One tip for Venice

Venice, Italy is a difficult city to be a tourist in.  Which is funny because the city is full of them.  There are so many tourists that that fact alone makes visiting it seem daunting or challenging.  The usual advice is to go in the off season and not during one of their big festivals like Carnival (in February).  And while that advice is solid there is one more tip I have to offer if this is a city that is on your must-see’s or bucket list.

The one tip I have is understandably hard to do when one is on holiday/vacation.  That is to get up early.  I don’t mean early, I mean before the sun rises.  I mean when it is still dark out.  I took someone else’s advice and did so when I visited Venice mid-October.  The sun rises at the time of year around 7:30AM.  I was out and about at 5:30AM.  It wasn’t easy to get up at 4:45AM, shower, eat a granola bar and back my purse up but it WAS worth it.  It was one of the most memorable days in Venice because I wasn’t dodging people left and right, fighting pigeons or frequently getting lost (because of the people).

What I saw was wonderful.  I saw how Venetians live.  I saw St Marque’s getting swept up, the markets getting ready, parents taking their children to school.  I was actually seeing the real Venice (sans tourists).  The people who make the city run to serve the large number of people who invade it during ‘normal’ hours.  You catch people in their moment’s and finding yourself seeing life through their eyes.  It is sight that no tour company can provide.


After watching the city wake up as well as the sun, I got a cup of Italian coffee (cappuccino) in the morning and made my way back to the hotel for their breakfast.  I didn’t rush through breakfast either.  I was able to enjoy it without thinking about where I had to go or planning my day.  My day was basically half done.  I had seen the best part of Venice – its people living.

Learning a foreign language (as an adult)

If you have ever tried learning a foreign language in your adult stage of life, then many of you, no doubt, have many stories (some funny and some not so) about learning it.  Any stories to share are welcome!

Learning a foreign language has its moments, doesn’t it?  The beginning part sucks…which I would classify as The Bad.  You don’t really understand anything, you can barely make a complete sentence and you stumble all over yourself sounding like your IQ has dropped about 10 points.  Humbling, isn’t?  But then, a small shift occurs…The Good…it seems to get better.  You make some milestones…however, small they are.  Being able to read the menu in a restaurant or simply reading a headline of the local newspaper.  However small and basic, it feels good…it’s progress.  And then, there is The Fun part…where you are able to amuse yourself when you make mistakes actually using the language outside of the safe haven (the classroom).

Just recently, my friends and I had a run in with attempting to practice our new foreign language skills.

The language: FRENCH

The place: PARIS, FRANCE

The event: LUNCH (french cuisine)

The victims: 4 WOMEN (2 American, 1 Irish, 1 British/Australian)

The four of us met at our language school in Paris.  We were in the same class and got to know each over the course of a couple weeks.  One of the girls was going back home and we decided to have lunch together to say goodbye.  We all were not beginners to the French language so for the most part we could get by in restaurant situations.

We decided on french cuisine with communal atmosphere (table d’hôte).  I researched a place via Trip Advisor and came across a place near our school.

We arrived at the restaurant (which was already bustling from the lunch crowd) and had a good impression.  Most places in Paris have some English…but this place did not.  No menu in English and all the customers were French.  And we were delighted with this fact.  We immediately looked at the chalkboard for the plat du jour.  I am vegetarian (but eat fish) and so had a limited selection (1 choice).  One of the girls said she would take the same.  The other 2 evaluated the menu and we all ordered our meals in French (a small but a pleasant milestone).

The 2 plates that came out first were the meat ones…The look on her face told us right away that that was not what she was expecting to get.  And the second one was totally not what she had expected.  We all looked at each other and said ‘Are those brains?’.  There was no mistaking the body part for anything else.  It was brain.  We asked her what she thought she had ordered and she said: lamb chops.  We all burst out laughing…they were the little brains of sheep.  She couldn’t eat it…but since the fear of sending it back overcame her…she managed a few bites.  It was NOT good.  If anyone has ever wondered what sheep brains tastes like…it tastes like tofu.  A picture of it is below.

The second questionable plate was drenched in sauce and the pieces of meat looked unidentifiable partly because of the amount of sauce and mostly because neither of us had ever seen meat like that before.  My other friend thought she had ordered liver.  But after the other 2 tasted it…it was most definitely NOT liver.  So we began guessing (eliminating the fact that it was brain)…testicles, intestines?  We looked it up in a french/english dictionary (after the fact) and viola…it was kidney.  Another body part that no one in the party had ever eaten.  It was not good.  And fyi, it does NOT taste like chicken.

We left the restaurant dying of laughter, without tipping and starving (the fish was not that good either).

I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time.  It was good fun…at the expense of our stomachs.  The moments when you feel you have made progress in the language get wiped away with a single humbling event are FUN.  It is just a friendly reminder that you have a long way to go.  And that maybe next time, you should bring a dictionary with you ;).