Thursday, 24 June 2010


Our next destination -- our real destination as far as I was concerned -- was Venice.  I've taken a number of vacations just to get away from cold weather, to distract myself from the pressures of work, but Venice is a place I've always wanted to see and I've no idea why we haven't been before.  It looks just like the pictures but of course the pictures are more fun when you get to take them yourself.  I've always heard that Venice smelled bad, but unless we were passing a sewer maintenance project, I can report that it smells fine. 
Upon leaving the train we found a queue outside a booth with signs about tourism and accommodation.  This was the first time we've been approached by touts, men who want you to skip the queue and come to their hotel.  We resisted on the basis of resisting anyone who approaches us first to sell something; "Don't call us, we'll call you" has worked well for us.  Turned out we were standing in the wrong queue (it was for event tickets) and we could have just walked into the accommodations booth, but never mind.  

We got a room about 5 minutes away, in a one-star hotel.  The first night was 120 Euros, the second 95 and the third 75.  I wondered if we stayed long enough if it would be free.   Our criteria were a) city centre and b) has a bathroom.  The room was lovely:  

velvet headboard, Venetian glass chandelier, modern shower, marble floors, 

enormous shuttered windows with (Venetian) blinds.  We were happy.  

No TV - even better.  It had a phone, but who cares?  No room service, no on-site restaurant (bar a minimal bread and coffee breakfast), the desk is not manned at night.  -They give you a key to let yourself in the front door; what more do you need?  We later put our hands on a hotel guide with all the details and I plan to study it, but I doubt we'll ever work out the hotel rating system.  I wasn't worried though.  If we'd hated the room we would have left and returned to the tourist information office.  We've done it before in Amsterdam.

Anyhow, you come into Venice via the sea.

You step out of the (very elegant) train station and there it is right there:  

The Grand Canal.  Amazing.  Venice is all about bridges, balconies and boats.  

I'm sure there were at least as many tourists there as in Verona, but they seemed to move along in groups, like shoals of fish washing in and out on a tourist tide.  You get a bit of respite here and there.  Or maybe I was just learning to swim.

Imagine having a boat instead of a car, a boat instead of a commuter train (vaporetto), canals instead of roads, bridges instead of overpasses,

a pier instead of a driveway, a back door that steps out into the sea, a gondola instead of a taxi, a balcony instead of a picture window, a roof garden instead of a back yard.   One of the things I loved best about Venice was the absence of cars. 

Imagine being wealthy enough to live in a house with a huge walled garden shielding the house from the main road, and that backs onto the Grand Canal.  

Everything looks pretty tatty, if sometimes colourful, 

from the outside, but Europeans don't usually bother much with the appearance of the outside of their houses.  They save their efforts for the inside and it can often be unspeakably grand behind the half rotten front door.  Besides, for a woman who falls in love with houses for their potential (not to mention men, on occasion), Venice is a dream come true.  We soon found ourselves laughing about 'Vende' signs: "There's a fixer-upper!"

Of course, Bill spotted the waste bins with the naked ladies on.  How artsy can you get? 

Bill was thinking that the place was built on limestone piers, but turns out it was actually wood, which doesn't decay in seawater.  I know there are places along the River Tyne where wood imported from Scandinavian forests was dumped into the seawater to harden for a few years before being used as building material.  There seems to be some doubt about whether Venice is still sinking, but it does suffer from spring and autumn floods and the ground floor of many of the old buildings is no longer usable.  Global warming can't be good news either.
However, Venice does obviously have a roaring tourist trade and in the past its great wealth came from trading with the East.  Marco Polo is quoted as having said that all the gold in Christendom flows through Venice.   So, there is lots of wonderful history to learn about here but for us the best part, beyond what you could see just walking around, was that it was 21:15 and 25 degrees (that's 9:15 pm and 77 in American).   

Sheer bliss...


James said...

Just wanted to thank you for this series, I am really enjoying it.

Shelley said...

Why, thank you, James. Can't tell you how pleased I am that you like it. Good to hear from you.

Pauline Wiles said...

Wow, I wonder what the going rate for a fixer-upper in Venice would be? And imagine the challenges of fixing up, if all supplies and equipment have to travel by canal?

Shelley said...

Struggler - We didn't even check the prices, and we often do just for the fun of it. The train could carry goods just as it does people, no doubt, but I can well imagine that as soon as it was known that you had a property in Venice, the price would rise like the tide!