'Imagination will take you everywhere'
This is my entry to the Saturday Telegraph’s weekly ‘Just Back’ travel writing competition. I didn’t win but I thought I’d share it as it perfectly sums up my Venetian adventure…
“The sun shone on our last day. A warming wave goodbye. It glimmered teasingly on the Grand Canal below us, reflecting the terracotta facades and the blank canvas of the sky. Ripples slowly rose and fell as a sleek gondola ploughed gently through; the gondolier effortlessly creating movement like a well-practised dancer. His tuneful humming echoed around the narrow canals and mingled with the squawking cry of seagulls.
We zoomed through the water on the Vaporetto, fragmenting the reflections and sending shards of droplets flying. The flamboyant Italian captain honked his horn at every given opportunity (accompanied in a haze of animated hand gestures). It’s a chaotic motorway on the waterways of the Adriatic. After speeding under the famed Rialto Bridge like a real life James Bond we reached our stop, Accademia, with a bump and trudged to the last museum on our itinerary. Lacking the initial energetic thirst for discovery which enveloped us on arrival. Our annual school art trip had been action-packed to say the least, with never-ending visits to galleries, museums and countless drawing sessions – the kind where you sit on the cold, damp ground for an hour until your derrière goes numb. I yearned for freedom to explore the magical urban labyrinth that is Venice.
After the museum, I got what I wished for. Three hours devoted to exploration with the added challenge; find your own way back to the hotel. Some of my peers chose to take the Vaporetto back and some planned to dive into the first Irish bar they found – we opted for a relaxed stroll through the backstreets. After discovering chocolate heaven in a quaint little shop we pursued the winding Venetian streets like intrepid adventurers, armed with gelatos and high spirits. We crossed bridges decorated with intricate ironwork, traversed through piazzas fragranced with fresh pasta and were dwarfed by towering buildings. You could almost hear the streets breathe a sigh of relief as the sunshine dried the wet pavement; workmen cleared the flood platforms which had been omnipresent throughout the winter. Pushing past the crowds littering Rialto Bridge, we turned a corner and came upon a hidden lagoon which appeared to be the assembly point for half the population of gondoliers in the city. The men stood smoking and chatting in their stripped sweaters; their ornate gondolas stood to heal.
‘Bella, bella!’ called an eager street seller as we ambled past his stall and settled on the edge of the canal, dangling our legs above the murky water. I surrendered to the sun’s warm embrace – savouring the feeling of the rays sinking into my pale skin. A Venetian bell tolled somewhere in the distance, creating an eruption of pigeons overhead. Peace at last. Slowly the great orange mass in the sky began to descend, silhouetting the imposing architecture and drenching the water in darkness. Soon it was time to leave this enchanted corner of Italy and head back to the harsh reality of a British winter.”