Wednesday Wander – Bridge of Sighs, Venice

My wander this week is to Venice, Italy. I’ve written a little bit about Venice before, but this time I wanted to focus specifically on the famous Bridge of Sighs, so called because it was the bridge over which prisoners were taken before being executed or exiled from Venice. It is said their sorrow was such at their last view of Venice that they sighed, giving the bridge it’s name.

The bridge was designed and built in 1600 by Antonio Contino, and connects the interrogation rooms at the Doge’s Palace with the prison. Made from white limestone, it is ornately carved – even the bars on the small window are made from stone. As for the name… to be honest, and hopefully I’m not bursting too many bubbles here, if I were being taken to be executed I think I’d be doing more than sighing. Also, sandwiched between two buildings as it is, I wonder how much of Venice could be seen. I suppose it was one last look at the blue waters, at sunlight and fresh air, before being taken to their final destination – that, I can understand.

However, further research definitely bursts the bubble – apparently, by the time the bridge was built the days of interrogation and summary execution were over, so it was mostly small-time criminals heading over the bridge to spend short stints in the attached cells. Apparently Lord Byron, among others, is to blame for the more romantic notion, inspired by the beauty of the bridge on his travels to Venice in the early 1800s.

There’s also a Bridge of Sighs at Cambridge University, built in the 1830’s – whether there’s a similar tradition there, I don’t know.

There is a sweeter tradition associated with the bridge – that if you kiss someone while standing under the bridge at sunset (which you can only do in a gondola) you will love them forever. Perhaps the romantic setting has something to do with it. It is possible to tour the Doge’s Palace and cross the bridge and perhaps, even, sigh a little. However, the short time I had in Venice meant I missed out. Sounds like the perfect excuse to go back…

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you again next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Thursday Doors – Along the Canal

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I had a different door in mind for today’s post, but, on a walk with a friend past the nearby canal boat mooring, found the combination of tiny doors, sunshine and colourful boats too hard to resist.

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I live near to the Grand Union Canal, which links London with Birmingham. The longest canal in the UK, it runs for 137 miles through 166 locks. Canals are a feature of the British countryside, once the highways of the industrial revolution and many of them feats of engineering in themselves. There are more canals in Birmingham than there are in Venice, if you can believe it.

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Nowadays, canals are used mainly for recreational purposes, with day trips, weekenders or longer voyages available for those who want to give canal living a try.

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There are many people living full time on the canals, travelling the length and breadth of the country without having to leave the comforts of home.

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Not such a bad way to live, I think…

This is my entry for Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors challenge. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.

Wednesday Wander – Venice, Italy

Venice 2I recently wrote a piece of flash fiction for one of Sacha Black’s Writespirations, and it seemed to take place in Venice. This took me back to a visit I made there many years ago, and so I thought I’d make Venice this week’s Wednesday Wander destination.

Venice 4I could write loads about Venice. But I won’t. All I’ll say is that it is a place of roses and magic, that Canaletto was right about the light, that it floats like a mirage on the lagoon. That you can meet a man who traces his Venetian lineage back eight hundred years, and another who sings country music, and sells the sweetest strawberries you’ve ever tasted. That the nights are lantern lit, that the roads are made of water and the pavements of whitest stone. That it’s no wonder there were sighs on the Bridge of that name, as the convicted took their last look at this immortal city of wonders.

Venice 1I quite liked it there, obviously 😀

Venice 3Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

Sacha’s Writespiration – Time Won’t Wait

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I’ve been doing a few writing prompts recently. This is for a couple of reasons – first, because they challenge me to stretch my writing brain. I’ve been writing about Ambeth for a long time and it’s nice to visit other worlds once in a while (although I’ll always love Ambeth). Second, because I’ve been inspired – whether it’s Sue’s photographs, Rachael’s Blog Battles or Sacha’s Writespirations, there have been ideas-a-plenty floating around the blogosphere these past few weeks.

So this post is in response to Sacha’s latest Writespiration, where we were instructed to pick up the closest book or magazine to hand, turn to page 77 and pick the tenth, thirty-third and last words on the page, plus the longest word, then work them into a 100-word piece of flash fiction.

My closest book to hand happened to be The Monsters Of Templeton by Lauren Groff (and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it), and my words were human, on, have and whispering. Sacha thought they’d work quite well with Silver and Black, which is my NaNo novel for next month, but when I started writing a different story emerged and here it is:

His mask glittered, curving papier mache making him appear more than human. She knew she looked the same, laughing as they wandered hand in hand, heels clicking on the cobbles, past whispering lamplit canals and down narrow passageways, crumbling plaster puffing into dust as they passed.

‘We have to go back.’ He checked his watch, anachronistic under the satin cuff.

She stopped, laughter leaving her. ‘Time won’t wait, will it?’

‘It never does. We have only so long before it catches up with us again.’

He twisted the dial and she felt time stretching elastic, the world turning to grey.

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And that’s my hundred words. If you’d like to read more Writespirations, or add one of your own, visit Sacha’s blog and be inspired!

 

 

Wednesday Wander – Watery Ways

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This week’s Wednesday Wander was inspired by an image I used in Monday’s post, of the Sydney ferries at Circular Quay. I lived in Sydney for a couple of years and would often take the commuter ferries across the Harbour, paying a few dollars to bob past some of the most famous landmarks in the world. There are several other ferries which venture further, such as the Manly one which goes out through the Heads. It can be quite an adventure on a rough day, when the calmer waters of the harbour meet the open ocean, the boat rocking as it turns to such a degree the sliding doors flick back and forth and you feel the need to brace yourself.

I’ve visited and lived in other waterside cities as well, where public transport is anything but everyday.

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View of the West End looking back from the Seabus.

When I lived in Vancouver my home was in the West End but I worked on the North Shore, so I would take the Seabus every day from Lonsdale Quay, then walk the rest of the way home. When we went back to visit last year we took it again – making the short trip across the water surrounded by mountains, Stanley Park, the Lions Gate Bridge and the Vancouver skyline. It still only costs a few dollars, and is a beautiful way to see the city.

Coming up to St Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace
Coming up to St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace

I visited Venice for only a few days many years ago, yet still remember the colours and light, the way the city felt frozen in time, almost like a film set. I loved that you could spend a few lire (at the time) to catch a water taxi and be ferried around the city past so much beauty and history, and that people got to do so every day as part of their work commute.

Now I live near London, and have taken the riverboats several times, including one memorable occasion where we were on a school trip and supposed to alight at a certain dock, but the boat only stopped for about five seconds, pulling away again as we tried to get thirty Year Two children out of their seats and lined up. A stern word with the operators ensured we had enough time to disembark at the next stop, though it meant a longer walk through the city than we had planned. Still, it’s a wonderful  and very affordable way to travel the ancient waterway, past palaces and fortresses and famous bridges.

I’m sure there are many other cities where everyday public transport is a trip – let me know some of your favourites. Thanks for coming on a watery Wednesday Wander with me…

Feeling Light

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I love the way the light falls at this time of year.

There is a golden richness to it, one that invites you to sit outside for a while with hot tea or cold cider, savouring the last sweetness of summer before the long dark of winter sets in. It feels melancholy to me as well – the bittersweet turning of the year seen in the way that the sun sets earlier each night, sending long furls of colour across the sky.

This may sound like a whole lot of waffle – however, light is something that has always fascinated me. I’ve travelled to quite a few places and each had their own light, caught in the feel of the sky and the way the sun hits the land. The high wide skies of Canada, speedwell blue reaching north. The blinding white hot of a Sydney beach at midday, when to be without sunglasses would render you almost blind. The pearl grey light of the Irish coast, mist from the sea softening the sky. The silver-blue-grey of a Melbourne winter, dark nights and frost on the gum trees. The shimmer of Venice, light reflecting from the water onto ancient pastel palazzos, crumbling into the dreaming lagoon.

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I saw the northern lights once. It was in the mountains north of Vancouver, the sky full of stars as there were no man-made lights to obscure their show. I woke in the night to see a slowly expanding starburst of light above me, floating above the dark pine-clad peaks. While it wasn’t the rainbow shimmer of Scandinavia, it was still awe-inspiring to see – one day I hope to go further north and see the curtains of colour ripple across the sky.

I also like the way light behaves at different times of day, and often use it in my descriptions when writing. I think it’s a nice way to convey to the reader what time of day it is, as well as adding mood when necessary. My favourite time of day is sunset, though I do enjoy the early light of dawn as well – there is something about the transition between day and night that I find to be full of potential, stories lying in the shadows between light and dark.

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