October vibes: Fall Meet-Up 2016

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall – F. Scott Fitzgerald  

Fall is not a season that Bangladesh “visually” experiences. Don’t get me wrong now. I only mean we don’t have leaves turning orange or the trees baring themselves already, but you sure can sense it in the weather. It feels cozy,the air is crisp, it feels like October, it feels like autumn is here. Colourful festivals, winter mornings with hot cups of tea and cozy winter wears are on their way. And oh do I love it or what!

To welcome this favorite time of the year MIB Spirit Studio has opened its gates to host yet another fun-filled three day long event at their beautiful adobe in Dhanmondi, Dhaka. After an enormous response from the Dhaka crowd at the Monsoon Meet-up, they are back with an even more eventful setup – the Fall Meet-Up! This event has been jointly organized by MIB Spirit – Made in Bangladesh, Ajo – fast casual and relax dining, SM Products, Headoffice Communication

I was there last evening and it is indeed an not-to-be-missed event. Beautiful decor, good range of merchandise, a huge crowd of creative minds and some strong spirits –  all under one roof. To many the products may seem over-priced, but they actually aren’t. Most of the products being sold here is hand-crafted- the labour of a lot of hard work, determination and love. Hence, you are actually paying the price to appreciate all that and also someone’s creativity. Here are some glimpses of what caught my eye last night.

Beautiful decor

Doodle art, fairy lights and most importantly the fall colors transformed the place into a real party. My personal favorite had to be the good old doodle wall.

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These people sure know how to “write”! A charming little store that works with calligraphy and invents unique ways to incorporate the same into objects that we use everyday. Their products range from beautifully presented quotes in the form of wall art to handy notebooks and doodled coffee mugs. I couldn’t resist and got myself two notebooks and a small little wall art.

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Sundarban’s Busy Bee

A social entrepreneurship venture supported by the “The Earth” who work with and for the Mawalis (honey hunters) of Sundarbans. Their noble effort aims to secure a better life for the extremely hardworking tribe. With each kg of honey sold a certain amount actually goes back all the way to the Sundarbans – to the Mawalis (who were otherwise cheated by the middleman and don’t even receive any return). I am so glad I got to know about them. Great work guys!

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Boka Baksho

An endeavour of two young architects was a definite eye catcher of the event. Their grasp on craftsmanship, material and design is what makes them unique. I am an old customer but every time they launch new products it gets too hard to resist and this exhibition was no different. Laser etched wooden sketchbooks, pendents, rings, earrings – you name it. 

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Stellar

I was watching them live on Facebook today while I was writing this post. Well what I understood from that is Stellar came into existence when the owner then living abroad realized that people living here in Bangladesh do not have many quirky products available in the market. Also there is a pool of talented artists who could contribute to creating that market. Indeed she was right. Their products scream out just the perfect balance between fun and elegance. Loved the totes, prints and finally got my hands on a journal I had my eyes on for a long time ❤

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MIB Spirit-Made in Bangladesh

They are the host and I am a fan. MIB Spirit is run by a small group of people fueled by patriotism and focusing on local products. The artistry is one of its kind and the quality is only the best. What is amazing is that they achieve all this from locally sourced, recycled and sustainable material. Organizations such as these make Bangladesh proud.
I shopped crazily at the last event, hence did not get anything this time. Although there is a new red bag I have my eyes on (which I know I will eventually end up buying).

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While I have only posted my personal favorites above, there are many other talented stores out in the event. So please check them out tomorrow as it is the last day of the Fall Meet-up but they are there till 8pm. You can click on each stores’ name mentioned above to be directed to their Facebook pages.

This event is a great initiative to put together a place to chill, meet people and most importantly to recognize and feature such creative entrepreneurs. A well deserved applause for the organizers! Dhaka did not see such get togethers before and this is indeed a good start…a good change. 

 

Fall Meet Up
October 13 – October 15

Oct 13 at 12 PM to Oct 15 at 8 PM

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A Roman Holiday: when in Rome for 4 days

“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.” Giotto di Bondone.

During my training as an architect, I was told an architect truly learns scale and proportions from Rome and it is a must visit. I will tell you something today: does not matter if you are an architect or not, ROME IS A MUST IN YOUR LIFETIME. It is where one of the greatest civilization rose, where Ceaser ruled and gladiators fought, where roots of the Catholic church resides, where Bernini and Michelangelo blinded us with their magic, where Audrey Hepburn ran away to for a holiday, where Robert Langdon solved mysteries of the Illuminati. Rome is THE place and it is magical. I had 3 and a half day in hand and 13 places to see. But that does not mean this was a rushed visit. Plan it right and you are good to go.  Here is how I did it.
(Disclaimer: Rome is huge so is this blog. please bear with me)

INVEST IN A ROMA PASS

Before leaving for Rome, my online research introduced me to this blessing called the Roma Pass. It is a card that offers  discounts and special services to tourists. There are two types of this card- one valid for 72 hours and another for 48 hours (below is a screenshot I got from their website: http://www.romapass.it/?l=en)

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According to the website, the 72 Hours cost 38 euros, while 48 hour one costs 28 euros

I got the 72 hour card for 36 (BDT 3240 ) This tourist card, when purchased, gives FREE ENTRANCE to any two archeological sites or museum of your choice and offers discounts to tickets for other museums, theatrical performances, music events and exhibitions visited thereafter. In addition it gives you unlimited free access to all transportation modes– bus, tram, metro and urban trains- within the boundaries of Rome.  With the card comes a free map of Rome showing metro lines too and a booklet listing as places of interest which offer discounts via the Roma Pass.

Was getting the pass a good deal?

Each individual one way metro or bus ticket would otherwise cost me 1.50 (BDT 135). I had used the metro extensively; at least 8 times a day which sums up to approximately  36 (BDT 3240). Two free entrances saved me around 15 (BDT 1350). I have saved myself a few euros & a lot of hassle. So yes it was a win-win for me.

Should you get it?

If you wish to visit two or more sites/museums/monuments on the Roma Pass list within 3 days time and also if you intend to use the public transportation modes regularly in these 3 days, YOU MUST GET THE PASS. It  is  available online and can be found in any tourist shop in Rome.

WHEN IN ROME

DAY 1
Colosseum

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Standing at the foot of the colossal 157′ structure, I felt so small and insignificant. Such amazing scale! Colossal meaning enormous is definitely the right pick for its name.Built in 80 AD, it is the largest amphitheater in the world with a capacity of 70,000 spectators who were entertained with fights between gladiator VS gladiator or gladiator VS animals. The Colosseum is without a doubt Rome’s one of the most brilliant pieces of architecture and represents its beauty and history ever so strongly.

Link to my video on the outside of Colosseum: behold the Colosseum

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How to get there: Take the metro line B to get off at the station Colosseo.
Entrance fee: Roma Pass – free entrance; Otherwise –  €15
Travel tip: A Roma pass will save you from a huge line while entering the Colosseum.

Link to my video on the inside of Colosseum: Colosseum from the inside

Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

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Right next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum. Located in the small  valley between the Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is an outstanding maze of architectural fragments of Rome’s ancient market place, temples, basilicas and monuments. This was once the central business and the most celebrated meeting place for the Romans. Take a day to explore this extravagant collection of ancient Rome.

How to get there: 1 minute walk from the Colosseum
Entrance fee: Roma Pass – free entrance or the same ticket you got for Colosseum works here
Travel tip: Spend at least half a day here. Wear sunblock and shades. Carry water.

Piazza Del Campidoglio

All thanks to my history teacher in architecture school, I had read so much about this place that a visit to this hilltop plaza was a must for the architect in me. Acclaimed to be one of the most beautiful squares of Rome Piazza del Campidoglio was designed by the master Michelangelo in the sixteenth century. The beautiful pattern on the plaza, Michelangelo’s marble staircase and two mirrored buildings took me an evening to explore.

How to get there: A 10 minute walk from the Roman Forum. Ask around for the Capitoline hill.
Entrance fee: Free.
Travel tip: Try to get here late in the afternoon and stick around to watch the sunset.

DAY 2
Pantheon

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My second day started with a visit to Pantheon, the most preserved building in Rome. It looks like as if it was built yesterday. Although built as a temple to all Gods, it is now a church. Architecturally what makes it unique is the dome with its oculus in the middle- the only source of light inside the building. The 142 feet spanned dome  is till date the largest unsupported dome in the world! Even Michelangelo thought the Roman Pantheon to be the work of Gods and not humans. Follow the link to see it live: Pantheon and the great oculus

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World’s biggest unsupported dome.

How to get there: Metro line A to the station Barberini.
Entrance fee: Free.
Travel tip: The great artist Raphael’s tomb is here- on your left after you enter through the gates

Trevi Fountain

A busy tourist hub and an extravagant fountain. Legend has it that if you flip a coin into it, you will get to come back to this eternal city of Rome. I honestly didn’t stay here long enough because of the crowd. Take this link to see Trevi Fountain liveLook at all those people at Trevi

How to get there: A few minutes walk from the Pantheon
Entrance fee: Free

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The Trevi Fountain
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Behind the scenes:P

Piazza Navona

A few minutes walk from the Trevi Fountain through beautiful Roman alleys will take you to Piazza Navona. To me this was the best evening I spent in Rome. This place just screamed life and happiness to me. From amazing covers of Pink Flyod, Sinatra and Presleys to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, it is all about live performances here. I grabbed a gelato and enjoyed the rest of the day strolling around this lively piazza.

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DAY 3: Vatican City
Vatican Museum

Third day and I am at the Vatican City- a separate country and NOT a part of Rome! First stop- The Vatican Museums. All of the world’s famous artists’ work are housed here in the Museo Vatican. The exquisite ceiling, tapestries, floors will undoubtedly leave you spellbound. But the best comes after you walk through all the Raphaels, Van Goghs, Picasso, Mondrians.Vatican Museum is the home to Michaelangelo’s most celebrated work- The Sistine Chapel. You cannot take a photo there, which is something great because only then you can actually look out of the viewfinder and absorb this masterpiece as much as possible. My short clip on the inside of the Vatican Museum

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San Peter’s Basilica  and Piazza San Pietro

If you take the small door end of the Sistine Chapel, you will enter the Saint Peter’s Basilica directly. The highest alter of Catholic Christianity and destination to many pilgrims from all over the world, this is the largest church in the world. Take your time to wander in this sanctum.

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Not many people know that you can actually climb up to the dome of the basilica. So I did that! 551 steps in total. So I took an elevator ride,saving 320 steps, to a gallery inside the dome from where I witnessed the first ever church prayer of my life. Yes, until then I had never seen one. That echo runs shivers down my spine even when I think about it now.Here is a video of it Wow! A prayer at the Saint Peter’s main alter

After this brief stop, I had 231 actual stairs to climb to be on the top of the cupola. Word of advise: If you are weak at heart or not well, don’t try this. The steps are really narrow and gets narrower with its rise. The narrow passageway can be very uncomfortable if you are claustrophobic like me. I actually thought of turning back.Here’s a photo I found online. But if you can do this what lies on the top is beyond imagination. I am so glad I got an hold of my vertigo and claustrophobia to reach the top and see this!

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How to get there: Metro line A to Ottaviano – S. Pietro – Musei Vaticani
Entrance fee: The Vatican museums cost  € 16, Cost €8 for elevator, €5 Euros for stairs.
Travel tip: You are not allowed in the basilica  if you are wearing shorts or a short dress or no sleeves. Carry a small bag.

 DAY 4

Baths of Caracalla

My last day in the eternal city and I was not in the best of my moods. We took the metro straight down to see the second largest Roman public bath – the baths of Caracalla. I couldn’t believe with my eyes the grandeur and scale of this place. I mean seriously can you imagine sixteen hundred people bathing in cold and warm water in this gigantic stadium sized bath? Romans knew all about basics and luxury.  This was a social hub with a great opportunity to socialize and network at all levels and also facilitated the people who did not have water supply at home. I saw board games still drawn at the edge of the pools, remains of gyms and bathing pools. What more do you want than relaxing in a warm pool and playing board games? Romans knew how to do it all!

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I was not in a mood to take any photos here, Photo credit: Sharif Jahir

How to get there: Metro line B to Circo Masimo
Entrance fee: I think  14, by this time my  Roma pass had expired.

If you ever have a chance to visit Europe, don’t miss out on Rome even if you are not interested in architecture. The day I finished reading the Angles and Demons back in 2006 (a precious gift my mama got for me from London) I had decided I will go to Rome someday. It took me 10 years to finally be there and I am beyond glad that I did.

I know it is horribly long, but I wanted to put in all that I have experienced in one post so that anyone planning to go can have an overview on Rome in one go. Hope you’ve enjoyed. Leave me a comment below if you have any questions and don’t forget to share this post if you liked reading it.:)

Dream, Save and Travel: How I am saving for my next trip

It hasn’t been very long since I have started earning a living on my own. Introduced to this life of financial independence, initially it did feel like “I am the king of the world”. I did what any new earner would do: ate where I wanted, bought what I liked, in short SPENT IT ALL. With time raises came my way and led to more spending than saving. I realized I have turned into a shopaholic. With merely no savings in hand, often I struggled to pay for my travels; took loans and supports from my mom. I had successfully drowned myself in humongous credit card bills and debts. Not until recently did I finally manage to cut down my expenses, planned it right and now saving fairly enough to finance my travels. I would not say I am a shinning star in this, but I am trying and putting baby steps towards saving. Here is how I am doing it.

Decide where you are going

Place sets a goal. Post a picture on your desk or even as your laptop background at work. I carry a picture of it in my wallet to remind myself that I am en route to this beautiful place. This stops me from useless expenditure.

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Set a date

Give your yearning a time frame. Setting up this alarm will prepare your mind with a plan on how to reach your saving goal within time.

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Give yourself a figure

Find out an approximate cost plan for your upcoming trip. Do some research, read blogs, search online or even ask people who have been there already. Once you have an approximate number in your head, you know how much to put away from your earning or allowance.

Put money away

Money that you have not seen will not call you to be spent. Put a portion away before it comes in your hands. You could open a separate account for only travel savings. You can get one of those monthly deposit schemes if you wish to plan a year ahead and save over a longer period of time.

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Make yourself a money jar

Money jars are the modern version of piggy banks and for us Bengali an updated version of our very own “maatir bank“. What I like about making something like this is the excitement of filling it up as soon as I can. Add a picture of your destination on the jar. This will also set a visual reminder for you in your room. Come on now, get creative!

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Pay off your credit card bills

Now this is a mistake I made- piling up my credit card bills with hopes to pay it tomorrow. But that tomorrow took a while to come. Before anything clear your bills. Piling it up for months will not only add on a good extra charge/interest but will also be tough on you with the large amount of money you will need to pay at one go. Stop procrastinating, be free of debts.

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Minimizing added expenditures

The place where I am from does not have many places for people to meet except restaurants and cafés. I realized a lot of my money went downhill with restaurant bills. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not motioning towards saying “don’t go out or eat out with friends”. What can be done is to find a way to minimize this added expenditure. May be you do it twice a month. I know many of you reading may term this as “cheap”. But if you have set your mind and goal in traveling and are independent with a minimum fixed income, I am sure this will make sense to you. There is no shame in trying to save to live your dream.

Stop going to shopping malls

Now this is something I am working on as well. Truth be spoken I am a spender myself. I have recently unfollowed so many online shopping sites/pages, just to keep my mind away from seeing things and ending up ordering them. Now if you are a shopaholic like me, this will take some time. Be determined. Remind yourself each day how beautiful that destination must be. What you have not seen will not lure you into buying it.

Although there are times I splurge on to get rid of depressions or just honestly because I cannot help it. I do buy gifts for my family because that is something I will never give up no matter how hard it gets for me. They are the reason I am able to even dream of traveling. Hence when it is for them, no compromises.

Gifts on saving

If your family and friends know about the travel bug in you, another option may be to ask them to give you money instead of the next shalwar kameez,punjabi or saree they are planning to buy for you. While I know that this may sound weird and may look like I am stooping low, but if you are really into saving every bit you can I see no reason why you cannot opt for this. These are the people who are closest to you. If they don’t understand, support or encourage you, I don’t know who else will.

Focus on your goal and stay inspired by travel

It is very easy to derail from this plan of financial organization. Trick is to stay inspired. Go through photos on Instagram or Pinterest. Keep reminding yourself about what lies ahead of this struggling times.

The art of saving does not come naturally to many of us. This process of saving up is quite a struggle. But I am reminding myself each day and night of the reward I may get at the end of this. Travel does reward you in the most divine ways. The more effort you put in, the more you will get out of it. I hope these tips and tricks will bring some contribution to your travel plans. Please share your tips and ways with me in the comment section below. Until next time, Ciao Bella!

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Images of this post have been downloaded from Google and Tumbler. 

Lost in picturesque Venice

As the airplane took a turn on the red toned sky of the early dawn, I looked outside through my tiny window and gushed. Beneath was the city of my dreams floating ever so beautifully on blue glistening water. There it was Venezia leaving me too spellbound to even click a photo. An overly excited, slightly nervous jumpy me finally set foot in Venice on May 23, 2016 at 7.20am local time.

To me Venice was a beautiful painting that changed into an even prettier one every other minute I crossed an alley. A maze of cobbled pathways,  historical buildings and mesmerizing public squares all placed on islands fragmented with canals and linked with  bridges.

With a heart filled with memoirs from Venice and some lust to go back to this beautiful piece of heaven soon again, here I am writing my first blog post. While it took me some time to get out of this cocoon of mine and enter the world of blogging, I cannot be happier that it is about something I love dearly. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved putting it together. Okay then, here it goes. My insight on a budget stay in Venezia, Italy.

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A colorful maze of alleys, bridges and canals …

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…that lead to such breathtaking views of the “waterscape”

Flying to Venice
From Dhaka I took an Etihad flight of +12hours to reach the Marco Polo airport of Venice via Abu Dhabi. The multi-city return air ticket cost me approximately BDT  65,000. Turkish Airways and Qatar Airway fly  to Venice too. My preference was the Turkish one with a transit in Istanbul 🙂 but the prices had gone too high. TIP: Book your flights EARLY and save a tonne!

Beautiful Venezia

Doge’s Palace, Palazzo Ducale
Now a museum, the Venetian Gothic styled Doge’s palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice. It cost around €25 to go in and tour the entire palace. The line was too long and also for the price, I didn’t go in.

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The oldest part of  Doge’s Palace facing the Grand Canal

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Venetian Gothic influences

Saint Mark’s Basilica and Piazza San Marco
Architecture, ornamental details, history and art. Go there just to stare. Admission is free in the Basilica.

The place I fell in love with is Piazza San Marco. Be it for the scale and openness of the space, the people, the beautiful music coming from the orchestra of the restaurants or just the pigeons, this place has its own charm and power to captivate. Take your time to twirl around the square, watch people, enjoy the music or just run among the pigeons. I spent more than half a day here and I wish I stayed longer. TIP: Try to get there early morning before the tourists arrive.

IMG_20160526_083657The gorgeous St Mark’s Basilica at Piazza San Marco. And oh that’s me posing  a little 🙂

 

Bridge of Sighs
The closed bridge is a connection between the Doge’s Palace and the new prison used for taking convicts to the prison. It is said the prisoners would sigh at their last sight of Venice from this bridge and hence named the Bridge of Sighs.

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Rialto Bridge
It is the oldest bridge on the Grand Canal with tourist shops and restaurants all around it. Beautiful to take photos on and around it. Unfortunately while I was there Rialto bridge was under maintenance. Hence I do not have any pictures to post. I ate a “luxury” meal in a restaurant around it.

Walking around Venezia with no time limits or hurry

Wander away for a day

 

The Basics

Hotels VS Hostels
Venice can be a bit on the expensive side if you want to stay on the island itself. Price ranges from BDT 60,000 to 20,000 per night for the starred hotels in and  around  San Marco. However there are alternatives! Hostels, camps and rented apartments cost one third or less than hotels. Living around Venice in places such as Padua, Margehra, Mestre, etc which are 40 minutes away from Venice can save you a fortune.

On trips like this I just need a place to crash at night and a hygienic toilet(!). Hence I stayed at a camp named Camping Village Jolly at Marghera  which cost me as low as BDT 1200 per night for a twin share room with attached toilet. That is even cheaper than Bangladesh and the place can be compared to a 3 star here!

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Here is a view of Camping Village Jolly… On the right is our bungalow

Cheap accommodation can easily be booked on sites such as Booking.com, Agoda.com, etc.  There is also Airbnb that will help you in saving by staying with the locals at their house.  Now that is an experience I will be discussing  soon.

No roads, No cars
Venice is not accessible by cars, buses and taxis, with the exception of the road to the port and to Piazzale Roma. It is a lagoon city with water-buses, vaperetto, water-taxis, gondolas instead. If you are here for a week or commuting to Venice, I suggest you get the ACTV transport pass. One card is valid for both buses and water-buses. Below are the approximate prices of the transport pass that will help you compare:

  • A one way ride: €7 (can be used only once!)
  • 3 day pass: €20-€22
  • 7 day pass: €60

To tell you the truth, Venice is a city you would want to walk and see. So walk away, my love. You are sure to get lost but don’t be afraid… enjoy this as it will take you to alleys that will pleasantly surprise you. To a beautiful little corner that you perhaps  had never known existed. Venice is safe, trust me on that. And there are of course signs with arrows pointing major tourist hubs. TIPS: Wear comfortable shoes. Bus or no bus, be sure to walk a lot.

Eat, Pray, Love
Simple words – Gelato, Paasta, Pizza, Tiramisu. There I said it plain and straight. Don’t come back without trying a gelato. Just don’t.
Tip: Carry water in a bottle. Drink from tap waters or water fountains. Water bottles cost €2!
Tip: Avoid eating in touristy places and piazzas such as San Marco, Rialto bridge, Giardini, etc. Explore a little, go inside the alleys, ask where locals eat. Not only will you save around €5-€8 per meal, you will also get to taste the real food. A fresh and cozy Italian meal.

The epic Tiramisu in a garden restaurant under green canopy

Venice, a city that came into existence with people seeking refugee from other distressed Roman inland, now stands proudly as one of the most gorgeous cities of the world. Pictures don’t do justice. Words fail to describe it. I had been day dreaming about Venice since I was in school. And finally I was there. Days like these give hope that there is probably nothing wrong with dreaming a little. I cannot thank God enough for bringing this dream of mine to life. I would love to hear about yours in the comment section below.

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