October 31, 2010
I printed a photobook with photos of Yiu Yiu from birth till two years. One day, Yiu Yiu took out the photobook and flipped through the pages. I was at the dining table and didn't know what she was doing until she started asking me questions on photos we took in Hanoi. Then she said:
Yiu Yiu: Mummy, you still haven't done my Facebook for 3 to 4 years old right?
Mummy: Huh, Facebook, what Facebook?
Yiu Yiu: Neh, this Facebook ah (holding the photobook up).
Mummy: Ohhh…it's not Facebook, it's photobook :-)
I’m quite a clumsy person – bumping into things, dropping things that I’m holding, spilling food and drinks, etc. Unfortunately, Yiu Yiu inherited my clumsiness, and Yan Yan is also beginning to demonstrate the same trait, to hubby’s dismay. The other day, I was drinking some yoghurt drink direct from the bottle and accidentally spilled some.
Yiu Yiu: See mummy. You spilled the drink on the floor already. So clumsy ah you.
Mummy: Yeah lor, mummy very clumsy one. You are also clumsy right?
Yiu Yiu: Mummy, I’m still a little girl OK. You are so big already STILL so clumsy.
October 29, 2010
Only three bridges cross the 4km long Grand Canal: the Ponte degli Scalzi, just outside the train station; the marble Ponte Rialto and the wooden Ponte Accademia. And traghetto offers an alternative method of crossing the canal, with seven traghetto landings along the Grand Canal. Venetians typically make the crossing standing up. The traghetto also provides visitors with a taste of riding on a gondola without burning a hole in the pocket, as traghetti are old gondolas that have been stripped of their brocaded chairs and other luxury trimmings.
Vaporetto, or water bus is the cheapest mode of transportation along the Grand Canal. Single journey can cost a fair bit, so it's best to purchase the 12- to 72-hour tourist travel card. Most have seats inside and out - the outdoors ones, of course, are the favourites of tourists.
Those with more moolah can opt for the water taxi, which can also be chartered for a cruise along the Grand Canal. These limousines of Venice are spacious with leather-upholstered cabins and open-air seating.
Lastly, we also caught glimpses of boats used for commercial purposes.
October 27, 2010
After the visual feast of colourful fruits and vegetables, we headed back to Piazza San Marco to visit Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica). A long queue had already formed to enter the Byzantine basilica, which is free by the way. It’s beautiful outside, with its big onion domes and multi-colored mosaics art, and the interior is floor-to-ceiling mosaics.
The pink-and-white marble Gothic-Renaissance Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace), residence and government center of the doges ("dukes," elected for life) who ruled Venice for more than 1,000 years, is next to Basilica di San Marco. A symbol of prosperity and power, it was destroyed by a succession of fires and was built and rebuilt in 1340 and 1424. Inside is an inner courtyard with a double row of Renaissance arches, wood-paneled courts and elaborate meeting rooms richly decorated by Venetian artists.
Inside the prison
We had about two hours left in Venice and made the big mistake of visiting Murano, the biggest of the three major islands in Venice’s northern lagoon (the other two being Burano and Torcello). It was a total waste of time, as it was far less charming compared Burano and Torcello. The only thing worth mentioning was being able to watch a short demonstration on glass blowing (an age-old tradition of this island and a craft that has long since spread to Venice itself) in one of the shops. The time would have been better spent walking around districts on the opposite side of the Grand Canal.
October 24, 2010
Venice is a really confusing city to navigate on foot, as it wasn’t built to make sense to those on foot but rather to those plying its canals. Getting lost in Venice is one of the fun things to do, as you can stumble across Venice’s most intriguing corners and decaying Gothic palaces decorated with pointy Byzantine windows. BUT it was certainly no fun getting lost while dragging a heavy suitcase each, as we did trying to locate our hotel – which we found after searching for 30 minutes or so!
After freshening up, we headed to the vaporetto (water bus) dock and took a vaporetto to Burano, world famous as a center of lace making, a craft that reached its pinnacle in the 18th century. It is a charming fishing village with cartoonlike, brightly colored houses in pink, lavender, cobalt blue, barn red, butterscotch, and grass green.
Burano is world famous for its lace industry
Then, we took the vaporetto a short trip away to Torcello. Of all the islands of the lagoon, Torcello, offers the most charm. So-called the Mother of Venice, Torcello was the first of the lagoon islands to be called home by a mainland population fleeing the Barbarian hordes that overran the Italian peninsula during the Dark Ages. It was like stepping back in time as we strolled along the canal and traversed an ancient stone bridge (nicknamed "The Devil's Bridge") to Venice's oldest monument, the Cattedrale di Torcello (Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta), whose foundation dates from the 7th century. Unfortunately it was already closed when we arrived so we didn’t manage to visit the interior of the church. Most of Torcello today is a nature reserve, and roughly 20 people still live on the island.
Things we see on our walk from the vaporetto dock to the Cattedrale di Torcello
Cattedrale di Torcello
The Torcello vaporetto dockOn the vaporetto back to Venice, a massive thunderstorm caught up with us (a refreshing change considering the extremely hot weather during the entire time we were in Italy). We went for dinner and by the time we finished, the rain had stopped so we went for a night stroll around Piazza San Marco.
October 14, 2010
When we arrived, many of her kindy mates were already playing inside, so she went ahead to join them.
Shortly after, they were called out to have their food, consisting of the usual fares of sausages, nuggets and fishballs.
The theme of the party was Toy Story, and I can see that the birthday boy’s mama took great pains to give her son a memorable party. Besides the usual decoration, she even hand made this car (packed with sweets and jellies inside) as a game for the children. Each child was given a chance to break open the car but alas, it took multiple hits from a fully grown man (the birthday boy’s papa) to break the car apart, resulting in a torrent of goodies which the children happily collected.
Yiu Yiu taking a swipe at the candy-filled car
Each child was also given this Toy Story sand art kit, complete with a colourful custom made name tag. Such a coincidence that I had just blogged about Yiu Yiu’s first sand art project recently.
After cutting the birthday cake, a magician made a brief appearance, followed by more playing inside the playgym.
Enjoying the magic show
I was surprised that Yiu Yiu didn’t ask to play any longer when I told her it’s time to go. Either she’s not into playgyms all that much, or she was kinda bored since few of her “best” friends had already left.
October 11, 2010
Upon arrival, we headed straight to Piazza del Duomo, historically dubbed the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), where medieval Pisans created one of the most beautiful squares in the world.
The star attraction is but of course the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Next to the tower is the Cattedrale and Baptistery.
The main attraction of the Baptistery is its renowned acoustics. Every 30 minutes the guard will stand in the centre of the Baptistery, let out a clear loud note, while visitors listen to it echo around the room as it fades.
We left Pisa slightly after 8pm, having left our footprints at one of the most recognisable structures in the world.
October 08, 2010
October 06, 2010
From the galleries, it was just a short walk to the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge). Built in 1345, it was Florence's first bridge across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence's medieval days (others were destroyed in World War II). The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry. From the bridge, great views along the Arno River and beyond can be seen.
We then took a looonnnnggg walk and hike up to Piazzale Michelangiolo on top of a hill. The breathtaking vista of the entire city, spread out in the valley below and backed by the green hills of beyond, made up for the strenuous hike. The monument to Michelangelo in the center of the piazza is made up of bronze replicas of David and his Medici chapel sculptures.
Florence's most famous man, again
October 04, 2010
The Gates of Paradise
Close-up of several panels of the Gates of Paradise
The central courtyard in Palazzo Vecchio, and more statues in the palace