Venice made me cry: with joy…
Everyone has a dream destination, and mine has always been Venice. For as long as I can remember, the floating ethereal city has been the fairytale I wanted to live out. Naturally, my excitement was already sky-high when we boarded the train from Milan to Venice.
The sight of the water taxis outside Venice station fired my spirits higher and throughout the ferry ride, I kept standing at the helm, looking out at sea, eager for my first view. Despite all the fascinating pictures my mind recalled, I was totally unprepared! The city’s hazy silhouette from a distance kept sharpening as we got nearer…like a perfect painting hung up on a far wall in a museum. With every second, I noticed more colours under the intricate play of light and shade. Finally, we were here!
There was a flurry of activity when we anchored, luggage and passengers offloading from dozens of boats together. The riverside dock was teeming with crowds…tourists with cameras, hawkers with wares, shops with souvenirs and painters with easels. From the port, I caught a glimpse of the monumental St.Mark’s Square (or San Marco Piazza as they call it) and the buildings leading up to it. My unbridled excitement must have been writ on my face, because Vikas smiled indulgently, before giving me a gentle nudge. I had stopped short in my tracks and was blocking the way of the patient passengers behind.
We wheeled away our bags and I followed Vikas as he moved towards St.Mark’s Square, where the throngs were thickening. I was soaking in the sight of the grand Doge Palace and the government buildings with hundreds of symmetrical windows on all sides. It was the strangest feeling, a sort of communion with this huge mingling crowd queuing up to enter the cathedral and posing for pictures. Surreal.
“What’s the hotel address?” I heard Vikas ask. I handed over the email confirmation to him, still staring mesmerised at the cathedral. It was slightly off-centred, wasn’t it? He must have left me standing there, while he walked over to a restaurant asking for directions, but I didn’t notice. All my life I had dreamt of visiting Venice and we were here now. Then why did I suddenly feel a hardness in my throat and why were tears stinging my eyes?
“This doesn’t seem to be the complete hotel address” Vikas looked at me quizzingly. “Well, that’s all I have”, I dismissed the issue. We would easily find the hotel…and this was not the first time we’ve travelled to an unfamiliar city. The real deal: I was still revelling in the magic of my dream come true to take his concern seriously. “We’ll ask someone for directions”, I said, shrugging casually. “How difficult can it be to find a four star luxury hotel in Venice? People would have heard of the hotel and the street is mentioned too. It says it is near St.Mark’s Square.”
The hotel was the farthest from my mind…I was lost in Venice and just wanted time to stop. “Just look at the scene, I coaxed him spiritedly. The scene was farthest from his mind….he was lost in Venice and he just wanted to locate the hotel. We couldn’t have been in more different worlds!
I sighed. Time to exit dreamland and locate reality. Half a dozen conversations and 30 minutes later, we realized that the hotel address was really incomplete. In Venice, everything is near either St.Mark’s square or Rialto! Very few locals could speak English. Vikas was exasperated now. Knitted brows and irritated voice. “How can you not have the complete hotel address? This is the height of irresponsibility”. I was to blame, but would I take the blame right now? I had been shaken out of my spell and was tired from wheeling around a huge piece of luggage, and maybe there was a teeny-meeny feeling of guilt too! “Well, you could have double checked too, why should I have to do everything?” I retorted.
The moment had passed. My tears had dried up. My delighted smile had turned into a scowl. We were huffing and puffing, dragging heavy luggage up and down the little cobbled alleys and canal bridges. Vikas was on an exorbitantly expensive ISD call with the hotel concierge, who was giving live directions using the Google Map. I was following him through charming little waterways, bridges and narrow streets. Finally after 45 tedious minutes of circling everywhere, we finally checked into the hotel, said goodbyes to our egos, rebooted and smiled. We were in one of the most romantic cities of the world…no place to fight for long!
When we walked back to St.Mark’s Piazza later that afternoon, I still felt the magic, but the intensity was mellower. But I didn’t mind that. I had had my moment…that first look would remain etched in my memory forever. And the faux pas was so much more fun now that it was over. Having added a hugely interesting dimension to the ‘plain-old-tears-of-joy’ landing at Venice…it had given us a story of a different kind, to be retold over and over again…lathered in true-blue good humor, of course!