Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Awed by the speed of a passing Venetian

Excerpt from Voluntary Nomads, Part Seven: Austria Adventures, Chapter 30:

A week after I ran the Vienna Marathon, Fred and I caught the early morning train for a mini-vacation in Venice. We chose the same quaint hotel where Fred had stayed with his friends a couple months earlier. Ochre plaster walls and antique furnishings provided a mellow old-world backdrop. Fred and I exchanged looks of wonderment as we followed the dwarf concierge up the narrow staircase to our floor. The stage was set for romance, mystery, and intrigue.

We strolled to a small neighborhood trattoria where we relaxed in candlelight and enjoyed the best meal of our lives -- baby clams bathed in an unbelievably delicious wine sauce that sent our taste buds to paradise.

After lingering over a second glass of wine, we meandered back to our room, anticipating sweet dreams. But during the night, our hotel lost most of its romanticism. The windows, open in a vain attempt to catch a cooling breeze, overlooked a waterbus stop. Traffic was heavy and midnight conversations were loud and boisterous.

Well before dawn the next morning, the rest of the romantic air leaked out of our hotel when the fish stall beneath our window opened for business. The musical tones of the fishmonger's patter could have been tolerable, but can anyone luxuriate in bed and relish the smell of dead fish? Ah well, we had plenty of sightseeing to do, so we got up and got going.

At breakfast we learned that sitting down to eat in Italy doubled the bill. A helpful British bystander explained that almost all coffee houses and sandwich shops had a counter where patrons could stand while they ate. He advised us to avoid sitting at a table if we wanted to save money.

We walked what seemed like a hundred miles, seeing all manner of wonderful art and architecture. The pace surprised me. Venetian women in elegant suits and spike heels speed walked everywhere and they gave us lollygagging tourists the evil eye. Window-shopping was definitely unacceptable in Venice. Fred and I reacted to the censure and focused on museums and churches instead of shop windows.

To get another perspective of the city, we rode the entire route of the main waterbus that circled the city and offered a picturesque view from the water. At lunchtime, we got off at a random stop and wandered the labyrinth of alleyways until we found a café. Sophisticated Venice-wise tourists now, we savored our spinach/mozzarella sandwiches while standing at the narrow street-side counter.

At the end of our dream weekend, we boarded the night train and found our sleeper coach for the return trip to Vienna. I recall having some anxiety about what our teenage children might have done for entertainment during our absence. ###

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