qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Waiting for Godot

kharin and I spent last week on holiday in Venice. To be honest, I leave the detail of the itinerary to kharin as I just enjoy being away, it's rare that I have specific things I want to see.

Italy has the most aged population in the world; Venice has the most elderly population in Italy. As always, fellow tourists often provided the best, though often excruciating, entertainment: one night we found the only Canadian who wanted to become a US citizen, on another we had the misfortune to be sat next to an American/Australian party who had just come off a cruise ship (most days we saw several such floating hospitals passing by), and being of a certain age, proceeded to discuss their mutual ailments and conditions.

It has to be said, Venice is a city of contrasts as much as of anything else. Yes, it is very beautiful; but it is also very, very spoiled by the tourism that beauty brings. The Doge's Palace was impressive, inside and out; but in general, the area from St Mark's Square to the Rialto Bridge was every bit as bad as the Northern Line, or Oxford Street at Christmas. Fearing the Great Stink, in fact the aroma was more one of a gentle sea air with partially-combusted hydrocarbons. The water buses were (very) punctual and practical; as the books said, it's the most beautiful trip possible on public transport when you trek down the Grand Canal this way. (Or pay 30 euros for a tour boat, or yet more for a gondola).

There's much more to Venice, though, and the main island group is only a couple of miles or so across. In the outer districts of Dorsoduro, Castello, or Cannaregio, the buildings, streets and canals were just as beautiful but often near-deserted. The island of San Michele hosts the city's main cemetery: I presume in an attempt not to contaminate the water supply, graves are often tombs stacked above ground, in an arrangement reminiscent to me of B&Q or Ikea. Murano is a one-trick tourist trap with its glass industry, but we used it as a staging post on the trip out to Torcello, the site of the first settlement. The quasi-marshland of wilderness was quite a contrast to the city; there was a small museum alongside the inevitable basilica.

One has the impression that every Renaissance artist worth his salt had an endless supply of models prepared to get their kit off for a Madonna col Bambino. Nowadays the Catholic Church instead offers calendars featuring pin-ups of their hot priests (the images are certainly work-safe; the verbal content, or sentiment, is perhaps more debatable).

Strangely, the hotel had allocated us a room with a double bed, though we'd asked Expedia for a twin room. We decided that as they were not bothered, neither were we.

The food was adequate though, like everything else, expensive. The choice was limited; most restaurants had pretty much identical menus; we were strongly tempted when we discovered a Chinese restaurant, simply on the grounds of variation. I did have some very good mussels in a spicy tomato sauce, and a delicious monkfish in balsamic vinegar, but not on the same night. The wine was best in the two places we visited which only listed vina casa.

About half way through the holiday, I started to go down with a cold. Fortunately it didn't really take hold until the final day, though I've had two days off sick since coming back. A pigeon shat on my hand on the penultimate day, just to give me the full Venetian experience. Vote Ken!

Null points to BMI for not providing a meal, as with SAS last year; this seems to be standard on European scheduled flights nowadays. Though, as the air ticket is billed separately, the BMI price didn't seem to be no-frills to me.
Tags: europe, exhibitions, places, travel
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