The Toussaints vacation isn’t over yet, but if I don’t write about Venice now, I never will.
If I sound a little less enthusiastic than usual, it’s because I’m in Prague, and as much as I enjoyed Venice, Prague is just kicking ass right now. Look, I’m glad I went to Venice, it was a much-needed addition to my life list of European cities. But–and this isn’t going to sound good–I couldn’t help feeling like I’d been lured into a tourist trap, albeit a beautiful, unique, and soon-to-be-swallowed-by-the-sea tourist trap.
Saint Mark’s was stunning and regal and the church itself quite different from other notable churches I’ve been to. Then there were the pigeons. Now, usually I’m up for making a fool of myself for the sake of the “insert city name here experience.” But honestly…pigeons. Hundreds of pigeons lured into the hands of dozens of tourists who, in any other city, would shudder at the thought of having a pigeon land on them, let alone perch on their shoulder, hovering over their clueless one-year-old in what I’m sure is meant to be a very poignant photo. Needless to say, I didn’t buy any birdseed. It was all I could do not to crouch in the fetal position on the ground every time one decided it had to get somewhere that was directly past my head.
Okay, I think my wet blanket moment has passed. But more generally, while I loved walking around Venice and getting a small peek at a very different daily routine (do you take a boat to work?), I felt like I had fallen for some kind of trick. No matter how hard Colee–my right-hand woman on this trip and another American assistant in Gap–and I tried, we could not escape the tourists, and after two days of extensive (no, seriously) wandering, even beyond the normally crowded neighborhoods, we were at a loss to find a restaurant or boutique that an actual Venetian would frequent. Instead, we found mostly mediocre food at high-brow prices and heard more French than Italian (national holiday, remember?).
All in all, I don’t regret going to Venice. It was almost consistently stunning because it’s just so different from other cities. It reminded me of Mont Saint Michel, the abbey in Normandy that is an island at high tide and connected to the mainland by a thin spit at low tide. The streets are so narrow that it almost doesn’t matter if it’s sunny out, you feel like you’ve stumbled into a city where it’s always dusk, the alleys lit from below by storefronts whose windows are filled with Murano glass and incredible carnival masks.
No pictures yet. My camera is working hard here in Prague. We leave for Vienna sometime tomorrow, and then it’s back to Gap for six whole weeks of work (horrors!). It’s been a great trip so far, and I’m glad to have been able to do something like this for the first vacation.