Mrs J and I went on a cruise around the eastern Mediterranean, starting in the stunning city of Venice. We thought we’d stay for a few days before boarding the ship. That would be lovely. Wouldn’t it?
Well the stay certainly was lovely. We had chosen the catchily named Hotel Carlton On The Grand Canal, with a clue to its location in the name. It was a great hotel, and you cannot but love Venice. Maybe more about that another time, but suffice to say that when we were due to board our ship, we had to get from the hotel, On The Grand Canal, to the cruise port. There are several ways you can do this. One is to take a water taxi, which picks you up from the hotel’s waterfront and floats you gently along the canal and round a few bends, and drops you at the port. Easy. And €120 – that’s roughly $150, or £100. Excluding, of course, any tip you might feel like adding.
Another way is to take the people-mover from the Piazzale Roma, the square where traffic arriving in Venice has either to turn round and go the other way, or prove its amphibiousness. The people-mover cost €1 – I’ll let you do the conversion for yourselves – and there’s no tip.
We chose the latter for a number of reasons. 119 of them to be exact. So all we had to do was get the suitcases from the hotel to the public square; a distance of about half a mile. No problem, since they had little wheels. Except it was raining. And Venice, for those of you who have never been, has more bridges than sidewalk. Bridges under which gondolas and the like have to pass, meaning they are quite steeply stepped, and unsuitable for little wheeled suitcases, which therefore have to be carried.
We waited for it to stop raining. The rain waited for us to emerge from the hotel, and, as if making a point, simply got harder. The ship, all aloof, wasn’t going to wait at all. Something had to give, and it was us. Off we went, wheeling the suitcases along the side of the canal to the first bridge. Now, since Mrs J wasn’t going to manage to get a suitcase, with 2 weeks’ worth of holiday gear in it, up and over the strategically placed bridge-shaped obstacles, we had our plan worked out. I would carry suitcase #1 up the steps, and leave it on the flat top of the bridge, return to get suitcase #2, take it up the steps with Mrs J beside me, and down the other side, where I would leave both of them, then go back up to retrieve suitcase #1 and carry it down. And this plan we followed, for two bridges, while the weather topped up the level of the lagoon.
By the time we reached the third bridge, I didn’t think I could get any wetter. I was wrong. On the way up with suitcase #1 I slipped, descended the steps and fetched up in a large puddle at the bottom. Suitcase #1, like a cross between a faithful dog and Laurel & Hardy’s undelivered music box, also descended the steps, moments behind me, and hit me as I was struggling to my feet, knocking me over again. Undaunted, if now slightly bloodied in the knee region, I had another go, and this time reached the summit. Turning round I saw Mrs J pluckily struggling up the steps with suitcase #2, only for its handle to slip from her grasp in the monsoon. She made a valiant grab for it, missed, lost her balance, and sat down heavily on a wet step. Suitcase #2, not nearly as faithful as suitcase #1, made a dash for freedom back down the steps, but was foiled by the level ground at the bottom, where I caught up with it, gave it a piece of my mind – much to the confusion of the tourists and natives alike – and dragged it back to join the rest of the family.
We reached the Piazzale Roma looking like a couple of drowned rats. Mrs J’s carefully coiffeured boarding-the-ship hair-do was strewn around her shoulders, both of us were dirty from our falls, and my thin trousers – perfect for the Mediterranean sunshine – were distressingly see-through apart from where the blood provided some added opacity to the material.
Then we queued for people-mover tickets. It was a window on the street, with no cover – what do you expect for €1. The rain was biblical, but, by that time any more liquid was pretty much redundant; there was no job left for it to do, except perhaps to gloat.
The people-mover itself was quite nice. At least, it was when we got on board. It was a bit damper by the time we disembarked 3 minutes later.
Then we walked to the ship – no bridges, but another wet quarter mile – where a happy smiling young man with a camera awaited us and offered to take an embarkation photograph which, when printed, we could apparently purchase for just $25. I often wonder if they ever found his body …