This trip had been a long time coming, longer than most. When my dad passed away he left me some money so I told m’lady we could go on a little vacation and I (well, my dad) would pay for it. I gave her a budget of up to $5,000 and tasked her with doing all the planning. It took a few years before she settled on a destination. It’s not that she wasn’t full of ideas. Rather, the practical number-cruncher in me kept kiboshing her suggestions.
Machu Picchu, Galapagos, Madagascar…these were all great ideas but I kept reminding her that a week in Paris could cost $5,000, let alone a costly excursion to one of these planetary landmarks.
So when she suggested maybe Venice and Slovenia? I said “sure” and promptly forgot about it. She would be internet searching and talking about this hotel or that while I would think she was talking about Vienna or Slovakia. I was so hands-off with regards to the planning of this trip that I literally couldn’t remember where we were going. It became a running gag around the house. “When are we going to Venezuela?” I would ask, and “What will the weather be like in Serbia?” to endless hilarity.
Well, the joke is over now. I’m in Venice.
And it is unquestionably Venice; there are canals, arched bridges, glass shops and pizza places everywhere you look. And it’s stunning.
We flew overnight; the plane was half full. We spied a trio of seats next to us that we were prepared to grab “as soon as we are in the air and after the seatbelt sign goes out”, as per the stewardess’ instructions. Then a mom-and-daughter team of vegetarians stole the seats before takeoff. And how do I know they were vegetarians? Because they had ordered special meals and didn’t tell anyone that they had switched seats. It was curious watching the mom follow the stewardess with her eyes as she went from one passenger to another asking again and again, “Did you order the vegetarian meal?” Finally the stewardess got to the mom, who looked at her with a smile and replied “yes, I did”. I could’ve killed her.
Row, row, row your boat*. I talked myself down.
Another air annoyance: this was my second time finding no video screens on a long haul flight. The new deal is you just dial the movies up on your iPad. Don’t have an iPad? You can borrow one for $10.
Further proof that cellphones and their ilk are the number of the beast.
I managed to sleep for half the trip (one minute on, one minute off) and we landed in Venice at 11am local time. M’lady had booked us a private water taxi to transport us to our hotel and after a long, pleasant-ish walk around the airport we found it.
The water taxi was a fantastic way to leave the airport, flinging us directly into the Venetian world of canal traffic and narrow waterways. What a wonderful, dream-like ride! Too bad our hotel wasn’t straddling one of the canals, other wise the boat could have taken us to the front door. It got us super-close though; like a few dozen feet. We arrived at our hotel too early for checkin so we dropped our bags, poured a pair of coffees to go and did some walking about. Which was absolutely dreamy.
For real, there are absolutely no streets in Venice; only squares, small alleys, and lots and lots of canals. No cars, no bikes; only boats and bridges. Around every corner stands another row of ancient shops selling leather goods, Murano glass, liquor or, lacy dresses, and every alley is staggered with antique restaurants that look like they’re posing for postcards. And if you take any more than two of those corners without being extremely mindful you will definitely get lost amid the wonder. Before we got too deep into the labyrinth we turned around and retraced our steps back to our hotel and checked in. As soon as we got into our room we tried (unsuccessfully) to score presale Gord Downie tickets (yes, even when we’re on vacation we plan vacations) and then m’lady spent the next few hours lapsing in and out of sleep. I, in turn, spent the same few hours lapsing between our room and the maze of jaw-dropping architecture that encompassed all of the outside.
Eventually she rallied and we did a night-time walkabout, hitting the main square (Piazza San Marco) and staring googly-eyed at the ring of palatial buildings that surrounded us on all sides. We bought a couple of beers in a tiny variety store and sipped them in the shadows while three different chamber orchestras battled for tonal superiority from their makeshift bandstands outside three different restaurants lining the square. Touts kept pestering m’lady, offering free roses in exchange for a tip. She tried to politely decline and they only pestered harder. Going forward we’ve decided not to stand for such tourist shenanigans so we concocted a few strategies to get them to leave us alone. My favoured plan is to hold out my hand and say something like, “We don’t need a rose but we’re down on our luck and please, could you spare a couple of euros?” We’ll see how that goes.
By midnight we were back in our room trying our best to stay up late in hopes of encouraging a swift transition to Venice-time. We did pretty well
Speaking of doing pretty well I could already tell that m’lady had done a pretty good job picking our destination. Who knew that Venice was going to be so awesome? Oh right…she did.
*If you examine the lyrics to Row, Row, Row Your Boat you may discover that they provide excellent advice on sidestepping the frustrations that arise from sharing your planet with other people.