Europe is extraordinary for many reasons, the least of which is that in just 3 hours you can set sail from one country and be in another. Three hours in Ontario (Canada) will get you…a little more into and around Ontario.
By some miracle we managed to get ourselves together and board the 7:30 am Adriatic Jet in anticipation of being whisked us to the most magical and illogical of cities, Venice.
Built on a series of islands and on water, there are no cars in Venice, but rather a canal system that functions as the street. Private boats, water taxis, water “buses” and gondolas each vie for their section of the “street”.
On land the streets are narrow, erratic and without a logical layout. They say everyone gets lost in Venice, so don’t worry about it. Since I have less than zero sense of direction, I’m secretly pleased that, for once, everyone else is lost too.
From the boat we made our way across a series of bridges, and not the kind we’re used to, but bridges with steps, and many, many other people, toward St. Mark’s Square, one of the most recognizable and well known areas in Venice. Apparently 15,000 people pour into Venice every day in the high season and today was no exception.
To accommodate the hordes of tourists, there are many, many rules, including no removing your shirt (men mostly, not sure what the rule is for women), no jumping into the canals (€2,000 fine, and a nasty skin rash), no sitting or lying down in St. Mark’s Square (they have a policing patrol to enforce this) and no feeding the pigeons. Oh the pigeons. There are hundreds, and they all seem to know they are part of the photo op, so the simply walk up to people with cameras and literally look up expectantly for their “close up”.
Absolutely no visit to Venice would be complete without a gondola ride. €80 for 30 minutes…it’s not cheap and it’s a total tourist trap, but really, who comes to Venice and doesn’t get into a gondola?
To become a gondolier, one must be born male, in the city of Venice, to a father who is a gondolier, and undergo years of training (and well worth it, our gondolier skimmed past other boats and stone walls without once scuffing his boat).
All gondoliers own their own boat, which cost about €30,000 and take several years to make because there are only 2 gondola building workshops left in Venice. Each gondolier puts his own flair on the interior boat décor, but all boats are painted black in commemoration of the plague that left Venice decimated. Originally thousands of gondolas criss-crossed the canals, but today only 500 are in existence.
Gondola ride taken, we indulged in gelato, photos on the Rialto bridge, I bought Italian leather gloves and 2 Italian leather purses (on of which is shockingly not actually for me), avoided the guys selling knock off bags (for you pretty lady…good price today) and people watched our way through the day until our water taxi ride back to the boat.
Standing at the back of the water taxi, my hair flowing in the breeze, I felt just like all those movie stars look coming into the Venice film festival…yes, I had a Gwyneth Paltrow moment…but where were George and Amal???