Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Italy Motorcycle Diary:15. Kayaking in Venice

 Showered and feeling human again, I headed to the Duomo plaza and met Paul and Dusty. We sat at an outdoor cafĂ©, where I ordered a liter of beer, which is really quite unlike me. I caught up on Dusty’s Swiss adventure, listened  to Paul’s tales of Sorrento and Capri. I got a serious buzz and was full of pomp and swear words.
                “I think you’re annoying the people next to us,” Paul told me.
                “I don’t care what anyone thinks,” I said, peppering my answer with more cursing. “They have no idea what I’m saying, anyway.”
                But I knew Americans were sitting at the table next to us. One of the women in the group kept looking back at me, clearly ticked off.
                My buzz wore off after we ate, and we walked around. We went inside one of the two Medici Chapels, the Sagrestia Nuova, which features several stunning Michelangelo sculptures. We strolled through the outdoor markets. Dusty insisted we go to the food mall for dinner. The mussels were tasty, and the birra inexpensive. The next day we boarded a train for Venice.
                That day went by fast. Walking out to the main canal after disembarking from the train, the weather seemed more tolerable at first. Then came the long walk with our luggage to the hotel. I was a steaming mess when we arrived. But the hotel, the Pension Guerrero, turned out to be a cozy and convenient resting house. It was a Rick Steve’s special. Apparently it was near a bunch of cool restaurants with discounted pricing. But when it came time to eat dinner, we ended up walking around for an hour while trying to find a place. It was insane. We walked everywhere except for that discount zone. Paul discovered the zone later that night, when we went out for more beer after Dusty and I had zonked out. Not that I disliked my dinner — I enjoyed it very much, knowing that it would be one of my last in Italy on the trip.
                The Guerrero’s breakfast was another beautiful thing. Then, swimsuits on, we were off to kayak in the canals. We used the services of Venice by Water, located in a courtyard that — like everything else in Venice — was centuries old. An employee led us through a door into the shop, and we donned gloves and life vests. It was tricky to step off the platform at the back end of shop into the kayak waiting in the green water, but I didn’t take a plunge, and neither did Paul and Dusty.
                We toured block after block with two trusty guides, one in front, and one bringing up the rear. Some of the lanes were congested, and we were forced to grip the walls on one side or another to let traffic pass. All other vehicles had the right away, and we spent half the time dodging gondolas, water taxis, personal skiffs, and cargo-laden barges. But we found quietude in several of the older, more posh canalways that bordered both buildings and the high, concrete walls of 16th or 17th-century courtyards decorated with vines and flowers. Crossing the Grand Canal was a thrill, because we had to time it just right to avoid the fast-moving commercial boats. The sun had been covered by gray clouds for most of our trip — a blessing. Rain poured down as we began our fast paddle across the Grand Canal.
                It felt good to shower off the canal water back at the hotel room. Depressed, I packed my bags. We had time for one more beer session and snack. As we stood in an arcade, the sky opened up. Terrific cracks of thunder were followed by gale-force winds and sheets of rain. The plazas cleared out and a cool breeze wafted in along with the rain. We chatted with a couple of English-speaking German guys.
And the time came to leave the brothers, and Venice. And Italy.
                I caught a late train to Rome, arriving at 11 p.m., and checked into the Best Western Art Deco near the Termini. A big day of travel awaited, and the return to my home and family in the American Southwest. Nothing was open around the Best Western except for a convenience store; I bought some peanuts and a sports drink. But the kindly hotel clerk smiled when I asked him for one last request before bed, and brought me a bowl full of cubettos di ghiacchio.

August 2017

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