Saturday, 19 December 2015


16th Dec 2015

City Hall. District 1

Now happily ensconced at 'base camp' in Phu Nhuan District, in the north of the city. Being 'scooterless' I now rely on lifts by my 'scootered-up' friends or taxi, local bus, 'xe om' (motorbike taxis) or walking.
It takes between 20 to 35 mins to the centre of town (District 1) depending on traffic which gets pretty clogged up at rush hours mainly due to the rapid growth in the number of cars on the road. This city is not designed for private cars and they serve little use when sitting in a jam. Most of these new cars are vastly expensive models driven, as status symbols, by the increasing number of well-off Vietnamese. I mean what is the point, apart from showing off, of owning a top-of-the-range Merc capable of Mach 2 when the max speed you can ever reach on the city roads (apart from perhaps between 2 - 4 am) is about 30kph while the scooters (motos) weave around and past you. The roads outside the city are pretty poor and don't exactly provide race-track conditions for these uber-wagen either. The city buses are great value, if you know where to find the stops, and they manage to bully their way through the traffic with kamikaze drivers  using mega-blaster horns and accelerators in equal measure. The only drawback with them is that they stop operating at about 8.00pm. 'Xe om', the private motorbike taxis, are cheap and fun. They tend to be driven by rather ancient and myopic gentlemen, or half-wit youths, who frequently have less idea of where you want to get to than you do. It is important to negotiate a fare before you get on and describe, as best you can, where you want to go. They always say they 'understand' but seldom do. No good showing them a street map because a) they are normally too blind to read it and b) if they can see it they don't understand maps. If you have time to spare and, crucially, know where you are going, it is quite amusing to let them get completely lost and see where you end up before they finally and reluctantly admit defeat. Taxis are a reliable, if more expensive option. For those intending to visit and use taxis two trusty companies are Vinasun and Mailinh. There may be others, but there are also many rip-off merchants as you can expect
A couple of things I have noticed since my last visit are a number of 'one-way' streets where none existed before and even a few new 'flyovers'. Big effort is obviously being made to facilitate traffic flow but, as in most cities, this merely results in more traffic and consequent log-jam again. Traffic expands to fill the space available! They are also busy constructing an underground/overground system (sponsored by Japan) through the city centre which I am sure will be marvellous but at present the workings block off several main roads to traffic and merely add to the chaos.

I'd almost forgotten what a noisy (vibrant?) place this is. Sitting in an open cafe with constant streams of traffic passing within feet of you accompanied by the non-stop 'beep beep' of scooter horns  encourages the increase of volume of any music they play to ear-splitting level, and the Vietnamese conversation then rises in pitch and decibels to compensate. Even without traffic and music, the average Vietnamese restaurant resounds to loud, happy and slightly intoxicated conversation with cries of "mot, hai, ba, yo!" (one, two, three, yo!) as they down their glasses in one.  If you do manage to find a quiet 'off piste' local eatery at night you can bet your bottom dollar that someone, sooner or later, will stand up and start singing via a mega-watt speaker...encouraged and followed by his friends. The Vietnamese enjoy noise, it seems. The increasing number of very up-market hotels and restaurants are a rather different kettle of fish......quiet, sophisticated and expensive. Not on my budget I'm afraid.

Right: The roof-top swimming pool and bar at my apartment block.

Left: View south to the city centre.

Right: .......and north west to the airport.

Left: A view of the picturesque Vietnamese building site below my window. This city is in a continual state of things being knocked down and things being built to replace them. Whole streets seems to disappear from time to time. It's all to do with back-handers and making money of course; not often to improve the environment. I suppose it keeps the workers in gainful employment.

Right: Looking down from the Caravelle Hotel 'Saigon Saigon' roof top bar over the prestigious Nguyen Hue St in Dist 1. The housing at the back of the glamorous shops is somewhat less than equal to the frontage.

Left: A very typical narrow Ho Chi Minh street with little shops below the accommodation.

Right: Not sure what this bevy of local beauty were 'on parade' for. The didn't dance or sing and just appeared there to have their photo taken. Why not.

I wandered down to Pham Gnu Lao St, just west of the centre. This is known as the 'backpacker' area with myriad bars, hostels, travel agents, pickpockets etc. and cafes dispensing 'All Day Full English Breakfast' (about the only thing other than football, the Royal Family and Mr Bean that resonates about England with the Vietnamese). The place is full of foreign, mainly western, tourists out for a 'good time' involving plenty of beer and possibly mind-altering substances. It is somewhat grotty; a sort of lesser version of Magaluf in Majorca. There are some excellent travel agents though (lots of competition). I went to buy a ticket for a  two day trip to the Mekong Delta.

Left: A sample of 'backpackers' who now all seem to have 'frontpacks' as well. 'Frackpackers' perhaps.

It is considered 'fashionable' to have some slogan in English stencilled onto a T shirt. Some of the expressions are just gobbledegook because they don't know what the English just looks 'cool'. As an example one I saw recently read "Kind Puss Hapy A1 London"and another "Many Cool You Me Right".

...However sometimes it goes a bit wrong. I don't suppose this little girl or her parents quite knew what they were buying! Very trendy, I'm sure.

No plan to this trip; just wandering. More jottings to follow.

Monday, 14 December 2015


9th Dec 2015 

As part of my 'Chrexit' plan this year I decided to revisit old, and perhaps some new, haunts in Vietnam. OK, I have come to realise that it is impossible to escape the mind numbing Jingle Bells and ghastly Rudolph the Pestilential Reindeer in virtually every reach of the planet (except North Korea, which is possibly the country's finest selling point), but at least in far flung places one stands a fighting chance of avoiding the worst excesses of the mandatory Festive drudgery. Of course, all countries of any faith or none (except North Korea) have cottoned on to the commercial benefits of the 'Christmas' message (ie buy buy buy) with department stores, hotels and streets decked out in fairy lights, Christmas trees, tinsel and bloody reindeer towing hideous Santas in sleighs over polystyrene snow, even those places in which the inhabitants have never experienced temperatures of less than 30˚ or have the slightest inkling of any religious connotation. Actually, one Chrimbo decoration which I found amusing, and therefore approved of, was in Japan where a department store had mounted a gigantic cross on a wall upon which was nailed Father Christmas. I thought that summed it all up rather neatly! Another version above. It must be catching on. Ho! Ho! Ho! indeed.

So, off to Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh City for a spot of lazing around in a warm climate with plenty of good bars, restaurants and the company of a few old and jolly mates. I expect it will be a period of very merry, and hopefully 'Christmas-lite', entertainment.

The train and underground to LHR terminal 4 was, surprisingly, on time with no 'we regret to announce' announcements. As such, and having given myself plenty of time (expecting the worst), I arrived particularly early and was somewhat disappointed not being able to have another good whinge about the useless British transport system. Of course not completely surprised to hear that the Vietnam Airlines flight 050 to Saigon was delayed. By how much? The board just said 'please wait'. "How long?" I asked the lack of information desk. "Don't know" was their helpful reply. As it happened it was only 2 hrs late (not bad by Vietnamese standards). The aircraft was one of the brand new Boeing 787 'Dreamliners', recent additions to Vietnam Airlines' fleet. Even so, travelling cattle class, I expected to be sandwiched in next to a fat, revolting, sweaty, smelly, snoring, farting, spitting, coughing, nose-picking creature with disgusting table manners and some form of contagious disease for the 12 hour flight (I optimistically hope noone may think that of me!). As it happened I was in the aisle seat of a row of three with an empty one beside me, so plenty of space and surprisingly ample leg room. A rather charming Welsh girl had the window. Quite comfortable in fact. The only downside on these flights can be, and normally is, yowling sprogs. There were a few and they make the most hideous racket. I believe a seperate, sound-proofed, compartment should be reserved for these little monsters (and their seemingly oblivious parents). Either that or they should be compulsorily drugged unconscious for the duration of the flight.

We arrived at SGN at 7.15am and remarkably quickly through immigration/customs. No forms to fill in and efficient, smart and polite Vietnamese officials. Why the hell can't our 'officials' make the slightest attempt to look smart? Also impressive was the lack of Christmas tat in a newly revamped arrivals hall. I remember a few years ago they had succumbed to  lots of artificial trees etc. with tacky life size dancing 'yo ho hoing' 'Santas'. Good taste seems to have prevailed. Things are looking up!

I am due to be staying as the guest of a generous ex-colleague, on leave at the moment, in a most comfortable apartment in the Phu Nhuan district, not too far from the airport. The taxi ride there was relatively quick despite the apparent increase of cars in the city (for which it wasn't designed) and I wasn't even ripped off...possibly because the driver knew that I knew where I was going and I managed to remember a bit of the lingo, something that always makes them a bit wary. Anyway, arrived and all pre-organised to let me into the apartment for, initially, a good kip. Things are definitely looking promising.

More posts to follow, of probably/hopefully not too dramatic content. I seem to remember posting many pics of Ho Chi Minh City and environs a few years ago (2012) and I don't suppose much has changed. We shall see........

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


9th Sept 2015

Piazza St. Carlo. Turin

It was a 4 hr 20 min train ride from Venice to Turin via Verona and Milan. Not so impressed by  'TrenItalia'....almost as cramped as UK trains, only a slot machine, eight carriages away, for unpalatable 'snacks' and no alcohol served. At least it was on time, as all our trains have been so far. Begs the question; do the Eyeties call there tourist information organisation "GenItalia"?

Adrian, our efficient, imaginatively draped and normally unruffled tour manager threw a bit of a hissy fit this morning on leaving the hotel. A couple of our group, Mr and Mrs Nameless, left for the railway station by themselves! Definitely a no-no according to tour Standard Operating Procedures. Not only that, but they had forgotten to hand back their room key. Oh dear, but I think they were forgiven later.

We only had an afternoon to explore Turin as we were all due back at the hotel for a final Group Supper at 7.30pm. I got the impression that this was an order to be on parade rather than a loose suggestion. We were staying at the Hotel Ambassadiori, a comfortable joint, which is close to the vast  brand new space-age railway station called Porte Susa. 

Stupidly, I had not done any research on Turin, but the hotel receptionist suggested I go to visit the car factory at Lingotto. What!? She said there is a famous and interesting car testing track there. 
Turin has a new Underground system; only one line but it is cheap, very efficient and modern. Lingotto is the final westerly stop out of the city. 
On arrival at Lingotto I saw a vast multi-storey red-brick factory building and discovered several enormous, and empty, hangar style buildings adjoining it. I searched around these deserted buildings, and into a modern, what looked like, exhibition hall. Nobody around and no sign of any car testing track. I then went up an escalator into the enormous multi-story building. There was a large shopping mall inside. Rather disappointed and assuming that the supposedly famous car testing track was somewhere else, I returned to Turin central station. Wasted time.
What I failed to discover, or find out in advance, was that this imposing 5 storey building, built in 1923, was the Fiat car factory and the largest car factory in the world at the time. It closed in 1982. The effing test track is on the roof! Raw materials arrived at ground level and the finished articles were driven out at the top onto the track. It is now used as a 'jogging' track and I would have gone up there if I had bothered to do any homework and knew it's whereabouts. 

Left: The Lingotto Fiat roof-top test track, now a 'jogging' track. Pic definitely not taken by me 'cos I never found it! I also, now, remember that it featured part of the great car chase in the film 'The Italian Job' when three Mini-Coopers drove around it in formation.

Hey ho! So time for a quick wander around central Turin. I must admit, whichever Italian village/town/city we have visited has boasted remarkably impressive architecture, large spacious squares, tasteful shops and  remarkably clean and tidy. Turin is certainly no exception.

Right: Piazza Réale.

Left: Palazzo Madama

Having waxed lyrical about Italian cities being immaculately clean and tidy, the Piazza Republica (right) was a bit of a let down. Having said that, they were just packing up an open market.

....and they are no stranger to graffiti, as per this bridge over a small river north of the centre (left). But then I presume graffiti is an Italian invention and they like to maintain their tradition.

Right: Porte Palatine. The gates into the old Roman part of the city, and now Piazza Cesare Augusto.

Flanking the Porte Palatine are statues of Julius Caesar (left)....looking a bit 'fragrant' if you ask me........with large earplugs.

......... and Caesar Augustus, awarding a penalty to the opposition. He seems to have a bath-towel around his waist for some reason, and no shoes. There must be a story behind this. Perhaps he had just stepped out of his Roman bath.

Left: Nearby is the Turin Duomo (cathedral). This is the place that houses the Turin Shroud. 

Right: Inside the Duomo. Nothing particularly interesting except for........

......(left), the long chest which contains the Turin Shroud. Not sure if or when said shroud is ever on view to the public. There is a video display nearby (in Russian, Italian, English and German) which explains what the shroud is supposed to be all about. Of course it is a hotly debated question whether the stained rag inside is genuine or not. Frankly......etc! But it keep the tourists coming in (the Turin Crowd).
Reminds me of the Temple of Buddha's tooth in Candy (Sri Lanka).

Sitting outside the main doors of the cathedral was this old lady with a begging bowl. I gave her a couple of Euros. Perhaps she models the Turin Shroud in her spare time, and her Maserati Ghibli V6 Twin Turbo is parked round the back.

A wander down to the main bridge over the River Po (left), guarded by a couple of impressive statues.

Right: A view east up the Po from the bridge on the southern side of the city centre.

Left: Another statue of a famous Turinian. Can't remember who it is. Maybe Alessandro La Marmora, or maybe not. Who cares.

Anyway, we survived a quite jovial 'last supper' in the Hotel Ambasadiori.

Next day we departed Porte Susa station on a comfortable French TGV train for the six hour ride to Paris. A pleasant scenic trip through the southern Alps and there was a decent buffet car on board. Up through Chambéry, Macon and Dijon to Gare de Lyon arriving at 4.15pm. Bus to Gare de Nord and Eurostar home. All most efficiently organised.

......and a fond farewell from our long-suffering, and exquisitely attired 'tour manager'.

Next stop? Haven't decided yet........ Stand-by!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


8th Sept 2015

A work of 'art'? in the Guggenheim gallery.

Back into watery Venice for another look-around. Started the day, after long queue for the vaporetto, at the Rialto bridge which was pretty crowded even if it doesn't look it in this photo (left).

There are large fish and vegetable markets nearby which are not particularly exciting, unless you are mad keen on buying fish and vegetables I suppose.

I had been told that there is a 'gem of a church' in the vicinity called 'Chiesa di St. Maria del Miracoli' which, according to my informant, is a 'must' to visit. This place is 'chiesa city'. Every campo has a church on it of some description. According to my map it was close by and, shuffling through the narrow streets packed with dawdling tourists, I got completely occupational hazard in Venice. Anyway, I found it eventually (left). From the outside it looked like most of the others.

I wandered in and was confronted by a hatchet faced woman behind a kiosk who told me it would cost 3 Euros to enter. I'm sure all the other churches were free entry. I said I just wanted to take a photo and leave. Still 3 Euros.

Frankly, it looked like most of the others on the inside as well (right) albeit with an elaborately decorated ceiling. So I took my photo and left. Only having shuffled off for about 20 minutes did I realise that I had left my cap behind. Bugger! Back to the church and was expecting to be asked to fork out another 3 Euros to retrieve my cap. I didn't wait to be asked and got it back, luckily.

Some pleasant restaurants on the canal-side at the Rialto, so I selected this one, Café Verguano, for a light lunch. I must say, you can't fault the place on it's restaurants and cafés.

You may have gathered from my less than euphoric reaction to most of the arty-farty things on display in these delightful Italian towns that I am a total philistine and cultural ignoramus. However, I do at least make an effort to see them. Out of curiosity I decided to visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in a gallery across the Accademia Bridge.

Right: Peggy Guggenheim, a fearsomely wealthy Jewish-American heiress who lived for some time in Venice and prolific collector of 'modern' art. Not sure what sort of hairy creature she is holding here. 

The galleries contain paintings, if you can call them that, by such artists as Jackson and Charles Pollock amongst many others of whom I have never heard.

As explained, I know bugger all about art. My definition of a good painting has to include the proviso that I couldn't possibly do it myself. The trouble with most of the daubings in this place is that I probably could, if I could be bothered. Indeed some of them looked as if they were done by 5 year old children let loose with a box of paints or crayons on the kitchen wall.

Left: Like this one, done in her lunch break, probably after too many strong gins, by someone called Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) entitled 'Composition'.

Or this one (right) a scribble on a blackboard by Cy Twombey (1928-2011). Untitled. Or more likely by Cy Twombey's hyper-active 4 year old child.

Left: A lovely colourful mess entitled 'Spring on Cape Cod' by Hans Hoffman (1880-1966) produced while under the influence of some mind-altering substance I suspect. 

Right: At least this masterpiece has the distinction of some technical care being taken in it's production. It is by Ellsworth Kelly, painted in 1964 and entitled, most imaginatively, 'Blue-Red'.

Left: Another example of Ms Guggenheim's eclectic taste. Can't remember who did it, but I hope he/she has recovered. 

...And then there were the offerings by brothers Jackson and Charles Pollock. Charles, the elder brother, actually painted some decent stuff initially and lived to a ripe old age. Jackson, much admired and sponsored by Peggy Guggenheim (an 'affaire de coeur ' perhaps?) produced abstract dribblings and died at 44 having become a drunk junky. Perhaps being a drunk junky is a prerequisite for this type of 'art', and it certainly made him famous.

His biography (right) mentions his vision of making 'energy and motion'. I suppose this describes his technique of staggering around with a few tins of industrial paint and spilling it onto the canvas on the floor. That, basically, is how he did it.

Left: An example of Charles Pollock's work (I think). Not sure I would really want this on my wall.

I entered one room where this was hanging (right). It is a Jackson Pollock masterpiece entitled 'Alchemy' and was being guarded by a snotty-nosed student who told me I couldn't take a photo. Some sort of 'copyright' issue because it was on loan from somewhere, he tried to explain. So I did when he wasn't watching.

I'm sorry, but I really do think these 'works' are a load of Pollocks, if you'll forgive the pathetic pun.

Probably the most skillfully produced hanging was this item (left). I looked at it for longer than most of the others. It is the fire escape plan.

...which reminds me of a visit some time ago to 'Tate Modern' on the Thames Embankment in London; the converted turbine hall that houses egocentric monstrosities by the likes of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.
I was in one of the rooms there where, in a corner, a group of 'afficionados' of the weirdy beardy sandal wearing variety were gazing at a tubular construction with a canvas covering. They were stroking their chins and waxing lyrical about the artistic merits of this 'piece of art'. About five minutes later a security guard came over and sat on it. It was, quite simply, his chair! This is true......promise.

Perhaps I should attempt a few paint spillages myself.....and become a FAMOUS ARTIST.

So that was my take on Ms Guggenheim's collection. Whatever turns you on I suppose.

Right: The bell in the bell tower in St. Marks Square. Forgot to show it earlier. I don't think they ring it much. Not when visitors are present anyway.

Left: A view up the Grand Canal from either the Rialto or Accademia bridge (forgotten) showing a variety of canal traffic.

I may have mentioned earlier that this was the period of the 'biennale' exhibition when many of the public buildings and churches are turned over to artistic displays or performances, mostly with free entry. Small orchestras play in the churches along with arty displays in others, such as this bit of musical weaponry in one of the churches (right)
Lots of other things seen and done, but I have shown enough of Venice. I must say I was quite impressed and amused, helped by the fact that the weather was warm and sunny. It will be a pity when the place finally falls apart and sinks. The indigenous population is already in serious decline. My overriding observation is that Venice, quaint and charming though it is with great eateries and overrun by tourists, is nothing more nor less than a glorified Theme Park. 

So, back to the hotel and tomorrow we are off back home via Turin, I believe. Our gallant band of travellers has sustained no further casualties as far as I am aware...haven't seen them for a couple of days. I probably told you that several of them have AIDS.......hearing aids, walking aids etc.

Monday, 5 October 2015


7th Sept 2015

St. Mark's Square, Bell Tower, Doges' Palace and Bridge of Sighs taken from the Bell Tower of the Chiesa di St. Giorgio Maggiore.

Today we were to be be taken by a 'private' vaporetto from the railway station to some outlying islands. All aboard and off south and then east along the Guidecca canal running along the south of the city. Guidecca (pronounced 'Jewdecca') is a mile long island which, in olden days, was the focal point of Jewish business and residence. On the eastern end is a small island which houses the grand Chiesa (church) di St. Giorgio Maggiore; he of slaying dragons fame.

Left: On the bridge of our vaporetto.

We passed the new port which normally has at least half a dozen mammoth cruise liners at anchor (as per right). It is a 'must' stop for all intrepid, and often Japanese, cruising tourists. These ships are responsible for doing untold damage to the local environment, but the place can't do without the money they bring in.

Left: The little island off the east tip of Giudecca and the Church of St. Giorgio Maggiore. A bit blurred because the spray up top meant I took the pic from downstairs through a dirty window.

The top of the bell tower provides a good vantage point to view the main island to the north. No climbing stairs; it has a lift. 

View to the north as at head of page. To the south is another little island on which is located the famous, and outlandishly expensive, Hotel Cipriani (right). Wasn't that the place much featured in the news as the venue for George Clooney's wedding reception?

Left: To the west, the island of Giudecca and, on the far skyline, the town of Mestre.

To be honest, as a professional philistine, I'm not really turned on by the interiors of these imposing and elaborately built grand churches. They all look much of a muchness to me, inside, with towering ceilings, ostentatious and rather 'gloomy' paintings around the walls (probably by Titian or Tintoretto or some such) ranks of uncomfortable pews and silent milling tourists. The outsides of the buildings is what grabs the eye.

Onwards we chugged for the 40 minute trip up to the island of Morano. This is located north of the 'fishes tail' of the main island. As a matter of interest there are 118 islands surrounding the main one. Anyway, Morano is famous for it's manufacture of glass.

We were taken to one of the many 'furnaces'; Ferro Lazzarini. 

...where we were given a demo on how the glass ornaments are made. Quite impressive really. The glass 'blower' made a multi-coloured vase, then an elaborate multi-coloured ornament of a horse in front of our eyes all in the space of 10 minutes. The glassmaker's apprenticeship lasts about 12 years and the portly chap who gave our demo had worked there for 40. Not surprisingly, considering the work involved in stiflingly hot, uncomfortable and unhealthy conditions, they are running out of apprentices. The industry is slowly dying.
We were not allowed to take photos of the goods on sale in the factory shop; some of which were incredibly elaborate, such as coffee sets costing up to $12,000. I bought a cheap 'horse' for $20. They will post any large expensive purchase to you in what they described as "totally protective packaging". I wonder if that really would stand up to the attentions of the British Post Office 'grab, throw and stamp' treatment. 

The Morano technique for shaping and, especially, colouring of the glass is a closely guarded trade secret. I gathered that the red colouring is the most expensive as it involves adding powdered gold. In medieval days, a glassblower was not allowed to leave the employ of the factory in case he divulged the secret procedures to the opposition. If he did, and was caught, he was executed. That seems to me a pretty good incentive to maintain a loyal and trustworthy workforce. 

Next port of call was the neighbouring island of Borano. This place is famous for it's colourful houses (right) and the manufacture of lace and, of course, tourists.

Left: One of the many shops selling lace. Most of this is still made by old ladies slaving away on some of the more intricate pieces for years at time. This is reflected in the price. Very impressive, I'm sure, but I am not that interested in buying lace. I went for a good lunch instead. These islands do exceptionally delicious seafood menus.

On back to the main island vaporetto station near the entrance to St. Marks Square. On the corner here is Harry's Bar (right), famous for it's trade-mark drink, the Bellini. A fairly innocuous looking place on the outside. 

Left: Inside the small bar. Quite unassuming and definitely more to my taste than all those boring grandiose churches.

I only noticed later that taking photos was 'discouraged' (on bottom of menu, right). Nobody seemed to mind, and the staff were absolutely charming....and Italian. 

Left: ....and my Bellini. Cheap at 16.50 Euros. As you probably know,  it is a simple cocktail of peach juice and prosecco. Not bad, but a bit sweet and 'tarty' for my taste. A girly drink really, but I felt I had to give it a go. It came with a (gratis) dish of olives which were delicious and preferable to the drink.

Right: A rather glum looking gondolier, but at least he was correctly turned out. Maybe he was touting for business, or just having a break.......

....or maybe contemplating the result of his leaky gondola nearby. I can imagine him shouting in alarm to a couple of passengers "no toucha that plug!", before they abandoned ship.

We passed this 'yacht', the Octopus (right), which is a little toy owned by Paul Allen the co-founder of MicroSoft. I expect he was popping in for a spot of gondoliering.

'Trending' on sale (by immigrants) in every street, piazza and campo in Florence and Venice, and probably every Tuscan tourist town, were 'selfie sticks' (I would have thought everyone would have one of these ridiculous things by now...other than me) and these toys (left). They flatten when thrown onto the ground, like a fried egg, then regain their shape. I actually bought one (1 euro, haggled down from 2). I tried it when I got back to the hotel. It simply exploded on the floor and made a filthy wet mess. I had been sold a dud. No guarantee issued unfortunately.

I passed this chap playing water filled 'musical' wine glasses. He was absolutely brilliant! I stayed to listen to a series of complex and tuneful 'classical' renditions. Such talent found in odd places.

...and these 'beggars' (left). At least they were being honest.

A quick visit into the Hotel Danieli (foyer right) which is only slightly cheaper than the Cipriani. It sits on the waterfront just along from the Bridge of Sighs. A gin and tonic costs 18.50 Euros. It seemed most of the guests were of the wealthy bejewelled American widow type.........

.......or very scruffily dressed, and presumably rich 'blokes'. I suspect they were Russian (left).
It really does lower the tone a bit when these sort of people can't be bothered to dress even semi-respectably in what are very grand surroundings but, I suppose, they pay mega-bucks and can do what they like.

There is a very pleasant roof-top restaurant with great views over the if you have a few hundred Euros to blow, that might suit you nicely. 

Right: Chiesa della Salute; another imposing cathedral on the south side of the entrance to the Grand canal in the Dorsoduro district. 

...behind which is a jolly good eatery on the waterfront called Restaurant Lineadombra (left). I decided to have supper there. As with most Venetian restaurants, the staff were amazingly charming and helpful. The menu prices were quite reasonable and it had a vast wine list. I thought a bottle of wine, a Chateau Margaux, at 1,650 Euros was a bit pricey until the wine waiter pointed out a bottle of Romani Conti which cost 25,000 Euros!....and lots in between. I asked who would possibly pay for this and was told "Russians".  My glass of decent vino cost 7 Euros, so they catered for all. Anyway, if you are passing that way, strongly recommended. 

Back by vaporetto and bus to Mestre. We have a 'free' day tomorrow so will try a bit more touristing.