The beautiful, historic city of Winchester, England

Cover: River Itchen flowing beneath the City Mill in Winchester, Hampshire, England
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


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Winchester, England is a charming city in the county of Hampshire about an hour southwest of London and was our first stop on our 45 Day U.K. and Ireland Roam About.

Minster Street, Winchester, EnglandMinster Street bends through well-kept properties. Winchester, England Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Winchester is a filled with gardens, parks, flowers, and rivers, and was one of the most beautiful cities we visited in England. A wonderful spot for spending a few days or longer, as we did, Winchester is highly-walkable, has a vibrant food scene, is home to many events, has a rich historical past and, of course, is the location of the magnificent Winchester Cathedral.

Riverside walk along River Itchen, Winchester, EnglandAlong the walking path next to the River Itchen, Winchester, Hampshire, England Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dating back to 150BC, Winchester’s beginnings have been traced to an Iron Age settlement just outside the current city. Over the centuries, Winchester has been home to many historic figures including King Alfred the Great, who rebuilt the city after the Dark Ages and made it the capital, St Swithun, Bishop of Winchester and patron saint of Winchester Cathedral, and the world-famous novelist, Jane Austen, who is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Statue of King Alfred the Great, Winchester, EnglandStatue of King Alfred the Great watching over the city, Winchester, England Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While one might think a historical city so closely tied to a cathedral might be a bit stuffy, but Winchester is not. The people are friendly, the festivals lively, and the city has an appreciation for life, beauty, and culture, in addition to treasuring its heritage.

Headstone of Thomas Thetcher who died after drinking a small beer, Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, EnglandThomas Thetcher headstone found outside the Winchester Cathedral. According to its inscription, he died of a fever after drinking a small beer when hot. Winchester, England Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Top points of interest in Winchester, England

Wolvesey Castle ruins

Woodman's Gate at Wolvesey Castle, Winchester, EnglandWoodman’s Gate at the Wolvesey Castle ruins, Winchester, Hampshire, England Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Wolvesey Castle was the residence of the bishops of Winchester and today’s remains date back to the 12th-century palace of Bishop Henry of Blois, brother of King Stephen. The last grand gala held at the palace was Queen Mary and Philip of Spain’s wedding banquet.

Closeup of stonework at Wolvesey Castle,Closeup of stonework at Wolvesey Castle, Winchester, England Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Great Hall and the legend of King Arthur’s roundtable

Inside the Great Hall, Winchester, EnglandVisitors browse a temporary art exhibit Inside the Great Hall. Winchester, England Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dating back to the 13th century, the Great Hall is what remains of Winchester Castle and is home to the iconic symbol, King Arthur’s Round Table. The table is believed to have been built in the 13th century and painted as it currently appears for Henry VIII.

Statue of Queen Victoria in the Great Hall at Winchester CastleStatue of Queen Victoria with The Round Table in background in the Great Hall at Winchester Castle, Winchester, Hampshire, England Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Winchester City Mill

Water from the River Itchen rushing under the Winchester City MillWater from the River Itchen rushing under the City Mill in Winchester, Hampshire, England. Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Winchester City Mill is located along the River Itchen in the center of Winchester and is the oldest working water mill in England – the first recording of the site listed it as a corn mill in 1086. Visitors can experience the power of the River Itchen as it passes through Mill and participate in hands-on activities to gain an understanding of the milling process.

Water rushing into City Mill, Winchester, EnglandThe River Itchen, rushing through a City Mill raceway, was used to turn wooden water wheels for milling corn. Winchester, England Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral against a blue sky with scattered cloudsWinchester Cathedral against a blue sky with scattered clouds, Winchester, Hampshire, England Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Founded in 1079 and consecrated in 1093, Winchester Cathedral has the longest nave and overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. An extraordinary cathedral, Winchester Cathedral is the pride of Winchester and a centerpiece for the charming city.

Tomb of Bishop Charles Richard Sumner, Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, EnglandImage of Bishop Charles Richard Sumner carved in stone upon his tomb, Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, England Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Throughout the fifteen centuries of its existence, Winchester Cathedral has been the site of numerous historical events including the funerals of King Harthacanute in 1042 and King William II of England in 1100, the coronation of Henry the Young King in 1172, and the marriages of King Henry IV of England and Joanna of Navarre in 1403 and Queen Mary I of England and King Philip II of Spain in 1554.

Lighting in choir stalls of Winchester CathedralLighting in choir stalls of Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, Hampshire, England Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Today, Winchester Cathedral celebrates over 1,500 holy services, hosts over 130,000 visitors and has over 61,000 attend concerts, cultural events and festivals, and seasonal celebrations each year. During our week in Winchester, we were fortunate to attend a wonderful organ recital by Geoffrey Morgan, Organist at Christchurch Priory.

Joan of Arc, Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, EnglandStatue of Joan of Arc, Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, England Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media


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Water near Abbey Gardens, Winchester, EnglandWater near Abbey Gardens, Winchester, Hampshire, England Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

February in Venice

Cover: Sestiere of Castello, Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


We shouldn’t love Venice. It’s touristy. It can be very crowded. It can take forever to go a short distance as packed water buses slowly navigate canals. Yet, as our train pulled out of station toward Milan as our month in Venice ended, we were leaving somewhat reluctantly as we departed the charming city that had stolen a place in our hearts.

We’d chosen February for Venice for one reason – Carnival. The world-famous pre-Lent celebration is said to date back to 1162 and has always been a source of fascination.

In the end, Carnevale di Venezia was magical, but it was the quiet time before Carnival and chance to live amongst the Venetians that had us yearning to stay a bit longer.

Leaving one City of Love for another

We arrived in Venice after spending January in Paris and were ready to get out of the bustle of a big city. While stunningly beautiful and always overflowing with activities, the City of Love is still a major city with noise, pollution, a high cost of living.

Arriving to an exceptionally empty Venice, the first 10 days of our stay were filled with quiet strolls under an umbrella on rainy days, un-crowded vaporetto rides, and stops in tiny cafés for a spritz or cappuccino where the only other patrons were locals.

Our previous Venice visit was a year and a half ago during the summer, so the contrast was quite amazing. The quieter side of Venice was a delight and a reminder of why Venice gives Paris a run for the money for the title of the City of Love.

Living as Venetian

Slow travel is very different from the experience of visiting a place for a few days or a week. For a vacation, more expensive options may suffice for convenience sake, but when one is a “resident,” finding the less expensive transportation, communication and dining options becomes a series of tasks to be completed soon after arrival.

Venice pocket WiFi

Our customary day one schedule in a new location includes acquiring a pocket WiFi and evaluating long-term local transportation options. In Venice, there are several pocket WiFi providers available and the one we selected provided the ability to pick up the device at a hotel near the train station. Our plan included unlimited connectivity for a month for about 100 euro – a much cheaper option than the $10/day plan + standard plan pricing and data usage available through our US carrier.

Venice transportation

Our next stop in Venice was at the Unica Venezia office at Piazzale Roma, which is the transportation hub near the train station.

Whether getting around central Venice on the Grand Canal or venturing out to one of the numerous outer islands in the Venetian lagoon, transportation options hiring a private or shared water taxi or taking a water bus, called a vaporetto, operated by the ACTV. Water taxis are very expensive, so vaporetti (plural of vaporetto) are heavily used in Venice.

While single ride vaporetto tickets (biglietto) are available, a pass can also be purchased at a much better rate for multiple days, such as 2, 3 or 7 days. The tickets are available at most of the ACTV stations at counters or from the vending machines.

For longer stays, the Venezia Unica card is a bargain. We obtained our cards at the Hellovenezia ticket office at Piazzale Roma. Purchasing the Venezia Unica card itself requires a passport, completing a form and paying 50 euro. The card is good for 5 years and can have fares loaded as needed (stored value). At the time of our visit, the rate for Unica card fares was 1.5 euro per fare or 37 euro per calendar month for unlimited use, which we opted for.

While most visitors things of the vaporetto as the #1 or #2 on the Grand Canal, however, there is an extensive network of boats covering the Venetian lagoon, including lines to the outer islands such as Murano, Burano, Lido, and Giudecca. The card can be used on any of the vaporetti, as well as on the buses and the train that run between Roma and Mestre. So, for 87 euro you have unlimited transportation for a full month.

Markets

When living somewhere for a month, one quickly discovers the market/grocery store situation. Our Airbnb apartment was on Giudecca, with a couple of small markets on the island. As we speak some French, but little Italian, the WiFi, and Google translate frequently came in handy when shopping. Compared to the US, food and beverages at the market are much less expensive, but the selection is also more limited.

In addition to the grocery stores like Coop and Prix, there are many small neighborhood specialty shops, such as pasticcerie (pastry shops), salumerie (delicatessens) and produce stores. There are also outdoor markets, with the Rialto Mercado being the largest.

Shopping at Rialto Market is an experience not to be missed and definitely worth the vaperetto ride. With a huge fish market, countless produce stands, and vendors offering everything from lentils to nuts to dried peppers, Rialto is the place foodies head to in Venice.

The prices are very reasonable as well. We picked up items for a couple of days’ meals, including nice cuts of salmon and tuna, for about 20 euro.

TV and streaming

When vacationing for a few days or a week, television is generally not a consideration – it can be a pleasant escape from day to day events. However, when on the road for extended periods, it is nice to catch the news or a movie or show in English now and then. While many hotels have extensive cable offerings, many Airbnbs have limited options or just local channels.

AppleTV to the rescue. A vaporetto ride to Piazzale Roma, a train to Mestre, and a bus ride to the Nave de Vero, home of the Venice Apple store, and we were in possession of an Apple TV.

Couldn’t we have just brought ours from the states? Yes, but ours was an older version and we didn’t. So, we are now owners of an Apple 2 with an Italian power cord. Streaming from the US doesn’t work in Europe, so you can use a service to make it look like your IP is in the US or simply sign up for Euro Netflix. We also used one of our iPads to access news sites. And – kudos to CBSN for streaming news around the world.

Where we stayed

We chose an Airbnb on Giudecca (pronounced joo-dek-ka) and it was one of the nicest apartments we’ve rented through the service. The décor was beautiful, the apartment was bright and cheerful, and the views from both the couch in the living room and the bedroom were amazing. On clear days, you could see all the way to the Dolomites and Alpes and every day we fell asleep watching the vaporettos and ferries going back and forth on the canal below.

The apartment was in a building attached to the Hilton Molino Stucky on the island of Giudecca. With the exception of the hotel and a few small businesses, the island is primarily a residential community and very quiet. Access to central Venice is via the Hilton shuttle that runs to and from San Marco or by using the #2, 4.1, 4.2, or N Vaporetto lines from La Palanca.

The pros of staying on Giudecca – it is a quiet escape from touristy central Venice and you get more for your money. The cons of staying on Giudecca? The constant boat/vaporetto rides. Would we recommend it? In high season or during carnival – if you want to escape the tourists and chaos of central Venice – yes. However, if you are only visiting for a few days, you will spend a good deal of time waiting for and riding boats back and forth. Additionally, far more hotel, restaurant, and shopping options are in the Dorsoduro, San Polo or San Marco districts, or sestieri as they are called in Venice.

The Castello district

After a few days of rain, we awoke to a brilliant day, gathered our camera gear and headed to the vaporetto. First stop, the Castello district.

The largest Venetian sestriere, the Castello district reaches from San Marco to the eastern tip of Venice. As many times Venice is described as shaped like a fish, the Castello district is located in the tail.

The Castello district has a bit of everything – residential building, the Giardini Pubblici (public gardens), the Arsenale, neighborhood cathedrals, the impressive Santi Giovanni e Paolo, restaurants, bars, shopping and the hospital. It can be reached by walking east from San Marco square or by Vaporetto 4.2 and take the Fondamente Nove stop.

While in the Castello district we stopped in a mask making shop, L’artista della Barbaria, which is operated by a couple that make handmade paper mache masks. They took the time to explain the mask making process and the difference from the cheap masks found throughout Venice and those made by true artisans.

Upon selecting my mask, they sign it and dated it. Very cool!

Murano & Burano

We’d been to Murano and Burano before but didn’t have as much time as we would have liked and wanted to return.

After visiting Costello, we continued on to Murano and spent the afternoon exploring the magnificent glass shops on the island. All glassmakers were moved to the community in 1291 and, since that time, Murano has become synonymous with fine glass making.  is a charming collection of islands connected by bridges and home to some of the world’s finest glassmakers.

Murano is actually a collection of islands connected by bridges and a wonderful place to visit while in Venice.

On another sunny day a few days later, we headed to the Burano, where the homes are brightly colored and highly skilled ladies create exquisite lace products. One of the most photographed spots on the planet, Burano’s colors are said to be a result of the fisherman painting their homes in a specific color so they could easily make their way home after a day’s hard work at sea.

Whether the legend is true or it is simply a charming fable of Venetian lore, Burano is a must visit spot, especially those with an interest in photography.

Venice Carnival – Carnevale di Venezia

By the second week of February, the quiet pathways where we strolled began to fill as tourists arrived for Carnival, or as it is called in Italian, Carnevale.

Amidst the revelers, mysterious masked characters appeared in the crowds. Elaborately costumed Venetians strolled the winding pathways of the floating city, usually with a trail of selfie-seeking tourists following nearby.

Numerous events are held throughout the Venetian islands during the celebration, but the main events such as the Flight of the Angel, the Eagle Flight, and the mask contests occur in St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), the center of Carnevale di Venezia activity.

While official Carnevale events are held throughout the 10 day period, the majority occur on the weekends, when the crowds are the largest as well. Many visitors from Italy and France arrive on Fridays and depart on Mondays to experience the major events held on the weekend.

Know before you go to Venice in February

Temperature: The average temperature in Venice in February is 5°C / 40°F, with an average high of 8°C / 46°F and an average low of 1°C / 34°F.

Rainfall. February is typically one of Venice’s least rainy month, with a historic average of 50mm of rainfall over 6 days of the month. By comparison, April generally sees the most rain, with 90mm and 11 days.

Hotels and Airbnbs. If you plan to visit Venice during Carnival, book early. The best hotels and Airbnbs sell out months in advance.

Cost of Venice during Carnival. Carnevale official events are free. Lodging prices are at some of the highest prices of the year. Balls and parties can be very expensive.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Weekend getaway to Prague in January

Cover: Prague Castle at night
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


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You are probably thinking, “Prague in January – are you crazy?” Yes. It was quite cold, but we were rewarded with incredible discounts on hotel rooms and far fewer crowds.

We’d never been to Prague, so when a friend stopped by Paris to visit on her way to the Czech Republic, we tagged along for a long weekend in Prague.

DN7R9723Municipal House, Prague, Czech Republic Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dating back to medieval times, Prague is stunningly beautiful. Walking through Staré Město (Old Town) with its castles, towers, colorful buildings and cobblestone streets is like walking through a fairy tale.

Home to the Astronomical Clock, the Town Hall Tower, the Church of St. Nicholas, and Týn Cathedral, Old Town Square is one of the most beautiful squares in the world and is a hub of activity with musicians, street artists, food vendors, and tourists.

The third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest still in operations, the Prague Astronomical Clock was first installed in 1410. The four figures next to the clock face come to life each hour and represent vanity, death, lust, and greed who are greeted by the 12 Apostles. The performance ends with a crowing rooster and the ringing of the clock tower bell.

For a bird’s eye view of Prague, visitors can ascend to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower

On the other side of the square, Týn Cathedral majestically fills the sky with its high towers and spires.

While it was a whirlwind of a weekend, we managed to take in many of the top Prague destinations.

Strolling from Old Town across the Charles Bridge, we stopped to rub the 30 statues that line the bridge for good luck.

DN7R9830
Tredelnik shop in Prague, Czech Republic Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We stopped along the way for a Trdelník, a rolled pastry wrapped around a stick and baked, then topped with cinnamon and sugar. They serve them plain, filled with ice cream or, how we had ours, filled with Nutella.

DN7R9831Tredelnik, Czech Republic Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Moving on, we climbed the steps up to Hradčanské square with the Gate of Giants – the entrance to Prague Castle. In addition to helping work off the calories in the Trdelník, the stairs offer a stunning view of Prague. As we reached the top, it started to snow, so we moved on to the shelter of the castle.

DN7R9904Stairs to Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Prague Castle is the largest castle in the world with courtyards, palaces, museums and St. Vitus Cathedral. Architectural elements where the cathedral now stands date back over 1,000 years.

DN7R9972Statue of Friedrich Johann Joseph von Schwarzenberg Cölestin, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Returning to Old Town, we wandered the winding shops that offer a wide variety of items, including stunning glass creations.

DN7R0112Statue of Friedrich Johann Joseph von Schwarzenberg Cölestin, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In Prague, English is spoken nearly everywhere and it is a highly walkable city. We would love to return to Prague and spend a month when it is warmer, giving us much more time to explore the city of a hundred spires.

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Prague skyline along the Vltava River, Prague, Czech Republic Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media


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Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

January in Paris

Cover: Gardens of Versailles in January
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Is January a good time to visit Paris?

If you don’t mind the colder weather and prefer a quieter Parisian experience with far fewer tourists, then January is perfect. Monuments and museums have no lines and you can actually walk up and see the Mona Lisa.

Like fashion and bargains? The Soldes d’Hiver (winter sales) begin mid-January, with discounts to 70%. And, of course, there’s Paris Fashion Week.

Add to that bargain airfares, cheaper hotel rooms, and a wide selection of Airbnbs available in the best districts, and you may be penciling a trip on your calendar for next January.

Our month in Paris in January

We left the United States on the first of January, arriving at Charles de Gaulle on the morning of the second. Looking outside, huge snowflakes were falling – a rarity in Paris. While January can be a bit rainy, it doesn’t snow much in Paris.

We grabbed an Uber and headed to our Airbnb in the 3rd arrondissement. We’d chosen the 3rd because we wanted to experience daily life in the city in a neighborhood near, but away from, the tourist areas. The 3rd is also home of the Marais, a lively area filled with bars, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment.

Having been to Paris numerous times in the past, we’d actually only experienced short stays in the City of Light, typically tacking on a few days at the beginning and/or ending of our time elsewhere as we arrived or departed France.

Where we stayed

Our Airbnb was located on a quiet street with great access to markets, shopping, and the Metro. Not the typical Paris flat, the apartment was creatively renovated from a former storefront and consisted of three floors. The entry, kitchen, and dining were on the main floor. A large living area with a desk was downstairs in “the cave” and upstairs were two bedrooms and the bath. The owners and property managers were attentive and the apartment was a good home base for us for the month.

Daily life in Paris

On lengthy stays in one place, daily life falls into a norm, with trips to the market, pharmacy and, when in Paris, bien sur the patisserie.

As with any city, visits to the market are more frequent because you carry your groceries home instead of loading them into the car. In Paris, there are several grocery store chains that have smaller footprints in the city. We frequented the Monoprix (kind of like a Super Target) and even got our first French loyalty card.

For fresh fish and produce, we frequented the Montorgueil markets. Located only about a kilometer away from the apartment in the 2nd arrondissement, it is a foodie’s dream street. Imagine Pike’s Place Market in Paris – that’s Montoguil with fishmongers, incredible produce markets, boulangeries, tea stores, floral shops, and more.

We walked or took the Metro everywhere, only taking Ubers to and from the airport or the train station. The Metro system is very efficient, inexpensive and is relatively clean compared to subways in some other major cities.

Soldes d’Hiver

In Paris, sales are regulated by the government in France and occur twice each year, once in summer (soldes d’été) and once in winter (soldes d’hiver), and are the only time businesses are legally allowed to sell items at a loss. The sales last 6 weeks and the dates are set each year by the government.

This year, the sales began on the 11th of January and our day began at 10:00 AM when they opened at Forum Les Halles and in the shops near Etienne Marcel. In the afternoon, we then moved to the beautiful Galleries Lafayette.

Galleries Lafayette Paris Haussmann is a beautiful shopping mall in the 9th arrondissement near the Opera Garnier. Dating back to 1895, Galleries Lafayette is well known for its stunning domed ceiling which was completed in 1912. The shopping mall is a destination for practically anything one could want, with a wide range of brands and price ranges from bargains to haute couture.

When we returned to the apartment that evening with countless shopping bags, our Apple watches said we’d walked nine miles. Over the next few weeks, additional discounts occurred and, by the time we left France at the end of January, 50% – 70% was the common discount level in many stores.

Sacré-Cœur and Montmartre

It had been years since we’d been to Montmartre, so one Sunday morning we set out to visit the famous cathedral and potentially discover a new treasure at the Marché aux Puces flea markets.

Our first stop was Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Designed and built between 1875 and 1914, the beautiful church is the highest point in Paris, majestically sitting above the city on the butte Montmartre.

Leaving the cathedral, we wandered through the quaint streets of Montmartre, stopping in shops and visiting the artists in the square. During the Belle Époque at the turn of the 2oth century, Montmartre’s inexpensive rents and avant-garde atmosphere drew many artists to the area. Vincent Van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and many other artists of the period lived and worked in Montmartre.

Stopping in the Espace Dali museum, we wandered amidst the surrealist’s sculptures, drawings, engravings, and furniture creations. The museum also is home to the Art Gallery of Espace Dali which offers a large collection of sculptures and graphic artworks by Dali for sale.

Marché aux Puces

Heading down the hill from Montmartre, we made our way to the massive flea market in Saint-Ouen de Clignancourt, the Marché aux Puces.

Since its beginning in 1870, the market has been home to antique dealers, artists, importers and, in more recent years in the bordering areas, knock-off products galore. We strolled the winding aisles of the 15 markets that make up Marché aux Puces, picking up a few small treasures along the way, and having a fun, albeit cold afternoon of bargain hunting on the outskirts of Paris.

Let them eat cake

A short RER train ride from Paris, the Chateau Versailles is a perfect way to spend a day experiencing 350 years of history and French opulence.

Famously home to French kings and the royal courts throughout the ages, the Palaces at Versailles date back to 1623 when Louis XIII built a hunting lodge on the grounds.

Between 1661-1678, Louis XIV oversaw the first transformation of the site of the former lodge into a grand palace, with the king and his court moving into the palace and making it the home of the government of the Kingdom of France in 1682.

During a second phase of expansion, additions continued to the enormous and extravagant palace until 1715. In 1770, a theatre was built for the marriage of two of the palaces most famous residents, Austrian Archduchess Marie Antoinette to Louis-Auguste Dauphin of France, who would become Louis XVI.

Continuing palace additions and living a life of extreme luxury, the couple fell out of favor as France fell into serious financial difficulties. It was sometime during this period that, when told the people of France were starving and had no bread to eat, reportedly Marie Antoinette stated, “Let them eat cake.”

The royal family abandoned the palace and were forced to return to Paris, three months into the French Revolution in 1789.

Between 1789 and 1950, the palace and grounds fell into decline and disrepair, suffering through wars and the lack of upkeep. In the middle of the 20th century, restoration began with an objective of restoring the palace and grounds to its state in 1789.

Today, the palace is one of France’s most popular tourist attractions, with 8-10 million people visiting the palace, as we did this cold, but clear January day.

Strolling through the Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Chamber, and the Mesdames’ Apartments, one can only imagine what life was like for those that walked the same halls and viewed the gardens from the same windows so long ago.

In addition to the main palace and gardens, the estate includes the Palaces of Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s escape from formal palace life, the Queen’s Hamlet.

We enjoyed a delightful lunch at one of the onsite restaurants, Angelina. While we didn’t eat cake, we did have the signature dessert Mont Blanc dessert, enjoying the decadent delicacy under the watchful gaze of an oil painting of Marie Antoinette.

Bubbles in Epernay

While sparkling wine is produced around the world, Champagne only comes from a small region about an hour by train east of Paris.

The majority of Champagne houses are located in Epernay and Reims. Reims is pronounced, “ranse” not “reams” and, if you say it wrong, they’ll have no idea where you want to go. Simplify things and go to Epernay, a charming town where some of the most well known champagnes in the world are produced.

Along the Avenue du Champagne, you’ll find Moet e Chandon, Perrier-Jouet, Paul Roger, and many more.

But, don’t just stop there – be sure to visit Nicolas Feuillatte located on a hill overlooking the town. Founded in 1972, Nicolas Feuillatte is a co-op of over 5,000 growers.

Now the third largest Champagne producer in the world, Nicolas Feuillate is one of the few facilities in Champagne that provides a full tour of the production facilities. The winery also opens a large new visitors center for the 2017 season.

For lunch – we recommend Le Banque in downtown Epernay – fabulous food, a lovely atmosphere and a by the glass champagne menu that is out of this world.

Weekend getaway to Prague

A friend from the Czech Republic stopped by on her way through Paris, so we decided to go to Prague with her for a long weekend. We’d never been to Prague, or Praha as it is called in the  Czech Republic, and having the chance to experience it with someone from Czech was priceless.

Prague is magical – even in the coldest month of January. Check out how our weekend went…

Paris Fashion Week

Flora Carter
Flora Carter, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
John Paul Gaultier Show, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France
John Paul Gaultier Show, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We knew we were in Paris during one of the two Paris Fashion Weeks of the year when designers hold fashion shows to display their new lines, but hadn’t looked at the event calendar.

John Paul Gaultier Show, Paris Fashion Week 2017
John Paul Gaultier Paris Fashion Week 2017 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Leaving the apartment one day to pick up some sandwiches for lunch, I noticed a gathering of people at the end of the block near a beautiful building we’d admired all month.

Walking over to the crowd, I discovered the building was Jean-Paul Gaultier headquarters and that their Paris Fashion Week show would be held a couple of hours later. I picked up some sandwiches at the patisserie, hustled back to the apartment, grabbed my camera and headed across the street and jumped in with the photographers shooting the event.

Car after car arrived and simply stopped in the street as the fashion crowd ascended on Gaultier headquarters.

John Paul Gaultier Show, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France
John Paul Gaultier Show, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Attendees ranged from the eclectic to the famous to the iconic. Chloe Mortaud, Miss France 2009 arrived with Flora Coquerel, 3rd runner up Miss Universe.

Flora Coquerel, 3rd runner up Miss Universe, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France
Flora Coquerel, 3rd runner up Miss Universe, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Chloe Mortaud, Miss France 2009, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France
Chloe Mortaud, Miss France 2009, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

French dancer and choreographer, Fauve Hautot, was a crowd favorite, as was French dancer and choreographer, Fauve Hautot, and former model, Majda Sakho.

Fauve Hautot, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France
Fauve Hautot, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Majda Sakho, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France
Majda Sakho, Paris Fashion Week 2017, Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After capturing the attendees arriving, I went to the apartment to warm up until the show ended. Opening the door of our apartment, Catherine Deneuve was standing a few feet away waiting for her driver. Only in Paris.

Catherine Deneuve, John Paul Gaultier Show, Paris Fashion Week 2017
Catherine Deneuve, John Paul Gaultier Show, Paris Fashion Week 2017 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Museums, strolls and happy hours

Rounding out the January activities were museum visits, strolls along the Seine and countless happy hours. Most cafes and bars outside of the tourist areas offer happy hour specials, attracting the after work crowd on their way home from the office.

Museums are also a perfect activity for a January visit -they are far less crowded than in the summer months and they’re warm.

The best way to really get to know a city is by walking it and walk we did. On sunny days, we walked – sometimes up to 9 miles in a day.

As our time in Paris drew to a close, we packed up and caught a very early train to Italy. It was a fun, busy month in the City of Lights. Until next time Paris – which, will actually be at the end of February.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Paris in Pictures: A first-timer’s travel guide

Cover: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Whether it’s your first visit or your twentieth, Paris is a city that takes your breath away.

Truly like no other, Paris is a timeless beauty filled with monuments, galleries, cathedrals, boutiques, cafés, and museums – so much so that it can be a bit overwhelming, especially on your first visit.

Paris, France
Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting around Paris

Paris is composed of 20 arrondissements or districts. Often described as resembling a snail shell, the twenty arrondissements start from the middle of the city and are arranged in a clockwise spiral. In other words, arrondissements are simply a way to subdivide the city into segments, which helps to identify a location.

For example, the 1st arrondissement of Paris is located on the right bank of the River Seine. It is one of the oldest and the smallest by both area and population and is where the Louvre Museum and the Tuileries Gardens are located. The Paris Opera and the Bourse, or Paris stock exchange, are in the 2nd arrondissement.

Paris 20 arrondissements
Map by by ThePromenader

As far as getting around, walking can be the fastest method in the congested areas. For longer journeys, the Paris subway, called The Metro, is fairly easy to navigate and less expensive than taxis, which are in abundance but can be quite costly.

Like most large cities, driving and parking can be a challenge. However, rental car locations are available throughout the city. If you don’t rent at the airport and are already in the city, one of the more easily accessible locations for renting and returning a car, with a variety provider options, is Gare de Lyon train station in the 12th arrondissement. A note concerning petrol/gas stations when driving in France – many stations are not manned and credit cards from the United States do not work at quite a few locations, so keep the gas tank frequently filled when you spot a station with an attendant that accepts cash.

A good option for getting around to tourist sites is the hop-on and hop-off tour buses. While many offer recorded tours heard through earbuds in your language of choice, don’t set your expectations too high. The recordings can be of poor quality.

However, if you use the buses simply as a method of transportation from one spot to the next, it is far more economical than taking cabs. Most hop-on and hop-off buses offer unlimited usage per day.  Also, be sure when choosing a bus tour that their route and schedule includes stops where you want to go and frequent drop offs/pickups.

Things to do on your first trip to Paris

Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France
Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When you’ve been to Paris quite a few times, your daily itinerary differs from the first few times you’ve visited. For example, when we were in Paris in July, we dedicated an entire day to Notre Dame to photograph the cathedral in morning, afternoon and sunset light.

But, on your first trip to Paris, go ahead – be a tourist, roam the city, and discover the iconic sites in person. Here’s ten that should make your Paris to do list.

Stroll the boulevards and do some café time

Paris, France
Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

This may sound like an odd place to start with all the Paris attractions, but there is nothing like sipping a glass of wine or coffee while watching Paris go by in front of you.

So, before you head out with your long list of sites to visit, work in some time wandering the streets of the infamous city and simply being in Paris.

Paris, France
Paris, France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Place de la Concorde and Arc de Triomphe

Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Place de Concorde, Paris, France
Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concorde, Paris, France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in the 8th arrondissement and stretching two kilometers from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is considered to be la plus belle avenue du monde (the most beautiful avenue in the world).

Starting on the east end of the Champs-Élysées, an Egyptian obelisk which was given to the French by Egypt in the 19th century sits in the center of the Place de la Concorde. Two fountains also occupy the Place de la Concorde, which were built during the time of Louis-Philippe.

The site of the arrival of the Tour de France, Bastille Day celebrations and countless movie scenes, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is lined with restaurants, boutiques, jewelers, perfumeries, hotels, nightclubs, and a public park, the Jardin des Champs-Élysées.

Tour de France 2015 Stage 21
Tour de France 2015 Stage 21
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the western end of Champs-Élysées sits the Arc de Triomphe in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. Honoring those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, the Arc de Triomphe is also the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel)

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Everyone wants to see the Eiffel Tower when they come to Paris and you’ll need to keep that in mind when planning your visit. The Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid monument in the world with seven million visitors each year. Built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, the Eiffel Tower’s construction took 2 years, 2 months and 5 days and it stands 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, the tallest structure in Paris.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France Photo: Greg K. HullCool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Do you need a ticket to visit? Yes and no. If you just want to see the Tower, you can stop by anytime day or night (it’s in the 7th arrondissement). However, if you want to go up in the Tower or dine in the restaurant, you’ll need tickets and reservations. Open every day, tickets sell out far in advance for peak times, so you’ll need to plan ahead. Find out more on La Tour Eiffel website.

Notre Dame de Paris (Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris)

Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France
Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris or Notre Dame de Paris, which means Our Lady of Paris in French, is one of the most well-known cathedrals in the world.

Notre Dame, Paris, France
Notre Dame, Paris, France Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in the 4th arrondissement on the Île de la Cité, the cathedral dates back to the 12th century, when work began on the French Gothic church. Taking over 300 years to complete, Notre Dame was one of the first buildings in the world to use the arched exterior supports, also known as flying buttress.

Notre Dame, Paris, France
Notre Dame, Paris, France Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Notre Dame de Paris houses some of Catholicism’s most important relics including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails and is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris.

The Louvre

Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and nearly 35,000 other works of art, The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum, with nearly 10 million visitors annually. Located in the 1st arrondissement, the museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, a former royal palace dating back to the medieval period. The museum is open daily except for Tuesdays.

Palais Garnier, Opéra de Paris

Palais Garnier, Opéra de Paris, Paris, France
Palais Garnier, Opéra de Paris, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Well-known as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, the Phantom of the Opera, the Palais Garnier or Opéra de Paris is home to the Paris Ballet. One of the most opulent buildings in Paris, the Palais Garnier is located on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris.

Musée d’Orsay

Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, the Musée d’Orsay is a delight for art lovers with works by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Located in the former railway station, the Gare d’Orsay, the Musée d’Orsay sits along the left bank of the Seine in the 7th arrondissement.

Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

View Paris from a Bateau Mouche®

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The River Seine is the heart of Paris and cruising it by Bateau Mouche is a wonderful way to see the landmarks from a different vantage point. Bateau Mouches are open excursion tourist boats, with the concept first created by Jean Bruel in 1949. While many boat tours now exist on the River Seine, Bruel’s The Compagnie des Bateaux-Mouches is still one of the largest and actually trademarked the name Bateau Mouche, although the term is widely used to refer to all Paris boat tours. Boat tours can be found throughout the year, including hop on/hop off tours and lunch and dinner cruises.

Grand Palais

Grand Palais, Paris, France
Grand Palais, Paris, France
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in the heart of Paris on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the Grand Palais is a historic monument, exhibition hall and museum complex in the 8th arrondissement. The Grand Palais is home to major art exhibits and cultural events, the science museum, the Palais de la Découverte, and many events, including haute couture runway shows each year.

See the City of Light (La Ville Lumière) at night

Paris, France
Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Frequently called the City of Light because of its role during the Age of Enlightenment, and because Paris was one of the first European cities to install gas street lights, Paris is stunning at sunset and after dark.

From the illuminated 37 bridges that cross the River Seine to the landmarks and monuments, Paris shines at night. A stroll along the river, a night boat ride, or watching Paris twinkle from a sidewalk cafe, are the perfect way to end your Paris day.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Paris, France
Paris, France Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Burano, Italy

Murano glass, Burano lace and colors that will make you smile

Cover: Burano, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Filled with colorful buildings, artisans, restaurants and boutiques, Murano, Burano, and Torcello are a perfect afternoon respite when visiting Venice.

Island hopping Venetian style

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Easily accessible from Venice, the islands in the lagoon offer an opportunity to observe skilled craftsman at work, stunning scenery and a few hours away from the crowds of Venice.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If going by Vaporetto (water bus), lines 4.1, 4.2, 12, 13 and 7 (seasonal) include stops to Murano. Schedules and more information can be found on the Actv website.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Additionally, several tour companies offer half-day excursions leaving near Piazza San Marco that include a stop on Murano, Burano, and Torcello, with about 40 minutes on each island.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Murano

Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1291, Venice ordered glassmakers to move to Murano due to the risk of fires their foundries caused. The glassmakers were highly regarded for their skills and were forbidden to emigrate abroad or reveal their secrets.

Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As their skills continued to evolve through the centuries, the Murano artisans achieved worldwide recognition for their decorative glassware and art glass.

Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Today, Murano offers a wide variety of glassware from inexpensive trinkets to exquisite art glass produced by some of Murano’s historical factories.

Ferro-Lazzarini, Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A visit to Murano today typically includes a stop at a glass factory to watch a glass artisan create a piece of artwork – a fascinating process.

Ferro-Lazzarini, Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

During our visit to Ferro-Lazzarini, per the time stamp from our camera, the process from the blob of hot glass in the first image to the finished horse was four minutes.

Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The demonstration is followed by a visit to the showroom where items can be purchased. Higher-priced pieces are available by private showing.

Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini
Murano, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Burano

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There are few places that will brighten your spirits and have you reaching for your camera, more than Burano.

A small island a little further out in the Venetian lagoon, Burano is a fishing village filled with brightly-colored houses and home to the famous Burano lace.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It’s said that the fishermen painted their houses the bright colors so they could see their house through the fog and find their way home. Today, if a resident wishes to paint their house a new color, approval from the government is required and will only be granted if the color is permitted for that lot on the island.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Exploring the island is a photographer’s dream with the vivid colors reflected in the still waters of the canals.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Browsing the shops of Burano, visitors find ladies quietly embroidering as shoppers explore the intricate lace creations.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Torcello

Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta) Torcello, Italy
Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta)
Torcello, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dating back to the 5th century, Torcello is the oldest continuously populated island in the Venice lagoon.

Torcello, Italy
Torcello, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is Torcello’s primary attraction, but the quiet island also draws a few visitors interested in hiking or simply seeking a bit of solitude, as Ernest Hemmingway did in 1948 while writing “Across the River and Into the Trees.”

Torcello, Italy
Torcello, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Torcello, Italy
Torcello, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Venice, Italy

The best of Venice

Cover: Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


With its romantic canals, winding pathways and stunning beauty, Venice, or Venezia as the Italians call it, is truly a city like no other. Venice is a place to lose yourself in the charm, embrace the slower pace, and marvel at the city in a lagoon.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting to and around Venice

The capital of the Veneto region, Venice actually spans a wide range of geography from the mainland areas of Mestre and Marghera to the islands in the lagoon, which includes the historic center, the destination sought by most visitors. For purposes of this article, references to Venice are to the historic area except where noted. If you travel to Venice by air, you will arrive at the Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), which is 6 km (3.7 miles) from the Venice tourist area.

Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, Venice, Italy
Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Venice has two train stations – Venezia Mestre station, which is on the mainland, and the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia located offshore in the lagoon.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Venice is an easy and enjoyable walking city, but many of paths require climbing steps on the bridges over the side canals – a note to keep in mind if arriving by train. Even though your hotel may be located only a half mile away from the station, dragging roller bags on cobblestones and carrying them up and over the bridges generally, makes taking a water taxi or a water bus, called a Vaporetto, a better option.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Leaving the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia’s main entrance, the water taxis and water buses are located just outside – you’ll see the floating docks. Just as with taxis and buses on land, a water taxi will get you to your location quicker and also cost quite a bit more than a Vaporetto.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Venice travel tip

The waterbus area near the train station is chaotic during high season. Call your hotel before arriving in Venice and ask which Vaporetto stop is the closest to your hotel so you have an idea where you are headed.

The No. 1 Vaporetto stops on both sides of the Grand Canal. The direction the boat is headed is displayed at the dock and on the boat. The boats come along about every 10 minutes during the day in the summer, less frequent at non-peak times. If you are staying several days, a multi-day pass is the most economical method of transportation. Be sure and validate your pass prior to boarding the boat. The Vaporetti are run by Actv in Venice. Maps, timetables and pricing information can be found on the Actv website.


Things to do in Venice

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Wander

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One simply must get out and wander the streets of Venice.

Choose an afternoon and head out away from the Grand Canal and the tourist attractions. The winding alleys and narrow cobblestone streets that weave their way around the islands reveal a new myriad of colors and delights with each turn.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Discover. Absorb. Explore. It will be some of the best time you spend in Venice. Be sure and take your map and Vaporetto pass – you will probably get lost and will need to find your way back to your hotel.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Ride the Vaporetto No. 1 up and down the Grand Canal

A ride up and down the Grand Canal on Vaporetto No. 1 is a great and inexpensive way to take in the sights.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From the railway station to San Marco, it is about a 40-minute one-way journey (more or less, it’s Venice).

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Set out in the early morning or late evening for the best chance to get a spot along the rail or, on some boats, one of the seats in the front or the back. The boats get quite busy in the afternoon and early evening.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Take in some culture at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Amazing art and architecture are in abundance in Venice, but if you must choose only one museum to visit, make it the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to some of the best European and American art of the 20th century located in Italy, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection houses Guggenheim’s personal collection of masterpieces including works by Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, Ernst, Dalí, and Pollock. The museum also hosts visiting exhibitions on an ongoing basis. Located along the Grand Canal between the Accademia Bridge and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, the museum is open daily 10am-6pm, except Tuesdays and December 25. If arriving by Vaporetto No. 1 – direction Lido, take the Accademia or Salute stops.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Relax with an Aperol Spritz

According to Gruppo Compari, the owners of Aperol…

In Veneto, the homeland of Spritz, around 300,000 Aperol Spritzes are consumed every day, that’s more than 200 Spritzes a minute!”

Spritz is the orange-colored aperitif found throughout Venice consisting of Aperol, Prosecco, a splash of sparkling water, and typically either an orange slice or an olive. Also found made with Campari, the Aperol version is sweeter and has a lower alcohol content, making it a good drink to end the afternoon or start the evening.

Aperol spritz
Aperol spritz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Shop at the Mercato di Rialto

Rialto Market, Venice, Italy
Rialto Market, Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each morning, Tuesday through Saturday, locals, and visitors alike head to the Rialto Market to shop at the vegetable market (erberia) and fish market (pescheria).

Rialto Fish Market, Venice, Italy
Rialto Fish Market, Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The assortment is vast – fruits, vegetables, types of fish you’ve never heard of, pasta, dried tomatoes, nuts – and the list goes on.

Rialto Market, Venice, Italy
Rialto Market, Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The market is located near the Rialto Bridge. Take the Rialto Mercato stop on Vaporetto No. 1 and turn right. The market is just past the souvenir vendors.

Visit Piazza San Marco

Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy
Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the most beautiful squares in the world, Piazza San Marco, is home to Basilica di San Marco, Campanile di San Marco (the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica), Torre dell’Orologio (The Clock Tower), dozens of high-end shops, and the largest crowds you’ll find in Venice.

St Mark's Campanile, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
St Mark’s Campanile, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Considered a masterpiece of Romanic-Byzantine architecture, Basilica di San Marco was built to house the reliquary of Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice.

Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy
Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Campanile di San Marco, or Saint Mark’s bell tower, was built around the 10th century. In 1902, the tower fell down and, as the story goes, a communal council met the same evening and approved the funds for reconstruction.

Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy
Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rebuilding of the tower took 10 years and the new campanile was inaugurated on April 25, 1912 to celebrate Saint Mark’s feast.

St Mark's Campanile, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
St Mark’s Campanile, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Across the piazza is the Torre dell’Orologio. Dating back to the 15th century, the tower features a gold and blue clock with the signs of the zodiac and the phases of the moon.

Torre dell’Orologio, Venice, Italy
Torre dell’Orologio, Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Take a gondola ride

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When most people think of Venice, they envision a quiet gondola ride through the canals of the ancient city.

In reality, gondola rides are touristy, overpriced and at times the Grand Canal is so overcrowded with gondolas that it makes the 101 in California look like a casual experience.

Venice, Italy
Traffic jam on the Grand Canal, Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

All true. But, if a gondola ride in Venice is what you’ve dreamed of  – do it. But, here’s a few things to keep in mind before you head out with the guy in the striped shirt. Gondola fares are regulated and set by the City of Venice. The standard fee is for a 40 minute ride with 6 people in the gondola. After 7 pm, the fee is higher and longer rides can be purchased in increments. Venice gondola fares can be found here.

Since the Grand Canal can be viewed by the much cheaper vaporetto, ask the gondolier to take you through some quiet, side canals for a better use of the fare and a more enjoyable time.

Where we stayed

Hotel L'Orologio Venezia, Venice, Italy
Hotel L’Orologio Venezia
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For this trip to Venice, we stayed at the Hotel L’Orologio Venezia.

Located along the Grand Canal, it is a lovely boutique hotel in a great location only a few steps from the Rialto Market.

The hotel is new and modern and the staff is helpful, friendly, and speaks fluent English.

The rooms are air-conditioned, quiet and playfully decorated with the clock theme of the hotel. We had a suite with a separate sitting area off of the bedroom and the bathroom was large with a great shower.

Before the night ends

As the sun begins to set, Venice is wrapped in a warm glow that slowly changes to shimmering beauty.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Whether your perfect evening is dining in one of the fine Venetian restaurants, trying your hand at a game of chance at the Casino Venezia, an evening boat ride along the canal, or all three, Venice will deliver the experiences that will have you dreaming to return as soon as you leave.

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.