This summer, Price Tags contributor James Bligh and his wife Errin took off from Vancouver to tour a bevy of cities across central and northern Europe.

An intern architect and urbanist to the core, James is unable to travel without sharing his thoughts on some of what he’s seeing, which is just fine by us.

(For those who are hungry for more of James’ musings on architecture in particular, check out his Instagram.)

So we join Price Tags’ newest Urbanist Abroad for a selection of his discoveries along the first leg: Venice.

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Price Tags contributor @j.bligh is on a backpacking urbanist tour of Europe with his wife Errin, sharing his pics and thoughts with our readers – first stop, Venice! “Much like Vancouver, Venice is a port city built and reliant upon the ocean for its success. Unlike Vancouver, Venice's layout of city arteries were set well in advance of the automobile's invention. Astoundingly, we were able to spend four days in the city without seeing a single car, Vespa, or bicycle! That's right, no bikes. Venice is a city connected by canals, bridges (with steps), and narrow alleys requiring one to nimbly dodge passers-by. I assume cycling in Venice would be annoying due to how frequently one would be required to dismount and walk the damn thing. If you don't have access to a boat, you are walking everywhere. There is a sense of equality and community baked into this universal mode of leisurely pedestrian transportation. My primary criticism: the city also widely predates universal accessibility codes, which results in a city that presents many challenges to aging in place. During our journey we were told that many elderly Italians opt to live out of the city so they can get around more easily. Moreover, garbage collection appears to be done on foot with carts!

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Urbanist Abroad @j.bligh’s Backpacking in Venice: “To our pleasant surprise, we found ourselves in town during one of the best times of the year – the Redentore festival: a massive event celebrating the city's brutal survival of the plague, in which roughly 25-30% of the population was lost in 1576. Fireworks are lit in front of Piazza San Marco for nearly an hour starting just after 11:00pm and the Venetians pile into the square in droves. Does the above scene remind you of the Festival of Light, Vancouver? Here are a few differences we noted: 1. The hard surfaces of the plaza floor and surrounding buildings dramatically amplify the boom of the fireworks. 2. The ever-present smell of marijuana has been replaced with tobacco. 3. People are celebrating a meaningful historical event. Perhaps the Festival of Light should be changed to commemorate something that brings Vancouverites together through shared history? Here's one throwaway suggestion: celebrate the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup. Wouldn't that be a riot.

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Urbanist Abroad @j.bligh’s Backpacking in Venice: Venice is replete with such ornament nearly everywhere that only a gem like the Marine Building would compare – and even then only with the typical Venetian urban fabric and not with the icons like Doge's Palace or Ca' d'Oro (pictured here – it used to be gilded too, for good measure). I suspect the inexpensive labour predating the industrial revolution had a lot to do with it. The ornament is beautiful, and provides something pleasing for the eye to rest on nearly everywhere one chooses to cast one's gaze. I long for more detail in Vancouver. Will the advent of 3D printing permit more nuance in facades without the need for excessive manual labour?”

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