Art tour 2019 was an experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. The lesson learned in Venice was definitely to “pack light”! There are no cars in Venice, only water taxis and we had to carry, or for some of us 'drag', our suitcases quite a distance to the hotel. Being able to experience the Venice Biennale was such a privilege. The exhibition takes place every two years and each participating country invites artists to represent them at this phenomenal exhibition that took us two days to explore. Eventually we felt a little like Alice in Wonderland popping in and out of holes, entering sublime worlds created by the worlds' top artists - it was a sensory overload. Of course, one cannot visit Venice without a Gondola ride! We were amazed at the skill of the Gondolier who steered through the very narrow canals and under the low bridges. The visit to St Marks Basilica and the Bridge of Sighs gave us much insight into the history of Venice.
We travelled by coach to Florence with a quick stop over in Padua to visit the Scrovegni chapel where we saw some incredible, well preserved frescoes by Giotto from the early 1300s and saw the beautiful altar by Donatello in the Basilica of St Anthony. Our hotel in Florence was a stone's throw from the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, some of the rooms even had views of Giotto's bell tower. Florence become a whirlwind of shopping for exquisite luxury leather goods, climbing the endless stairs of the Duomo for a breath-taking view, Michelangelo's statue of David, Botticelli's Birth of Venus and lots of gelatos. At dinner time delicious pasta that was served as an entrée was quickly devoured, which was then, to our surprise, followed by an enormous, very yummy pizza and desert. The next leg of our journey took us past the Leaning Tower of Pisa, where we climbed some more stairs for a great view. We based in the Art Deco style town of La Spezia from where we embarked on a train journey early the next morning to Cinque Terre, five tiny Italian towns that cling to the coastline, where we had a glorious swim on a private beach and a surprise picnic of local cuisine. Leaving early in the morning from La Spezia by coach we packed in a quick visit to the Royal Palace in the independent city state of Monaco en-route to Nice. We had arrived in Nice on the day of music, so we were treated to a night out on the town square where lots of local bands were playing and we had lots of fun dancing and singing along in true South African style.
For the last part of our tour we departed from Nice airport to Paris where, despite the heat wave, we shopped along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, visited the Louvre to see, to name but a few, the infamous Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci and marble Hellenistic sculpture of Nike (the Greek goddess of victory), that was created in about the 2nd century. The Foundation Louis Vuitton modern art gallery was filled with artworks that involved many sensory and audience experiences which we thoroughly enjoyed. The building itself is an incredible architectural achievement by Frank Gehry. Montmartre was a true Parisian experience where many girls had their portraits drawn by one of the artists on the square. The evening concluded with a surprise visit to see the infamous windmill of the Moulin Rouge. The Eiffel tower was under heavy police surveillance, so unfortunately we were not able to ascend the tower itself, but we spent an enjoyable few hours in the gardens waiting for the tower to transform into a glittering delight of flickering lights at exactly 10.30pm. As far as the food goes in Paris, we were not disappointed by the Parisian cuisine. The tour concluded with a visit to the Pompidou Modern Art Museum where we saw some Mark Rothko's and Jackson Pollock's artworks. Sadly, the time came for us to depart Europe from the Charles de Gaulle airport. The tour gave everyone a different perspective of Europe and European culture, plans for future travel and a lifetime of memories that we will forever cherish.