I was in Venice for one single day when I was eighteen years old. From the minute I arrived I wanted to be there with someone special and from the second we decided to get married, I knew I wanted to honeymoon there.
Venice is, of course, beautiful. The canals, the flowers, the colors of the buildings, it all adds up to one lovely package. And we walked through it, smelled it, ate the food, rode the canals, ran through the alleys in the rain, bought fruit from sidewalk stalls, and just enjoyed ourselves.
We arrived at the airport and made a hasty decision to skip the bus and the train, both of which had clear, easy access to the hotel, in favor of a waterbus, which was slow and hot but made a circular route to San Marco around the major points of Venice.
Once on the docks, we began walking, stopping to grab a sandwich and pass some time until we could check into our hotel. Once in the vicinity, I bought a couple bottles of water and tried out my very rusty Italian. The very nice man who ran the newstand told us exactly how to get to our hotel and I was very gratified to be able to understand everything he said, even though it has been over a decade since anyone has spoken Italian to me.
We got checked in and settled and then…walked.
Venice has a thousand museums, but to be honest, we skipped most of them. Partly a combination of being worn out and partly not wanting to be further overwhelmed. Towards the end of our stay in Venice we went to the Palazzo Ducale, which is a magnificent building next to the Basillica di San Marco and which is part of a large series of museums. The trouble is, unless you majored in art history, medieval European history, or comparative religions, most of the displays are largely incomprehensible.
I have a working knowledge of all three subjects mentioned above and was hard pressed to explain anything we saw to my wife, who has not studied any of them, at least, not with a European viewpoint. In contrast, most of the museums we saw in Barcelona had a central focus, making it much, much easier for non-experts to understand.
For us, the real joy of Venice was walking around, talking to people, eating sandwiches and pizza and gelato in alleyways and looking in shop windows at the artisan displays that are everywhere in the city.
We made time to take boat trips to the nearby islands of Murano, San Michelle, Burano, and San Giorgio Maggiore.
Murano is famous for its glasswork and where we had one of the more interesting experiences of our trip. My wife and I have a policy – if we are somewhere where people can overhear, we try to use whichever language, English or Japanese, other people are least likely to be able to understand. Especially when shopping. Thus, in Japan, we speak in English a lot. And in Europe, mainly Japanese.
We had entered a shop full of gorgeous glass pieces that came with a guarantee, certificate of authenticity, and sky-high price tag. We were discussing buying a small piece, in Japanese, when the shop keeper approached us and addressed me in flawless English and my wife in accented, but very good Japanese. He told us that he had a nephew who was married to a Japanese woman and so he had learned a little Japanese. He then told us that he would give us a special discount because he likes Japanese people.
The only other time we had encountered someone speaking Japanese was at the Campanile, on our first day. We had gone up to the top of the tower and were buying a souvenir coin (hey, I collect the damn things, leave me alone) when I asked my wife for a two Euro coin. The guy in the souvenir shop looked up, a bit startled and asked me if I spoke Japanese. I replied yes, and he said that he was studying but thought it was so difficult. He asked me if I had any advice. I told him to learn the kanji first and we bought our coin and that was that. Until the glassware shop.
The glassware shop had more than just plates and trinkets. They had several sculptures that had been hand-made of various kinds of colored glass by the artisans in residence on the island. And we were looking for a honeymoon souvenir.
Do you know that stereotype of the grandparents who have been married for fifty years and one of the grandkids, bored out of his mind, asks about some knick-knack gathering dust on the mantel and the grandmother just casually says, “oh, we got that on our honeymoon, fifty years ago” and then there’s this loving look, either at a still living grandfather or a picture on the wall? Do you know that stereotype? Being that grandparent is one of my few goals in life.
So we were shopping for some kind of sculpture or ornament that we could take home with us and, whenever we actually get a house, stick up on a display shelf somewhere.
We were tempted, as the pieces were exceptional, but a price tag of $500, after the discount was just a little more than we were prepared to pay. So we excused ourselves from that particular store, laughing at being caught off guard and looked into some other shops along the main canal of Murano. Eventually we found a glass swan, with gold and powdered ruby dust gracing the curve of the neck and even met the man who made it. (It cost a lot less than $500, just for the record.) It is now sitting on the shelf, waiting for a permanent spot in our new house. Someday.
On the way back from Murano, we made a brief stop in San Michelle, a beautifully kept public cemetery for the city of Venice. Mayumi hated it. She thought it was beautiful but the idea that there were actually bodies underneat us weirded her out. I thought it was peaceful and everything a cemetery should be. We didn’t stay long though, as Mayumi was truly uncomfortable and we made our way back to Venice and more gelato.
Ah, gelato. We tried really hard to limit ourselves to a single cone per day, but oh, such good stuff. My favorite combo quickly became coconut and pistachio, while Mayumi tried a new flavor every time. Which probably says more about our personalities and our marriage than anything else I’ve written so far.
But anyway. There are so many things to mention, so many things we saw, or tried, or just experienced that even writing this (3,400 words and counting) doesn’t seem adequate. I don’t know when, or if we will visit either of these beautiful cities again, but we have our ticket stubs and photographs and journals, we have our memories. We have each other and that makes it all a very good honeymoon.