Venice: Exploring the Canal Capital of Northern Italy
I have been to Venice twice, the first time was in college. I was studying aboard in a neighboring country and a group of us set off for a long weekend in Venice. It was the first time I had traveled (other then getting to my study aboard local) without an adult. Which is funny because I was technically an adult but I still didn’t really feel like it at the time. And traveling without supervision still felt strange.
We had taken the train all the way onto the island and when we left the station the only transport option to our hotel was a boat (there are no cars on Venice) which was more than any of us wanted to spend. So we decided to walk, it’s an island how lost can you get? Turns out very. We walked for at least three hours around curving narrow streets over countless foot bridges. Every thing looked the same and there were no street signs. Well there were, just not the kind we were looking for, they are are all painted on the corners of buildings. When we finally by chance stumbled onto St. Mark’s square I remember nearly crying when I saw the Basilica for the first time. It wasn’t the first time I had seen an amazing church, nor was it one I was particularly obsessed with but it was there and it was beautiful. And it also meant we weren’t lost anymore.
The second time I went was post college and it was slightly less dramatic. We had left our camp site in the middle of the day and had taken our little rattly trolley up to Naples. The trolley went through a several mile long tunnel on the way back up to Naples, we had been though it several times in the last couple days, but of course on the day we had a train to catch the darn thing stalled out. I will add we were traveling with large backpacks rather than suit cases and the train was standing room only and it was about 105 degrees if not more. We probably stood in the dark in the sweltering train crammed in like sardines for at least 45 min listening to the driver try to turn the engine over on the trolley. We did make it out, and we made our train but neither of us were terribly happy about it.
We took an overnight train up to Venice. If you are up for the adventure and looking to save a few dollars this is a really great way to travel longer distances. You can sleep while you are moving to your next destination and it is usually cheaper than a hotel. Though depending on the train (because they are all different) you may not get a private sleeping car, there were several times we were bunking up with strangers.
When we arrived in Venice it was still quite early, so we headed out from the train station on foot. At least this time I knew where to find the street signs. We made our way over to the area of our hotel for the first night and then found a coffee shop that was open. We consumed an ungodly amount of espresso and palmier cookies. And then when it seemed as though we had stayed as long as socially acceptable we found a bench and watched the boats move around the canals until we could check into our hotel.
The first hotel we stayed at was a pretty typical lower cost hotel. Clean, two twin beds, plain white walls and giant windows that over looked the canals. The second night we stayed at a hotel that I had stayed at previously in college. When I visited in college it was being renovated so we got a discount rate and they stuck us up in an attic room. We loved it, four girls crammed into a small room overlooking the roof tops of Venice. Our bathroom had no separate shower so you had to wipe down the toilet and sink after you were done. And we had to take what felt like an ancient servants staircase to get to the dining room for breakfast. When I went back three years later the renovations were complete and the Hotel all’Angelo was a glorious four star stay. The bathtub was big enough to drown in and everything was gold and marble.
While we we were there we toured San Mark’s and the Doges Palace. We saw the Bridge of Sighs and saw where Giacomo Casanova was imprisoned for “affront to religion and common decency” which he later escaped from. And we shopped along the Rialto Bridge.
I really love Venice but there isn’t actually a lot to do on the island itself. There are some small museums and the Dodges Palace that you can explore. There is a lot of shopping, plenty of classical concerts that you can attend. Which I urge you to do if you get the chance, most are held in churches around the city and the acoustics are like nothing you have ever experienced. I attended one in college, we got all dressed up to walk over to it. Then when we got outside we realized it was pouring rain and high tide so the square was flooded. We waded our way over to it arrived late and soaking wet but still had a glorious time.
You can also take a boat over to Murano to tour the glass blowing studios or over to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore which you can see from San Mark’s. Someday I will make my over to those other islands.
But personally I like that there isn’t a laundry list of must see places. The city is beautiful and unique and to me the best way to experience is to just live it. Wander the streets aimlessly, pop into random shops, talk to locals, eat everything that sounds good and just sit and watch life go by on the canals. The most vivid memories I have of the place is the hardware store we found and the little dog named Luna that we found snoozing outside of it. The sheer volume of pizza and gelato we consumed from street vendors while watching people deliver food to restaurants and homes via narrow canals and even narrower boats. And watching all the couples in love dance in the middle of the street from music that seems to always be present and always lovely.
We left Venice as we arrived in the dark on a night train to Austria. I haven’t been back but I do want to return one day. It is a really great city for an extended relaxing stay or even just a night. Either way the experience is most certainly worth the trip.
Moro Hotel – Moro, Oregon
I have been researching for a while and unfortunately cannot find much on the history of the Moro Hotel in Moro Oregon. It was constructed in 1921 and had roughly 50 rooms, a lobby, a dining room and numerous facility rooms like laundry, kitchen, back office and storage areas.
Local newspapers have written up articles on things to do in the area and none seem to mention the old hotel or the antique store that now occupies the building. The women who owns the place now, Lisa, was kind enough to show us around after we had poked around in the lobby area for quite a while. The three floors above the lobby are in various stages of renovation.
The first an eerily jumble of rooms, most stuffed to the brim with odd collections of things from Christmas decor, to baskets, to floor to ceiling lamps. A few rooms have been renovated and she offers them up to friends and family who make their way out to Sherman County for a visit.
The second floor having been mostly untouched. It still has remnants of the old rooms, which were Jack and Jill style with shared toilet rooms on one side and shower on the other.
The original floors, trim, heaters and kitchenettes still standing in most rooms, however many of the windows were blown out. In all the rooms the plaster was peeling away from the wall planks in various layers.
The top floor which I did not get a good picture of because it wasn’t lit was the original attic and where most of the renovation has taken place so far. All the old broken and weather damaged plaster has been removed as well as wood planking fully replaced. What remained was an eerie open poorly lit attic with exposed brick. On the bricks you could see the hand-prints of the people who layed the bricks still slightly wet nearly 100 years ago.
To experience the Moro Hotel for yourself, Moro Oregon can be found in north central Oregon in Sherman County. The hotel is on the main street, the only four story building on the block.
An Bothar – Caus, Ireland
My last night was at the An Bothar guesthouse in Cuas Ireland. I honestly thought it was Ballydavid the entire trip, but I know little about Irish geography so it isn’t surprising I had it wrong. Regardless the pub and guesthouse sits at the foot of Mt. Brandon. It is the last stop on Slea Head Drive and the Wild Atlantic Way. It is lovely and well worth the stop if you are in the area.
It was much larger and much more modern than most of our accommodations. Overlooking the farms we have walked through earlier in the day on one side and the mountains on the other. We ate our dinner here as it was really the only option but it was as expected quite good. We also got to meet the owner of Wonderful Ireland Walking tours and a few of the local sheep dogs while we ate.
I was sad it was my last night. But I had to get up so early I retired from the group so I could shower and pack for the flight. I left the window open all night and heard the lambs bleating from time to time. I woke up to them at 4am and ran out to meet my car which was right on time. The drive out was lovely, we drove over roads I had walked and some roads I hadn’t. My driver was kindness itself, as was everyone I met in Ireland. I got information about history, living there, his family (his wife had already driven me a couple of times), kids etc. It was a great way to end my trip, I nearly gave him a hug when he dropped me off. It felt like leaving an old friend.
Gleann Dearg – Dunquin, Ireland
The second to last night of my trip was spent in the Dunquin settlement, at a guest house by the name of Gleann Dearg. Dunquin is the most westerly settlement in Ireland, but not a terribly formal settlement near as I could tell. More a rural cluster of houses and business, without much of a city center. When I was dropped off at the guesthouse to wait for my group I was advised there wasn’t really anything to walk around and see other than the museum which was closed and the harbor which was a bit away.
I was again dropped much earlier than my group was set to arrive. And without anything to go out and explore I chose to stick around the property. The guesthouse is a part of a working farm. The owner of the guesthouse when I arrived was out in the fields. I was shown to my room a sweet little attic type room with an a-line ceiling and the most comfortable twin beads I have ever sat on.
In the absence of much to do I showered, organized by bags for the next day. Made some tea and sat in this little window box to read Northinger Abbey which I found in the downstairs sitting room. My group showed up a couple of hours later just in time for dinner. Given there wasn’t much of a town, there weren’t restaurants their so the lovely ladies at Gleann Dearg made up a three course meal. We were served a zucchini soup, a chicken and eggplant main course and a meringue desert in a lovely summer room complete with grape-vine ceiling.
We were served again for breakfast in a similar warm style in the summer room. I was going to brave the walk for the day. In my eagerness I was ready to go earlier than the rest of my group. So I spent some time wandering around this lovely property.
In doing so I met one of the sheep dogs, who was VERY eager to heard me around the property. He herded me to the stick pile and we played fetch until my group was ready.
All in all I think this was my favorite place we stayed. Not that I disliked any of the others. But there was something incredibly warm and inviting about this guesthouse and the wonderful owner. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to feel like a true guest and a member of the house hold with the in-house meal and the homelike feel of the house itself.
Coastline House B&B – Dingle, Ireland
Our hotel in Dingle was the Coastline House B&B. It is an incredibly nice hotel at the end of town overlooking the water. The rooms were the largest we had for the trip, the bathrooms were updated and the house clean, bright and terribly comfortable. Wi-fi was available as well as tv’s and the what was now becoming a typical in room tea and coffee service.
After the group returned and we were all properly cleaned up and dried off, we set about trying to dry out everyone’s essential wear for the next day. Socks, shoes, everything was set up on the radiators to dry out and when we returned from dinner and they still weren’t done we set about attacking things with hair dryers.
The dining room was downstairs next to the front lounge area, like the rest of the hotel it was bright and clean. The food was amazing. A large buffet of breads and cereals were set up for us. And then made to order hot food was brought out for everyone as well. Once again we left feeling full, offered a packed lunch and off everyone went the next day.
The Old Anchor Inn B&B – Annascaul, Ireland
Our third night was spent at The Old Anchor Inn B&B in Annascaul. It was a very lovely little place, as it turns out all of our locations were quite nice. Once again when we showed up our bags were waiting for us and the owner was ready to hand off our keys and let us settle in.
I was so tired I forgot to take pictures, but I did manage to snap this shot while I was laying on my bed contemplating if my blistered feet could handle another day. None the less I promise that the place was lovely, very clean and simple. Offering up Wi-Fi service once again, tv’s, very cozy bedding and the typical tea and coffee service in each room.
The main floor of the b&b was a dining room which looked to serve up food to the public for lunch and a lounge. All the rooms were up a flight of stairs. Ours faced out onto the street we had just walked down and a house with a sweet little yard. Which turned out at 5am to be not a yard but a cow field as evidence by the very hungry and very noisy cows that woke me up trying to eat the leaves off the apple trees that were growing next to said house.
The evening we checked in we made our breakfast order, which had been fairly typical practice thus far. We hit the pub next door for a bit, then came back and cleaned up for dinner. I had to make the hard choice to not hike the next day and called our tour company to arrange a ride for me the next day. Then after dinner, which went rather late since we were having so much fun at the South Pole Inn, we all went to sleep.
The next moring after my cow alarm I got dressed, met everyone for breakfast, packed up and then hit the streets of Annascaul to explore. As cute and charming a town as it was and as much nightlife as it seemed to have it wasn’t large enough to keep me occupied for the few hours I had so I returned to the b&b where the owner let me sit in the lounge and wait for my ride.
Finglas House – Camp, Ireland
As I mentioned, the second we would get to our rooms after each day our bags would explode. The hiking bootes would come off, clean clothes found and often a quick lay down was needed before dinner. Hence the horrendous picture of our room. Aside from the thrown aside bedding and the opened bags, the point however is to point out that while our accommodations along the way were not always fancy, they were clean and comfortable. Which is exactly what we needed given the type of trip we were on.
Day two ended in Camp and as previously mentioned this is in fact the name of a town. This was also the first day we had experienced the baggage transfer done by our touring company and as promised our bags were awaiting our arrival in the lobby of our guesthouse. We were greeted by a very lovely woman named Kathleen who owns the Finglas Guesthouse. She showed up to our rooms and then the exploding of the bags happened. Then off to the Ashes Pub for dinner which I talked about in a previous post.
After dinner and a shower I set myself up in the lovely second floor lounge. There was tea and cookies provided by Kathleen, which I took full advantage of. The rest of the group congregated after their respective adulations and we spent a lovely evening planning our next day.
Thanks to jet lag I was up bright and early. Dressed, repacked and ready to eat breakfast approximately and hour before it was ready. C’est la vie. Breakfast was severed on time in the downstairs dining room that overlooks the bay. There were a variety of options, I of course chose the “Full Irish” plus coffee, toast and a little more coffee. It was perfection as expected from the quaint little place. We were also given a sack lunch again, this time a suspect sandwich and chips. My chips were cheese and onion, though there was a chicken flavor floating around in one of my groups sack lunches as well. Turns out the suspect sandwich was cheese and tomato which was quite good. Chips weren’t bad either.
Salishan Resort – Lincoln City, Oregon
This spring we took a quick jaunt to the coast to relax and just be away from things. The late winter/early spring is hard in Oregon, it’s about the time we all start to go a little crazy from all the clouds and rain. Having the trip to look forward to certainly helped eliminate some of “okay I am all done with this now” thoughts that are constantly circling around in my brain that time of year.
We chose to head down to the central part of the coast, and spend our few days at the Salishan just south of Lincoln City. The resort is lovely, spread out over a large swath of land. Part forest part golf course with three main building complexes and room buildings scattered around the property.
The rooms themselves are wonderful, they have a variety of sizes, we went with the base king sized room which had a mini kitchen and a fireplace, as well as the usual bed, balcony, bathroom and seating area. It was built in 1961 and remains the premier golf resort on the coast.
The main complex houses the registry desk, restaurants and a bar as well as conference rooms and the pool accessed by outdoor breezeways. The restaurants overlook the gold course and provides ample indoor and outdoor seating.
The sports complex is up the hill down a few winding roads (walkable via foot path if you wish to hoof it) and provides access to basketball courts, tennis and golf rentals.
The spa complex is back down the main entry road across the highway, also accessible via foot path, but there is ample parking if dashing across a busy highway isn’t your thing (there is a traffic light and cross walk though).
We had grand designs to explore the coast all weekend, and you can very easily given the resorts central location. However we wound up just settling in to a cozy routine of eat, walk, read, swim, repeat that we wound up doing very little else in the end. We really couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.
The Tralee Park Guesthouse- Tralee, Ireland
The first night of our Ireland trek was in Tralee. We were collected at the Kerry Airport by our tour company and dropped at the charming Tralee Park Guesthouse.
The driver called the owner of the inn and waited until the door was opened for us, often these smaller inn’s and b&b’s keep their doors locked 24hours a day. Guests are given a front door key as well as a room key. Once we were introduced to the owner we were shown our rooms and left to our own devices.
Since it wasn’t a large hotel the lobby was small, but clean and bright. There was entire wall of brochures to help plan your trip. Given we were already on a schedule though we had no need for them. The dining room was downstairs, a small but cozy room that made to order breakfast for those staying. Options ranged from a Full Irish Breakfast (which we quickly came to love) to a light meal of cereal and fruit. There was also a buffet of breads and fruit as you waited for your meal.
The rooms themselves were lovely, high ceilings with classic European decor. Which included a very modern bathroom and an electric kettle with a variety of instant coffees and teas. It also, as did all our accommodations, had wi-fi which was appreciated. The beds were incredibly comfortable. Don’t judge the inn based on my pictures, our bags sort of self exploded when ever we got into our rooms. For more information and good pictures see their website. Good pictures or not though it was a perfect way to kick off our first night.