In the hurricane-induced mania of last week, I skipped out on the blog like a deadbeat. Mea maxima culpa! So now – two posts in one day! Ah, it is too much… But Travel Mondays offer the perfect excuse to go “blah blah blah” about travel – and I will not give it up… Since everyone is safely back where they more or less belong now, let’s blah blah some more about where we’d rather be…
All this talk about flooding makes me miss Venice. For its beauty, its bodice-heaving brand of overt and slightly soggy romance, and its complete disinterest in its own destruction – Venice is a Winner! Coming as I do from Cape May, I feel a special affinity for Venice – as it is the first and still the greatest tourist-money-siphoning-trap in all the world. Both are prone to the ocean’s moodier moments. Both have unbelievably, make-you-weep, fabulously splendiforous seafood. Both have locals that can seemingly sidestep your raggedy-tourist existence without ever being blatantly rude. Both have stunning architecture and endless controversy on how to preserve it. Both are sinking, and kind of ignoring it.
And that’s where the similarities end, mes amis.
Venice is a species of Italia that seems to have died in the 16th century… but no one told Venice. They’re good-looking and they seem friendly, but really, they could probably invade you and steal all your best stuff and set up brutal trade blocks with only the slightest nudge. You’re inferior. Deal with it. For one thing – where are you walking? You don’t know. Elderly women in kitten heels will beat you to whatever destination you had in mind, across acres of cobblestones and 28 bridges, without messing their hair. You, however, will arrive at every meal and museum and ancient chapel looking like wild dogs chased you there. Venice feels like wild dogs could chase you there. Or better yet – Pirates. Sexy Pirates. In flowing velvet capes. On a secret mission. If the Doge finds out, the Council of 10 will murder us all on the next bridge! Hop onto this gondola – if you want to live!
Ahem. Or maybe that’s just me….
You know what goes really well with anachronistic, sexy espionage? Really great seafood. I’m just sayin’.
Venice also offers a trip through History (with a capital aych) from the Winners’ perspective. Rome fell. We got boats. Bad stuff happened all over Europe. We kept the rest of the region in line, yo. And… we kept most of their stuff. Years of bratty, yet decorative, one-upsmanship with France ensued. We were gaudier than anyone, ever. We’re new money (from only 600 years ago! scandal!) and our name wasn’t in the Big Book of Rich People. No matter – let’s have the ceilings decorated with angels carrying said Book and pointing at our name inside it. You know – subtlety. At all costs.
Religion, Enlightenment, plagues, seriously amusing tombstones for the victims of various shipping mishaps, courtesans, secret societies, spooky tunnels, the name of the restaurant is embroidered in the lace of its curtains… gelato. Bam. Time for a nap. I wish all my skirts were longer, I wish I had an excuse to scamper about in some sort of dramatic, flowing, cleavage-y thing – which, with the constant flooding, is a deeply unhygienic desire; better yet, I wish I was in tweed and boots and maybe this trench – I wish I had a mystery to solve, I wish, I wish, I wish…
And that’s when you realize you’re lost. On an island roughly 5 miles wide, you’ve somehow been lost for hours. If you were trying you couldn’t be this lost. Two things about being lost in Venice: 1) it’s not so bad, but 2) it’s even better when you’re not.
On night 4, we became desperately, frustratingly lost. We walked forever. We were totally happy. But it was kind of dire when you consider how long it had been since we last knew where we were. “Just keep looking for signs that say Rialto” became our mantra. Lunch, dinner, and cocktails at three places we’d passed along the way had occurred since we last formed a plan. We wandered. It was dark. Places were closing. All the smart tourists had returned to their pens – er, rooms. Can we possibly be this lost? And then we saw it: scribbled in chalk in a desperate hand: “Rialto ->”. It was just scrawled on a pillar. It was obvious to us, in that moment, that other forlorn tourists had once gone to great measures to save us all from a grisly fate. Thank you, previous Lost People. You are like the Donner Party of Venetian Exploration. Except, instead of cannibalism, we know you really just ate your way through six days in every restaurant you passed. But we’re honeymooning, so… Thanks.
The second thing about being lost in Venice? On our final day, we suddenly recognized the long alley that led to the same dead-end courtyard we’d trapped ourselves in like rats no less than 3 times per day of our visit. That’s 21 times being lost in the same alley over a week. How had we never recognized it before? I don’t know. We’re just naturally optimistic, I guess. But this time – this one time! – we figured it out before we’d wandered the whole way down. And we did the most amazing thing ever! We turned around.
Two minutes later, 27 American tourists came barrelling down the alley at us. They were fat and loud and wearing nikes and those slippery-fabric tracksuits and t-shirts with NASCAR drivers prominently displayed upon their rotund bellies. They all but shoved us into the walls of the alley. We did not warn them. We watched them stampede to Nowhere. We laughed and laughed. It might take all week – but they will learn. Will they be as grateful to have finally figured out one thing as we were? That’s up to them. But progress had been made, at least.
And I’ve never been so happy getting lost in my life.