Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Follow Me: The Adventures of the QueensLander Tour Captains
Tour Captain Journal Entry ~ Dateline Venice, ItalyBy Sandy Gregory, QueensLander Tour Captain, CITM
My Favorite Things - Venice
Venice oozes history. The city has a unique mystique that one encounters nowhere else in the world. I’m not talking about the Venice filled with thousands of day-trippers, gondola traffic jams and hawking merchants selling carnival masks, but rather the city itself. Venice is a work of art, comprised of 117 tiny islands connected by 400 bridges over 150 canals. The buildings are an eclectic match of Renaissance arches, Gothic points and Byzantine filigree hanging on to each other for dear life, their skin peeling and foundations slowly collapsing. Venice makes you feel as though you have stepped onto a movie set, looking almost exactly as it has for a thousand years. So to me, tenacity is the art of Venice. The city is sinking and the sea is rising. But for centuries it has defied time by standing still. It’s a city that should not exist, yet still does. Who knows whether technology and/or human behavior will save Venice? Until it finally sinks into the Adriatic, it will be much more to me than just a postcard snapshot.
The Water and the Light: The first thing my guests do when they walk out of the Venice airport is climb into a boat. The half-hour water taxi into Venice is a visual sensation. As the morning fog lifts, the sun glitters and dances on the water. Along the Grand Canal, the water reflects brightly colored facades and their tumbling flower boxes. As we move through the maze of twisting canals, we hear the sound of water lapping at the walls to the rhythm of the gondoliers’ accordions. When my guests step out of the water taxi and into the gold-gilded foyer of our hotel, I always know we’re off to a good start. Because as far as first impressions go, the water and light of Venice always do my job for me.
Getting Lost: I always begin my tour of Venice by taking away my guests’ maps and telling them to get lost. Venice is a busy maze of twisting streets, narrow alleys, and dark green mysterious canals where maps are useless and just no fun. You can’t really get too lost because you’re on an island after all. My advice to them is to just keep walking. Caught in a crowd? Go the other way. A dark alley? Go down it. You’ll never know what you might find on those quiet back streets where the real Venetians live and work. When I get myself lost (which probably happens more often than it really should), I often stop and wonder what’s behind those groaning doors on huge iron hinges. Or I visit with a 95-year old haberdasher while she sews the plumes onto her magnificent hats. Or I join a small crowd standing below the window of an opera singer and listen in awe as she warms up for her performance at the Finece. I find trinkets, treasures and off-the-beaten-path trattorias that would not have been discovered and enjoyed if I just didn’t get lost.
Venice at night
Venice at night is very romantic. The lights twinkle and cut through the fog, creating the ambiance of a spooky mystery novel. I feel very safe, however, strolling alone in the late evening, because the locals come out to mingle, and dark alleys open up onto to lively piazzas. A few weeks ago, the sound of music lured me to Piazza San Sebastian and into a small church, where a group of tuxedoed musicians were playing Vivaldi. It was magical. I also enjoy the dueling café orchestras in the Piazza San Marco. Piano, violins, and accordions play waltzes and classical music, each orchestra deferring to the next, while people sit and drink, dance in the square, or enjoy a gelato. But what I most love about Venice at night is the silence. The cruise ships have left and the crowds aren’t drowning out the natural buzz of the city. After a long day of attending to people, Venice at night allows me to relax, be in my own thoughts, and get ready for another busy day.
When not leading tours, Sandy Gregory is a freelance graphic designer and copywriter (firstname.lastname@example.org), and an e-mail marketing specialist at Hanna Design in Greenwood Village, CO. (www.hannadesign.com).