Tag Archives: canals

Portugal, Aveiro – a fun and easy day trip from Porto

Today I took a local train for just over an hour to visit Aveiro (a bargain at Euros 3 return!) which is known as the “Venice of Portugal” as it has canals in its centre. Aveiro used to be a fishing port and most of the people who lived there were fisherman. Funny sculpture just outside the station – maybe a take on lost tourists?

One of the reasons I enjoy travel is that once in a while you get to connect the dots. Last year I was in Greenland and Newfoundland where I learned all about the cod fishing done there which was then shipped to Spain and Portugal. I never gave much thought as to who did the fishing – actually, it turns out that for 6 months of every year the men of Aveiro went to those locations plus Norway to fish, salt and pack their catches for shipping back to Portugal and for the rest of the year they fished for local fish eg. Sardines.

Two bad things happened. First as most people know, cod was overfished and this meant they were no longer allowed to spend nearly as much times as they used to fishing in those parts of the world and their income stream collapsed. In addition to that the area is surround by sand dunes – over time they had become blocked up making local fishing all but impossible and creating a lot of swampy ground causing a lot of unpleasant diseases. As a result for many years there was not much fishing to be had locally either and as a result they dredged for salt and collected seaweed to use as a fertiliser. Things are a bit better now but this is not a wealthy part of the country. Nevertheless it has a lot of charm – starting with a pretty town centre including some pavement mosaic art – I picked the Gemini from the 12 zodiac mosaics.

And the original fish market dating back over 100 years still exists but is quiet. Fish looks good though.

There is a smattering or Art Deco buildings in town as well as a small Art Deco museum – not that much inside but the building itself used to be a home and I loved the architecture

The boats that take tourists around the canals are brightly coloured and often have saucy paintings on them with appropriate slogans – these were the boats that used to be used to dredge for seaweed and they made them so bright to cheer themselves up.

The local food speciality (aside from sardines in colourful cans) is called ovos moles and is a lightweight wafer casing filled with egg yolks and sugar – delicious with a strong coffee.

Headed 10 minutes down the coast to the very cute seaside town of Cosa Nova which has colourful striped houses along the seafront. These buildings originally belonged to the fishermen and were used to store their fishing stuff while they were fishing overseas. Once the market collapsed they had no further need of the properties and they were sold during the 30s and 40s and converted into houses. The stripes are a reflection of typical bathing attire of the time. Pretty – but very windy there!

The Netherlands, Amsterdam – canals, bikes, wonky buildings and lovely light

It has hard to take a bad photo in Amsterdam as so much of it is really pretty and a good example of what UNESCO protection (the whole canal systems and buildings are protected so no changes allowed, no advertising on buildings etc). Yes there are some streets that are not that nice – usually the big ones where the hordes hang out but it doesn’t take long to find the good stuff. I particularly liked the Jordaan area which not only has nice canals and architecture but also great shops and restaurant.

Here’s what I saw – either wandering around or on a great boat tour called Pure Boats (max 10 people so you get to the smaller canals and away from the crowds – plus wine and nibbles!). Different perspectives in the day and the evening too.

Italy, Milan and Arrivederci Italia – some final comments my whole Italy experience.

First stop today was the Fondazione Prada. Like many other ateliers they have donated a foundation to Milan to house contemporary art exhibits. They also find great designers to develop them so they are pretty cool to just wander around. This is in an area that used to be industrial where no-one went and it still feels edgy in a good way. Loved their 50’s retro cafe too.

The Fondazione has a golden wall and everyone has to take a pic there – so we did. This is with my dear and long time friend Sabrina who lives in Milan and was kindly showing me around the less obvious spots to visit.

I didn’t know there were canals in Milan but there are and it is another hip area that has had some money spent on it to make it a more attractive place to wander around and to eat and drink.

And now that I’ve left Italy here are:

Things I loved about Italy

The scenery – mountains, lakes, cities, wine regions (I did no beach on this trip)

The medium sized towns like Bologna, Padua, Ravello, Lucca and Verona – nice for a couple of days

But also for me – Rome and Venice were places I would go back to as I think they will always have new things to see

The vast amount of superb art and architecture – traditional and contemporary – and the museums they are housed in

The weather in September and October – great for doing things and not being too hot or cold or wet. Less crowds too

The food – home made pasta and artisanal gelati especially

The local wines – and the prosecco , aperol spritz and negronis

The quality handicrafts – glass, pottery, fabric, gold,lace etc

The history and how each period is layered on the previous one so some places are like “a lasagne” from pre Roman to modern day

Their belief that their will be hiccups every day but it will all work out in the end

The traditional hotels from an era that is long gone elsewhere

Most of the places I visited were very walkable so I did a lot of that which improved my fitness levels and gave me an excuse to eat a gelati most days!


What is annoying (at times)

Lousy wifi connections in some places (not necessarily the small ones).

A very elongated understanding of “a minute” so if the walk is supposedly 5 minutes assume it is really 15 and scale up

If I never hear O Solo Mio, Que Sera sera or Volare again – it won’t be a moment too soon.

The fact that’s no restaurant will give you tap water – even if you beg (and I did) and even though it is safe to drink. Bring your own bottle and fill up at the numerous handy water fountains. It is sold at inflationary prices.

Prices for many things are higher compared even to London and certainly to the US – no real bargains here.

Many shops still close from 1-3pm every day. What the ??? Also restaurants close around 2.30 and reopen around 7.30. If you want to eat outside of those times – good luck or revert to McDonalds.

Taking a few days off the blog now. Next stop Oman.

Sent from my iPhone

Italy, Venice – Final day with tips for anyone visiting. Plus canals and buildings plus ceilings part 1 and 2.  

Things to bear in mind

  • Weather can be very wet in October but we never saw a single rain drop and had sun most days. Often days start cooler with fog which burns off later to get quite warm. So just imagine you are in Melbourne – layers work best. Also bring comfy shoes – you will be walking up and down steps more than you thought possible and a lot of the roads are cobble stones.
  • Get out of town at the weekend to avoid irritating crowds and selfie sticks  – try Murano, Burano, Padua or Bologna – easy by train or boat for a day trip.
  •  Visit during the Biennale period if you can (each year alternates art and architecture and usually covers May to November period). Much of it is free to see and at  the very least you get into many old palazzos you would not be able to access otherwise and of course the architecture/art is cool too. I used WalktoArt for my Biennale focused week. They are excellent and Melbourne based. Thanks Bernie.
  • Tick off a few once  only  things like a gondola ride (best with a lover I think so I skipped that one: and settled for the vaporettos and the occasional water taxi); a Bellini or coffee and this amazing cream cake speciality at Harry’s Bar (remember no photos allowed – this  place is probably a precursor to a gondola ride; a outdoor drink at the B bar in hotel Bauer overlooking the  Lagoon; a Tazza chocalata at the Florian Cafe on San March Square while the orchestra plays – a cup of liquid dark chocolate.. Take out additional mortgage to fund these things – but they should be done once. Best free thing is to walk around San Marco as the sun is setting or rising.
  • Visit Peggy Guggenheim museum. Do the 8pm private tour of the main cathedral. About 20 people only and at one point all lights are turned off and the they come on so you can appreciate the mosaics (a memorable effect); the Secret Itinery tour of the Ducale Palazzo also worth it as they take you parts that no-one else sees including just under the roof and the prison cells thatCasanova was held in. 

Some final pics of Venice below. 

THE BUILDINGS – Piazza San Marco day and night, Rialto Bridge and Bridge of Sighs. Note this is not particularly crowded!

THE CANALS – plus gondolas.If I never have to hear O solo Mio, Volare or Que Sera Sera for the rest of my life it won’t be a moment too soon!

THE CEILINGS – Part 1 Palazzo Ducale

THE CEILINGS PART 2 – Evening small group tour of the Basilica – those are all made of tiny mosaics