The only blog post you will need to read if you are visiting Venice. You can thank me later.

A girl’s guide to… Venice

A girl’s guide to Venice

Venice. The name alone conjures images of romance and history, uniqueness and grandeur. For centuries, poets and artists have tried to capture its beauty in their work, and even today, people are still enamoured by this Italian splendour. I too could compose many a beautiful word about the city and describe it the way every other writer does, or I could tell you the truth.

Now, I don’t want to shatter any illusions, Venice IS an exquisite and special place, but when people write about it they tend to get swept away with the romance of it all. I am here to offer some practical advice, after all, how romantic is a gondola ride when you’re swatting away mosquitoes?

Know before you go

Get a map of the city and decide whereabouts you would like to stay. Learn about the districts – if you want all the major tourist attractions on your doorstep then the San Marco district is the one for you but the best way to ensure you have your dream trip is to do a little research before you go.

What to pack

  • Pack as lightly as possible. The only ways to get around Venice are by boat or by foot. The boats aren’t going to take you to your hotel door, so be prepared, you may have to lug your suitcase for a 15 minute walk through the hot, busy streets from St Mark’s Square to your accommodation.
  • Wear sensible shoes. You will be doing A LOT of walking during your visit. A trip to Venice is no time to break in your new pair of heels, regardless of how stylish the Italians are. Gladiator sandals may have been worn by the Romans but they still managed to blister my feet (yes, they were flat as well!) so a pack of plasters and some comfortable trainers are recommended.
  • Avoid becoming a mosquito buffet. Nothing can dampen a romantic evening dining at a waterside restaurant more than becoming the main meal yourself, so make sure you pack some insect repellent. You want to return home with a glowing golden tan, not itchy red bumps.
Don't feed the pigeons!
Don’t feed the pigeons!

Sensible spending

Venice is a pricey city, so unless you are a Dolce-clad darling, you may find the following few tips useful.

  • You will see street vendors trying to sell “designer” handbags to passing tourists. Do not be tempted. As well as being fake, they are also illegal and even buying one – if caught by the police – could land you with a hefty fine. That cheap “designer” handbag wasn’t so cheap after all, was it?
  • Beware of hidden extras. So you’ve just enjoyed a pleasant meal and received the bill when you notice you have been charged for something called ‘coperto’. You didn’t order this? Well, this is the cover charge which is in addition to the service charge (the tip) that they also add onto your bill. Cover charge is basically what you pay for the privilege of sitting in their restaurant – it could be the bread that the waiter/waitress brought over that you never asked for, or it could even cover the cost of washing the table linen!! If you want to avoid nasty surprises like this then look out for restaurants which state NO COVER CHARGE.
  • Try take-away. The price of even a margarita pizza in Venice can vary alot, so one of the best ways to eat cheaply is to get take-away. As well as being cheaper there is also no cover charge involved. Another idea would be to buy some sandwiches at a supermarket or deli for lunch and find somewhere nice to sit and dine alfresco. If you do decide to dine in, then skip the expensive desserts and head to the nearest gelateria to sample some divine gelato (Italian ice cream).
  • Avoid eating at the major tourist hubs. At the time of writing, a glass of coca cola at a café in St Mark’s Square will cost you around 9 euros. Unless you have a burning desire to tick the whole dining in St Mark’s Square experience off your bucket-list then I would avoid. Head out of the square and up into one of the side streets to find more reasonably priced refreshment. And don’t even think about eating that take-away baguette on the steps of St Mark’s Square – you may get fined!
  • Carry a bottle of water with you. Sightseeing is thirsty work but you don’t need to keep buying overpriced bottles of water, simply fill up from one of the many drinking fountains dotted around the city.

Lastly
Don’t forget to carry a map with you. Getting lost in Venice is part of the fun but at some point you’ll want to find yourself again!

Alfresco dining!
Alfresco dining!

If you like this, then check out my A Girl’s Guide To… series.

A girl's guide to Venice

A girl's guide to Marrakech - dedicated to the wannabe Carrie Bradshaws out there

A girl’s guide to… Marrakech

Anyone who is fan of Sex and the City will know that the second movie, although set in Abu Dhabi, was actually filmed in Marrakech. So for all you cosmo-sipping, handbag-toting, high-heel-wearing fashionistas out there, here is A girl’s guide to Marrakech.

1. Take a leaf out of Miranda’s book – Know before you go.

It is always a wise idea to learn about a country’s customs before you visit, it’s only polite and you don’t want to cause any offense. It also helps if you can learn a little bit of the language. Remember in SATC2 Miranda says that “shukran” means “thank you”? It is also highly beneficial to know that “laa” means “no” so when you are receiving unwanted attention from henna ladies, snake charmers, souk sellers etc etc, a polite “laa shukran” should in most cases be enough to prevent you from being pressured into buying that rug that won’t even fit into your suitcase! You will also find that a little bit of French goes a long way here too, making all those gruelling hours of French lessons you sat through at school all the more worthwhile.

2. Don’t follow in Samantha’s footsteps – Cover up.

Morocco is a conservative country and women in particular should cover up when outside of their hotel. Samantha being Samantha didn’t do this and got into all sorts of trouble. While it is unlikely you’ll get arrested for flashing a bit of cleavage, you may receive some unwanted attention. Invest in some cute maxi skirts/dresses and cover your shoulders with a light scarf, if these aren’t features in your wardrobe then it makes for a good excuse to go shopping!

A girl's guide to Marrakech - definitely go shopping in the souks!

3. Shop like Charlotte – Just save some space in your suitcase for souvenirs!

Don’t get yourself locked away in a room with fake designer handbags quite like Charlotte did, but do spend time wandering around the souks. There are plenty of gorgeous items on offer from leather goods, argan oil beauty products, hand-made jewellery and homeware. Take a wander through this labyrinth of colour and pick yourself up a pretty bracelet or a beautiful pashmina – and don’t forget to haggle for it. If you think that the seller is trying to rip you off, then walk away, as you are likely to find the exact same item a few doors down in another shop.

4. Shun the stilettos – Only Carrie can carry them off!

If you are shopping in the souks, then it is inevitable that you will be doing alot of walking. Carrie Bradshaw may be able to run around all day in 5 inch heels, but trust me you are better off without. This also applies to any excursions you may take into the Atlas Mountains – wear closed in shoes with a bit of grip – there’s slippery mud and snow to contend with up there. You can always purchase yourself some Moroccan Babouche slippers from the souks, just like Carrie did when she left her passport behind, if you want to add a bit of Sex and the City sparkle to your feet.

A girl's guide to Marrakech - babouche shoes

5. Beware of the black henna – keep your hands to yourself.

Henna tattoos look beautiful but beware – black henna has been known to contain toxic chemicals and cause severe skin reactions so the best advice is to avoid getting one. The henna ladies are prevalent on Jemaa el Fna square throughout the day and they are persistent too! They will most likely be called Fatima and will follow you, tell you that you have beautiful eyes and they may even snatch your hand (blink and you have a tattoo – they are that quick!) or they may offer to draw you a small tattoo as a “gift” (which they will later want paying for). Just say “laa shukran” and be on your way – Fatima may be a flatterer but it just isn’t worth the risk of rashes, blisters or worse.

With its snake charmers and magic potions, Marrakech is truly a city that would only otherwise exist in a storybook. So pack your suitcase and grab your passport and make a story of your own – one that Carrie Bradshaw would be proud of!

EDIT: If you do wish to have a henna tattoo done in Marrakech, then check out this post on where to find a non-toxic one!


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A girl's guide to Marrakech. What to Wear and where to shop - handy hints for the Carrie Bradshaw wannabes.