Monday, November 9, 2009


We had a smooth flight from Beuavais airport in Paris to Treviso airport in Venice. Arriving at dusk, with the grey skies growing darker by the seconds, we were happy with our decision to have an accomodation booked near the airport. Mimi called the caretaker upon arrival. The caretaker's instruction was simple. Look to the right when you exit the airport and you can see the B&B accomodation. Viola! There it was, a three-storey beige-coloured building across the street. No taxis required. We rolled our bags to the apartment.

Fantastic. Apart from our threesome ocupying one room, there was only one other room occupied by a couple. So, the common bathroom posed no problem for us. The kitchenette was stocked with tea and coffee, and a simple breakfast was provided.

We brought some halal meals from Paris for our dinner, unsure of whether we could get some food on arrival. The weather was pleasant and for a change, I do not need a blanket and for once had to use the stand fan provided. We settled in very quickly.
Though waking up early as usual, we were in no hurry. We had a slow breakfast though it was tough to slow down. There were really not much for breakfast to slow us down.

The bus to Venice leaves the airport regularly, timed with the arrivals of the flights from various destinations in Europe. Tickets for the waterbus in Venice were also available at the bus ticket counter. Everything was convenient. The last bus would depart Venice for the airport at 7:30 pm and we would have a full day for sight-seeing and absorbing Venice - a first timer for the 3 of us. The return bus ticket costs Euro 10 each. The waterbus ticket in Venice costs Euro 16 each.

The bus left the airport on time and the journey took about an hour. Crowd was already building up at the main bus station in Venice as buses, taxis, private cars and motorcycles started arriving. Human traffic was everywhere. It would be a crowded day.

For those familiar with Venice, the main tourist destination is Piazzo Saint Marco, Piazzo meaning Square. One could also walk to the square through the maze of the canals which would take more than an hour to do so. The most popular option was to take the waterbus, which we did, which most other tourists did too.

We had our first sight of the gondolas at the waterfront while looking for the waterbus site. We would certainly be seeing more of these later.

The waterbus we took was pretty crowded. There were several stops along the main waterway before reaching Piazza St Marco. I noted that there were no ticket conductors and the purchase of tickets were done in good faith. I wonder whether such service can work back home! Here, I did not notice anyone going for a free ride.

Anyway it was a good feeling to catch the sea breeze as the waterbus makes its way to the various stops. It was also a different sight to see buildings hugging the sea. There was water everywhere (but not a drop to drink) and there were boats plying up and down.

The sights we saw so far was well worth this excursion.

Arriving at St Marco square, we were greeted with hordes of human traffick. We were pretty amazed that after all these years, the Europeans were still visiting Venice.

Piazza St Marco (St Mark's Square) is the central landmark and gathering place for Venice. One can find lots of tourists, photographers and pigeons. There are small alleyways, deisgner brand shops and restaurants.

We were amongst the handful of Asians in the mat salleh crowd.

The pigeons at the square were enjoying the crowd. It would mean a constant supply of food for them.

And Mimi was also enjoying her usual jump

Joining in the joy were also the souvenir stalls. There were plenty of souvenirs for the picking. I refrain from buying the familiar blue-striped t-shirt worn by the gondolier. Back home, I do not want to be mistaken for an escaped convict! And I will then end up using the striped t-shirt as my pyjama top - a rather expensive sleeping option.

There were also paintings and sketches to choose from. We were also careful not to buy for fear of being too "Venice" when we get back home.

Aha...what about the umbrella? Can use it for golf! No. It would be too exhibitive and my golfing buddy may complain for creating distraction.

What about masks? Isn't masks a feature of Venice? Well, it was, decades ago.

Here is the take on masks, copied from an internet site. The pictures are mine though.

"Unlike the vast majority of their counterparts in contemporary European nations, each citizen in Venice enjoyed a high standard of living. Everyone was part of the great economic machine that was the Republic. Venice was capitalizing on its position, on its gains, long before its contemporaries had realized the value of a market economy. With a level of social wealth unequaled since, the citizens of Venice developed a unique culture - one in which the concealing of the identity in daily life became paramount to daily activity. Part of the secrecy was pragmatic: there were things to do, people to see, and perhaps you might not want others to know what deals you were cutting. After all, the city is relatively small."

Additionally, the masks served an important social purpose of keeping every citizen on an equal playing field. Masked, a servant could be mistaken for a nobleman - or vice versa. State inquisitors and spies could question citizens without fear of their true identity being discovered (and citizens could answer without fear of retribution). The morale of the people was maintained through the use of masks - for with no faces, everyone had voices.

So, no masks either for us. Tak mahu berselindung disebalik topeng. Thus all the stalls we patronised did not get to take our Euros.

Walking through the alleys of St Marco, there were many boutique and designer shops, and more souvenir shops.

But the small canals criss-crossing St Marco was where our main focus went. Here would be where Venice is mostly featured, internationally. The aged buildings by the canals,

The curved bridge across the canals

And the gondolas

and a pose by the canal.

This is where the romance of Venice begins!

And finally my own pose at "167". It was not a romantic number, but a memorable one. You see, I was born at No. 167 Kg Dalam Ru, Tumpat 59 years ago!


Monday, November 2, 2009


Today is our final day in Paris. The flight to Venice from Beauvais airport leaves at 6:30 pm. We have to take the bus at Porte Maillot for Beauvais airport. We still have a half-day available. Waking up early as usual, I browsed the map of Paris. I chanced upon Paris Mosque located just outside the Place Monge metro station. Excellent, that would be where we would end our Paris trip.

Our appointment with the caretaker to return the apartment keys was at 11:00am. On the dot, the caretaker arrived. He returned our precious Euro 300 deposit in exchange for the keys, after satisfying himself that everything was intact in the apartment. Anyway, the washing machine was too big to stuff inside our travelling bag! Ha...ha

Unlike Paris where Mimi had already pre-booked the apartment, we had no accomodation booked for Venice. Somehow Mimi missed this important task in her to-do list. And we would be arriving in the evening in Venice. So first on our must do list was to get to an internet facility to book a place to stay on arrival this evening in Venice.

A 5 minutes walk from the apartment got us to an internet outlet. No French required. The outlet was manned by a Sri Lankan lass. We decided to google for “accomodation near the airport”. A few tries and presto, we got one within a reasonable budget of Euro 156. One potential headache cleared and we were soon in the metro heading for Place Monge to visit Paris Mosque.

Exiting the station, I asked a lady for direction. She was obviously French but spoke English ala French and pointed us to the direction. Crossing the street and taking the first turn, the star and crescent symbolising a mosque was in our view.

Where opportunity prevails, I do look forward to visit mosques in a foreign land. I recalled visiting several mosques in Chengdu, China. For one used to see Chinese temples, one could mistake the mosques as temples. That's the beauty of different cultures.

It would be wishful thinking to expect a mosque in France to take the architecture of medieval Europe, ala Notre Dame. So, Paris Mosque was moorish in architecture, built by the North Africans in 1922. Information on the internet recorded that it was build to honor the North African countries that had helped France during World War I. That would be some history to dig.

However, I always feel at home in a mosque, foreign or otherwise. I am sure others feel the same way as I do.

Entering the mosque, we were greeted with a small garden typical of Islamic landscape architecture. Two fountains with a 6-pointed stars at the base are flanked with plantings on both sides.

A French Muslim lady then ushered us in, into the courtyard towards the main prayer hall.

The courtyard was square in shape. In the centre stood an ablution pool. Though no longer used in the modern era, the pool would have served its purpose during its earlier years.

A lone student was in the library, rather oblivous to me taking a shot. A library in a mosque is not something we see quite often in our local mosques in Malaysia.

There were several Muslims inside the prayer hall, some reciting the Quran. A few were in supplications. We took the opportunity for sembahyang sunat. My wife told me the Muslim ladies were fascinated by the telekong she wore for prayers.

We spent roughly an hour at the Paris Mosque and also met a group of French Muslims of Algerian descent. One young man offered us coffee which we gladly accepted and struck some short conversations with Mimi and I. He had heard of Malaysia which he spoke highly of and we just let him to continue saying the good things he had heard of Malaysia.

Visit over. It was past lunch time. We had lunch and pretty soon were back in the Metro heading for Port Maillot. The bus left at 5:30 pm and we settled in for the trip to the airport, bound for Venice, with the comfort of knowing that the accomodation awaited us.

At the departure lounge, which was crowded with holiday-makers like us, I cant help noticing this very serious warning.

No Christian Dior for me!