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08 Sep 2008

Syria

One of reasons I like cruises, is that I find myself in places that I would not normally visit. Generally, this works out just fine, with the daily experience trending from pleasant to fabulous. Once in a while though, a port is an absolute zero, and I wonder why the ship would include it on their schedule at all.

A stop in Syria offered one of these xperiences. It is a pit with a capital “P” and scary as well. Nothing says totalitarian government like pictures of President Assad on virtually every vehicle, sign-post and building.

Allyn and I walked all over the city, and did not see any women. I have been to many Muslim countries and even the most conservative have many women around (of course appropriately attired as per their custom).

Every place was filthy. In the photo below, Allyn is standing in front of a typically ugly and debris infested establishment.

We did not feel safe again until we reboarded the ship.









07 Sep 2008

Venice's Jewish Ghetto

The original ghetto was is Venice and is a must see sight for people of all heritages.

We have come to know the word ghetto as urban areas were impoverished minorities tend to live. For those who have knowledge of WWII, from 1939 – 1944 Jews in Nazi occupied Europe were held in ghettos prior to being deported to concentration and death camps.

The original ghetto was is Venice. When Jews were being kicked out of cities all over Europe they were “tolerated” and allowed to live in Venice, but forced to live in the Ghetto from 1516 until 1797.   

It worked because it was an island that was in a non desirable part of town where the people could be locked in every evening.

The word “ghetto” really comes from the Italian word for foundry. The Jewish Ghetto as on the island that previously was the home of the Venetian smelting works.

Jews were not allowed to be employed in many professions besides tailoring, money-lending, some banking, insurance and medicine.

Although many prospered economically, often they were required to wear distinctive yellow clothing and symbols.

Jews were granted full civic status in 1818.

Tip - Do not miss the 40 minute walking tour that starts frequently from the Jewish Community Museum.

 









05 Sep 2008

Venice - Murano Island

Venice is world famous for its gorgeous Murano glass. Not surprisingly Murano glass is made on Murano Island.

It is another must-see activity while in Venice. You will want to see the glass being made as well as view thousands of pieces and maybe even buy one or two.

Tip – Do not get trapped into a “free” trip from a hustler on the street. Any JETSETWAY traveller will be able to arrange a private free water taxi from your hotel concierge.

Allegedly Venice glassmaking was moved here in 1291 for fire safety reasons. Many think the real reason was to keep the artisans confined. Their artistry was a secret well kept for 500 years. They were treated very well but were never allowed to stray.

 









04 Sep 2008

Venice’s Best Hotels and their Restaurants

At the risk of repeating myself, the reason to visit Venice is because of its old beauty and romance. In my opinion that impacts where to stay and dine. I have been lucky to have stayed at Hotel Cipriani, Hotel Danielli, and Hotel Gritti Palace. They represent three of the best and most elegant hotels, and each is uniquely Venice.

Hotel Cipriani – Some rank this Orient Express hotel as the best hotel in Europe , let alone Venice. It is a very short boat ride directly across from San Marco which makes it quiet, yet quite accessible.

If you stay there you will eat at Fortuny or Fortuny Terrace. The restaurant is elegant and the food wonderful. Eat outside though on the terrace overlooking the lagoon.

Tip – Do not let them seat you in the bleachers. Especially if you are staying there make certain that you get a prime table.

Hotel Gritti Palace – This hotel also is a perennial favorite on Best Hotel lists. It was built in 1525 to house the Doge of Venice and has both a perfect location and view. It was on Ernest Hemingway’s list of favorite hotels for whatever that is worth. Generally I prefer to stay in hotels that are more modern. That look and feel just doesn’t seem right to me in Venice though.  

It also has an outstanding outdoor restaurant with spectacular view – Club del Doge.  

 

Hotel Danieli – If the Gritti Palace is not old enough for you try the Danieli. It was built in the 1300s. It also has a great location and views, just next to Plaza San Marco. As you enter the hotel you will gasp at the amazing interior with its marble columns, stained glass, gold leaf ceilings, and Murano glass chandelier. 

 

If you have any funds left after paying for the hotel, you must have dinner outside on their rooftop at La Terrazza. It may be the best dinner view that you have ever experienced and once again this restaurant speaks to the romance of Venice. The only issue we had with either the food or service was that my wife, Allyn, committed the ultimate faux pas by asking for grated cheese on her spaghetti and clams. Who knew? 

 

Harry’s Bar – The only restaurant in Venice that is world famous is Harry’s Bar. Some think it is the best, probably most disagree. Everybody agrees that the prices are astronomical. You may want to pop in to have a Bellini and then go elsewhere. That way you won’t feel liked you missed something special. Don’t even do that if you are looking for a quiet bar.

Trivia – The Bellini (fresh peach juice and sparkling wine) was invented at Harry's Bar.

 









02 Sep 2008

Venice

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and probably the most romantic. It is an entire city of about 250,000 with no cars. It is a group of 118 islands that are very close and connected by about 400 foot bridges.

The canals are the roads comprising the transportation that is not by foot.

These days Venice is a haven for cruises. If you are one of the lucky ones to arrive via cruise ship, you must get up at any hour (even dawn) to enjoy the spectacular arrival. The approach to this port is one of the most spectacular in the world rivaling other favorites such as New York, Hong Kong, Cape Town, and Sydney.

Regardless of how you arrive, take public transportation, the waterbus called vaporetto, either just for a ride or to go from one sight to another.

As far as sights go, you don’t need me for the specifics. However I strongly recommend that you walk all over town and don’t worry about getting lost. You will get back.

For those of you travelling with your lover, you MUST take a gondola ride. It epitomizes Venice.

Best travel months for Venice are June, July and September. August is wall to wall people.