Tag Archives: Canals

Postcard From Venice

Today we were returning to Venice with the main objective being to take a gondola ride so after breakfast we made our way to the railway station for a second train ride to the city and after arriving there plotted a walking course around the northern loop of the Grand Canal in the general direction of Ponte Di Rialto.

The plan was to choose a gondola in San Marco but after a while the girls became impatient and spotting a handsome gondolier in his trademark black and white hooped shirt and straw hat with dangling red silk ribbons and after some sales talk and a little negotiation we had agreed to take the ride earlier than originally planned.

Read The Full Story Here…

Memory Posts – Swimming Lessons

In my previous post I recalled my visit to Budapest in 2014 and specifically the Hotel Gellért swimming pool and spa. This reminded me of a post that I wrote in 2013 about swimming pools and lessons when I was a young boy.

The Regent Street Baths were a functional brick built building that had been built in the early 1930s and opened in 1932. Public baths in the 1930s were built for sanitation and public health and hygiene so they weren’t the sort of place that you would go to enjoy yourself as you would today.

There was always a sign up which made some preposterously exaggerated claim about the temperature of the water but I swear it was hardly ever a degree or two above freezing.

Just like taking a dip in the North Sea about 1958 or so…

Read The Full Story Here…

Birmingham – More Canals than Venice

Birmingham Canal Boat

When visiting Birmingham it is almost inevitable to come across the proud boast that the city has ‘More Canals than Venice’.  Birmingham has been called the ‘Venice of the North’ but this isn’t a title that it holds uniquely because it has also been applied to Saint Petersburg, Bruges, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester and Edinburgh amongst others.

It is important to understand that the city makes this claim on the basis of waterway length because it has over one hundred miles of navigable waterways compared with about sixty in Amsterdam and just twenty five in Venice. But thinking in terms of the number of canals, it is wrong; Birmingham only really has six canals whereas Amsterdam has 165 and Venice has 177. I am just saying.

After walking around the Civic Centre we made our way now to Brindleyplace which is at the heart of the canal infrastructure of the city and which has been regenerated and thoroughly reinvented as a tourist attraction.  By the 1970s Birmingham’s canals were in a serious state of disrepair, crumbling away, dirty and smelly and lined by derelict warehouses and  the City Council even considered a proposal to fill them in and turn them into cycle routes but canal enthusiasts would not allow this to happen and instead they approved a multi-million pound restoration scheme.

I have always been fond of canals because when I was a boy we lived near the Oxford Canal that had been commissioned in 1769 and built by the canal builder James Brindley.  The canal was an incredibly dangerous place really but of course we didn’t realise that at the time.  During the summer we used to wait at top lock and offer to open and close the gates for passing canal craft in the hope that we would receive a few pennies for our labours.

If the canal was dangerous then the locks were doubly so but this didn’t stop us from daring each other to jump from the elevated tow path down about three metres and two and a half metres across to the central section of the double locks.  I shudder to think about it now.  We used to swim in the canal too and that was a stupid thing to do as well.  Not only was the murky water about two metres deep and lurking with danger but it was also full of bacteria and germs especially in the black cloying mud on the bottom that would ooze through your toes so it’s a miracle that we didn’t catch typhoid or something else really, really awful.

Talking of catching things, we used to go fishing down the canal and this wasn’t quite so dangerous except when my friend Colin Barratt (who was forbidden by his parents to go to the canal on account of not being able to swim) fell in while struggling to land a four-ounce Perch with a homemade rod and line.

One minute he was standing on the towpath with his garden cane rod and bit of string and there was an almighty splash and Colin was thrashing about in the water struggling for his life.  Between us we dragged him out without having to jump in ourselves and took him home and didn’t see him again for about three months after that but to make him feel better we told him that it was a monster Pike that had pulled him in.

The last time that I had lunch by the side of a canal was in Venice at the Ristorante Da Raffaele and although there were no gondolas gliding by in Birmingham it was just as nice to sit by the side of the water in the sunshine and enjoy a pasta in the UK Midlands and after lunch we walked for a while along the towpaths before heading back to the city centre, New Street railway station and a short return train ride.

I had enjoyed the day in Birmingham and look forward to going back some time soon.

Canal Boat British waterways

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wall, Venice Canal View

Venice Wall and Washing Line

At water level there was a completely different perspective to the buildings and down here we could see the exposed brickwork and the crumbling pastel coloured stucco, sun blistered and frost picked and giving in to the constant assault of the waters of the lagoon as it gnaws and gouges its relentless way into the fabric of the buildings.

Read the full story…

More Garibaldi – Giuseppe in Venice

Garibaldi Venice

“Let us unite, let us love one another,
For union and love
Reveal to the people
The ways of the Lord.
Let us swear to set free
The land of our birth:
United, for God,
Who can overcome us?”

Italy National Anthem

As we walked further east we arrived at Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and in the Giardini pubblici di Venezia we came across the inevitable statue of the greatest of all Italian romantic heroes.

Read the full story…

Venice, A Gondola Ride through the Canals

“The Venetian gondola is as free and graceful, in its gliding movement, as a serpent. It is twenty or thirty feet long and is narrow and deep like a canoe; its sharp bow and stern sweep upward from the water like the horns of a crescent…. The bow is ornamented with a battle axe attachment that threatens to cut passing boats in two.”                                                                                                 Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’

Today we were returning to Venice with the main objective being to take a gondola ride so after breakfast we made our way to the railway station for a second train ride to the city and after arriving there plotted a walking course around the northern loop of the Grand Canal in the general direction of Ponte Di Rialto.

Read the full story…

Venice, A Walk through the Old City

Venice Italy Gondola Canals

“Oh Venice! Venice! when thy marble walls
Are level with the waters, there shall be
A cry of nations o’er thy sunken halls,
A loud lament along the sweeping sea!
If I, a northern wanderer, weep for thee.”                                                                       
Lord Byron

As well as pigeon feeding and picnics in St Mark’s Square it seems that the Venice authorities are also cracking down on illegal street traders and where they set up impromptu pavement shop with impunity ten years ago they are no longer allowed to and although one or two tried their luck the police were quick to move in and we saw one nasty little altercation where an officer confiscated the merchandise and the trader fought back, no doubt worried about how we would explain the loss of stock to his suppliers and bosses.

Read the full story…