Disorganised travellers receive the best surprises

It seems to me that there are two kinds of travellers — those who plan everything meticulously down to the last detail and then those others- like us- who make decisions on the fly and sometimes luck out and find themselves just in the right place at the right time.

That’s what happened to us when we arrived in Venice – we had no idea that it was Carnival time and we lobbed in to find the festival in full swing with people wearing fabulous elaborate masks and even more elaborate costumes.

Al Poggio restaurant in Venice

The weather was glorious and we were able to sit in the sunshine and eat lunch. Although we had both been to Venice twice before, we had never tried the traditional local dish Pasta al Nero di Seppia – pasta with squid ink – much beloved by Inspector Brunelli in the wonderful series of crime fiction books set in Venice and written by Donna Leon.

Squid Ink pasta – surprisingly delicious

So there we were, twirling our silky smooth black spaghetti and enjoying the amazing and subtle flavour of the sea in every mouthful, when we started to notice a number of people strolling by with masks on. Then we became aware that there were also a number dressed in amazing costumes.

What’s going on? People keep walking passed the restaurant in fancy dress!

Then it dawned on us that we had arrived during Carnevale di Venezia – something I had wanted to see for years but never thought would happen – accommodation gets booked out so quickly besides which it is very expensive during this time of year.

A Venetian merchant walks in the background. Is it a ghost?

Fortunately we were able to stay in our camper van at the car park near Mestre Station – for around 25 Euros – just a short walk from beautiful Venice.

The camper van park was virtually empty
We had such a lovely view

After a leisurely lunch we strolled through the maze of alleyways, over canal bridges, through squares past all the amazing shops and headed towards St Mark’s Square. When we arrived it was absolutely packed!

We just love the small canals and narrow alleyways of Venice

Gondolas waiting for guests

This gondola was carrying a rather more classy passenger than usual
There were lots of masks for sale
Window shopping is always a pleasure in Venice

A couple of cheerful gondoliers
St Mark’s Square was even more packed than usual

We had walked into one of the highlights of the festival – the contest for the best masked costume which is judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers. The catwalk was filmed and the contest projected on a huge screen behind the stage.

Some of the contestants for the best masked costume

There were many people dressed up in their finery throughout St Mark’s Square.

Amazing costumes everywhere we looked

Later we watched a parade with bands and musicians and many intriguing masked people in sumptuous costumes.

Watching the parade

We thoroughly enjoyed just wandering through the crowds soaking in the atmosphere and catching sight of the participants in interesting and colourful masked costumes.

Little Bo Peep?
People really go to a lot of trouble to dress up beautifully

I thought this chap had his sun glasses on but it’s a mask!

These masks were amazing if a little unnerving

Even the little dog was dressed up!
Mobile phones look a little out of place when dressed up for Carnevale

As the sun began to go down we boarded a vaparetto and headed for the campervan once again after an unforgettable and unexpected day at the Venice Carnival extravaganza.

Gondolas in the Lagoon
Gondoliers having a break

A beautiful way to end the day

On the vaporetto (water bus) back “home”

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

4 thoughts on “Disorganised travellers receive the best surprises”

  1. What an amazing chance experience – the costumes are fabulous! I agree, the unexpected surprises in life like this are what make spontaneous travel decisions so rewarding. And all for 45 euros a night! !


  2. Magical, your photos have really captured the atmosphere. I too have been to Venice twice and always wanted to go. Maybe I don’t need to now after your comprehensive coverage?!
    Recently George&I went to a masked ball and two of the ladies on our table had got their masks from Venice. We got ours from a cheap shop in Bognor and they really weren’t bad!


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