Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An Insight into Venice as the day begins . . .

Ah Venice, La Serenissima, you temptress, you beauty, you moody city on the water. It never loses its attraction - Venice is a living city that is hounded and trampled on by thousands of tourists every year, her waters are cruised by mega-liners that dwarf the low rise city silhouette, and the Grand Canal has so many boats washing the waters to the foundations of the ancient buildings that you would think the whole place would crumble in a minute.

St Mark's Square under water - extra hands on deck needed to keep the tourists dry

But not so. 'Venice is sinking'; has been the harbinger of doom for a couple of centuries . . .but she still stands. Admittedly, she's high maintenance and her upkeep is costly - but - still standing.
And Venice is expensive and complicated. Let's look away from the seductive beauty for a minute and peek beneath the practicalities of this city:
* All the food consumed on the islands has to be brought in from the mainland. Deliveries continue all day long with boats carrying crates of fruit and veg - and remember - this is Italy, and fresh food every day is on the table! The fish - and what a mighty fine display for piscatorial indulgence is being snapped up at the Rialto markets and being delivered at dawn each day.

Top: early morning window cleaning - all the shops are spic and span; above: picking up the trash.

* Much of the breads and pastries are made in-house - but all the ingredients have a high price as they are delivered by hand after a journey from all over the country.
* Those crisp linen towels, tablecloths and napkins are all taken off the islands to laundries for cleaning - imagine the number of items that leave the islands and have to be delivered back again to the restaurants and hotels.
* And the garbage. Large bags have to be transported every day off the island - and there's a lot of it. Interesting is the fact that the locals - and there are 60,000 residents here, who lower their bags down on little pulleys as there are rarely any lifts (elevators) in any of the buildings except the big hotels. Men, running through the tiny lanes with carts, pick the bags up and take them to the boats. And the empty bottles - not all mine either.

Bags dropped down over night to be picked up by the garbos.

When you leave the touristy areas of Venice - and discover the life of the city beyond a gondola ride and an aperitif on a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal - there's the domestic hum and buzz like any other city,.
And the locals! Someone said that if anyone is seen running or jogging around Venice, they are tourists. Venetians and all who work here do not need to do this. Because all of Venice is walkways and canals - there is no transport at all - except for the feet. You don't see any overweight Venetians, they are lean and wiry. The older folk here, with or without walking sticks, tread slowly, firmly and determinedly as they stick the right sides of the walls of the lanes and alleys; younger people with high heels, or flat shoes, walk everywhere briskly, and anyone delivering or removing anything by cart - runs.

Morning delivery.

I had two days of blinding beauty under an unseasonal bright blue autumn sky in the city and was fortunate enough to head out early in the morning as Venice was waking up - and this is part of what Insight Vacations offer with the 'Country Roads of Umbria and Tuscany' program - an opportunity to spread your wings in the glorious towns, cities and villages of Italy, and perhaps just catch more than a glimpse of someone else's life - far from your home, but close to your heart.
Visit: www.insightvacations.com

Top: The divine Bauer Hotel Venice, where the editor of Get Up & Go enjoyed the beautiful accommodation chosen especially for Insight Vacations guests. Above: What more to say?


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Singapore: Vernacular - Aunty & Uncle

It is a quaint term of endearment that evokes the old charm of Singapore. Uncle and Aunty are the popular terms of greetings for and older woman or man whom one may meet during daily discourse. Your taxi driver may be 'uncle' and the shop lady may be 'aunty'. It is a local manner of speech that confounds some visitors as they wonder how Singaporean families may be so large, friendly and diverse.

(I was in a taxi recently in Singapore and the driver didn't know my destination , so I called the hotel so some one could speak to him - I passed the mobile to the driver and heard he person on the other end of the phone say 'yes uncle'.)
( A pillow card from Capella Singapore www.capellahotels.com/singapore)

Haunted hotel of Bogota

Get Up & Go contributor David Ellis continues his search for the weird and whacky and says that after laying abandoned for years because people believed it was haunted, a picturesque old hotel in the mountains 30km south-west of Bogota in Colombia has taken on a new lease of life as a museum.
The once-luxury Hotel del Salto was originally built as a private mansion and converted to a hotel in 1928; it was an immediate hit with honeymooners and others visiting the spectacular nearby Tequendama Falls, but with increasing contamination of the Bogota River interest in the 160m high Falls waned and the hotel closed in the early 1990s.


Despite several proposals for its re-opening the hotel’s doors remained locked – many locals believing it to be haunted by the ghosts of revellers who fell off balconies into the river below, and others saying of ghosts of indigenous locals who jumped off the Tequendama Falls to escape incarceration as slaves.

The hotel was recently re-opened as the Museum of Biodiversity and Culture to highlight the work being put into the rejuvenation of the Bogota River, alongside the history of the local people.