The first job of the day was to actually check-in, as I arrived after hours I’d not done the passport thing and I really could do with some breakfast. At dead on 8am I was standing at reception waiting to do my duty and hand over the €3.50 per person per night for the city tax in cash. I’ll admit I’ve always been slightly suspicious of that it has to be in cash. I handed over the €10.50 and he questioned whether I was staying alone. I confirmed I was. Oh that pitying look, I didn’t care, I had a big bed and it was all mine!
Breakfast would be delayed he said, I suspect it didn’t start until about 8:30, I’ve vague recollections from last time but I really wasn’t sure, as I explained to the owner I was happy to sit and wait, I really wasn’t in much of a hurry!
I knew that it had reached the allotted time when he finally asked me what I’d like to drink and with tea ordered, bread and croissant delivered I did the continental thing fetching ham, cheese and dirty cheese. A perfect start. Of course being a pig I had to have some cake too, I mean it would have been rude not to. However there was a lack of fruit so I made a mental note to find the Coop near Ponte di Rialto to collect provisions for a scurvy bag.
As an old clock ticked I closed my eyes to fully take in what was around me, the men talking in the kitchen, the gentle breeze from the open door, a whirr of a refrigeration unit, a cycle being wheeled by. It all conspired to build a rich tapestry of constant changing hues. Finally I opened my eyes, poured some tea into the clear cup and holding with both hands I touched the cup to my lips to savour the warm aroma.
Finally I sipped, my eyes closed and a wall of emotion enveloped me every sense. I struggled to hold back tears as I contemplated every stand of this chaotic journey: a long road that took me from merely existing to living. As I regained my composure I realised how apt it was to be in this kooky chaotic restaurant.
I came here to think. Yes I also wanted to do something to mark the end of my 49th year and didn't want it to be drinking one Jaeger bomb too many in She Soho before crying on the underground. The irony that I've picked a place predominantly filled with romantic tourists walking hand in hand whilst I'm alone is not lost on me. If you're going to think you need things to provoke thoughts, it was a good choice.
There is a young French couple here now, they have exchanged barely a word, their lack of eye contact betraying so much. So much nothing. I have a horrible feeling there is more screeching around my head.
It was time to seek solace in movement.
Don’t they know I have a slightly delicate head after several two many rum and cokes. At least I think that’s what we drank. I blame Clare’s wonderful sister-in-law.
Not that that would happen. Obvs.
I was on a mission.
I moved on.
As I headed towards Strada Nova I passed a small chapel - Santuario Madonna delle Grazie - and headed in not as a tourist to take pictures or look around but rather because I wanted to light a candle for my grandmother-in-law Gertie who we lost a few years before. Now there was an incredible woman who knew how to live life. After a period of contemplation I headed out to continue my quest.
The thing with Venice is it looks bigger than it really is. It takes surprisingly little time to get from A to B even with the endless crowds of brownian tourists attempting to find their way from Z to Q without ever looking away from the screens of their cameras or phones. Can’t people just use their eyes and take in the atmosphere and high definition feel of reality? No, apparently they can’t. As I crossed from bridge to piazza to bridge to piazza I realised I was now in tourist hell. Apparently Strada Nova kind of goes all the way to where the majority of people arrive and the side effect of this is shown in the endless tat stalls, samey cafés and places selling glass. To be fair this seems to be the vast majority of Venice inc., a place to separate tourists from as much money as humanly possible. There is even a McDonalds…
I got to the jewellery store. It was closed. Which would have been a rubbish end to this if it wasn’t for the raffish looking chap in a black t-shirt who produced a bunch of keys and opened the door to the promised land…
Cue a chorus of angels exulting. Quite loudly.
This immediately lead to rapid text exchanges with Jane back home in Blighty to find which colours she wanted. All done with me inside the small store as let’s face it I wasn’t going to let my prey escape now I had him cornered.
And ordered wine and lasagne before the girl even gave me the menu. Bears like lasagne. Honest.
The food was adequate and the wine perfectly drinkable. I wrote a couple of
postcards, people watched and generally felt at one with the world. This wasn’t at all bad. There are definitely worse ways to spend an afternoon.
In time I decided what I really needed was a nap, so it was back to hotel I wandered stopping briefly in another Coop I’d found to collect something for the scurvy bag. It did occur to me that maybe I should post the post-cards so I braved the post-office and thought I was doing so well until they pointed out I needed to take a ticket from a very whizzy machine. I’m sure it said this somewhere but I certainly couldn’t find any sight of any signs.
Naps are glorious things and should be prepared for with just the right amount of ceremony. After a quick shower I closed the shutters and curtains, arranged my pillows just so, put in ear plugs to block the sound of the delivery boats down below and finally drifted in to a deep and invigorating sleep.
Some time later I woke and was happy to see I had plenty of time to go in search of coffee, pastry and a place to write until it would be time to walk around the corner for my evening’s entertainment.
Inevitably I was one of the few people there solo. But this isn’t a bad thing as a solo traveller can find that perfect single free seat that is denied to those in pairs or more. Delighted to find that there was a seat just one row from the front I settled in quiet anticipation of what the evening would bring.
You get so used to seeing orchestras in modern dress - usually black tie - that it’s a delight to see everyone in costume. The evening was a mix of popular pieces from a variety of operas the soloists changing presumably according to their strength. The encore included a reprise of Libiamo ne’ lieti calici from La Traviata but with a difference, a lady was drawn from the audience to be the Violetta. It was all very jolly.
I still didn’t fancy eating much, especially not being in a restaurant alone at this time of night, so I picked up a half bottle of prosecco, some crisps and headed back to my hotel room for an impromptu picnic supplemented by the scurvy bag.
I know it was a little irresponsible but it was to be the last meal of my 49th year and I didn’t want anything fancy or filling. After all I had to be up early as I still intended to watch the sun rise over the Adriatic.
And my fiftieth year…