It’s true: Venice looks like a film set. That’s probably why so many movies have been filmed there – the film company doesn’t need to spend millions building a set because nothing could compare to the real thing. Every tiny ally way, every canal which to a local wouldn’t get a second glance is to a tourist just unbelievably beautiful.
Although it’s totally overrun by tourists at all times of the year, the atmosphere in the city is amazing, and its so unusual compared to so many other places in Europe. Unlike London, which can feel depressing on day during the endless winter, Venice is just as spectacular in drizzle as it is in bright sunshine.
One of the great things about the city is that the locals actually do use the canals – many people think the only boats on them are the gondolas. Although there are of course plenty of these floating around should you want to take a ride, the way to get around is by water-bus. There are stations all over Venice like there are with a regular bus on the street, and what is a total novelty to visitors is just how Venetians get to work, or get into the town centre. If you want to pay up, taking a water taxi is a really fun experience. You zoom through the city in a speedboat feeling like James Bond, then pull up literally outside the airport…
The main down side of Venice is the price of everything – in shops, restaurants and cafés, the prices can be insane. I went on a little hunt to find the most expensive cappuccino in Venice: in the Piazza San Marco, I found one for €8. €8!!! That’s just under £6.50, or $10 (you could buy a whole outfit in Primark for that). In restaurants in all the main squares and shopping streets, they charge different prices for locals and tourists, so do your best to look/sound/act/be Venetian…
The gondoliers are hilarious – ours sang some traditional Venetian tunes for us accompanied by some dancing which caused our gondola to come close to capsizing (more than once). They still wear their little outfits – the stripey black and white jumper with a red scarf, and try to teach the tourists Italian (totally unsuccessfully). Interestingly, the very first female gondolier only started gondolier-ing in the summer of 2010. Hopefully someone will introduce gondolas to the River Thames – they’re an awesome way to travel.
In the middle of London’s financial district, right next to the river Thames, lies an unlikely haven of peace and quiet. Situated on top of a shopping centre frequented by bankers and tourists alike, the New Change roof terrace is surprisingly silent. It’s high up enough that you can’t hear the traffic (apart from the occasional siren) but not high enough that you can see the river. This means the view is particularly interesting – you can see all the usual landmarks like Westminster Abbey, the Shard, the Gherkin and Battersea Power Station but you wouldn’t know that there was a river 100m in front of you… You can also get a totally fascinating close-up view of the lovely gargoyles on St Paul’s Cathedral – something every visitor to the city should see.
The best things about the roof are these: 1. You can bring your own food up there so you don’t necessarily need to eat in the ultra chic Madison tapas bar… 2. Not many people know about it, so it’s always really quiet and calm. (The perfect environment for yoga actually. Maybe someone will introduce lunchtime classes? You never know.)