Absolutely worth it! @ Pontini, Venice Italy

When we were in Venice, we noticed that many restaurants that are operating around the attractions are very ‘touristy’. In fact, some of them are managed by non-Italian. I have nothing against it but I was curious in trying out Venetian cuisine. I spoke to the hotel staff and we were recommended of this restaurant as an authentic Venetian restaurant.

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Pontini outdoor seating

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Pontini Menu

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Pontini

So we planned it out and came here for dinner, at around 7pm. Despite thinking we arrived early, there were other people in the queue waiting for a table. We waited for about 15-minutes time before being seated. You probably end up sitting very close to another table as they try to accommodate the customers.

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Spritz and a coke.

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Breads and crackers

Its obvious that it is a small restaurant and a family owned business. Despite being busy, the staffs were pleasant and friendly throughout our dinner.

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Salad

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Scallop Mushroom Pasta

 

I had a set meal consist of salad, seafood fritters and fish lasagna. My partner had a scallop mushroom pasta. For the first time in my life I am having fish lasagna and loved it. For dessert, we had tiramisu.

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Seafood fritters

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Fish Lasagna

I have to say that everything tasted so good, fresh and made upon order. I can understand the wait time required for the food preparation however it is totally worth it.  I highly recommend this place especially if you are looking for an authentic experience. Wish I had known this place a little bit sooner. 

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Tiramisu

Where at: Cannaregio 1268, Venezia. Telephone: 041/714123

Visited in June 2015. How would I rate them? The atmosphere 4.5/5, Service 4.5/5, F&B 5/5.

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Don’t leave Venice if you don’t…

Venice, Italy is a beautiful island and definitely as must visit places in Italy. Venice is definitely is in the top 3 places to see in Italy. I am not too sure whether it’s me or Italy is just so mesmerizing that makes me want to come back for more. On my previous trip (which was a long time ago in 2005), I was fortunate to have visited Rome, Florence, Siena and Pisa. So I was looking forward to visit the other places such as Venice and Milan to complete my must visit in Italy. Look out for Milan write up soon but for now, let’s focus on Venice.

Venice is a city in the north-eastern of Italy which consist of 118 small islands. How amazing is that. It is a small island however it has been pretty much the same since a long time ago. Venice is listed as one of World Heritage site. Venice is also one of the most romantic places to be especially with your special one.

Here is my take on what you can’t miss in Venice!

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Venice, San Marco

~ Get lost in Venice

It’s very easy to get lost here so it’s important for you to get your directions right. Get a map from the hotel and try to spend a little bit of time to understand what’s where. If you are a smart phone user (which I am sure you are one) then it’s a good thing. I downloaded a few offline map and city guide on my Iphone6+ which turned out to be a great help. The function ‘locate me’ in these apps helps to identifies where you are at and you can figure how or where to go from there. Do note that the street / road name are on the building itself.

~ Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is the entry point to Venice. If you are travelling by bus, train or car, you will end up here being the main access point. Since Venice is free of any motor vehicle, you will be traveling by water buses, taxi or gondolas. The Grand Canal stretches for about 3800metres till Saint Mark Basin. The banks of Grand Canal are lined with many buildings which are mostly from 13th to 18th century. You will find many luxurious hotels along the Grand Canal. It’s also a beautiful area to check out especially at night despite being a busy spot.

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Grand Canal

~ Piazza San Marco

Also known as St Mark’s Square is a public space surrounded by St Mark’s basilica, clock tower and Doge Palace. Saint Mark Basilica is cathedral church of Roman Catholic since 11th century. The interior of this building is fascinating however we choose not to visit. Anyhow, should you choose to enter, do be prepared for a long queue for tickets. Otherwise check with your hotel on how to buy tickets in advance which will save you a lot of time.

The buildings here are beautiful and with lots of amazing structure. It’s a pretty good are for photo moment and perhaps hang out. Florian café is just around the corner. This café has been around since 1720 and one of the oldest café still in operation. Do note that the prize is steep considering its prime location. We were here and hoping to try it out but unfortunately they only serve light food and pastries which was not what we wanted.

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Piazza San Marco.

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Piazza San Marco.

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Piazza San Marco.

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Piazza San Marco.

~ Venice cuisine

Seafood is a must have here as it’s easy to get and fresh. Spritz is a common drink here in many cafes and restaurants. It is a combination of white wine, bitter and sparking water. Do not skip Tiramisu, yes the must have dessert in Italy. Many say that this delicious dessert is actually originated from Venice. The list doesn’t stop here. There is so many other things you should try, from Venetian wine, pasta dishes, the Bellini, pastries, coffee and so on…

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Gelato @ Nicos

~ Rialto Bridge / Market

The Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) is the oldest bridge across the canal. Also famous for the Rialto market which is a must see place. The market has been in operation for 7 centuries. The vegetable and fish market are open from early morning till about 12pm. This is a place to sight fresh vegetable and vivid seafood which makes good photo opportunities. The fresh fruits are so tantalizing.

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Rialto Market

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Rialto Market

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Rialto Market

~ Island hopping; Murano, Burano and Torcello.

Murano is a small island next to Venice. They are made famous for being a world class glass producer which is known as Murano glass. Burano is made famous for its lace and also for its fisherman houses painted in bright colours. Torcello is the first centre of civilization. The main attraction is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta which is founded in 639.

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Torcello Island

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Murano Glass factory

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Fisherman houses in Burano Island

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A small shop selling Lace products, Burano Island

~ Gondola

Firstly, I have to declare that I didn’t take any gondola ride. Let me share with you that it will cost 80Euro for a 40minutes ride in a gondola that can fit about 4-6 adults. Since it was only two of us we decided to skip this and spend our money elsewhere. There are many places that you can hire a gondola however the rates are about the same. Beware that by taking gondola at popular places which end up being stuck a little longer in traffic congestion. Nonetheless, it is a very popular among tourist.

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Venetian Gondolas

Well there you go a summary of Venice. Despite all that Venice expects about 3,000,000 tourists recorded in year 2006. Can you imagine how many tourists would have visited in 2015?

Have you been to Venice? If yes, let me know if I had missed out anything. If you have not been here, would you consider visiting Venice soon? Feel free so share some comments below.

Absolutely fantastic! Review of Albergo Marin Hotel Venice, Italy.

To be honest, I had some reservation in choosing this hotel as part of our Europe trip in June 2015. Nevertheless it felt like a right choice considering its location which is close to the Grand Canal and easy to find. If you have never been to Venice, believe me it’s very easy to get lost here. It takes about 10minutes walk from the main train station (Santa Lucia) to the hotel. Follow the directions given on the hotel website which are accurate. Do not panic by how the hotel looks from the outside, nearly all buildings in Venice looks the same.

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Albergo Marin: Entrance.

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Albergo Marin: Room.

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Albergo Marin: Room.

We arrived at the hotel at around 9pm so it was rather late and quiet. The guy at the front desk assisted us with the check in. We booked our room through the hotel website (best rate!) and fully paid for the room prior to our arrival. The room that we got was on 1st floor. There is no lift facility hence you will need to handle your own luggage. The room size is average but it was clean and comfortable. You have access to free Wi-Fi, TV, air conditioner (fully functional), ceiling fan, towels, toiletries, hair dryer and free breakfast. The bed is a bit soft for me but I was able to sleep well. The toilet is compact but nothing to complaint about as most establishments in Italy are about the same. Most importantly everything was clean.

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Albergo Marin: Bathroom

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Albergo Marin: Bathroom

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Albergo Marin: Corridor on 1st floor

The complimentary breakfast are consist of fruit juices, milk, cereals, scrambled egg, boiled egg, crackers, cheese, butter, breads, bread toaster, coffee, tea and yogurt. I didn’t expect much but this was more than sufficient for us. Especially having a cup of fresh café latte in the morning is a plus thing for us.  Do note that breakfast starts at 8am.

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Albergo Marin: Breakfast room

You can find a laundry next door and few cafes next to the hotel. It would take about 20-25 minutes’ walk to reach St Marks square. Don’t worry, you will be passing through many canals, shop, souvenir store and eateries so it an interesting walk. A lot of photo opportunities along the way too.

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Albergo Marin : Breakfast

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Albergo Marin : Breakfast

The staffs are friendly and helpful. The lady at the front desk (the owner) was very kind and takes time to explain to you on what & where to go in Venice. You can know that she is very passionate about Venice and provides genuine recommendation. We tried few places as per her recommendation and it was worth it. We stayed here for 3 nights and loved it. It’s a small hotel run by lovely owners who cares for their customers. I would definitely recommend this hotel. Would love to come back.

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Albergo Marin : Reception area

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Albergo Marin : Front desk

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Albergo Marin : Map

Visited in June 2015.

Where at? Hotel Albergo Marin, Ramo elle Chioverete, Santa Croce, 670/b – 30135 Venezia, Italy

Aris Hotel Brussel… Good location and value but…

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Aris Hotel

Aris Hotel is a small hotel (I can’t find any star rating) which is located in the center of Brussels. It’s not a luxury or boutique hotel however I would say it’s more of a budget conscious hotel. In fact I choose it because of its location, price and TripAdvisor.

We arrived via train at Brussels Central station. We took about 5 minutes’ walk to reach the hotel which was convenient. Don’t let the outlook of the hotel to scare you off as it does look dated.

The check in was smooth and we got our room almost immediately. The staff during the check in was friendly which gives some good impression of the hotel. Anyway we got into our room and settle down before we could think what to do next.

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Hotel Aris, reception area.

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Hotel Aris, breakfast area.

The room (and the furniture) looked dated but clean and no funky odour. The bed was a little bit on the soft side but bearable. So what’s in the room other than the bed? Well you have a closet, writing desk, tv, air-conditioner, chair, safe box, bath towel, toiletries and private bathroom facility. I would say that the bathroom is big and spacious for such hotel. Although the furniture and fixing looks dated but they are functional. You have access to free wifi which was at acceptable speed.

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Hotel Aris, room.

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Hotel Aris, bathroom.

The only problem we had was the air conditioner which was blowing warm air instead of cold air. Initially we thought because of the hot weather and it was mid-day hence it could be it was generally warm. Unfortunately it was the same at night. We reported this to the front desk and 2 of their staff came to the room to have a look. The respond from the hotel staff was ‘the air conditioner is functioning well’.

The location of the hotel is pretty awesome. Right outside of the hotel is rows of shops, convenient stores, restaurants and branded stores. The Galeries Royales Saint Hubert is just next door. The Grand Place is just few minutes away.

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Right outside of the hotel.

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Right outside of the hotel.

So in summary, it’s a good hotel if you are considering the cost, location and easy of accessing the city.  The let-down was the dated look and poor air conditioning. Otherwise I am happy with my stay here. Most of the staff are friendly and helpful.

Visited in June 2015.

Where at? Hotel Aris, Rue Marche aux Herbes 78-80 Grasmarkt, Bruxelles 1000 Brussel

Brussels… often overlooked but you shouldn’t!

Brussels is the capital and largest city of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union (EU) and headquarters for NATO. A lot of people tend to skip Brussels when they are in Europe. I have made the same mistake too earlier. This time I was determined to see what Brussels has to offer.

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Map of Belgium.

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Travelling from London via Eurostar.

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The Brussels Central Station

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A short walk to the hotel.. beautiful sunny day!

We arrived at Brussels Midi via Eurostar train from London. From here you will need to take a train to get to Brussels Central which is a metro and railway station in the central of Brussels. The journey from Brussels Midi to Brussels Central only took a while (less than 10minutes) as it was only two stop away. After getting our directions right, we decided to walk to our hotel which is located pretty near from here.

We reached the hotel in about 10 minutes. It seems to be in a good location and I can see lots of eateries and shops nearby. Without wasting time we got ourselves checked in and ready to explore Brussels. The location of this hotel is just perfect, just a few street away from the Grand place. I will be posting about the hotel in another post soon.

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Walking around in Brussels.

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Walking around in Brussels.

So what is considered as a must do when in Brussels? Well, here is my take on that;

Discover the city on foot. There is so much to see when you are exploring the city on foot. The city is not that big and you can see most things in one day.

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The Grand Place, Brussels.

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The Grand Place, Brussels.

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The Grand Place, Brussels.

Grand Place.

This a must see buildings in Brussels. It’s a huge cobblestone square with amazing buildings from the earlier centuries (some reference say from the 12th century). Amazing architecture and if can, check out the view at night. The surrounding area are now occupied by many cafes and restaurants. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site since 1998.

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Enjoying our meal @ Fritland.

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This is one of their signature sandwich, chicken @ Fritland.

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Lots of waffle shops like this one..

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Waffle with dark chocolate dressing and fresh strawberry. This was really really good!

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Churros. What can i say it was good too! Drizzled with nutella & caramel sauce, whipped cream.

Waffles, Chocolate, Beers, Mussels and Fries.

These are some of the food which are very famous in Belgium. There are so many different shops/café who claims to be selling the best version so it all depends on your budget.  You can also check with your hotel on where to go to get these.

Do check out my review on Pierre Marcolini chocolate here: http://www.tripadvisor.com.my/ShowUserReviews-g188644-d2090796-r290614503-Pierre_Marcolini-Brussels.html

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All these people are here to see the little fella..

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Here is the little fella, The Manneken Pis.

Manneken Pis.

Its basically means ‘little man pee’ which is a small bronze sculpture and considered as a landmark. Apparently it has been there since 1619. The statue is located at the junction of Rue de l’Étuve/Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat.

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Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.

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Inside of Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.

This is a Roman Catholic Church. The church was given cathedral status in 1962. The patron saints of the church, St. Michael and St. Gudula, are also the patron saints of the city of Brussels.

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The entrance of Galeries Royales St Hubert.

Galeries Royales St Hubert.

Located near the Grand Place, the Galerie de la Reine is beautiful shopping mall. You will find lots of luxury boutiques, chocolate shops, watchmakers and restaurants in here.

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Hard Rock Cafe Brussels. A must place for me to visit in any country.

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Hard Rock Cafe Brussels. A must place for me to visit in any country.

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Brussels seems to be famous for their street art too..

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This is right in front of the hotel. So many shops, cafe and stores around. Very convenient.

To wrap it up, I loved Brussels. It was pretty easy going and quite laid back city. I do enjoy the food especially the chocolates!

Almost made it… Ibis Geneve Centre Gare

Ibis has been in my good book as they offer decent accommodation and affordable. This time, I was keen to stay at Ibis Geneva partially due to offers that I have receive for being a member with AccorHotels. Do note that there are more than 5 Ibis chain hotels in Geneva but I am referring to Ibis Geneve Centre Gare.

We arrived at Geneva Cornavin station (which is the main railway station). From my earlier finding, the hotel is located quite nearby to the station hence we decided to walk.  We took about 15minutes to reach the hotel with our luggage. It was easy to find. The hotel looks well-kept and clean. The check-in was smooth and fast. Probably because we have fully paid for the room at the time of the booking itself.

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The room was good and spacious considering a city hotel. Ibis seems to have same standard with their room which may room familiar with other ibis elsewhere. Anyway the amenities that you would enjoy is TV, air-conditioner, comfortable bed, desk, chairs, closet and toiletries.

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The only issue with the room was the air conditioner which was not cold at all despite choosing the lowest temperature on the control switch. It felt the same although after having it switched on for hours. It was pretty disappointing considering it was summer and it was warm.  Luckily for me, we were here only for one night. I don’t think I will be able to tolerate it if I had stayed longer.

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I have shared this feedback via Trip Advisor and Ibis has responded that ‘air conditioning is prohibited in Geneva’. Now, it’s a shock for me. Anyone knows why is it so?

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As for the location of the hotel, it was convenient for us to get around the city on foot. It takes about 15-20minutes to reach to the old town. The hotel is located on the quieter side of the new town which is fine with us.

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Overall good stay here at Ibis Geneva Centre Gare except for the air-condition issue which is apparently same applies to other establishments in Geneva. Furthermore, accommodations in Geneva is generally very expensive so choose wisely.