About Me

Living in the Caribbean is probably like living anywhere else, with the same ups and downs. But it does have its own vibe and flavour and gives me a unique perspective on most things. I'm often sarcastic, mostly funny, always looking for a new adventure. I have not boxed myself into any one category of life. I love a lot of things and dislike a lot more. I write about them all.

Solo Traveller Adventures: My Return to Florence, Italy

I have told friends that so far, Italy is my geographical and spiritual soulmate. Of course, if I continue to be blessed enough to travel to more new places, this may change but what will not change is how connected I always feel when I am in Italy. And moreso, in Florence.

I first visited Firenze back in 2010. I had a lot on my mind at the time. Funnily enough, I also pondered whether I wanted to take a vacation this year, but again, I went with God and jumped on the plane and I thought, one of the most relaxing and wonderful trips ever was my trip to Florence and so I added it to the itinerary and in fact, it was the primary destination as I stayed here the longest.

Someone asked me why I love Florence so much. It’s hard to put into words why you may love a place as much as you do.

If I had to liken it to a boyfriend or lover, I guess one could say I love Florence for its -

Warmth – My first visit to Florence was my first visit to Italy, and the city set me up for the fall I later had in Rome. The friendliness and warmth generally from the people I met along the way made me feel at home and ever so comfortable. Rome was the complete opposite as you know – cold, bordering on hateful (#travellingwhileblack). Before I left, I told one of my Italian friends that I hoped Florence had not changed, or that the love I felt five years before was not a one-off. But like an old friend, Florence welcomed me back with open arms.

Smells and Tastes – Robin Leach said ‘In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine’. Florence, to me, is synonymous with great food. Add amazing Chianti wines and you are never short of gastronomical pleasure. The food was the main highlight of the trip!

The best ossobuco ever 

I took a lunch break in Fiesole and decided it was the perfect time for pizza

Chianti! Chianti!

Beauty – Florence and the rest of Tuscany are like a living postcard. One sight that always captivates me, no matter how many times I see it, is the magnificent dome of the Duomo rising into the clouds, looking down on the city. You have to see it to understand how jaw dropping it really is. I think what I also love about Florence is that it is a city that does not have that stifling city feel, like Paris or Rome. Add to the fact that it is in Tuscany, and you are a heartbeat away from rolling green hills, vineyards, fresh country air and a much simpler life, and Florence is really pretty damn perfect.

The moment the Duomo starts peeping above the city is my fave sight
while walking through the streets of Florence

View from Fiesole

The romance of Florence - sunset over the River Arno

Next I will tell you about the best experience I had in Florence this time around and of course, it involved food.

Solo Traveller Adventures: Eating Out in Venice, Italy

The general rule of thumb when eating out on vacation in Europe is - do not eat in places near the main tourist attractions. These places generally are geared towards convenience and sightseeing appeal, and not focused on quality or taste. I am sure or hope that there are exceptions to this rule, but safer to go off the beaten path when it comes to grabbing lunch or dinner. There was one night in Venice when I broke this golden rule because I was so hungry and it was so late that I sat myself down at one of these establishments, hoping that this would be one of those exceptions. It wasn't.  Eating that dinner that night made me remember a conversation with an American duo who claimed Venetian food was the worst - clearly they had eaten at one of these places.

I did not leave Venice with the same conclusion though. Asking locals for a recommendation is usually a good call so don't be afraid to go beyond your comfort zone as a visitor to a new city. Even before this very bad experience, I had already been lucky to have two amazing meals at Impronta Cafe, which is not a traditional, hole-in-the-wall type of place but a more modern cafe experience. The lunch, aperitif and dinner experiences at Impronta Cafe were all very good - great food, very well done and presented and great service.

Spinach and ricotta ravioli in pesto. This was beautiful. Grazie, Impronta Cafe.

Impronta Cafe's roast suckling pig with purple potato mash and apple puree. The pork was decadent.

The best meal I had in Venice was in one of these hidden gems off the beaten path - a place recommended by Damiano, my B&B host. One needed to make a reservation to dine at La Zucca - a small, intimate place not too far from the San Stae vaporetto stop. I completely loved this dining experience. If you are looking for that romantic Hollywood setting for dinner, then no - you will not find it here. There were no tourists, no romantic view of the Grand Canal - in fact it is located on a back street and the view was of graffiti on the opposite wall. But from the moment I sat down to the moment I bid the owners a good night, it was an amazing evening. Great food and service that was so warm that you almost felt like family. You want to feel that when you are away from home. I appreciated it. This was a great, great, great recommendation!

I had an outside table so I could people watch. Check out the graffiti wall view in front of me.

It was so fresh. So fresh. No description needed. But La Zucca's pesto was 'burst in your mouth' fresh.

Grilled pork cooked in marsala wine with baby onions at La Zucca. This was everything!

La Zucca dessert - panna cotta in chocolate sauce. Possibly the best panna cotta ever.

I also enjoyed a couple gelatos from Gelateria White - a very slick and contemporary gelato establishment, where the gelato was self-service and sold based on weight and mix of toppings from candies, to fruit. You basically create your gelato fantasy yourself and it is pretty good gelato as well. Great stop while walking the streets of Venice after hours.

And while I can surely not make a sweeping conclusion on who had the best aperol spritz in the land, I will recommend this aperitif to any visitor. Aperol, prosecco, sparkling water and an orange slice - so simple but so wow. It was my drink of choice for my entire stay in Italy (and even beyond) and the best ones I had at Da Sandro Bar. and Al Todaro. I did try the Hugo aperitif as well but while it may be all the rage, it did not do it for me like the tried and tested aperol spritz, but we still took a photo!

Hugo aperitif - champagne, elderflower syrup, lime juice, mint and a view of the Grand Canal.

While Venice may not be Bologna, Naples or Florence when it comes to the foodie excitement, if you do your research and due diligence, you can leave the city with super fond memories of a great dining experience.

But up next...we move on to my fave Italian city (so far) and my second visit to Florence. Love.

Solo Traveller Adventures in Venice - The Highlights

Venice is indeed a romantic city. There is no doubt about that. However, that should not stop the single traveller from still visiting this beautiful city. Besides getting lost in the maze of streets and canals, there are still many things for travellers to do, especially if there is no significant other, or even a travel buddy.

So as a tourist, I had a few places I definitely wanted to visit in Venice. As most people know, I am a history buff and so I will always always always look for the museum in a city. I have been blessed to visit some of Europe's most spectacular museums and galleries like the Prado, the Louvre, Uffizi, Rijksmuseum, National Gallery, among others and now, Accademia in Venice.

Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice

Loved the woodwork in this room,and of course, the art - Gallerie dell'Accademia

St Mark's Basilica was also beautiful - always a bit of a sombre moment when visiting the great churches in Europe. Just a note to the uninitiated, when visiting churches, please respect that it is indeed a spiritual house and be modest in one's attire. Walking with a shawl or sweater would save you being barred from entering.

I also had the chance to see the square when it was devoid of human life. I would recommend setting the alarm for sunrise and heading to St Mark's Square to see the full beauty of the square when the tourists are all asleep. Beautiful.

View of St Mark's Basilica from the outside. No photos allowed inside.

The peace and quiet of St Mark's Square as Venice just begins to wake up.

Palazzo Ducale or the Doge's Palace. The artistry and attention to detail here were extraordinary. I am always amazed at just how much work went into these palaces in an age where technology was basic but innovation still amazingly high. Something to think about, millenials. Really enjoyed this visit. 

The detail in the ceilings, paintings, walls and even the doors is magnificent. The tour of the prisons within the palace walls was also one that was a bit sad, particularly of course, walking across the Bridge of Sighs - so named because the view from the bridge, as limited as it was, would be the last view prisoners would have of Venice before being sealed behind the huge and heavy doors of the dungeons.

Exterior of the Doge's Palace in Venice

Just one of the many spectacular rooms in the Doge's Palace

The doors of the prison cells that locked away life for years and years in the Doge's Palace

The last sight of Venice the prisoners would have as they crossed the Bridge of Sighs

But the easy pace of life on the island of Burano was a highlight. I took the vaporetti from Venice to the outlying island of Burano, famous for its beautiful lace. I had planned to visit all three islands but the heat and exhaustion made me make a tough choice as to which of the three - Murano, Torcello or Burano - I would make the effort for. The glass blowing of Murano has been cited as a great treat but I was far more interested in just chilling, and so took the ride out to Burano instead.  A great difference to the tourist-mad mainland where streets were quiet and locals sat on their doorsteps chatting or observing the tourists taking photos. The selfie stick phenomenon was a real source of amusement for the Burano folk as it was almost death by selfie from the visitors. Love love the kaleidoscope of colour in Burano and strolling through the quaint and peaceful streets as dusk began to fall was calming and wonderful. Burano is also well known for its lace and there are several shops where you can purchase a variety of lace items, from clothing to fans, to umbrellas to home accessories. A must for anyone visiting Venice I think. Your multiple day travel pass (mentioned in the last post) will also cover your journey to the outlying islands, so definitely invest in one if you are staying in Venice for a few days.

Burano - a quiet and welcome escape from tourist-riddled Venice

Loved the splash of colour all across the island of Burano

Peaceful Burano. Love,

More importantly, just take it easy. Walk the streets and explore all the little nooks and crannies, take a tour of the Rialto market when it is at its peak, and sit along the canal with an aperol spritz and just people watch - the best part of any solo traveller adventure in Venice. Will share my favourite eats in the next post.

Aperol spritz - the best thing ever. Sip one while sitting along the Grand Canal and life is golden

Woosah -Vacation begins, in Venice

View of Venice from Palazzo Ducale
And I went 'woosah'.

It is vacation time and the first stop and only unfamiliar destination of this vacation adventure - Venice. It has been amazing, beautiful and tiring. Lol. Besides carrying around a massive sleep debt from the last work week and from paranoia that I would oversleep in my hotel at Gatwick and miss my 6.45am flight to Venice, I also decided to use the first day to 'explore' the city. By foot. It is one of those cities where you should walk - all the narrow 'calles' or streets or as you may call them when you see them 'alleys'. The city is a virtual labyrinth of narrow, sometimes poorly lit alleys. August is usually a dull time for a lot of cities when it comes to resident life. So while the main areas were teeming with tourists, the off beaten paths were virtually deserted.

This was how I came to be lost in Venezia. They say getting lost is a must and the guide books say don't worry if the snaking labyrinth swallows you whole. And so when I realised I was in No Man's Land after half hour, I chuckled to myself. Giving you the reminder as context - I absolutely suck at directions, maps etc. I would get lost in an empty room. I am daft like that. So lost and although armed with 2 maps, I knew this had the potential to be very gruesome. Add to that, I was off the beaten track so not an American or Japanese tourist group in sight. Two hours later, somehow I found my way back to the Rialto Bridge and among human life forms.

But it has been great - so far a much more palatable experience than Rome was, Rome being my benchmark for uncomfortable vacation destination. The people have all been very warm, very welcoming.

Venice is also pretty great for my waistline.  One, Venetian cuisine is primarily seafood-based and I am not a huge patron of fish. Well okay...I hate fish. Saving my gluttonous ways for the rest of the trip. But what I have eaten so far has been amazing. The manager of the B&B where I am staying has been pointing me to places the locals would go. Venice gets a bad rap for sub-par cuisine mainly because a lot of places serve these ridiculous 'turistic' menus. It's like Chinese restaurants that serve what we love as Chinese food but the owner would not ever eat what they sell. Will leave the food for next time.

Secondly as it relates to my waistline - the obvious:- the walking. My room is on the top floor of the B&B - so lots of stairs. Though I have a travel card that gives me unlimited travel on vaporetti for the specified time period, one still walks a fair bit especially when lost, which is every day for me.

Venice is absolutely beautiful. You know what it is like from reading about it or seeing it in movies but you can never be fully prepared for the beauty of the city - a city floating on water. Beautiful by day, enchanting by night. Of course the second best thing to do after walking the narrow calles is to take a trip up the Grand Canal. The best way in which to do this is via vaporetto or water bus. Sure you can do the whole gondola thing but that would mean shelling out about 80euros for that pleasure. A single ticket for 60 mins on the vaporetto costs €7,50. In my case as I was there a few days I shelled out for a multi-day ticket and after getting lost on the first day, I relied heavily on the vaporetti for the rest of my trip. If you can use the London underground or the NY subway system, you will have no trouble with the vaporetti network which is only different as it runs on water.

Vaporetti are slow and during peak tourist sesson, hot. The crush of humans at any given time was enough to turn even the most enthusiastic tourist into a sourpuss. But it was never for long as the city views are amazing.

And you do not need to book a room oveelooking the canal to enjoy Venice. I did not and I still love it. Venice was planned as the true touristy part of the vacation so I did the main 'must do' sights but retired early from tourist life to slow it down and do nothing but enjoy the simpler things of the city - buying fruit in the Rialto market, sipping on aperol spritzes before dinner, night time stroll along the Rialto and onwards to St Mark's. It has been truly lovely.

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