Articles By Gord
As I see it... Venice

April 2007 issue of Vibrant Magazine, view the actual article (including images).

As I see it... Venice

Do you need to be, or want to be, or are you already in love?

Then it is to Venice you must go. Venice; it is beautiful, wondrous, enchanting, and romantic. Go, and allow yourself to be swept up by its magic. Magic that is created as much by the city itself, as the person you are with.

Venice; a fairy tale city, with not such fairy tale prices.

If you are single when you go, Venice will capture your heart. You will dream and fantasize of sharing that moment with one you love.

If newlywed, the intensity of your passion will only grow, heated by your Venetian experience.

And, if in a marriage of some duration? (Well, that's a bit of a crapshoot.) Venice should reawaken all of those faded hopes and imaginings, and likely two or three of the fantasies.

Having said all that, the first time I visited Venice I came away hating the place. Our visit came at the end of a two-week vacation in Italy. I was totally exhausted. Not from travel, but from digging into my pockets to buy this, pay for that and spend, spend, spend.

And the crowds. Hordes of people, and I do mean hordes, jamming St. Mark's Square, pulling us, twisting us squeezing us. HELP!

I didn't care about the Bridge of Sighs, a gondola ride or the Grand Canal; I just wanted to go home. Clicking the heels of my Nike runners together, I repeated, “There's no place like home. There's no place like Brantford. (Boy, ain't that the truth.)”

So why the sudden change, you ask? How did I swing from hating the place to loving it?

Two moments in St. Mark's Square. You remember the square. The one where I'd been twisted and jammed? That square.

The first occasion was in early June. Catherine and I had risen before dawn. Our bags packed, we had fifteen minutes before the water taxi arrived to whisk us off to the train station. And so to St. Mark's Square we hurried to bid farewell, or riddance.

The square was absolutely deserted. The square was absolutely still. There, alone we stood. In the midst of that enormous square we felt this urge to be hushed, whispering like two intruders as we moved about. We passed where only hours earlier the orchestral bands had played. Passed where tables and chairs had stood crammed with tourists. Passed where hucksters displayed their array of silly battery toys. Dogs that sort of bounced about for a bit then sat and yipped.

But now the square was empty. Empty of all of that prattle, and now we alone were the square. In that moment came my transformation, as hate became love. Love, as Catherine described the first skiff of light cresting the rooftops. Light stealing away the darkness. It was indescribable beauty. It was Venice.

Last August was our second visit.

We'd completed a ten-day cruise that had begun in Athens and ended in Venice. Rather than immediately take off home, we'd chosen to extend our vacation a few days. I mean the opportunity to kick around Venice isn't quite like taking the opportunity to pop into IKEA to buy a table lamp.

On both trips we stayed at a great Best Western Hotel called, the Montecarlo. It was a perfect hotel for us to drop our stuff and take off.

Back to St. Mark's Square, still teeming with tourists, who hadn't lost their ability to twist and pull us. But this time I was more prepared to cope with them. My previous visit had toughened me to their tactics. This time, I felt a wonderful lightness.

I was enjoying the music, the hucksters and their wares, the brilliant sunshine, and the people. Mostly, I relished the people; all different nationalities, flecks and flickers of languages, of laughter and joy from around the globe. It was beautiful.

We strolled away from the square, losing ourselves in the labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys. Streets devoid of trucks and cars. Sometimes the quiet was so intense that again I felt very much like that intruder.

We walked, holding hands or linked arm in arm. I love that necessity of physical contact that is asked by blindness. We wandered lost. Deeper into the heart of Venice, into the lifestyles of Venetians. Windows and doors open, we were privy to conversations and fights, baby's cries and children's shouts. We slipped on past, round a building, a tiny bridge, another canal, it's a magnificent puzzle to play in.

So softened by that Venetian experience, I even agreed to “the Gondola ride.” There just may be no greater test of manhood than the geeky exposure a guy feels drifting about in one of those things. I mean, there you are lounging with your lovely, you've already had “the photograph” taken by one of the gondolier's cronies. Then he starts up with “O Solo Mio.” I snap the guy a look that says: “Hey, hey, buddy, what are you doing? This is goofy enough, let's not be barking for any more attention.”

The gondolier maneuvers along the narrow canals, sometimes using his foot to push away from buildings or to round corners. It is incredibly peaceful once you've escaped the main throttle of people. However, initially it is so creepy, all these tourist folks gawking down at you. They're smiling and laughing and pointing and waving and you're smiling and laughing and pointing and waving back and all the time I'm thinking, “Yeah, pal, you laugh. Wait till your butt is dumped into one of these crates. And oh, it will happen.”

A few weeks later, you're back home talking to your shrink: “I don't know how it happened Doc. I mean, we were just standing there on this bridge and like, this couple came drifting down towards us and the gondolier guy's singing away and I'm like cracking up at this poor sap, who's got like this mannequin smile plastered on his puss and then I remember my wife taking my hand in hers and saying something like, ‘Doesn't that look nice,' or maybe she said ‘romantic.'

"That's all I can remember, Doc. What have I got? I mean, the whole time I was there in Venice I wasn't even thinking about NASCAR or the Blue Jays, I was just happy to be there and with…my wife. I mean, like I was feeling all sort of clunky like around her. Can you help me, Doc?”

“Yes, yes I can. I want you to close your eyes, and now click your heels together three times and repeat, ‘There's no place like Venice. There's no place like Venice. There is no place like Venice.'”

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