave us some local restaurant recommendations while she was showing us the apartment. It's also worth noting that since the apartment was near the train station, it gave us easy access to all the vaporetto boats (mass transit waterbus) that go to every part of the city.

View Larger Map

And wouldn't you know it, Google just added Venice to Street View (though "street" doesn't really apply here). You can actually see the apartment with the silver window shade up top.

View Larger Map

I have to admit that it felt a little strange staying in a place attached to a church. Once I started thinking about it, I realized that there are few places in Italian cities that aren't attached to a church. Other than that, the place was clean, quiet, and had a shower that worked much better than the one in Rome. As you can see from Street View, the surrounding canals and alleys are charming, though I'd recommend packing your bags and seeing it for yourself. Happy travels!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


The last roll of film that I shot in Venice seemed like it would never end. Now that I have the results back from the lab, I can see why. Here's the first frame:

Early Start

I seriously think the film counter got all the way up to 39 before the roll was done. Was this a mistake? Yes. Is this photo still interesting? You bet.

Instead of thinking of this as a mistake though, I prefer to think of it as turning film up to 11.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Paris Flat Recommendation

One of my neighbors was asking about some of the details of our recent trip to Europe so he could plan something similar. Rather than just letting him in on the details, I figured I'd write a few blog posts about it.

Apartment View

Back in college, my buddy and I stayed at Woodstock Hostel. It was fun, and had all the good things you'd expect from a hosteling experience (more on that trip here). However, now that I'm married and all grown up, something better was in order. Thankfully I was able to find this apartment with a great host on AirBnB, just a stone's throw away from Notre Dame Cathedral and Les Halles Station.

The location could not have been better. I could pop out in the morning for a photo-walk around Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis to watch the Seine and the rest of the city wake up. In the afternoons and evenings, I could head over to Place Georges Pompidou or Esplanade de la Liberation for some pictures and people-watching. C'est tres magnifique.

View Larger Map

Really the only down side was that there were a lot of steps to get up to the apartment. However, being on the top floor also afforded a charming view of the rooftops of Paris (picture above). It also allowed for more light and less noise. The place was totally silent at night, in spite of all the restaurants and shops below. Speaking of which, there was a convenient Carrefour (care-A-foo) grocery store right across the street. One of the restaurants we enjoyed in the area was Pain Vin Fromages, which was a cozy fondue place with a friendly staff, and more varieties of cheese than I'll ever remember.

Apartment Steps

One recommendation I'd make before departing for any apartments in Europe: write down the coordinates and bring a GPS. Paris is notoriously difficult to navigate, especially if you've just arrived on an airplane and popped out of a subway station. If you have a Garmin GPS like I do, make sure you write down the coordinates in decimal-minute format. There are several websites that will do the conversion for you. Alternatively, you can do what I do and put Google Earth in decimal-minute format, mouse over the point of interest, and write down the coordinates at the bottom. Also note that it may take your GPS a few minutes to lock onto the satellites since you've presumably traveled a great distance. Sit down, relax, and enjoy an overpriced bottle of water while you wait. Oh yeah, don't forget extra batteries for the GPS.

More to come...