THE CARNIVAL AND THE CRAZY WEEKEND
We all dream of going to that one place which we all consider full of love and romance, yet feel that it is essentially more befitting for couples on honeymoon rather than for a solo traveller by design. I too had the dream of escaping to a city full of romance yet so postcard like that it no longer mattered if I was travelling solo or not as one just cannot miss the chance to visit this floating paradise on earth, better known as Venice.
It’s so strange that all my life I had seen or heard Venice to as being a place where one would go for some quiet personal time or to relax at one of the cafes overlooking St Marks Basilica in San Marco square. The opportunity to visit Venice knocked on my door upon signing up to the carnival experience weekend being offered by Curious Kats Adventures Club, and a crazy weekend it was without a doubt.
Welcome to Venice!
On arrival to Venice Marco Polo Airport, we were greeted by our lovely host Sylwia who was full of life the minute we met and ensured everyone in the group was going to have a weekend of a lifetime. Sylwia went that extra mile and left no stones unturned to make sure everyone’s weekend was going to be comfortable and adventurous, nothing was too much trouble. She had all the itinerary pre-planned and did a recap of her routes every day to keep the group intact during the busiest times of the year and pre-arranged meals at some of the finest restaurants in Venice for either lunch or dinner. What we loved about Sylwia was how involved she was with the group be it going out for a few drinks to keeping everyone dancing even if it meant staying up until the early hours. I have never come across a host who puts their life and soul into giving you the most authentic experience of being in a place that has so much culture to explore, so if you are toying with the idea venturing out to the Venice carnival then look no further, you will not be disappointed by this tour.
The adventure could not have kicked off any better than getting off the plane and hopping onto a boat towards the maze of canals, which take around 25 minutes to reach mainland Venice. If you do not fancy booking a private boat ride or are arriving at a different time to the rest of the group, then you can take a public waterbus from inside the airport terminal which can take around an hour to reach mainland Venice. The arrival time at our hostel was 8 pm leaving plenty of time to explore the nearby area to catch a glass of some good Italian wine and cuisine.
Bellini? Yes, please!
It amazing how one glass can quickly become some bottles in the shortest of times. Walking around Venice, our crazy group came across one of the smallest pubs ever and the only one that seemed to be open until midnight. The pub was almost the size of a changing room, but surprisingly the service was much faster and efficient than in a wine bar. If you are wondering the streets contemplating the idea of having a drink or two, then look no further than Bacaro Risorto.
We were in the pub trying to figure out next stop and while making decisions got talking to another couple from America who were also in Venice for the carnival weekend and very much were trying to find something amazing to do that evening. Having discovered that almost everything comes to a close at midnight being the latest, we were suddenly out of options on where to head next until one little suggestion turned into a series of event.
The American couple we met at Bacaro Risorto invited us back to the apartment they were renting for the weekend and all out of options we did not hesitate on taking them up on offer. We had some red wine and the fantastic Bellini, which is a crime not to have when in Venice as it was originated here. We spent the whole night sharing drinks, discussing our costume ideas with multiple trial sessions to get our perfect look for the big event and enjoying the night until the early hours of the morning…. Venice is too good to let the evening go to waste.
We left the apartment at around 1 am when there is nothing but silence in streets of Venice, with nothing but empty wine bottle left behind. After much searching on Google for any nightlife presence in Venice we came across a nightclub which was open until early morning and ventured out without a blink of an eye.
After an hour of walking around the narrow lanes of Venice in search of this one nightclub with nothing but a GPS map to hand while singing Hello from the other side by Adele, we finally arrived at the club with was well hidden in the northernmost part of the island. The atmosphere there was vivacious and got us into the groove straight away with our newly made travel buddies for the weekend who were to go on and become good friends for life.
The saying “some things are too good to be true” was hovering over us like a cloud when tragedy unravelled. Unfortunately, as the club was nearing closure for the night, there was an accident leading to paramedics arriving on a Water Taxi. Although not a great situation, we were pleased to say that we had finally seen a floating ambulance to put another tick on all things Venice. If you are also stuck for ideas, then Google is your best friend, or just ask you lovely host for tips and ideas if you are travelling on this tour.
Although completely shattered at 5 am, it was for me one of best moments to enjoy the streets the squares the waterfront as it was just peacefully beautiful. Everything seems at a standstill as if frozen in time, yet so alive that you just want to continue getting lost in the labyrinth of alleys finding every possible moment to stop to capture Venice at dawn. If are an early riser I highly recommend this early morning walk around Venice as you get to see the whole city without the hustle and bustle and get the feel of the old world charm.
Walking towards the hostel, we managed to find a store which was more than happy to sell us a bottle of wine. We had red wine with Sylwia at 5 am in the middle of empty Piazza San Marco while the whole island slept in silence. Now if this is not crazy, I don’t know what could be more bizarre, Sylwia added more fuel to the already crazy weekend, and it was just the first night.
Being a Carnival Weekend there had to be something spectacular planned as part of the adventure and it doesn’t get any crazier than cruising around Venice. For the evening of the carnival, we boarded a large galleon ship for a cruise party at 8 pm from the main harbour in our celebration dresses and glittering facemasks. The party is included as part of the trip which for me was great value for money. The galleon cruises the around the islands of the Venetian lagoon including Murano and Burano and returns just after midnight.
Included, as part of this experience is a full Italian buffet with salads, finger food, cheeses and bread with an unlimited supply of prosecco. We were just so fascinated by the whole experience it just felt that we were reliving the pirate culture being celebrated through the carnival. Although it is easy to get so tempted by the lavish buffet laid out in the middle of the galleon, make sure you don’t overeat on the snack and keep some appetite for the main course!
The boat kept on cruising, and we kept on dancing until the ship ran out of prosecco at midnight! On leaving the boat and God knows how many prosecco bottles later, it kicked in that this was the craziest night I have had in a very long time and the walk back to our hostel was another adventure in itself, wobbling over the cobblestones….don’t forget to pack your flats shoes.
Costumes and Masks
Fancy outfits and face masks are available all over Venice during the carnival and can be picked up from every souvenir shop on the island. Although the tour includes a 2-hour workshop where you get to design your very own facemask, it might be ideal to have a browse in the many souvenir stores if you want something more flamboyant with feathers and sequins to complete your look.
The best place to buy a decent mask is the souvenir stores between the harbour and San Marco square which seems to have huge discounts on all masks. I chose to wear the mask, which I had designed, at the workshop. 🙂
What to see/What to do
St Marks Basilica is the most symbolic buildings in Venice and sits in the Piazza San Marco square. The Cathedral is designed in a Gothic style with five huge domes covered with mosaics of gold, which shine brightly from and angle. Make sure you have your camera ready as you will want to take many snaps at this place.
Doge Palace is located adjacent to St Marks Basilica and is the most famous landmark in Venice. The Palace has a very distinct architecture and transitions one into another admirable dimension. The palace is now a museum open to the public and well worth a visit if you are interested in getting a taste of the city history. A ticket to the museum cost around €24, alliteratively you can get yourself a Venice Pass which entitles you to fast track entry to 11 museums for €32 and is valid for 6 months.
The Gondola ride is the most well-known activity in Venice, and any visit without doing this would leave a huge blank on that bucket list. The gondola rides are so popular that it is advised to pre-book this before arriving at Venice to ensure you secure a good price. As the city is over occupied with tourist coming in huge numbers to attend the Carnival, demand is high for the Gondola this time of the year. The ride can last anything from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the tour you have selected. Alternatively, if you are short on time or just want to see the Grand Canal, there is an option of the waterbus. The water bus travels the length of the grand canal, taking the same route as the Gondola would, with the real difference being that the cost of this trip will be only €2 as opposed to €80 which is the norm for a Gondola if you have not pre-booked. Again time is of the essence if you are planning to visit just for the carnival weekend, so it is recommended to fit this into your itinerary for early Sunday morning.
The Rialto Bridge crosses over the Grand Canal at the most central point in Venice. The stone bridge is the most popular choice for tourists to visit and admire, and being there in person you really appreciate why. Walking over the bridge is like you have just entered the gates of an ancient city lost in time. Stand on the platforms at the most central part of the bridge, and you get the full view of the canal leading into the lagoon… perfect picture moment. The bridge is dotted with many tourist shops selling everything from souvenirs to face masks for the carnival. The choices are endless, but as I was in Venice for the Carnival and the craziness seamlessly delivered by Sylwia, these were the most significant experiences to ensure I had fully covered my bucket list aspirations.
Tips and Tricks
Taking a tour to Venice with Curious Kats Adventure Club was one of the best decision I have made and would not have got the opportunity to live and tell a tale of such an adventure if I had done this on my own. I now look back and still get chills at all the craziness, and it still amazes me how many adventures you can have in one short weekend.
I may have said this already but if you a truly toying with the idea of visiting Venice, or just want somewhere to go and have the time of your life then the Venice Carnival tour is one to consider, you will not be disappointed and will forever cherish the adventure gained from it. Just a few tips that will make your experience much more pleasant, Mobile SatNav – As Venice is built on a lagoon of several small canals and bridges; the easiest way to get around is using a GPS enable satnav device, which is now standard on all smartphones. The satnav helped me find my way around every little alley and canal without getting lost, saves a lot of time wandering aimlessly.
Flat Shoes – Although you are visiting a carnival where we all want to look our dazzling best, Venice is cobbles almost all over so make sure you carry your flats or any comfortable footwear to walk around during the day or when not partying for your safety.
Protect your Bubble – The Carnival is the busiest time of the year for Venice, and every street in Venice is a tourist traffic jam. It is advisable not to carry too many valuables to ensure you do not lose anything as pickpocketing is very common in places overly crowded. The bridges leading to the Piazza San Marco can take up to 10 minutes to cross due to the crowds and is the highest alert point for such activity.
Harrys Bar – This place is a must visit and is the home of the Venice’s most famous cocktail, the Bellini. The Bellini was developed and founded at this very sight and has stood the test of time ensuring every tourist passing through its doors
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