Murano, Italy

September 2014

Hotel Rialto offers a transfer and tour of a Murano glass factory for free, so I decided to give it a try while I was in Venice. After-all, I had wanted to visit Murano anyway and I love seeing artisans at work.

I gave the front desk about 15 minutes notice and they had a boat and driver pick me up right at the hotel for 3pm. It ended up being a private taxi-boat, one of the fancy ones and I was the only person on the boat. I guess it is less busy on Sunday and I was taking the last tour of the day.

The private taxi had a covered inside section with windows and leather seats – room for about 10 people. I, however, stayed up front in the fresh air and sea breeze with my driver. He was friendly, but didn’t seem to want to talk, so I took pictures and video on the 15 minute transfer to Marco Polo glass Factory on the island of Murano.

Private boat-taxi Venice, Italy
Private boat-taxi Venice, Italy
Murano, Italy
Murano, Italy

As soon as my boat arrived, I was greeted by Alex, who immediately made me feel welcome with his warm, friendly personality and his excellent English. He ushered me right in to the factory where I got my own private showing of a Master glass blower at work. The blower’s name is Mariano and he is well known for his art.

Mariano, Glass blowing artist, Murano, Italy
Mariano, Glass blowing artist, Murano, Italy
Mariano, Glass blowing artist, Murano, Italy
Mariano, Glass blowing artist, Murano, Italy
Mariano, Glass blowing artist, Murano, Italy
Mariano, Glass blowing artist, Murano, Italy
Mariano, Glass blowing artist, Murano, Italy
Mariano, Glass blowing artist, Murano, Italy

I then got a tour of the factory’s art gallery which houses hundreds of unique, one of a kind master pieces by the artists who work in this particular factory. There are about 600 glass blowing artists in Venice and about 40 of them work out of this particular factory. Each section of the gallery was a new discovery. Sadly, but also understandably, no photos or videos are allowed as these are one of a kind pieces of art. It is like a museum of the best glass works in Murano. Some artists have collections of items in the gallery, others have only one or two master pieces. The artist that I saw at work is known for making chandeliers and most of the ones in the gallery were hand-crafted by him. The detail in each and every tiny little piece is magnificent.

I learned about the different styles of glass work and the family history behind glass blowing. Glass blowing has been handed down through generations from fathers to sons. The trade nearly always stays within the family and only ends if there are no further sons born into the family (no pressure ladies!). There are no women glass blowers, however many women in the family are talented artists and do much of the painting and finish work on different styles of glass works, such as the gold or silver plating.

One of my favorite sections of the gallery was from the family who creates only animals. On display were about 30 different one-of-a-kind animals from turtles to owls, cats to ducks, horses and more. My favourite ones were the jellyfish with their detailed tentacles and bubbles coming out of the ‘glass’ water around them.

It was explained that there are three types of commercial glass works.

  1. Master artists who create one of a kind art that is sold to collectors and often to buyers for large businesses, or groups of businesses.
  2. Regular glass blowers who create mass market products mainly for the tourist industry.
  3. Regular glass blowers who work with recycled materials to create lower grade quality items that may have imperfections. Also for the tourist market, but also ensuring that remnants of glass from all of the works are recycled.

Alex was very excited to answer all of my questions. He was very proud to share this part of his history and culture with me. I couldn’t have asked for a better guide and all for free! Of course, I stopped at the store on the way out to buy a souvenir (or two) … it was the least I could do after having an hour long, private tour with such a fantastic guide.

After the tour, Alex was quick to give me a map and invite me to visit the rest of the island as well as direct me to the vaporettos for when I was ready to return to San Marco square.

Murano, Italy
Murano, Italy

I spent about an hour wandering the main streets of Murano and taking a few photos, looking at store after store of beautiful, but completely different styles of glass works. Around 5pm, I returned to the vaporetto stand to head back to Venice Island. It was a lovely day learning about the artistry of blown glass and the history of Murano, Italy.

Look both ways before you make a decision.

Sept 29th, 2014 – Venice, Italy

I finished packing late last night. It amazes me how my suitcase grows even though I swear I haven’t bought anything sizeable for souvenirs! Maybe it’s because I’ve been shoving my dirty laundry in the outside pocket of my suitcase and it just looks larger. And maybe it’s heavier because my clothes are soiled? ha ha Or, maybe I’m just crazy.

I got up early in the morning, showered and went for breakfast making sure to eat lots because I didn’t want to have to buy lunch on the train to Florence. I didn’t know if it would be available and I figured it would be expensive.

From 9am to 10am I wandered around Venice one last time looking for a specially requested gift to take home. Many of the shops were just opening and many were still closed.

Funny how I spent two days and two nights in Venice wandering the streets and then on my last day there I found the ‘easy’ and short route to San Marco square. All along, I had been leaving the square from the wrong exit, which meant I wasn’t getting to the easy route. Here, on my last day, heading toward the square, I saw street signs noting the way. Note to self for next time!

I checked out around 10:30am and went to the Rialto vaporetto stop that was nearly in front of my hotel. A few minutes later, I hopped on the vaporetto heading to the train station, which was just one stop away (about 10 minutes). I found myself a spot in the centre near the very small luggage storage area and ignored the staff who were yelling at everyone to move inside so that more people could fit. It is just simply too difficult to move inside with all of your luggage. Only one stop to go … easy enough, right?

Right.

I got off the vaporetto in rushing wave of people with luggage stampeding to get off like the boat would leave before they could jump ship. I was getting bumped and jostled until I hit the main street. I took a quick look at a map and decided I needed to take the first street on my left. Great! Follow the sea of luggage bouncing along on the bumpy streets and soon enough I’d be at the train station.

Now, keep in mind, I’m carrying a 35 lb backpack with camera gear, a 10 – 15 lb Lug bag with two laptops, paperwork and backup hard drive and my nearly 50 lb suitcase, thankfully on wheels.

With my luggage trailing along behind me bumping it’s way down the uneven streets, occasionally getting caught in an indent, I followed the stream of suitcases ahead of me.

I walked and walked and walked … I had looked at my first left, but it was a tiny little street and nothing that looked like a train station, so I continued on, going with the flow.

Finally I came to a bridge. I headed for the ramp (rather than the stairs) so that I could roll my luggage up. I could see a big building on the other side and thought ‘That must be it.’ When I reached the top of the bridge, both of my hands were falling asleep, I had a kink in my neck and I was dripping sweat. I might as well be carrying an extra person with me.

To my dismay, when I got to the top of the bridge, I realized that the building on the other side was not the train station. I’m pretty sure I sighed out loud. I stepped off to the side of the bridge (not over the side) and took a few deep breaths. I then asked the older couple standing near me if they spoke English and if they knew where the train station was.

You guessed it, they pointed me back in the direction I had come from. The gentleman said I would come to the Grand Canal and it would be ahead and on my right. ‘You can’t miss it. Big modern looking building.’

Back down the ramp on the bridge I tiredly sauntered. Back through the streets in the opposite direction of everyone and their luggage. Back past a few street vendors who had tried to sell me something along the way the first time. Back past large buildings with no signs, wondering if one of those was the train station. Back past the vaporetto station that I had disembarked from about 15 – 20 minutes prior

And then I saw it. The big modern looking building on my right, just in front of me. I still didn’t see any sign to tell me it was the train station, but it somehow was obvious this time.

How did I miss it the first time around? When I got off the vaporetto I was distracted by the bumping and jostling to get on to land. I stopped to look at a map and saw that the train station was on my left. However, I didn’t take into consideration where the Grand Canal was in relation to it. If I had looked a little longer, I would have realized that I needed to go left immediately (not right and then left on to a street) and the station would be immediately on my right.

When I say ‘immediately’, I really mean it. The map that I looked at was on my left as I got off the vaporetto and the train station was behind it (literally, the train station building was behind the physical map / sign that I was looking at), but I was so busy looking at the map and following people with luggage that I didn’t look to my left!

For those of you who know me well, I actually have a pretty good sense of direction and can follow maps quite well. But, I am one of those people who has to turn the map in the direction that I am facing in order to truly understand it. This is a little bit difficult when the map is fixed to a stand in the ground.

Lesson learned – look both ways before making a decision.

Venice Photo Essay

Despite how busy Venice was on the last weekend in September 2014 when I visited, I really enjoyed wandering the streets and canals. A bit frustrated with the overflowing vaporettos, I spent most of my time exploring by foot. I arrived on a Friday afternoon and left on Monday morning, so I had two full days to explore, plus time to work. Looking back, I could have spent another day or two there exploring. I didn’t go into any of the museums or churches and I did not make it to Burano. Although I feel like two full days is enough for most people, there is certainly enough to keep you busy for a few days if you like to explore at a slower pace.

I’ll forever remember Venice as the fist place that I ate a waffle with a mountain of nutella and then walked through the dark winding streets back to my hotel to find out that despite having used a napkin, I had a nutella goatee on my chin. Oh the benefits of traveling alone and not having anyone to tell you when you have something embarrassing on your face or in your teeth. On the bright side, it was dark … I didn’t talk to anyone on the way home and even if I did, they would never see me again!

And don’t forget, if you are planning a trip to Italy, I’d love to help you out! Just drop me a message.

Venice Water Taxis

Date: September 27th, 2014
(Also George Clooney’s Wedding weekend)

I set my alarm for 6:15am for the last morning on board the beautiful Royal Clipper. I went to the sun deck for our entrance in to Venice, passing by St. Mark’s Square just as the clock struck 7am, slightly before sunrise.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
St. Mark's Square, Venice, Italy
St. Mark’s Square, Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy

It was and overcast and dreary morning, but calm, peaceful and surreal. I enjoyed a few minutes lost in my own thoughts. It is incredibly hard to believe that I have already done and seen so much in seven days and that I would be on my own as soon as I stepped off the boat.

New friends were made, both with the guests and staff on board, and as always, it is bittersweet when you say goodbye to something you enjoyed so much.

I made my rounds to say goodbye to the guests I had met on board, as well as a handful of staff who had made the trip extra enjoyable. Most guests disembark as early as possible. We were advised that after docking, the ship would be cleared by approximately 8:45am. I believe it was actually cleared by about 8:15am and guests started checking out, most heading directly to the airport for onward flights.

Myself, since I wasn’t heading to the airport, I took my time. I wandered around and then sat in the Tropical Bar until shortly after 9:30am. Our luggage was already on shore and would only be guarded by Star Clippers staff until 10am. I followed the exit signs directly to my luggage which was one of about 10 bags remaining. And then the real adventure began!

From the port, I made my way across the bumpy pathway, with my rolling suitcase, camera gear back pack and shoulder laptop Lug bag (thanks Pat Currie), up and down over one little bridge with stairs that I had to life my luggage up, to the yellow water bus shelters and had a look around. It was about a five minute walk from where I had picked up my luggage, so not far. The cruise director had told me to catch the #1 or #6 water taxi into St. Mark’s square and then I would need to switch to a new water taxi to get to Rialto. It was easy enough to determine which water bus to load (or so I thought), but I had to ask someone to point me in the direction to buy tickets.

A couple of blocks away in a little convenience store, I purchased a one way ticket for the water taxi (7 Euro) and headed back to the shelter. There, I validated the ticket (or at least I think I did) by putting the bar code up to the machine. It didn’t get punched or stamped, just scanned. I guess if the water taxi staff ask to see it they can then determine when it was used or if it is valid, but I didn’t actually see any instructions on what to do when you scan it or how you know if it worked or not.

I looked at the sign outside the shelter and chose the one that showed both St. Mark’s Square and Rialto stops on it. I walked timidly into the water taxi shelter. Picture a bus shelter in the city, make it 10 times larger and bopping up and down on the Grand Canal while people wait for their water taxi.

When the #1 arrived, people piled off and then I got swept up in the crowd of people who were piling on. Don’t forget, all the while, manoeuvring my two carry ons and a heavy suitcase (on wheels).

After hearing so many horror stories of pick pockets in Venice, I had made sure that my money and passport were in a bag in front of me so that I wouldn’t be oblivious to someone trying to open a zipper on my bag. I found myself a spot (or rather made myself a spot) in the centre of the water taxi near the area that said luggage, planted my feet and hoped that my backpack wouldn’t be pilfered.

By about the second stop I had been bumped and jostled so many times that I wouldn’t have known if I was pick-pocketed or not. The water taxi was packed … just like sardines, as they say! I swear that every time 10 people got off the boat, 15 got on. The water taxi attendants constantly yelling at people to move inside. People continually ignoring the yelling and staying in the middle of the boat rather than moving in through the doors to take a seat. Normally staff would yell in Italian, but occasionally they would bark it out in English as well.

I wasn’t budging. You could not pay me enough to move all the way inside with my luggage when I could barely turn far enough to look over my shoulder. I figured it made more sense for someone traveling with no luggage to go inside. So, I stood my ground. He didn’t ask me to move, so I figured I was ok.

At the third or fourth stop a local lady started disgustedly talking to me in Italian. I’m sure you’ve heard that Italians are loud and use their hands and gesture a lot? Well, it’s true! This lady went on in a huff, speaking directly to me in Italian. Finally when I shrugged my shoulders as I had no idea what she was talking about she said to me in English ‘Don’t you understand me? Take your backpack off!’ and then she continued to push her way off the boat, complaining to the water taxi staff about my backpack.

At the time, I thought she was telling me to take my backpack off because it wasn’t safe to have it on my back due to pick pocketing. No, in this particular case she wasn’t trying to be nice and helpful to a tourist … instead she was annoyed because my backpack was in her way and makes it hard to manoeuvre on the boat!

I took my backpack off and set it between my feet with my laptop bag on top of my backpack and my rolling suitcase beside me.

Finally, I got off at St. Mark’s Square, nearly run over by the swarm of people (nearly the entire full water taxi) trying to get off at the same time.

Looking back, I’m really not sure how I kept my sanity. It was my first time in Venice, it happened to be a Saturday and loads of extra people were in town hoping for a glimpse of Clooney.

I looked around at the signs and had been told that I needed to catch a different vaporetto to the Rialto. Funny enough it was then that I realized if I had gotten on a different boat to begin with, it would have taken a different route and gone to the Rialto stop early on and then continued to St. Mark’s square. Ah well … it was just an hour of my time, no big deal right? It’s all about the experience!

Vaporetto signage in Venice
Vaporetto signage in Venice
Vaporetto signage in Venice
Vaporetto signage in Venice
Vaporetto Shelters in Venice
Vaporetto Shelters in Venice

I stopped at the ticket booth and asked how to get to the Rialto stop. They pointed me down the canal a few hundred meters to a different ‘station’ and told me that I needed a new ticket. So, I bought a new ticket, lugged all of my stuff to another station.

If you look at the photos above, you can see the signage that tells you which station you need to go to – ABCD etc, then a photo of the signage with the letter code and finally, a photo of the actual vaporetto shelter on the water (see the letter ‘D’ on the signs).

When I arrived at my station, I started the whole process over again; Shuffling on to the water taxi that was already full, trying to secure a spot with my luggage, making sure I took my backpack off and trying to keep my balance while also being aware of possible pick pockets.

Four or five stops later, I scrambled, as best I could, off the boat as not to annoy the locals with my slowness. I was exhausted from both the physical challenge of transporting my luggage, the walking, balancing on the boat while being bumped and jostled, not to mention all of the brain power it takes to find your way through a maze of a completely new area. Thankfully my hotel was only another few hundred meters away!

Oh wait, I still needed to go across one or two small bridges through a hoard of eager George Clooney stalkers who were lining the streets on both sides of the canal just waiting for his ‘possible’ appearance sometime in the next few hours.

Just in case you are wondering … I did not see him that weekend. Sadly, his schedule was full and he couldn’t fit me in for a lunch date.

Finally, I made it to my hotel but my room wasn’t ready yet. I opted to sit down in the lobby and wait rather than store my luggage and explore. My brain needed to unwind so that I could keep my sanity. Besides, I needed a shower in case I accidentally bumped into the groom!

Review: Hotel Rialto – Venice, Italy

HOTEL RIALTO

Location – Venice, Italy

Hotel Rialto is centrally located immediately at the bottom of the stairs to the famous Rialto bridge along Canal Grande.

Being centrally located, it is well accessed by vaporettos, gondolas and private water taxis. No matter where you are in Venice, if you ask how to get to Rialto Bridge, people will help you find your way as it is one of the main attractions in Venice.

If you don’t get lost, it is about a 10 – 15 minute walk to San Marco square, or about 15 – 20 minutes via vaporetto depending on the number of stops. Of course, if you have a good sense of direction, I would suggest wandering the narrow, crooked, charm-filled streets rather than riding the crowded vaporettos.

The hotel is urrounded by delicious tourist restaurants located directly overlooking the canal, many tourist shops and pop-up vendors and gelaterias. If you wander a few streets away, you can find quaint restaurants hidden amongst the winding streets, all of your favorite brand names (Gucci / Louis Vatton etc) and unending canals full of gondolas, small bridges and Venitian architecture.

The Annex

The Annex, Hotel Rialto, Venice, Italy
The Annex, Hotel Rialto, Venice, Italy

The main hotel is complimented by a few extra rooms located in the Annex.

The Annex is located about 2 – 3 minutes walk from the main reception area through a couple of narrow back streets. Although I had no difficulties, it is a little bit sketchy entering the hotel through a back door and some people may not be comfortable with this.

You access the Annex through a green, unmarked door in the back alley. In fact, the first night I was there, after venturing out on my own, I came back and couldn’t get my key to work in the green door. I headed around to the front of the building to get assistance at the lobby and then decided to return and give the key one more try. It was on my second attempt that I discovered there are two sets of green doors side by side and I was trying my keys in the wrong door. Common mistake, I’m sure. I’m glad that no one came out yelling at me for trying to break in to their home or shop!

Once inside, The Annex has a flight of stairs to climb and no lift / elevator. So, it is not good for anyone with a lot of luggage or mobility issues.

The hallway smells a bit funky, but not unbearable and a hotel this old and steeped with history shouldn’t smell like aromatherapy anyway, it would take away from it’s authenticity.

The Room

Hotel Rialto, Venice, Italy
Hotel Rialto, Venice, Italy

I had a twin room (two single beds) overlooking the canal (a lovely surprise). The room was larger than a standard bedroom in a house and seemed even larger with extra high ceilings (approx. 14 feet high or more). The walls are green broqued material (yes you read that right) and the furniture is all painted green with a pink flower design delicately placed on each piece. A desk, vanity, two end tables, three chairs and an old style love seat plus a square stand and large stand up closet furnished the room.

Let’s not forget the huge, beautiful Murano glass chandelier lighting the entire room, as well as three lamps and an art light over one of the lovely old-style paintings.

The bathroom was simple and clean with a corner shower (no tub).

There was a flat screen tv and air conditioning. WIFI worked occasionally, but not regularly. However, it was free and worked very well in the lobby area.

Breakfast

Breakfast is included and served from 7 – 10 am near the main lobby. It is a small dining area inside, but during breakfast hours they share the outside terrace of the bar next door.

Self-serve breakfast consisted of a few different pastries, boiled eggs, soft bacon, yogurt, whole fruit and cereal. Additional items were available at extra cost. The food was good and options were better than continental, but I wouldn’t call it a buffet either.

Overall, the hotel was good quality and excellent location. It certainly had charm and history. It was pricey as most hotels in Venice are. I don’t think I would have wanted to stay in anything cheaper though and the view of the canal was a lovely surprise.

Falling in love with Sailing – Part 1

Royal Clipper in Montenegro

Star Clippers

When the opportunity came for me to set sail on the Star Clipper’s Royal Clipper in the Mediterranean, I couldn’t believe it. I had almost booked my flights that day, but hadn’t finalized them yet, when the call came from my Star Clipper’s rep, Florentina. She had a space available for me on a 7-day sailing adventure departing from Venice, with stops in Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia. I had been considering doing these areas (at minimum Croatia) by land and now, here she was, offering me the chance to do them by land and sea.

Taking the opportunity would mean leaving Canada a week earlier than I had planned and finding a way to deal with the sea-sickness that I’m prone to. I love the ocean. I love boats. I love sailing (and the cute sailors in white don’t hurt!). But, about 75% of the time I’ve been on boats, I’ve been horribly ill. Could I really go on a Mediterranean sailing and enjoy it? I was really worried about being sick the entire time.

In the end, my thirst for adventure and love of the ocean far outweighed my hatred of being sick. I researched some options and decided to get the ear patch and hope that it would work.

I’m a believer that when good opportunities throw themselves at your feet, you don’t walk away, you give it a try. So, I excitedly accepted the opportunity and a couple of days later I booked my flights for the European part of my epic adventure!

When the time came to depart, of course it wouldn’t be a Shari-Adventure without some difficulties getting off the ground! You can read about my experience with the Air France strike here. But, eventually, I landed in Venice, took a cab directly to the port and saw her sitting there … just waiting for me to meet her! (The boat that is!)

Royal Clipper
Royal Clipper docked in Venice

Before boarding, we filled out a tiny bit of paperwork and then streamed through security and walked to the gangway. Easey peasy! With only 200 people to board and only half of them there at beginning, wait times were non-existent.

Royal Clipper boarding
Royal Clipper boarding

We were greeted with a welcome drink, snacks and music and then I filed through the short line up and one of the staff members eagerly showed me to my cabin, gave me a quick overview and left me to settle in.

ROOMS

I was really quite impressed with the cabins. They are beautiful, clean, lots of storage space and have two port holes and lots of lighting. The beds were comfortable and everything you needed was there for you. I was especially impressed with the beautiful bathrooms. I felt right at home, except for the tiny corner shower, but that’s to be expected on a boat! There’s no room for a tub! The shower worked well, had lots of pressure and hot water. There were toiletries available and replaced daily just like a hotel would and the towels were fresh and clean (except of course when you ask for them not to be replaced to save water!)

Royal Clipper Cabins
Royal Clipper Cabins
Royal Clipper Cabins
Royal Clipper Cabins
Royal Clipper Cabins
Royal Clipper Cabins
Royal Clipper Cabins
Royal Clipper Cabins

Florentina had made arrangements for a group of us to meet for supper, so I took a few minutes and unpacked my entire suitcase. One of the best parts about a cruise is that you can unpack because you stay in the same room for the duration of your trip. I hung up my dresses, stored my shoes and put my toiletries in the bathroom. After cleaning myself up from a long day of travel, I got dressed up and headed up to the sun deck for our very first sail-away, from Venice, at 7pm.

Falling in Love with Sailing – Part 2

If you are interested in a sailing adventure, I highly recommend Star Clippers and would love to help you find the destinations that are perfect for you! You can reach me at stucker@tpi.ca.

Air Canada Rouge Review

Air Canada Rouge – Toronto to Venice – Review

Being Air Canada’s lower cost counterpart, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for my first Rouge Flight. I was surprisingly welcomed by friendly and gracious staff with stylish uniforms and fedoras. Friendly, helpful, polite … can’t ask for much more from an airline. Compared to the regular Air Canada flight that I had just gotten off, where staff seemed to just be getting by, it was truly a pleasant surprise.

Not having much time before take off, I asked one of the attendants to assist with getting their inflight entertainment set up on my electronics. I was pleased to find out, all I had to do was download the app on my computer and my iphone before leaving and once we were up in air I’d be able to access a full variety of entertainment options – movies, tv, news, music, kids programming. Although I managed to sleep through about five hours of the flight, I still found time to give the Air Canada Rouge player a go. I successfully watched two episodes of Big Bang Theory (my go to on planes) at good resolution on my MacBook Air with no interruptions. It was simple to use. Just remember that you need your own headphones and a device. The service is free to use and the app free to download. Just go into your app store on your iphone and download the free Air Canada app. I’m sure it has many more great features, but I only checked out the bare minimum and valued my sleep instead.

Also remember that you have to have the app downloaded prior to take off as it is only wifi for their specific rouge app, not for surfing safari or checking email. I was a little disappointed by this as I was hoping to keep in touch via social media and had gotten excited at the wifi idea. Ah well … it’s coming, just not quite yet.

Seating was comfortable and being in the plus section (not business), you could certainly feel the difference of the little extra leg room. Sadly I was late boarding (at final call because my previous flight was delayed) so carryon storage space was limited. I found room for my large camera bag, but wasn’t able to fit my laptop case in anywhere nearby. Sitting at the front of the section with a wall in front of me gave me a bit of extra leg room, but with the loss of room to store anything under the seat. Luckily a kind man beside me allowed me to invade his under seat space with my laptop bag for the duration of the flight. Thank you kind stranger! It’s never fun to have your carryon luggage spread all over the cabin when you go to get off the plane. Especially if you have to walk toward the back to get one of your items through the sea of impatient people crowding the aisles waiting for their turn to get off the plane even though the plane has barely come to a hault.

We were served a hot meal for supper about an hour after take off. Choices were pasta – beef stroganoff, or chicken and veggies. Although not the best plane meal I’ve ever had, the chicken was definitely sufficient, piping hot and decent flavor. The best part? The brownie for dessert … yumm!

Breakfast, about an hour and a half before landing was a piece of banana bread. Now, it was white banana bread … not at all the same as my momma makes! I’m used to banana bread that is marbled or spotted a bit. This bread was yellow and so banana-y flavoried that it may have been flavor-added rather than just au-natural. Regardless, it was moist and delicious.

Overall, happy with my first Air Canada Rouge experience. Although not the most luxurious that I’ve been on, it was still clearly well above a low cost carrier in space, options and meals.

Super happy that after having my Air France flights cancelled due to strike that I was able to switch on to Air Canada, collect my aeroplan points, try out Air Canada Rouge product and get to Venice with only one stop in Toronto.

Rouge is definitely a worthy option in the competitive world of airlines.

Shari's Epic Adventure 2014

For those of you who want to know what I’m up to and where I’m going this fall, here’s the quick version. Blogs with more details on each country to come soon.

Facts:

I’ll be visiting nine amazing countries in four short months.
Italy, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Greece, Chile, Argentina and Dominican Republic.

Eight of those countries are places I have never been to before.

This is NOT vacation for me. I know this is hard for most of you to fathom, but I will be working while traveling. I will be working as a travel agent the entire time I am traveling. I will have a mobile office that just happens to be in a different country every couple of weeks. The only way I can travel is if I continue to work while I’m on the road, on a boat or in the air, so please, drop me a note if you are planning to travel. I’d love to help arrange your next adventure, big or small!

Highlights:
I don’t doubt that there will be an endless number of highlights that stand out from this trip and only a few of them are things that are planned. Most of the highlights are likely to be unplanned moments that spontaneously happen. For now, here are the things that I am most looking forward to:

Tall Ship Sailing on the Mediterranean. (Star Clippers, Royal Clipper – 7 days Venice to Venice) – Send your best wishes as I try to muster the guts (and a balanced stomach) in order to climb to the crow’s nest on the ship. Fully harnessed of course!

Cinque Terre, Italy – This is an area that I dream of visiting and I can’t wait to experience it’s beauty. The main highlight here will be hiking from town to town along the coast and up the mountains through tiny towns, lush vineyards, past monasteries and castles.

Cappadocia, Turkey – A sunrise hot air balloon ride over the valley. How does it get any better?

Visiting an estancia (ranch) near Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Patagonia – The southern most tip of South America crossing through both Chile and Argentina. Torres del Paine National Park and visiting a Penguin colony.

Studying Spanish in the Dominican Republic. I’m heading back to Sosua to Casa Goethe to study Spanish. I studied for 5 or 6 weeks in 2012 and lived in the Dominican for a total of 7 weeks. I can’t wait to go back to continue learning this beautiful language and visit with friends from all over the world.

I have one month before departure. I have no less than a million things to get done, but I have faith that it will all come together and that anything that doesn’t get done wasn’t that important.

Follow along on my Epic Adventure by entering your email to get notifications when I publish a new story (in the right side column on this blog). If you want to see photos, you should check out one (or all) of the following:

500px – My online store for purchasing prints will be opening soon!
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