Miss Part 1? Check it out here!
I was stressed, sweaty, and starving when I arrived back in my courtyard to discover that a homeless man had claimed my desired bench. Typical.
So I chose a spot by the Grand Canal, with a view of the Ponte Di Scalzi and the reflections of glimmering waterfront restaurants I could never afford.
I smoked the only pack of cigarettes I’ve ever purchased in my life, ate a couple of Rosemary crackers, and let my paranoid, inner-survivalist take over before bed.
I know, I know, a lone, 22 year-old American female on the streets of Europe…. I was asking for trouble. But I like trouble. And I knew I’d never be stupid enough to inspire another plot like Taken.
I had my mace and knife handy. In fact, I was so aware of my vulnerability that I hooked both onto a ring on my right hand.
No creep could sneak up on lil ol’ sleeping me without a nasty surprise to the face.
My second concern, of course, was my luggage. After consolidating belongings and stashing anything of value deep in my in-shirt traveler’s pouch, I rolled out the small bamboo beach mat that was gifted to me in southern France. I stacked my roller bag and Swiss Army backpack (zipper-sides down to outfox any thieves) next to the wall. Finally, I hooked my backpack to both the roller bag and myself, in case anyone thought it’d be easy to walk off with while I slept.
That, of course, was nothing I needed to be concerned with. I deceived myself into thinking I’d be able to sleep.
When I lay my head on my backpack and curled under my miniature pink blanket, the only sound left was the slow lull of the neighboring canal. Without traffic, the water barely lapped against the walls next to me.
For once, the city was still.
The darkness was unsettling. Over and over I would lay my head down, sleep for what felt like ages, and wake up to darkness. No cell phone or watch to tell time with. No stars. No moon. No reflection or indication of either.
The whole night, of course, felt like a dream.
The first time I was startled awake was by the minimal sounds of my homeless neighbor peeing in the corner beside his bench. I think I was asleep before he finished, unfazed.
And I vaguely remember – one of the hundred times I awoke – hearing shuffled movements to my right. The homeless man had slipped away at some point, but two other men were laying out their blankets in the corner behind his bench.
I thought I was imagining it, to be honest. I had some strange, interrupted dreams that night.
Finally, a moment beyond compare. Blue. I saw blue! The night wasn’t near over, but it sure felt like it to me.
Another brief memory, so dreamlike: An attractive, Italian man is standing near my feet, unloading a boat. It must be morning, are people going to work? He smiled down at me, tanned arms rippling his loose shirt as he pulled cargo onto the land. I’m still wiping drool from my face as he says in English, “Hello,” still smiling!
Was it a dream? Who cares.
Next thing I know it’s light.
The two men who arrived midnight are picking up their blankets and waving to me “Bonjourno!!” I wave back, and then hide my face in the other direction.
This is the fun part of the story where I make a lot of international family albums, because in turning, my groggy face was greeted by boatload after boatload of recently arrived tourists. I’m sure they’d all just disembarked at the nearby train station, as each and every face was obscured by a camera lens or camera phone. Taking pictures.
Should I wave…?
I hid my mace and beach mat among my belongings, and ate a couple of dried plums while I started my morning walk.
Venice has far too many secrets for me to have discovered during my two, vastly different visits. I will share a couple of my favorites, but know that I stumbled upon both on accident. I have a sort of reverence for Venetian secrets because of this. The city knew right where to lead me to tell its story.
When I was “studying” abroad in southern France, one of my girl friends swooned as she fantasized about traveling to “that love bridge in Venice,” where lovers lock their names together and throw away the key. Well, Amy, I found it! It’s the Ponte dell’Accademia, near Piazza San Marco, but a bit off the beaten route.
Well it turned out to be a beautiful accident, and the perfect spot to photograph boats and locks alike.
More interesting that the bridge, in my opinion, was The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World.
Nestled between walls in one of thousands of unmarked alleys, this treasure was the hardest to witness without money. I wanted to walk away with my arms full of books. And maybe that cat.
I found out months later that my mother and sister happened upon this same bookstore during their trip to Venice. I also found out from them that the owner or manager or some head honcho is an incredibly inappropriate pervert. They laughed about it, of course, but some people could be offended so visitors you’ve been warned!
Whether it’s perverts, homeless, and pigeons, or gondolas and a 5 star hotel, the whole picture of Venice is something any traveler should embrace and explore. I’m not saying sleep on the street. In fact, I don’t recommend it – although I know the best little courtyard to find! But I loved Venice because it gave me exactly what I wanted: dynamic stories, stunning pictures, and undefinable, enduring memories.