When In Venice
To those that know me, it's no secret that my heart lies in Venice. I went for the first time for my honeymoon in 2011. It was the last stop of our three weeks away in Italy, and although I'd been waiting to go to Venice for years, I was also worried about going for fear that it would either not live up to the hype or be nothing but cliché.
I will never forget getting off the high-speed train from Florence, collecting our bags (mine was a vintage hard-case with metal clips and locks that belonged to my grandmother. I thought it was a great way of channelling my inner Audrey Hepburn, but only ended up driving my new husband completely insane as he had to use every muscle in his body to haul it up and down the steepest and narrowest stairwells… Dragging it across the cobbles of St Mark's Square nearly brought the beginnings of divorce proceedings to our 18-day marriage), and walked out of the station in search of means to get to our boutique hotel. The moment we walked out of the station doors, we found ourselves at the waters' edge, water-taxis at the ready. It was unlike anything I had seen before and was completely unexpected. We had arrived in the heart of the city and were faced with the most beautiful sunshine and turquoise lagoon. I squealed like a 6-year-old and hopped aboard a boat. Sitting at the front, wind blowing in my hair, I could not stop looking left and right like some sort of demented puppy, ecstatic with seeing that the reality of Venice is literally how it looks in the pictures, though thankfully without the unappealing scent purported by some.
My husband Nathaniel had booked the hotel as a surprise and delighted in taking me through the winding city (suitcase-wielding, cobbled streets aside), down alleyways that were barely streets, and into darkened corners that opened up into palazzos on the way to our accommodation. I had literally never experienced anything quite like it before. The hotel was right on the bank of the water, where it had a door that only comes up to your hips, and gondolas with singing gondoliers await to whisk you away to some gorgeous sights and tiny nooks of La Serenissima.
We stayed for 2 nights. We wandered the length and breadth of the city and did what all good tourists do and got lost many times over. Somehow, we kept bumping into the same rose seller, who used every leaf in his book to try and get us to buy a rose. He was incredibly charming, but we resisted every time. The third time he came over to us, we promised him that we'd buy one before we left the city. We had the most incredible evening when we headed over to the Cipriani hotel to have a famous bellini and an utterly glorious last meal on the island. The atmosphere, the view and the food were enough to make us feel like we were in a James Bond film. We headed back to the hotel to collect our bags and take a high-speed water taxi back to the airport. We stopped at a random corner to get petrol, and who did we see, walking along a wooden balcony but the same rose seller. He shouted to ask where we were going, and we explained we were heading home, and that we were sorry we never bought a rose. From his balcony he threw a rose down to us and wished us bon voyage and good luck. I'll never forget, rose in hand, racing up the motorway of water with Venice's love and lights disappearing behind us and a few tears rolling down my cheeks, that I felt like I was leaving a small part of myself in Venice and that a rose had never smelled so sweet.