Saturday, July 16, 2011

'The city of mazes ...'

'... You may set off from the same place to the same place every day  and never go by the same route. If you do so, it will be by mistake. Your bloodhound nose will not serve you here. Your course in compass reading will fail you.'

Jeanette Winterson, The Passion 


Venice was another one of those places where we didn’t do much but wander around soaking in the sights ... and get eaten alive by mozzies (you either roast with your windows closed, or get eaten with them open).

We flew from Barcelona and got a row to ourselves on the plane, so we slept like babies for the entire duration of the flight because that was such a luxury compared to the sleeping arrangements at the airport the night before. Once we actually got to the island of Venice, the owner of the bed & breakfast we were staying in (Venice is too upmarket for hostels) came to pick us up. I suppose they gave up on trying to give patrons directions in ambagious, address-less Venice.

 Our shared suite.

 The view.

 Our window from the square.

You learn three things about Venice very quickly (if you don’t already know them, which you probably do): it’s extremely beautiful, extremely expensive, and extremely touristy. Its beauty, I’ll leave to the photos to take care of:

The best thing about this photo is that she had no idea I was taking it.

If I'd only gotten my camera to hand a few seconds earlier, I would've caught the last exhalation of smoke from the gondolier.


 St Mark’s Basilica.

 I was surprised to see fish this big in the canals; I would've thought they'd be uninhabitably dirty.

But we ran afoul of the city's infamous costliness when we went for dinner on the first night. Still conscious of our new parsimonious budget, we decided we’d just have the cheapest pizza, a Margherita for seven-fifty and, what they hey, a Coke on the side – its price isn’t listed on the menu, but how much can it be? Three, four euro? TRY FIVE-FIFTY MOTHERF***ERZ. Oh, they’ll get you good, those crafty Venetians.

 The exorbitant Cokes.

 500-euro Murano glass balloons.

Another morning we went to ‘Sandwich Alley’, so named for its supposed abundance of thriftily-priced, delicious sandwiches. Not so. Not the delicious part anyway. I caught this pic of Til looking very dissatisfied with hers.

After those mishaps, I’m fairly certain all breakfasts were picnics, eaten in Venice’s only park, also the only place where it is legal to picnic. After eating we would take turns napping while the other one kept watch:

 Moments like this that you remember you're actually eating tree ovaries.

My turn to nap.

 Til's turn.
Lunners (I’ve already mentioned our conflation of two meals per day to save money), there was this cheap, delicious and all-round fantastic takeaway pizza shop right next door to our B&B.

Tilly waiting for our pizza, taken from our room.

 That's our pizza being made in the background.

As for the touristiness of the city, I made a remark early on that you couldn’t see any locals. Everyone was a tourist! Later we read that, on any given day, the tourists do outnumber the locals, and that the permanent population of the island is in decline due to the impracticalities of living there.

Can’t argue with that ...

We had our victories and our losses against the city, in terms of getting where we wanted and getting completely lost. One time we set out to get to the other side of the island, and somehow, forty-five minutes later, we ended up back where we started.

The next day, however, we were able to retrace our footsteps to find a delicious-looking gelateria we'd stumbled across but been too full to patronise, Venchi, on that failed venture. Deuce. Then we did it again the next day. Advantage, Grogbag.

 Found it!

We sat in this spot to eat our icecream and all of a sudden everyone was doing it! Trendsetters.

The feet of sheep.

Don't worry, I picked it out of the water after I took the photo.

The Venetian Vampire of Venchi: Return to Venchi

And here are some assorted photos from our wanderings:

The best thing about this photo is that I had no idea she was taking it (in Soviet Russia, picture takes you!)

You know Tilly, she’s all academia.

You got that right.

A statue outside a small gallery we visited comprised of manipulated images and characters from popular culture, by artist Giuseppe Veneziano.


 Piazza San Marco.

 Don’t ask me. From the other side you could see a letter written on each one, but it was too hard to read.

 Mozart was here.

 Opera on the canal.

7000? Tell him he's dreamin.

Venice was unquestionably beautiful, and we loved it for that. But in some ways, it wasn’t a very nice place to be. Of course, the expensiveness and the touristiness didn’t help, but also the fact that there was just nowhere to sit down. There were barely any trees or streets. There were all these signs pointing to toilets that didn’t seem to exist, and when you finally did find one it would cost you two-fifty. By our last day in the city, we were over it. We were waiting till night to go collect our bags from the B&B and catch the waterbus back to mainland to wait for our 3am train to Rome, and we just plonked ourselves down on this little gap by the water where I’m pretty sure you weren’t supposed to sit. There was a bridge right by us, and as each group of people crested it, they'd notice us sprawled out there on the ground and laugh or point or say something to their friends or, in the case of some Asian tourists, take photos, as if we'd done something ridiculous or revolutionary. Like we’d done the unthinkable. An Australian couple who walked past found it so outrageous that they came and got our camera off us and kindly took some photos for us.

Like I said, I loved Venice, but I think the fact that something as simple, as frank, as lying down on the ground by the water was considered out of the ordinary, is a sign of what type of place it is.


  1. Hi Luke!

    Thanks for your kind comment on my blog, and for inviting me over here. Love the photos, and I plan to stick around. ;)

    Also love your writing as well.

    Enjoy your travels!

  2. Hi Nichole.

    Thanks! Glad you liked mine as well.