Monday 25 July 2016

The last day

The trouble with sitting looking at beautiful places knowing that soon you’ll have to return to the tedium of reality is it makes you reflect on your life. I’ve really screwed things up royally. Royally doesn’t really cover it to be honest. But you get the idea. How can you be in such a beautiful place and yet feel so sad?

I digress so let’s get back to another beautiful place, Venezia.

My last day. When I was here in March I was told by the receptionist that one day wasn’t enough to see Venice. I can assure you that three days is more than enough when alone and without something specific in mind. Other than the American couple the night before and a little halting Italian when buying provisions I was devoid of human contact and I craved conversation. Mind you, I spend most of my days now craving conversation. I had a vague plan mostly driven by necessity, like the lunatic that I am I’d picked a late flight back to Gatwick which meant I would have the day to kill and no opportunity to go got a nap.

Fortunately the weather was good so exploration was definitely on the cards.

Breakfast was the remains of my previous night’s picnic - thank goodness for fridges - which I nibbled as a packed and got my head together. It took a while but by 10:50 I had returned my key, stored my bag and I was off to find morning tea.

Which was more difficult than I anticipated.

I wandered through a the little streets near where I’d been staying looking at shiny pieces of glass jewellery making a note to return later if I didn’t find anything nicer before finally plonking myself down at a table on the edge of Piazza San Marco. Despite signage and menus indicating otherwise I was told firmly they only did drinks with food. So I left the completely empty café that clearly didn’t want to make any sales and headed to a place that I knew would welcome me. Caffè Florian.

Marching in I took a table ordered before the menu could be offered and pondered what to do next. Not just over the next few hours, but the next how many years. Not the most sensible of things to do before first cuppa.

At least their tea is nice. And the pots are big enough for five cups.

Eventually I grew weary of the endless people wandering in just to take pictures or the heads through the window and headed out in to the sun and set course in the rough direction of Ponte dell’Accademia.

I stopped for a period of reflection in Chiesa di San Moisè, a place I last visited in March and if you’re in the area you must go and see the incredible altarpiece. More importantly even with the constant stream of people sticking their head in and taking a few pictures it’s incredibly peaceful and - rather inevitably - lead to me shedding a few silent tears.

It was time to move.

I stood for a while letting my eyes adjust to the brightness after the gloom of the church before continuing my meandering journey. The next stop was the Museo della Musica on Campo San Maurizio and whilst I visited this in March I went for a second look because it is simply lovely.

A little further on I stumbled on the Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti which along with a number of other buildings was holding an exhibition of modern design. This had only opened the day before and I’ll admit if I’d known about it I would probably have made it my “project” to visit them all. But as time was relatively short this would do.

Predominantly the items on show were made from wood. There were chairs made in interesting ways, beautifully engineered hat stands, screens, a field of pine chips and… a bicycle. Admittedly the bicycle only had a wooden frame but oh my it was quite beautiful.

So it transpires that you get chuggers wherever you are. Outside I was stopped by a young man determinedly trying to persuade people to sign for a regular payment to some charity or other and he really didn’t want to take no for an answer. Which is a pity as it’s the only answer I seemed to have brought with me that day.

I marched on feeling decidedly irritated. Maybe I didn’t want conversation *that* badly.

At the Ponte dell’Accademia I took a few pictures to catch the scene and then just watched for ten minutes or so. Just long enough for me to notice that I could smell fresh melanin being produced and time to take my lily white skin back in to the shade.

I sauntered into Campo di Sant’Agnese bought a tub of ice cream and sat quietly under a tree eating and thinking. It was fairly peaceful and as it was now nominally lunchtime there were a number of other people sitting around eating packed lunches or reading having escaped the office for a short while.

It did occur to me that maybe I should think about finding lunch at some point, after all it was going to be a long day. I’d had an inkling of just how long by a message earlier that told me my flight was delayed, I was impressed, or unimpressed, as I was told this twelve hours before it was scheduled to leave. Apparently this was due to the French air traffic controllers being French air traffic controllers. And it went nicely with the warning I also received that day from the RAC warning me to avoid France unless I had a full tank as there were fuel shortages. I was actually grateful that I’d decided against driving to Venice which had been a brief and irresponsible idea.

I came up with a vague plan, I’d take a circuitous route back to collect my bags from the hotel and stay this side of the Grand Canal until I reached Rialto the intention being that if I found a good spot I would stop for lunch and refreshment. That felt suitably organised. For me.

Off I wandered passing endless boats, canals, fabulous old buildings and wandering selfie sticks. Along the way I would see odd things that I would stop and look at, stuff that caught my eye, but mostly I walked lost in my own thoughts with an occasional glance to see where I was and which way I should go next. If only finding the way in life was this easy.

By the Basilica dei Frari I found the ideal spot, there was shade, a breeze and relatively few people so I sat outside Perla D’Oriente
and ordered lasagna. With a half litre of Prosecco. Obvs.

As I wrote I wondered - as I’m doing now - about the sanity of some of my recent decisions. Self doubt is really becoming an insurmountable issue. I guess this is the downside of spending so much time hiding conversations with yourself, the arguments don’t have to make sense but the impact is nonetheless dramatic. I’m not at all sure how I’m going to resolve this or how I will fill the growing empty space inside.

The lasagna was perfect. So there you are dear reader, if you want the best lasagna in Venice go to a chinese restaurant. The Prosecco was also lovely and went some way to numbing the pain. I could have happily sat there all day but I knew that I must continue - as in life - marching forwards.

The final part of the journey was relatively uneventful - other than being asked for directions and incredibly being able to give them - and within a short time I was across Ponte di Rialto once more and near my hotel. As I really wanted to upload what I’d written I stopped at a small café by the post office, ordered a coffee and failed utterly to manage to connect. Oh well. This was rapidly becoming a non event so coffee finished I went to purchase some earrings I’d seen earlier before finally collecting my bag and heading for the bus stop and the beginning of my journey home.

Ah yes, the bus stop. Of course this being Venice it was a water bus. I was planning on being on Linea Rossa as this was the quickest though in hindsight I could have taken a far slower route as it made little difference. Once on board I made myself comfortable and wondered what time I would make it back to Contrary Towers.

As the bus cast off and headed towards Lido I received a message that I’d received a “charm” on Happn, I had nothing better to do and had a look. It turned out a German, who I’d obviously crossed paths with in San Marco the day before was keen to meet. Ahuh. I pointed out that his timing was awful and if he’d sent the message the day before a coffee would have been great. But now… Difficult.
Still it was amusing to have an electronic conversation right up to the point where it got a little too personal and I had that moment of “oh what’s the point” and put my phone away. If nothing else my battery was dangerously low and my external battery utterly exhausted.

Nothing quite like a dicky charging lead to keep you quiet.

In the end he gave up having finally realised that he was wasting his time. More importantly I reached the airport and marched in, through security and onwards to finding a drink and a place to sit. After all, the airport had WiFi and as writing was the only thing keeping me sane I had to post and move on to writing more.

Goodness my flight was running late.

It was now showing as delayed nearly two hours. At least I was airside so it became just a waiting game. A really long one. On the bright side I managed to find a replacement microUSB lead so I could at least charge my phone, if nothing else I wanted to be able to check trains when I got to Gatwick.

It transpired that whilst the French had caused the initial delay the plane then had a bird strike and had to wait whilst the engineers took the bits out of the engine and make sure all was well. Of course they didn’t tell us this until we were locked and couldn’t run screaming from the plane. Still, the flight whilst delayed was smooth and we rolled in to Gatwick at 00:32 guaranteeing that I was on plan B for getting home.

The other side of the French delays was that many planes had been delayed and all seemed to arrive at once. Passport control was overwhelmed and many people seemed to have difficulty following simple instructions. No, make that any instructions. Oh joy. I just wanted to get home.

Tired little teddy bear.
Thank goodness for Thameslink. By 2pm I was at Blackfriars, all I had to do now was find the nightbus, pity I didn’t know where the stop was. As I emerged from the station looking I saw a selection of black cabs waiting on the rank - what is a group of black cabs called? - once of the drivers asked if I was looking for a cab, actually, yes, but only if they took cards as I was a little short on cash. Fortunately one of them did and hence I was whisked home by a lovely chap who was turning 49 in June. Inevitably he wondered why on earth I had gone to a romantic place to spend my birthday alone and I struggled to explain without sounding like I had totally given up.

It was good to be home. Or at least it felt I was safe. My tainted sanctuary.

And not for the first time I wondered where I would be next.

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