Mad World

Venice

Settee of Despair

Naked statues, getting lost and visiting an insane asylum island. We spent out birthday in style! We got up at 6:30 a.m.  to take Lesley to the Vaporetto. And found our apartment building’s settee (the settee of despair) on the other side of Pont San Caterina, the next street over, looking like it was contemplating throwing itself into the canal.  This was the settee we’d spent hours sat on as we waited for someone to let us into our apartment. Had our soul crushing despair seeped into its fabric? Could it no longer live with the burden of our sorrow? Or had someone just nicked it and dumped it for a practical joke? So long, settee, you were there for us in our hours of need and we will never forget you.

Museo Correr, VeniceFinally, the fog we were promised had arrived. The Vaporetto arrived at 7:30 so we scurried back, only to discover the boiler had broken so we had no heating and no hot water. Not a great start to our 34th birthday! It’s the first birthday we’ve ever spent away from home so it felt a bit strange. Though our mum and sister did video call us and we opened the presents we’d brought with us so we’d have something to open on our birthday.

Museo Correr, Venice

statues being melodramtic

We set out and went to Museo Correr. It was cool and massive, taking up half of St Mark’s Square. There were a lot of Greek statues, but half of the men were missing their penises. Now we know that in Ancient Greece having a small penis apparently meant you were highly intelligent, but we’re not sure why these statues were castrated. Were they geniuses maybe? Had Cronus snuck in and hacked at them with his sickle? Though knowing Greek myths, their lack of penises was probably a good thing, seeing how many tourists there are in Venice. Have to say, Ares has a better arse than Poseidon. When we see the statues, especially the ones posing melodramatically, we like to make up what they’re saying. In Paris, we immersed ourselves in culture by imitating the statues. In Venice, we ad libbed for them.

Museo Correr, VeniceMuseo Correr, like Doge’s Palace, had stunning ceilings. There was also a large library with beautiful engraved books. You certainly don’t get those covers on Amazon! There were also large coin collections and two Egyptian mummies, which we hadn’t expected to find. We particularly liked the handmade cabinets. They’re much fancier than our Ikea cabinets, though probably took longer to make.

Museo Correr, VeniceWe left there at 12ish and had lunch by the Grand Canal again. It’s now our spot. It’s like recreating our last day in Paris of picnicking by the Seine but without the smell and Lynx jumping in after her phone. It was really cold and foggy. To be fair, we’d requested fog for our birthday. And whilst we were happy that Venice looked suitably gothic for our birthday, we were less than impressed at the cold. At 12:30, we headed to the Vaporetto stop while Tom and Amy went shopping and returned to the apartment to chill out. While our feet were still agony, we were determined to shove as much adventure into our holiday as we could. Our feet would recover but we can’t make up for lost opportunities. Birthdays are made for adventures!

San ServoloThere was only one place where we wanted to spend our birthday: San Servolo insane asylum museum. It opened in 1725 and was run by the religious order San Giovanni di Dio. All insane men were relocated there and in 1798, women were admitted as well. Over 200,000 patients were admitted and most would never leave. It closed in 1978 following a change in Italian law and the Venice government created the “Istituto per le Ricerche e gli Studi sull ‘Emarginazione Sociale e Culturale’.” In other words, the Institute for the Study of Social and Cultural Marginalization. This was to preserve documents related to the history of the hospital.

San ServoloIn 2006, it opened in its current form as a museum. There are nine sections: laboratory; ambulatory; didactic products; sickness therapies; straitjackets; the sick; lodgings; pharmacy and anatomical theatre. Archives house photos of patients from 1874 to the 20th century. The rare trees on the island once supplied the pharmacy.

San Servolo

apothecary

It was foggy on the way over to San Servolo so was really atmospheric. This is the side of Venice we wanted to see. We like to peel back the skin of a beautiful city to watch its dark heart beat below the surface. We wondered whether we should be concerned that unlike other vaporettos where there was barely room to sit, this one had four passengers on board. We were two of them. Our horror brains warned us this was bad. Like we were being unwittingly shipped off to an abandoned island to be sacrifices. Our writers’ brains tingled at the possibility of a story being created from this eeriness. And our anxious brains just loved the peace and being away from people.

San Servolo

anatomical theatre

We landed at 12:45 so wandered the island filming and taking photos. The island now houses a university and a hotel. The Venice International University opened in 1995. But we were here for a different form of education. With all the fog surrounding the island and the silence it created, it felt like we were the only ones on the island. And the only island in existence. It was perfect. It’s rare to experience feeling so isolated in the world. We then decided to head inside to hide from the cold. We should’ve worn our big coats but vanity overruled sensibility and we wanted our outfits to be seen. According to overpriced magazines, beauty is worth suffering for.

San Servolo

asylum chapel

At two, the guide appeared. There were only two other girls on the tour. They were Czech and university students so the guide just pointed to the information and did his best to talk to us in English. We visited the 18th century apothecary first. That was fascinating. All the medicines were kept in pretty porcelain jars as they were herbs. It’s so different from the plastic bottles and blister packs we have today. The museum is inside the university. After the apothecary, we went to the anatomical theatre. It had the examination slab, real skulls who looked like they were in gurning competition and real preserved brains. We could’ve stayed in there all day. It was interesting to read how they preserved the brains. Might come in handy for future…writing. Definitely future writing.

San Servolo

different forms of restraints

In another part of the university, we saw patient admittance records, patient photos of before they were admitted and after they were discharged. The difference was incredible. They went in looking like how asylum patients are usually photographed and came out looking healthy. They’d gained weight. One looked suspiciously like Tom. There were also things the patients had made and a room filled with various restraints – some, like the leather muff and lock gloves, were new to us – and information on the hydrotherapy, where they would be blasted with cold water or put in a bath for up to 12 hours. We get wrinkly after thirty minutes! Another room contained medical equipment.

San Servolo

ECT machine

The guide asked us how we knew of San Servolo. It seems tourists don’t tend to enjoy visits to insane asylum museums. We know. How do these people have fun? We explained about our interest in psychiatric hospitals. If a tourist destination has anything remotely unusual or creepy, we will find it. Research is part of our job. We also explained how usually, the hospitals we visit aren’t exactly open to the public. He looked nervous, like we might use our urb ex skills to hide out there. Not today, sir. But next time…

San ServoloWe caught the ferry back and decided to explore parts of Venice we haven’t seen before so we went through San Marco a different way and walked through Dorsoduro and San Polo before heading back over the Rialto bridge. Only went wrong a few times and that was when we encountered streets that weren’t named on our map. We can get home from Rialto now. We were wandering for two hours! Our feet were not happy. We stumbled across the shop of the guy who made masks for the film Eyes Wide Shut.

Lynx trying the vegan pizza

Lynx trying the vegan pizza

We headed back, put our feet in cold water, like we’ve done every day then went out for chips with Tom and Amy. We’d been gone five hours! We tried some of Tom’s vegan pizza. We’ve never eaten pizza before, not even in our pre-vegan days, but we figured as we were in Italy, we should probably be brave and try Italian food. It was covered in tomato sauce and herbs. And nothing else. We could smell the herbs as Tom walked past us with the closed box and when we saw the pizza, we nearly backed out.

Cat eating the vegan pizza

Cat eating the vegan pizza

But we’d vowed we’d eat an Italian pizza so damn it, we were doing it. If we can hold a tarantula, we can eat a tiny bit of pizza. It was officially the most disgusting thing we’ve ever put in our mouths. It took a lot of chips and Red Bull to rid ourselves of the foul taste. Even now, in quiet moments, it haunts us. Tom and Amy went back to eat the offensive pizza in the apartment while we headed for the vegan gelato place. Us “Due vegano per favore.” He responded in English. Damn it good sir, we’re trying to be cultured here!

We finished the day with uploading photos, writing this blog and doing our squat challenge. 150. Happy birthday to us.

Museo Correr

mirror images

Glass Act

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace

We set off for the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), determined that one day was going to go to plan. Each time we go to San Marco, we end up finding a new route there. We’re claiming this as a deliberate mistake to see a lot of Venice and not because our method of ‘keeping heading south’ is not an accurate way to navigate. Normally on holiday we like to do a lot of things, such as visiting as many places as we can squeeze in before closing time. Wandering around, whilst fun on our way to somewhere, does not feel like a productive use of our time. We didn’t pay all this money to walk around. What would we we write in our postcards? ‘Spent five days walking around Venice. Our feet hurt. Wish you were here.’ No. We want to cram so much into our holiday that our family struggle to read all the information on the postcard.

Doge's PalaceWe went to the palace and the guard remembered us. We bought a museum pass so we can do 11 museums. That should keep us busy for the rest of our trip. The palace was stunning. The rooms are huge, the ceilings are beautifully painted and there’s just so much to look at. KT, our polefit instructor, had done splits in the grand hall when she visited in November and we promised to honour the class by doing a pose. We did a double figurehead pose. It was the best we could manage without flashing the other tourists. We’d promised Neen that this holiday, our posteriors would not make a guest appearance.

Doge's Palace

double figure head

The armoury was very impressive and puts our weapons collection to shame. Granted, we don’t have the room for that much weaponry but it doesn’t hurt to dream. Some of the swords were taller than us! Each time we saw the sign for the prisons, we got excited. They were the main reason we wanted to visit the Doge’s Palace and they were saving the best ‘til last. It’s like they knew that if we saw the prisons first, we’d spend all our time there and wouldn’t bother with the rest of the palace. Venice, we’ve only been together two days and you already know us well. Cat found some cell-like doors in the armoury and tried the bolts. They slid back. Before she could open the door, a worker appeared like a ninja and slid the bolts closed again. Maybe Casanova was still inside.

Doge's PalaceWe went over the Bridge of Sighs to the New Prison. That was cool. We imagine the prisoners didn’t appreciate the view of the Grand Canal as much as we did, what with the impending torture they would receive on the other side. Though we failed to cross it without thinking of The Small Faces’ ‘Itchycoo Park’. “Over Bridge of Sighs…” We wondered how many other tourists failed this challenge. We got very excited at seeing the prison. Nobody else on the tour seemed as excited as we were. We ended up going the wrong around the area near the courtyard and got totally lost. This would trigger a habit of going the wrong way around museums that we were unable to break. When in Rome…no wait, wrong city.

Doge's Palace

prison cell

We were able to go inside some of the cells and one area had wooden planks on the floor. We lifted one to see if anyone skeletons lay beneath, grinning at their impending discovery in the longest game of hide and seek. Sadly it was just dirt. A child loitered to watch us do it. Look away, kid, we are a bad example of how to behave in public. Doge's PalaceOne room was filled with prisoners’ graffiti. Mostly it was our level of drawing skills, with badly drawn people and it was clear they hadn’t seen female company for a while as someone drew boobs up by the neck. One prisoner was clearly gifted and had done an amazing portrait of a woman, boobs in the correct place as well. There was also a graffiti penis. Even back in 17thc Venice, men were drawing penises on walls. It’s almost comforting to learn that our male high school classmates had so much in common with 17th Venetian prisoners.

Doge's Palace

Bridge of Sighs

We had lunch sitting by the Grand Canal then educated ourselves on the vaporetto and caught one to Murano. The vaporettos are incredibly punctual, which makes a nice change. Turned out, we could’ve caught one by the Fondemente Nove, by our apartment. We didn’t realise we were supposed to get off on the museum stop and got off three stops too early. It was Paris all over again. But it meant we got to explore Murano. We bought ourselves Murano glass pens with glass nibs, ink and a glass stand. They write beautifully. Being writers, we can’t resist pens, especially novelty ones, but these are the finest in our collection. We were allowed to test them in our shop so drew our C L Raven wings signature and a skull. So should the shop face bankruptcy, the owner can sell that on eBay and raise about 5 cents.

Murano

Murano

We got lost trying to find the museum and had to ask for directions. The lady couldn’t speak English but hand signals are universal so we were able to follow her directions. The museum pieces were lovely. So intricate! We didn’t think it would be very interesting but we really enjoyed it. We were so nervous we were going to break something, but fortunately, most of it is safe in glass cabinets. There was even glass barbed wire! We found more shops and bought our mum a multi-coloured Murano vase, our sister a blue Murano photoframe and our niece a set of green sealions. The woman in the shop couldn’t speak English and we didn’t learn the Italian for ‘sealions’ so we used the fail-safe method of pointing. She laughed and said “multi-lingual.” Yes, our mastery of language is impressive.

Murano

Murano glass butterflies

We caught the vaporetto to Fondemente Nove, convinced the boat was going to sink under the amount of people on board. It was like public transport at rush hour. We protected our Murano gifts, ready to growl and bare our teeth at anyone who so much breathed near our bags. We returned to the apartment, uploaded our photos then went out to get chips and chilled out in the apartment for a bit. We immersed ourselves in culture by watching a French film in Italian and making up dialogue for the characters.

Murano

glass centrepiece

We think our improv was funnier, though not as funny as the lead actress’s dress sense. Then we went out for drinks, as it was Lesley’s last night. After getting lost trying to find the nice bar we’d found on Tuesday, we ended up in a Jazz bar. First time for everything. There were bras hanging from the ceiling. We find the classiest places. We’re so cultured. We wondered if it was a custom of ‘donate a bra, get a free drink.’ Sorry, but our Ann Summers bras would cost an entire round and we’d rather be jiggle free in public. Then when we got back to the apartment, Lynx realised she’d left her gloves in the bar, so we had to go back. Luckily we found them.

One thing we’ve noticed – the dogs don’t care. There are a LOT of dogs in Venice. And not one of them even looks our way. It’s crushing.

Doge's Palace

us and Tom being prisoners

Corpse Groom

VeniceOn Wednesday, we woke so full of hope. We were going to visit dungeons and torture chambers and not allow Tuesday’s curse to hang over us. We were going to conquer Venice and finally achieve something. We were…going to fail.

We decided to head to St Mark’s Square – Piazetto San Marco – and the Doge’s Palace. Doge’s Palace had been top of our list for museums. We’d promised KT, our Polefit instructor that we would honour the class in the palace. We ended up going the same route we took on Tuesday night and eventually found our way to St Mark’s Square using a combination of a little bit of map reading and mostly guesswork. The guesswork consists of ‘keeping heading south’. St Mark’s Basilica is beautiful.Venice It’s where St Mark’s body is kept, after the Venetians stole it and claimed him as their saint. They also stole the lion on the post that is his symbol and the horses on the Basilica. The Basilica also has a ghost story attached. On the corner of the Basilica are two lights, which tradition claims they symbolise atonement for when Venice wrongfully condemned Pietro Faccioli, a little baker boy, to death. On the corner of the Basilica is an execution block where he was decapitated. He was accused of killing a nobleman, Alvise Guoro. The block was a section of column in perfidy brought from Acri. Since the boy’s death, on foggy nights, people report seeing blood drops on it. clock tower, Venice

We couldn’t find it. There’s a surprise. It’s the story of our lives, being in the area something is and not finding it. As we discovered when we went to the front of the doge’s palace – Ducale Palazzo – and realised we had walked right past St Mark’s Square on our first night and didn’t see it. If only we had looked to our left. Yes. We walked past Venice’s most famous square and Did. Not. See. It. In our defence, it was dark. And we weren’t looking. And it was dark.

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace

We wanted to do a secret itineraries tour of Doge’s Palace but we’d read that at midday during the carnivale, an acrobat jumps from the bell tower in St Mark’s Square. As it was 11:30, we decided to hold off on the tour until after the acrobat. It didn’t happen. We decided to do the tour, and the guard with the metal scanner at the entrance took one look at the metal on our outfits and laughed. He didn’t speak much English but managed ‘sexy’ as he waved us inside. Once inside, we couldn’t decide which tour to do. We wanted to see the dungeons and the cells where Cassanova was kept. Yes, that Cassanova – world’s greatest lover – he was jailed for hitting on the magistrate’s girlfriend. And we wanted to see the torture chamber. Y’know, the touristy stuff. We were in one of the most romantic cities in the world, the day after Valentine’s Day and we wanted to see the place where people were tortured. And people think romance is dead! We suspected the secret itineraries tour was the one we wanted but the last one was at 11:35. So instead of wasting half an hour for an acrobat that didn’t show, we could’ve done the tour. Now we had to wait until Thursday. Yet another wasted day. If there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s wasting time. It can’t be replaced. Our fury was reaching a level considered dangerous. Tourists were looking nervous. We cracked open a Red Bull and tried to deactivate Tantrum Mode.Venice

So our day wasn’t a complete disappointment, we decided to check out haunted spots we’d researched. We walked across the water front and stopped at a pizzeria so we could finally get some wi-fi. Well, the others wanted food, we just wanted the internet. It was a good job too because our sister video called us with exciting news: we have a new guinea pig! He’s two years old, called Shadow (we might change that because we had a cat called Shadow) and his owner was about to give him to Cefn Mably farm because he and the other guinea pig he was with kept fighting. So we got to see him on video, as well as our duck, our youngest cat and our dog, who was very excited to hear us and even waved at the phone. Much nicer than his usual response, which is to ignore us on the phone. While our friends enjoyed their lunch, we sat by the Grand Canal eating Discos and waving at our pets. Time well spent.

Venice

At the Grand Canal

We made our way to the island of San Pietro and San Pietro church. It was in a lovely, quiet residential part of Venice. That’s the great thing about incorporating haunted stuff into your holiday – you get to see parts of the place you wouldn’t normally see. San Pietro’s story involves two lovers – Ennio and Tosca. They met in Treviso where she lived and he worked. They swore eternal love and vowed to marry, dead or alive. Technically, two corpses marrying would be impossible as they’d be unable to say the vows and you don’t even want to think about the wedding night. Mind you, Corpse Bride managed it. Ennio, on return from a job in Florence, became ill and died within hours. Tosca didn’t know. The following night, Tosca was in bed and heard Ennio call to her from the courtyard. She ran to the window and he said, “hurry up and get ready, then come downstairs without saying a word to anyone. We’re going to get married in Venice.”Venice

Now our response would have been something along the lines of “get off our land,” but Tosca, although confused, was so in love with him that she didn’t argue. We suspect this is how most marriages happen. After a while of walking, Tosca offered Ennio bread. He said “don’t you know that the dead don’t need to eat?” A gust of wind then transported them to San Pietro. We could’ve done with that magical wind today – saved our poor feet. Tosca was too terrified to scream. Ennio left her outside the priest’s house while he went to fetch witnesses. Tosca shouted to the priest for help. The priest ran down to let her in so she explained the story. He didn’t believe her. To be fair to him, it does sound made up. Magical winds? Dead groom proposing marriage? Hollywood has probably already done this and it probably stars Johnny Depp.

Venice

San Pietro

Then the priest looked out the window and saw Ennio with a group of musicians. He had buried Ennio that day and knew he was looking at a band of dead souls. Ennio said “I want my fiancée, because we swore that dead or alive, we would be married.” The priest said “Away with you, you damned soul. Go away, you and your friends.” Ennio “Give me at least her ring finger or I will never leave her alone.” The priest told Tosca there was no other choice, (um, how about ‘no’) cut off her ring finger and threw it out the window. Ennio caught it and left with the band. Tosca’s mind never recovered and she refused to leave the priest’s house. The priest looked after her until one evening she left and was never seen again.

San Pietro Venice

San Pietro church

At night, she can be seen wandering in front of the church in elegant 19thc clothing, dressed as though for a wedding ceremony. She wanders and moans as she searches for her ring finger, because without it, she can’t enter the church to be married. We also couldn’t enter the church but that’s because we weren’t dressed modestly, not because a priest had chopped off our fingers. Plus you had to pay to enter and the ghosts haunt outside.

We made our way back to towards our apartment and en route, bought ourselves a flail. Y’know, typical Venetian souvenir. Then we ended up by the Fondamente Nove, which is also haunted by the girl who was never buried. On 29th November 1904, Francesco Quintavalle, captain of the vaporetto “Pellestrina” left Fondamente Nove for Burano, despite visibility being almost zero. Two gondolas rowed by Antonio Rosso and Andeto Camozzo were filled with inhabitants from Murano on their way back from Venice. They waited for Francesco to pass the tip of San Michele then left to ferry  their passengers home. Francesco passed the cemetery then decided to reverse. He didn’t see the gondolas and crashed into them. Rosso’s gondola split in two and sank. Four people were pulled on to the vaporetto, but five women disappeared. Rescue efforts began immediately and lasted through the night.

Fondamente NoveSeveral hours later, Maria Tosa Bullo was seen clinging to a post. She was taken to Murano but died a few minutes later. Lia Toso Borella and Amalia Padovan Vistosi’s lifeless bodies were found the next morning in the stern of the gondola. The remaining two passengers – Teresa Sandon and a little girl, Giuseppina Gabriel Carmelo – weren’t found.

In September 1905, Teresa Sandon appeared to her sister in a dream and said “pray for me, for my soul, because my body is still imprisoned, but if you pray it will be freed from the bindings that hold it to the bottom of the canal, and I can rest in blessed ground.” Ten days later, a battered body was found by two fishermen in the canal of the ‘Bissa’ towards the island of the Vignole. The scarf she wore identified her as Teresa.

Giuseppina was never found. But on foggy nights, a floating casket can be seen, lit by candles so ferry boats don’t crash into her.Fondamente Nova

We returned to our apartment to rest our aching feet in a saucepan of cold water and write the blog. After an hour and a half’s rest, we headed out for food and ended up in a pasta place. Tom, Amy and Lesley all ordered. We tried our best to explain to the waiter ‘vegano’ but he couldn’t speak English and gestured for us to point to what we wanted on the menu. We pointed out chips, but ‘what are your chips cooked in’ and ‘are they cooked separately from the meat/fish’ wasn’t available to point at. We didn’t have internet access to Google translate either. We’d just about mastered basic Italian. So we just said ‘no food’. It’s easier that way. He then seemed really affronted that we were taking up breathing space and not eating as he brusquely gathered our glasses, cutlery and plates and marched off. Calm down, sir, we’re just not eating. It’s not like we punched your mother.

vegan gelatoWe then returned to the chip shop for our meal then headed to one of the gelato places on our list that did vegan gelato. We had the cherry/vanilla and it was even listed as ‘vegano’. This is what we like to see. Is it really so hard to just add ‘vegan’ to a label on food? Whilst we ate, we made our way to a pub we had seen last night – The Devil’s Forest. It turned out to be an English pub. Which meant it had football on TV. Real Madrid and Naples. We had to constantly endure deafening chants of ‘Napoli’ as we tried to play a great card game, Million Dollars But. The guy next to Lynx kept knocking her and she was sorely tempted to punch him, but we’ve never started a bar fight and would like to keep that record clean.

The pub had promised us wi-fi but the barman didn’t know the password, so we returned to a café whose wi-fi we had used before and had memorised their password so we could lurk and use it without buying anything. We know that’s bad etiquette but we needed it to access our email as our host had emailed us our apartment’s wi-fi password. That would have been useful before. Lesley then joined us and bought a coffee. We hurriedly uploaded our 200 photos under the waiter’s suspicious gaze. The upload was slow. Lesley had finished her coffee and was ready to leave. The waiter watched us. The upload icon was spinning. Lesley stood. The waiter moved closer. The photo upload froze. We avoided eye contact with the waiter. The photos uploaded. We shut down the laptop and fled before we had to buy a drink we hated. Now we know how Jack Bauer feels when he’s downloading information onto a usb stick while armed men hunt for him. Note to selves – sit further away from the establishment whose wi-fi you’re stealing.St Mark's Basilica

The Italian Job

Venice

the ferry port at Marco Polo airport

There must be a circle of Hell reserved for packing and constantly being a kilo overweight. It’s no wonder we start suffering from packing anxiety a week before we leave! Preparing for holidays is the meant to be the exciting part. Not for us. We get so anxious that we don’t have enough food, or money, so we take way more than we need. We also get anxious that we’ve forgotten something and that our luggage is too heavy. We have a scales so we can test it, but once we’d added our customary vegan shortbread, our suitcase gained weight faster than people at Christmas. Who knew shortbread would put so much weight on? Fortunately, sacrificing one carton of soya milk and an ice block helped the weight issues. But then that made us worry that we won’t find somewhere we can eat. We also worry about getting to and from the airport and finding our apartment.

VeniceWe got up at the ungodly hour of 2:30 a.m. to leave at 3:30 a.m. Junctions 25 – 26 of the M4 were closed, so they diverted us back on to the M4 in the opposite direction. Diversions signs said to get off at J27, so we did. And followed the diversion signs all the way back to J26. Maybe this was another circle of Hell we were trapped in. This time, when we got off at the slip road, we used our classic trick of following the car in front and hoping it knew where it was going. It did. We managed to find Broadfield farm with no problems and just had to wait for the farmer to finish milking the cows to get a lift to the airport. Travelling isn’t all glamour y’know.

VeniceOur suitcase was exactly the weight our scales said it was, so there were no embarrassing incidents in baggage area. Although us and Tom suffered the body scanner and a vigorous pat down from security. We assured the woman that the metal showing up on the image was in fact our underwire bras, but she had a good feel just to make sure. She even checked Cat’s hair. Nothing hiding in there, love, but we hope you like the feel of wax on your fingers. On the plane, Cat was sat beside a couple who hogged all the window space. Lynx felt horrendously sick all plane ride and just about refrained from vomiting into the doggy bag in her pocket.

Venice

finally at our apartment

We managed to book tickets and find our way to the Alilaguna ferry with no problem. Are we…becoming responsible? Will we finally battle our travel anxiety by proving to ourselves that we’re competent? You know what pride comes before. And our fall was about to be more epic than Lucifer’s. Though we were sadly not given a kingdom to rule.

VeniceThe ferry ride in was lovely. The ferry stopped at Murano, which is famous for its beautiful glassmaking. It was our first visit to Venice. We had to do it in style. It would be the first of many boat rides. There was a boy on the ferry we could have cheerfully thrown over the side to swim with the fishes. He spent the entire ride reciting numbers and working out Maths problems to show off to his mother what he’d learned. Why don’t children come with off buttons? Come on evolution, this would be valuable to the survival of our species.

Venice

Rialto Bridge

Then it all went to shit. We were supposed to meet someone to take us to our apartment. In hindsight, we should have waited longer. Although further hindsight revealed that wouldn’t have made a difference. Nobody could get hold of the person who was supposed to meet us and we couldn’t get hold of our host. We decided to find our apartment ourselves using an online map. The online map is a dishonest charlatan. We ended up walking for over two hours, to the middle of Venice, lugging our 20kg suitcase, 8 kg hand luggage and 7kg rucksack up and down hundreds of steps over the many bridges. If we don’t have muscles by the end of this holiday, we will be pissed.

VeniceWe ended up by some sort of school, judging by the amount of screaming kids in the courtyard. That noise was really not helping our stress levels – noise stresses us out at the best of times. We managed to get in to what we thought was our apartment building. A resident informed us we were in completely the wrong part of Venice. And seemed more concerned about who let us in and getting us out as quickly as possible.

Venice

this is where we ate lunch most days – by the Grand Canal

We returned to the Rialto Bridge and decided to ask for help in a handbag shop. We met a lovely guy who not only got out a map to try to find it, but also found a street address book and tried to phone our host for us. When we told him we were from Wales, he said “Swansea or Cardiff?” His mum was helping him, though she didn’t speak English, so he was translating for her. You sir, are a hero.

VeniceWe eventually found the right apartment and waited for an hour in the entrance hall. Still no sign of our host. Luckily there was a settee in the corner, which we named the settee of despair. We returned to the ferry port. Turns out, we were about 5 minutes from our apartment. We were about as happy as someone sitting comfortably on an Inquisitor’s chair. We texted our mum to tell her what was going on, so she suggested phoning Airbnb and got us the number for the Italian one.

Venice

it’s carnivale time in Venice

We spoke to a lovely guy called Luca. He managed to get in touch with our host and she rang us back. She was currently in Brazil. She and her husband continuously tried to get hold of the person who was supposed to meet us but she wasn’t answering her phone. So they arranged for someone else to meet us. Someone who couldn’t speak English. Meanwhile, Tom and Amy managed to salvage some of the day by finding a chip shop that did vegan chips. Luca rang back to see if we were ok and told us to get some food and drinks, photograph the receipt and email it to him. He’d then reimburse us up to €50. He was so nice and phoned us several times to see if we were ok and whether we’d got in to the apartment. That’s customer service for you. A couple entered the apartment building, saw Cat and stopped dead. The woman looked genuinely  terrified and refused to walk past her for a minute. When she did, she passed by as far away as she could then hurried on. Was it the blue hair? The piercings? Or the murderous look due to the shitty day we’d had? It was the blue hair, wasn’t it?

VeniceOur host arranged for someone to meet us at 6 outside MacDonalds. Luckily there was only one MacDonalds nearby so while Tom guarded our bags, us and Amy headed out to meet our new greeter. We had fifty minutes to kill so wandered into Lush. A smiley man greeted us and insisted on rubbing pink heart soap on our hands then giving us a hand massage. It was a Valentine’s offer, apparently. Rub away, sir! Another man tried to persuade a couple to accept the soap and massage, but they refused, so Lynx volunteered again. We were then dragged over to crumble some powder into our hands then wash them off in this soft foam. A lady then gave us the same soap and massage treatment. So while Tom sat alone with our bags, we were getting hand massages. We’re not sorry, we deserved it.

Venice

looking towards the Bridge of Sighs

The lady arrived on time and took us to the apartment. Luckily we were in the right place. She walked at a blistering pace and didn’t slow as she climbed the many, many stairs to our apartment. By the time we were halfway, our thighs were burning like Hell’s fiery lakes and we were tempted to tell her to go on ahead and leave us to die on the stairs. We had to lug our 20kg bag up the stairs. Our apartment is on the fourth floor and the stpes get steeper the higher you climb. There is no lift.

VeniceBut we were finally at our apartment and it was lovely. We unpacked, did our 130 squats (we’re doing the 30 day squat challenge) and marked off the haunted places on our map then decided to head out and explore while we waited for Lesley to arrive. Venice is so much nicer when you’re not dragging nearly half your body weight up countless steps and glaring like gorgons. We made our way down to San Marco but somehow managed to miss St Mark’s Square. We blame it on being dark. And on us not looking left. And poor map reading. Venice is lovely to walk around at night. There’s not much nightlife, so there are no drunken louts and the streets aren’t crowded. It feels safe to walk around, even down the narrow alleys. Luckily there were no little girls in red coats leading us astray.

16819074_1450718771637061_4416583587394694314_oLesley arrived at 10:45 so we went to meet her, took her back to the apartment so she could drop her bag off then went to find the nearest pub. Which wasn’t very near at all. In fact, we wandered across half of Venice until we found a tiny bar and had lovely vodka and lemonades. We have tried to find this bar again since and have failed dismally. Maybe it never existed. We got back to the apartment at gone midnight. Our aching bodies had now given up.

VeniceThere’s one thing we’ve noticed about Venice – there are a lot of lovely looking men around. The level of attractiveness just seems to be generally higher than we’re used to. We might need to make Italy a regular holiday destination.

Installing Updates

Sorry, it’s been two months since our last blog post. There just hasn’t been any news to report, apart from countless rejections and we save those for Twitter. Though we have had an acceptance – To Sleep, Perchance to Scream, a story we wrote back in 2008 and have recently reworked will be appearing in Thirteen Vol 3: The Neverending Nightmare. We tend to hibernate from ghost hunting/urbex in the winter ‘cos it’s bloody cold and we’d rather not freeze to death and become ghosts ourselves. Though that would mean we’d finally get some on the show. We’ve been busy working on a new project which we’re very excited about – our first comic! The fantastic guys at Hellbound Media asked us to write a short comic for them based on monsters from the silver screen and naturally, we said yes. We’ve been wanting to move into comics for a while but had no idea how to write one, as it’s a very different format to short stories and novels. But with their help, we’re learning and are now working on adapting another story into a comic.

Silent DawnIn December, we released Silent Dawn, our first YA book. We decided not to tone down the horror for a younger audience. We were reading adult horror at 12 and we turned out…anyhoo, it is available on Amazon in ebook and print. We’re currently editing The Devil’s Servants, set during in 1649 during Edinburgh’s witch trials. It’s sort of a sequel to The Malignant Dead. This will be our next release this year.

Birmingham Horror ConNow it’s February, con season is starting. On Saturday we were at Birmingham Horror Con and had a great time. People who met us at Horror Con UK in Sheffield came to see us again and some online friends showed up as well. We spent a long time cuddling snakes and faced our lifelong fear of spiders by holding a tarantula, Pandora. It’s something we’d never thought we’d do and we’re pleased we summoned the courage to hold her. We’ll probably still flee in terror the next time a garden spider scuttles towards us but for a few minutes, we were brave. And we have photos to prove it.

Birmingham Horror Con

Cat and Pandora

Birmingham Horror Con

Lynx and Texas

We’ve also been busy with our new obsession – polefit. We haven’t been this obsessive about an exercise since horse riding which we gave up when we were 16. Depression’s a bitch. Though we have an intense fear of being upside and falling, which doesn’t help when we have to do upside moves and let go with one hand. One day we hope to be able to do them without being scared, but that’s a long way off. Though it’s better to be scared and concentrate on doing the move right then throwing ourselves into it and fucking it up. It took us 11 years to get over our social phobia, so we’re hoping to conquer this fear much quicker.

Polefit

Lynx doing an Upside Galaxy

We’ve improved a lot since we started in September  – when we started, we couldn’t straighten our legs because of tight hamstrings. Due to doing flexibility stretches every day, we can now straighten them and thanks to a two hour flexibility/contortion class, we are now closer to doing the splits! We also have a pole in Casa Raven and spend a lot of time watching Polefit videos on Instagram and wishing we were those ladies! Now that our legs are finally on display, we need to tattoo them. At least we potentially have a new career when we run out of money. Twin Goth poledancers hasn’t been done before. As long as we can keep our clothes on. While we enjoy giving people nightmares, we prefer to do it through our writing, not through inflicting our nudity on people. Check out the video for our first three months of Polefit.

Cat doing a Reverse Layout

Cat doing a Reverse Layout

Next week, it’s our birthday and we shall be spending it in Venice! We’ll arrive on Valentine’s Day and while the Italians have only recently started celebrating it, Venice is meant to be one of the most romantic cities. So naturally, we’ve found all the haunted, gory locations and will be visiting them with Calamityville regular and fellow birthday girl, Lesley. Other Calamityville regulars Tom and Amy are also joining us but as it’s their anniversary, we shall leave them to their romantic slushyness and go off chasing ghosts and little girls in red coats. The carnivale will be on while we’re there. We also plan to visit Verona and recreate the famous Romeo & Juliet scene on the balcony. We’ve been practising important Italian we’ll need – chips, ice cream, vegan, bill please, hello, goodbye, thank you and please don’t arrest us.double-figurehead

So here’s a list of our upcoming cons for this year so far if you want to come and say hi.

February 25th & 26th Digicon – Doncaster.

March 4th and 5th Cardiff Film and Comic Con (we’ll be lowering the tone at Hellbound Media’s table)

March 11th Optimus: A touch of horror – Bristol

April 21st – 23rd Whitby Goth Weekend Bizarre Bazaar (we’ll be in the Pavillion theatre)

May 6th Oldham Comic Con we’ll be doing a reading, though haven’t decided which book we’re reading from.

July 1st & 2nd Swansea Horror Con (we’re guests! Well, we do have Swansea blood, so it’s only fair.)

July 15th Edgelit – Derby

October 14th Bristol Horror Con

October 28th & 29th Birmingham Horror Con Halloween Special.