Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Seen one bridge? Seen 'em all? (I'm not quite sure, really.)

We pride ourselves in being fairly seasoned in the use of foreign public transportation at this point. We’ve ridden busses in Sweden, trams in the Cech Republic, trains in Belgium, subways in Spain… the list goes on and on. Each place has its little idiosyncrasies of course (would it kill the Italians to mention that you have to validate train tickets in those little yellow boxes on the platforms?), but in general, we’ve got the transport thing under control. So when we arrived in the Venice train station loaded down with luggage and tired kids who had not yet had their daily gelato fix, we weren’t too concerned. Paul purchased our vaporetto passes and we were ready to be on our way.

“We need the 2,” he told me squinting at the route map. Looking up, we easily spotted a “2” sign. We were in luck; the boat appeared to be there waiting for us. “Come on kids,” we yelled, grabbing armloads of suitcases and backpacks and breaking into a run. “Wait, wait, no wait,” Paul called to me moments later as I charged down the gangplank. “This one’s going the wrong way.” We re-traced our steps as he studied the signs again. “Do we want that one?” I asked hopefully, pointing off to our right. “Cause it looks like there’s a boat waiting there, too.” Sure enough, that appeared to be our route, and so again we charged, racing to get aboard. “Get seats near the window,” we urged the kids. “Look out at Venice.” And so they did and so we did. They sat and we looked as we bobbed up and down on the big square yellow boat. One minute we sat. Two minutes we sat. The view did not change. The boat did not move. “When do you think we’re going to leave?” the kids finally asked. “I think,” I replied slowly as I surveyed our surroundings more carefully, “that we’re not leaving ever, at least not until we board an actual boat.” We had raced, it turned out, to catch a loading dock.

After that auspicious start, is it any wonder that I felt lost the entire time that we were in Venice?

is without a doubt the most disorienting city I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s all narrow passageways and little bridges and signs that shed absolutely no light on your whereabouts.

Perhaps signs like this are funnier if you have any sense of direction whatsoever? I wouldn't really know.

Bringing kids to Venice, contrary to the “expert” advice, is absolutely no problem; the back alleys and wide canals provide a rich wealth of sights and discoveries for an enthusiastic child. Bringing a geographically challenged adult to Venice, on the other hand, is probably not such a wise idea. I wandered around Venice for 3 days in a constant state of confusion and disorientation. I've never seen lovelier vistas or more charming views, but damned if I could tell one from another. “OK, so we’ve definitely been here before,” I would announce confidently every time we came to a bridge or stepped into a square. I was wrong every time.

Before long, even my kids were laughing at me. (I can only hope that this means they inherited their father's navigational skills rather than mine.) So I left the navigating to Paul and concentrated on taking my photographs. If worse came to worse, I figured, perhaps I could scroll back through my memory card and use the images as digital breadcrumbs to lead us home. Trust me when I tell you I did some serious weeding out before I posted the Venice photos on Flickr.

Did I adore Venice as much as I'd expected? Meh. I was too disoriented by Venice to truly say that I loved the city. There were a lot of tourists and a lot of mediocre restaurants, and that's generally not a winning combination for me, particularly just coming off the high of our Florence adventure. Nonetheless, Venice is a simply beautiful and incredibly unique place and I'm not just trying for the easy, trite blog wrap-up when I say that I'm so glad to have had a chance to seen it for myself. (At least... I think I saw Venice. It's also entirely possible that I just saw one bridge over and over again from different angles. If so, let me tell you, it was one heck of a bridge.)

OK, kids... say "Mommy's lost again!"


Blogger Steph said...

With my lack of a sense of direction, I would be lost right along with you. Glad that you had Paul there to help guide the way.

It does look like a gorgeous city based on all those pictures of the same bridge! ;-)

8:11 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

OMG, yet another thing we have in common. I couldn't find my butt with both hands if it weren't attached to my body. ;)

8:46 PM  
Blogger Iota said...

I love the idea of digital breadcrumb.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Iota said...


1:42 PM  
Blogger E said...

But the romance...I feel a short story coming on...Lost in Venice.....

8:22 PM  
Blogger Suburban Hippie said...

There are streets like that in Newport Beach: two streets a block apart, both named Dover Drive. Perhaps we ordinary people just aren't sophisticated enough to understand it?

My primary vision of Venice is from a Woody Allen movie, and yeah, it looked (a) convoluted and (b) pretty much all the same. So yeah, I can see that.

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

I have to say, your photos of canals, bridges and doorways look nothing like my photos of canals, bridges and doorways.

Combined, we MUST have seen them all.


9:54 AM  

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