February...the month of love, and literally half a month compared to its evil neighbour, January.
It's a time of great hope - for spring, and for the shorter nights and brighter days which awaken us from our winter misery.
For me personally it's also my birthday month, and this year was a rather large one, which I have celebrated throughout these past few weeks with my nearest and dearest. It's been a lot of fun.
I loved my surprise trip to Venice. It's not like anywhere I've ever been. Like an enchanting film set in a galaxy far, far away.
Like millions before me, this floating (and often-times drowning) city cannot fail to inspire and excite. It really does have the ability to transport you to another time and place.
My husband summed it up perfectly when he said that everyone is on the same carefree vibe in Venice...all there for the excellent food and beverages, unique architecture, intriguing history, and dreamy canal life.
There is so much to do we will be back for sure as we couldn't possibly fit everything in (and I have no doubt that even frequent visitors to Venice still discover new things each time), so here are some of the things we did and which I can personally recommend -
I always think the actual journey is such a vital piece of the whole experience and ours started with the brand new Pod Parking from Heathrow Terminal 5 which makes driving to, and parking at, the airport absolutely effortless (and less than the price of a taxi one way).
We stayed in the beautiful and contemporary Philippe Starck designed Palazzina Grassi which was a complete treat. Bursting with decadent design, mirrored rooms and first-class service.
We did the Rialto Market Food Tour.
It's around four hours of meandering through the back streets, stopping at various key gastronomic points (like the famous Fish Market above) to eat traditional Venetian delicacies like Cicchetti (small snacks available in most bars, and often served with wine or Aperol Spritz)...
...and freshly baked Chantilly cream-filled warm Venetian doughnuts called Fritelle which are made fresh in the bakeries all day, but only sold around the Carnevale season (which, lucky for us, it was).
We also did the free walking tour, which is about two hours, and is a great introduction to Venice, with a few secrets thrown in too (my lips are sealed 🤫).
The famous Carnevale season runs from 16th February until 5th March, so you will find many specialist shops during this time selling all sorts of elaborate masks which range in price from around €15 up to €3500...and probably more.
And no visit would be complete without a stop at the famous Caffe Florian on St.Mark's Square...but be warned, any cafe, bar or restaurant within two streets of the tourist areas charge twice as much as anywhere else, and as our guide told us, steer well clear of anywhere with pictures of what's on the menu displayed on a board outside.
This is me outside Caffe Florian.
This is my cake.
We took the water bus over to Murano. The journey is about 40 minutes and goes past the Isola di San Michele, Venice's cemetery which inhabits its own island and has done since the early 1800s when Napoleon's occupying forces instructed the Venetians to haul their dead across the water instead of burying them all over town. Nice.
This is me on the water bus having a lovely time in Venice.
Murano is a must-see. As you know, it's famous for its glass, so go and visit one of the glass museums. We went to the Muve one, which was an interesting way to spend an hour.
Do you think these glass dogs might be €42 🤔
After the museum we had lunch in a spot recommended by the concierge at our hotel. So here's the thing, I think I can honestly say this was ONE OF THE BEST MEALS I HAVE EVER EATEN!
I kid you not...Busa Alla Torre Da Lele...just drop whatever you are doing right now, book a flight to Venice and get over to this place in Murano without a second to lose. It's tiny and quaint, is run by a gregarious Venetian called Lele, and is one of those incredible places that isn't much to look at (although it is in a little square right by the canal) but welcomes you in and makes you feel like an old friend, serves local Venetian dishes using produce sourced from the lagoon, and is just a bloody fantastic experience.
This is not just any old crab ravioli; this is THE crab ravioli.
So, that was Venice.
Other inspirations of note this month include viewing the entire Series 1 and 2 of The Crown on Netflix. Yes, I know I'm late to the party, but we're not big TV watchers, so it always takes us a while to get round to these things. I can report though that we've absolutely loved it. The art direction and Peter Morgan's screenplay are just brilliant, and I fell totally in love with Vanessa Kirby's portrayal of everyone's favourite royal fun-time girl, Princess Margaret.
We are now obviously impatiently waiting for Series 3 with the inimitable Oscar winner, Olivia Coleman taking over the Queenly duties from Claire Foy.
Talking of Princess Margaret, I've booked tickets to go and see the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams Exhibition at the V&A next month. One of the highlights of the Dior exhibition has got to be Margaret's Dior frock (above) which she wore for her 21st birthday party.
I'm going to the show with my partner in crime and Bone Idol's dog clothing designer extraordinaire, Jacqueline Byrne, of the famous couture bridal house of the same name. If you haven't seen Jacqueline's dress designs, here they are.
And if talk of weddings isn't a great way to round off Love Month, I don't know what is.