Being in Belgium reminded me that it was high time I blogged some summer pictures. We spent two lovely weeks in the small Belgian seaside town of Wenduine.
We swam in the North Sea (chilly but nowhere near as cold as Northern California's Pacific Ocean), played on the big sandy beaches, pedaled our go-carts madly around town, visited Bruges and Brussels, spent time with friends & family, and of course… Ate waffles!
My 12 year old son Thomas and I took a three hour fire eating course yesterday in downtown Oakland at The Crucible. We found it through the excellent Workshop Weekend program, which offers many interesting courses. We were the only two students and our teacher, Patricia, gave us a great introduction to both the art and science of fire eating
Once our basic skills were in place we moved on to art. Patricia taught us various tricks such as flame transfers and ways to light the torches. She was particularly impressed by Thomas who, in the six years she's been teaching the class, was by far her youngest student.
- A travel pass is expensive but if if you're going to take a vaporetto (a "bus boat") more than twice a day, it's worth it. We paid 33 Euro for 3 days, the cost of a single ticket is 6.5 Euro
- Pay attention to tides (and this site) if you want to see Piazza San Marco partially flooded, the most you're likely to see, but be ready to stand on crowded walk ways
- The museum in San Marco's cathedral is well worth seeing for its view of the Piazza and its beautiful mosaics
- Time your visit to the campanile with the top of the hour and you'll be treated to nice bell ringing (loud too!)
- FYI, Sunday mornings the cathedral itself is close to tourists until 14:00 due to mass being held, though the museum is open
- It's easy to get a little disoriented in Venice's streets. A GPS or GPS enabled phone (or in our case, iPad) is easiest, a compass can be quite useful, but just paying attention to signs saying "Per Rialto" or "Per San Marco" can often be good enough when navigating the city. Besides, it can be fun to get lost!
- Though fairly packed, you can easily see these in a day (as always, bring water!)
- You'll find many opportunities to grab a bite to eat around the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, etc. just avoid picking a place right next to the monuments or you'll certainly be paying for it
- The Baths of Caracalla are south of the Colosseum, but not much. Check bus routes before setting out and you'll be fine getting there and back
- As with the Colosseum, Palatine, and Forum, plan on spending a whole day (and bring water)
- Make sure you send a few postcards from the Vatican's two post offices, one on each side of St. Peter's
- The post office on the right of St. Peter's as you exit has tables you sit at to write your postcards. While you're there, check out the Vatican bookshop next door
- Postcards are much cheaper in the Vatican and there are pictures of sites all over Rome
- Visit the Vatican museum first: this will avoid standing in line to see St. Peter's as you end up inside the cathedral at the end of your museum tour after the Sistine Chapel
- Get a guide for the museum: you'll avoid the lines and it's money well spent. There are precious few signs & explanations in this huge museum, a good guide will increase your enjoyment tremendously
- I liked climbing up to the top of St. Peter's: it only costs 5 euro and the view is great. You also get a view of the inside of the copula and afterwards you exit inside the church, so you may avoid
- Entrance is free, always nice!
- We arrived around noon and got to witness a sermon, including a priest singing the liturgy. It was nice to experience the cathedral being used as a place of worship, and not just a tourist attraction
- Personally, if there's a long line to climb up to the towers, I wouldn't wait. You're going to see the Eiffel Tower, right? You'll get a better view up there
- It's worth taking the short walk around the outside of the cathedral: you can take some nice pictures in the gardens and there's a small playground for kids who need an outlet for their energy (after all there's only so many architectural marvels kids can take :-)
- Walk all the way around the inside of the cathedral too, the stained glass windows are exquisite!