Published: July 7th 2011July 4th 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011 Nearly Missed It
Today was going to be exciting; I was going to learn how to be a gondolier. I got up and ready, and arrived at the meeting place before the scheduled time. But I didn’t see a gondola, guide, or group. I double checked all my documents. Yes, this was the right place and the right time. But no tour. I thought maybe they had left early and I was too late. So I trudged back to my hotel. My mood was made worse by the fact that it was a very long way back, since there are no direct walking routes through Venice.
Back at the hotel, I called the local number for the tour agency to see what was going on. It turns out I was the only one who had booked the tour for that hour and my boat was still waiting for me. Crap – I wasted almost an hour of my scheduled tour! And moreover, where were the guide and boat when I looked for them? Regardless of the explanation, the guide was still waiting for me. This time I took a water boat and got to the
meeting spot about five minutes sooner. It’ll All Work Out
At the dock, the guide was working with a family who had been booked at 10am, while my tour was 9-11am. Had I actually made my 9am appointment, the tour would have been gone when they arrived at the dock. But my being late actually worked in everyone’s favor and we were all able to take the tour.
We didn’t get to steer the boat from the back, as gondoliers traditionally do. Instead, we were in charge of basic forward propulsion by rowing in the front. It wasn’t hard for me, having rowed with two oars for years. The principle is the same, just some added technique. The guide complimented me on my rowing form. Maybe this will be a back-up career.
During the tour we chatted with our gondolier, who was a local Venetian, just graduated from high school. She was not of the same politically-driven group of gondoliers you’d find wearing striped shirts and carting tourists around the canals; rather, I would describe her as kind of a beach bum. When asked if locals ever get lost in the city, she laughed and said no.
San Marco floods
the tide came in and into the square through the drains
As a local, it’s just something you have in you, like rowing a boat. She described that rowing or paddling a boat is not something that is taught, it is something you learn on your own with your oars and the water. Your way of moving through the water will be completely different than someone else’s, and that is your secret to keep.
I swapped turns with the boys in the family and chatted with my boat mates. The Flippo family happened to hail from Bellevue, Washington. In the grand scheme of the world, they’re practically neighbors. Following the tour, we all sat down for iced tea together and discovered that the developer I used to build condos for hired the husband’s company to lease out their commercial real estate. It’s an extremely small world. Lunch, American Style
Italy doesn’t celebrate America’s Independence Day; it’s not their job. So I had to find a way to mark the occasion on my own. I listed to the national anthem on my iPod and then headed to the Hard Rock Café for lunch. Yeah, it’s a British food chain, but it’s all American food. I ordered a big burger with
fries and a couple cocktail drinks. Watching the non-Americans around me, I saw everyone was eating their fries with a fork. In true Independence Day spirit, I ate my fries with my hands. My determination to celebrate this holiday seemed to make my Australian single-serving friend’s observation about Americans’ patriotism all too true. Nothing at All
The rest of my afternoon was pretty simple and uneventful. I purchased train reservations for my grand exit from Venice and returned to my hotel. The lines to see anything were long and it was time to give my feet a rest.
There are more photos below