There must be a circle of Hell reserved for packing and constantly being a kilo overweight. It’s no wonder we start suffering from packing anxiety a week before we leave! Preparing for holidays is the meant to be the exciting part. Not for us. We get so anxious that we don’t have enough food, or money, so we take way more than we need. We also get anxious that we’ve forgotten something and that our luggage is too heavy. We have a scales so we can test it, but once we’d added our customary vegan shortbread, our suitcase gained weight faster than people at Christmas. Who knew shortbread would put so much weight on? Fortunately, sacrificing one carton of soya milk and an ice block helped the weight issues. But then that made us worry that we won’t find somewhere we can eat. We also worry about getting to and from the airport and finding our apartment.
We got up at the ungodly hour of 2:30 a.m. to leave at 3:30 a.m. Junctions 25 – 26 of the M4 were closed, so they diverted us back on to the M4 in the opposite direction. Diversions signs said to get off at J27, so we did. And followed the diversion signs all the way back to J26. Maybe this was another circle of Hell we were trapped in. This time, when we got off at the slip road, we used our classic trick of following the car in front and hoping it knew where it was going. It did. We managed to find Broadfield farm with no problems and just had to wait for the farmer to finish milking the cows to get a lift to the airport. Travelling isn’t all glamour y’know.
Our suitcase was exactly the weight our scales said it was, so there were no embarrassing incidents in baggage area. Although us and Tom suffered the body scanner and a vigorous pat down from security. We assured the woman that the metal showing up on the image was in fact our underwire bras, but she had a good feel just to make sure. She even checked Cat’s hair. Nothing hiding in there, love, but we hope you like the feel of wax on your fingers. On the plane, Cat was sat beside a couple who hogged all the window space. Lynx felt horrendously sick all plane ride and just about refrained from vomiting into the doggy bag in her pocket.
We managed to book tickets and find our way to the Alilaguna ferry with no problem. Are we…becoming responsible? Will we finally battle our travel anxiety by proving to ourselves that we’re competent? You know what pride comes before. And our fall was about to be more epic than Lucifer’s. Though we were sadly not given a kingdom to rule.
The ferry ride in was lovely. The ferry stopped at Murano, which is famous for its beautiful glassmaking. It was our first visit to Venice. We had to do it in style. It would be the first of many boat rides. There was a boy on the ferry we could have cheerfully thrown over the side to swim with the fishes. He spent the entire ride reciting numbers and working out Maths problems to show off to his mother what he’d learned. Why don’t children come with off buttons? Come on evolution, this would be valuable to the survival of our species.
Then it all went to shit. We were supposed to meet someone to take us to our apartment. In hindsight, we should have waited longer. Although further hindsight revealed that wouldn’t have made a difference. Nobody could get hold of the person who was supposed to meet us and we couldn’t get hold of our host. We decided to find our apartment ourselves using an online map. The online map is a dishonest charlatan. We ended up walking for over two hours, to the middle of Venice, lugging our 20kg suitcase, 8 kg hand luggage and 7kg rucksack up and down hundreds of steps over the many bridges. If we don’t have muscles by the end of this holiday, we will be pissed.
We ended up by some sort of school, judging by the amount of screaming kids in the courtyard. That noise was really not helping our stress levels – noise stresses us out at the best of times. We managed to get in to what we thought was our apartment building. A resident informed us we were in completely the wrong part of Venice. And seemed more concerned about who let us in and getting us out as quickly as possible.
We returned to the Rialto Bridge and decided to ask for help in a handbag shop. We met a lovely guy who not only got out a map to try to find it, but also found a street address book and tried to phone our host for us. When we told him we were from Wales, he said “Swansea or Cardiff?” His mum was helping him, though she didn’t speak English, so he was translating for her. You sir, are a hero.
We eventually found the right apartment and waited for an hour in the entrance hall. Still no sign of our host. Luckily there was a settee in the corner, which we named the settee of despair. We returned to the ferry port. Turns out, we were about 5 minutes from our apartment. We were about as happy as someone sitting comfortably on an Inquisitor’s chair. We texted our mum to tell her what was going on, so she suggested phoning Airbnb and got us the number for the Italian one.
We spoke to a lovely guy called Luca. He managed to get in touch with our host and she rang us back. She was currently in Brazil. She and her husband continuously tried to get hold of the person who was supposed to meet us but she wasn’t answering her phone. So they arranged for someone else to meet us. Someone who couldn’t speak English. Meanwhile, Tom and Amy managed to salvage some of the day by finding a chip shop that did vegan chips. Luca rang back to see if we were ok and told us to get some food and drinks, photograph the receipt and email it to him. He’d then reimburse us up to €50. He was so nice and phoned us several times to see if we were ok and whether we’d got in to the apartment. That’s customer service for you. A couple entered the apartment building, saw Cat and stopped dead. The woman looked genuinely terrified and refused to walk past her for a minute. When she did, she passed by as far away as she could then hurried on. Was it the blue hair? The piercings? Or the murderous look due to the shitty day we’d had? It was the blue hair, wasn’t it?
Our host arranged for someone to meet us at 6 outside MacDonalds. Luckily there was only one MacDonalds nearby so while Tom guarded our bags, us and Amy headed out to meet our new greeter. We had fifty minutes to kill so wandered into Lush. A smiley man greeted us and insisted on rubbing pink heart soap on our hands then giving us a hand massage. It was a Valentine’s offer, apparently. Rub away, sir! Another man tried to persuade a couple to accept the soap and massage, but they refused, so Lynx volunteered again. We were then dragged over to crumble some powder into our hands then wash them off in this soft foam. A lady then gave us the same soap and massage treatment. So while Tom sat alone with our bags, we were getting hand massages. We’re not sorry, we deserved it.
The lady arrived on time and took us to the apartment. Luckily we were in the right place. She walked at a blistering pace and didn’t slow as she climbed the many, many stairs to our apartment. By the time we were halfway, our thighs were burning like Hell’s fiery lakes and we were tempted to tell her to go on ahead and leave us to die on the stairs. We had to lug our 20kg bag up the stairs. Our apartment is on the fourth floor and the stpes get steeper the higher you climb. There is no lift.
But we were finally at our apartment and it was lovely. We unpacked, did our 130 squats (we’re doing the 30 day squat challenge) and marked off the haunted places on our map then decided to head out and explore while we waited for Lesley to arrive. Venice is so much nicer when you’re not dragging nearly half your body weight up countless steps and glaring like gorgons. We made our way down to San Marco but somehow managed to miss St Mark’s Square. We blame it on being dark. And on us not looking left. And poor map reading. Venice is lovely to walk around at night. There’s not much nightlife, so there are no drunken louts and the streets aren’t crowded. It feels safe to walk around, even down the narrow alleys. Luckily there were no little girls in red coats leading us astray.
Lesley arrived at 10:45 so we went to meet her, took her back to the apartment so she could drop her bag off then went to find the nearest pub. Which wasn’t very near at all. In fact, we wandered across half of Venice until we found a tiny bar and had lovely vodka and lemonades. We have tried to find this bar again since and have failed dismally. Maybe it never existed. We got back to the apartment at gone midnight. Our aching bodies had now given up.
There’s one thing we’ve noticed about Venice – there are a lot of lovely looking men around. The level of attractiveness just seems to be generally higher than we’re used to. We might need to make Italy a regular holiday destination.