Friday, 24 August 2007

Magical Moment on Holiday in Venice

City Break: Romantic Venice Casts its Spell

“Please pack my bag for me” Richard begged me, “I don’t know what to put in. I’m all indecisive!”

Oh… I thought with disappointment. I was too hopeful to think he might pack a little box with a life-changing piece of jewellery inside. Feeling a bit presumptuous, I began packing Richard’s clothes from his messy wardrobe. Cheer up, we’re flying to Venice, I thought to myself.  

After arrival in Italy’s Treviso airport we took a bus trip to the city of Venice. After a hot sticky journey stuck in a traffic jam, we clambered off the bus and wheeled our suitcases over to the tall city map sign at the bus station. We navigated our way through some busy streets to the Grand Canal and were greeted by a fantastic sight of ageing Venetian buildings with ornate windows and numerous bridges, all lit by dazzling sunlight reflecting from the water. The Iconic gondolas were tied to wooden sticks poking out of the water. We bought our water taxi tickets and climbed onto a motor-boat. After the five minute boat-ride we climbed back onto a stony pathway and did a little searching around the streets lined with market stalls and restaurants. We found our hotel in a narrow street, and climbed the stairs to the dimly lit reception area. Colourful Murano glass lamps dotted the walls.

We dumped our bags and went out to eat at a little nearby restaurant with a view of some beautiful Venetian buildings across the canal, their ornate windows arched and pointed at the top, and the little window shutters swinging open.


After a good sleep, the next day we pottered about and did absolutely nothing in particular. Time slipped through our fingers and it seemed we had spent the whole day laughing together and screaming with delight at the various boat trips, shops, funny people, and random stray cats we came across. We simply couldn’t stop taking photos. (Picture of Richard’s hair taking off!)

By evening we were walking along the lagoon, the moon reflecting brightly from the sea. The gondolas were bobbing up and down in the warm August breeze, creating ripples on the dark shiny water. “How do you know I’m the one though?” I asked Richard, filled with messy uncertainty about what Richard was thinking. I knew he loved me, I just hated not knowing how serious he was. He certainly gave the impression he was serious.

“You just are.” He replied, “I’ve never felt so comfortable and happy with someone, and so cared for. I love you.”


After two more days filled with seeing the wonderful sights, walking, indulging in food and drink, and hopping on and off boats, Venice had truly enchanted us. We had deliberately stayed away from the typical tourist traps, and wondered around getting lost in the back streets of this inspiring road-less city, coming across a new ornate bridge or an impossibly narrow canal every few minutes.

We also ventured further afield to magical little places. Murano, the island where the famous glass is made, and Burano, a modest little island filled with brightly coloured buildings reflecting in the canals. How pretty everything was. I began to wonder if Venice was too romantic, perhaps I was under a spell.  Was I expecting too much?


On our second-last evening we ate at a gorgeous up-market restaurant. We were seated on the very edge of a canal with a view of a series of picturesque bridges, the graceful shadows of gondolas floating by. We munched happily on our delicious chicken, veal and bread, discussing the wine and our exciting day in Murano, having just seen the glass-making. When we had finished our wine and food, we ran along the canal merrily singing Scissor Sisters songs and found ourselves at St Mark’s Square.

We made our way to the lagoon front, the gondolas bobbing in the dim street light. A gondolier steered his boat to the wooden docking area a few feet away from us. “Shall I ask him how much it will cost for both of us?” Richard asked me. “Yeah! Amazing!” I replied eagerly, “I’d love to do that!”

The man told us it would cost 130 euros for an hour. We decided that was far too much money and carried on walking along the waters’ edge. I was so disappointed but there was a limit to how much money we could warrant on one hour, however amazing the hour would be.

“One hundred!” The man called after us. We decided it was still too much. “Oh I really want to, Richard!” I moaned.

“Yeah, I know… It’s a lot of money though. Do you think it’s too much?” He asked.

“I do. I know. I wish we could get it cheaper. I really want to go on one! It’s like the best thing ever in Venice!”

Richard stopped still and thought hard for a moment, he walked back over to the gondolier who was tying up his boat. “Are you sure you can’t do it for seventy? Eighty?” He asked, “My girlfriend was really looking forward to it…”

“No. Sorry – can’t do that. Not possible” the man replied apologetically.

“No worries, thanks anyway,” Richard said, and as he turned to walk away the man looked up. “I can do maybe twenty minute, half an hour, seventy euro?” he said. I grinned at Richard and he grinned back.

“Excellent! Thank you so much!”

We tentatively climbed into the narrow gondola in the dim light from a nearby streetlamp. We sat side-by-side on the little bench in the middle as the boat swayed with its new load. The ornate pointed front appeared to rise up out of the water proudly as the tiny narrow boat bobbed on the water gently and silently. The gondolier climbed aboard and steered from the back with precision and finesse, easing it to the left down a narrow canal and under the eerily lit bridge of Sighs, with his long gondolier pole. The close buildings either side of us hid the moonlit lagoon from view.

The gondola glided silently over the water’s surface, allowing us glimpses down quiet, dark alleyways. Tiny bridges linked stone steps to doorways across impossibly narrow stretches of black water. The aged peeling walls and window frames added a potent sense of history.

Black windows, low bridges and ageing Venetian architecture greeted us around every corner. The gondolier silently navigated the tight bends with precision. The only noise was the soft slopping of water as he pushed the boat along with the pole.

Richard and I sat in silence holding hands and admiring the beauty and intense atmosphere. Time seemed to stretch on and I felt so lucky to be immersed in such a rich experience. I deliberately tried to take in every single thing I saw, every moment.

After a few more minutes, we glided gracefully under a particularly low bridge…

I felt Richard lean in close to me. I waited and after a tense moment he whispered “Will you marry me?” My heart skipped a beat and just a second later, with his words still echoing in my ear, I whispered back to him “Yes!”

How could I have thought he wasn’t going to ask! He gripped my hand tightly and kissed me. The darkness pressed on my eyes and when I opened them the lagoon glittered beyond the canal opening, with the reflection of lights on the opposite side, oddly quivering in the water. We bobbed gently back along to the dock in the tiny vessel, grinning from ear to ear, barely able to speak. The ground felt strangely solid, I couldn’t remember climbing out of the boat.

We said goodbye to the gondolier and Richard gave him a tip, before taking my hand and leading me away from the water. We walked along to the impressively large St Mark’s Square. Was it quite that big before? Staring up at the exquisitely detailed and gilded Basilica San Marco, I wondered fleetingly who designed it. Wait, what? I’m engaged!

“I’m so sorry I haven’t got a ring!” Richard gabbled “I was going to ask you at Edinburgh Castle, but the moment took me, I just couldn’t wait!” He beamed at me,

“I don’t care” I said, “We’re Engaged! We’re getting married!”

A man walked by with an unusual amount of roses, brandishing them at us trying to get some money. I found myself holding a handful of them, and Richard put his arm around me, how warm he felt standing next to me. What makes a body radiate such heat? As I sat on the steps of the imposing Basilica, the bubbles of the Veuve Cliquot Champagne Richard had just bought fizzed around my mouth tastily. How do they get bubbles in Champagne?

The floor felt a bit wobbly, but then again, we had spent all day on and off boats.

(If you like the sound of Venice, why read about a totally different but equally captivating part of Italy - Tuscany! See my destination article below:)

Text and Images Copyright © Lise Griffiths, 2012
All Rights Reserved

Romantic, magical holiday/travel in Venice. City break in Venice - flights, hotel, things to do.

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