“No wonder we got married, it’s what Dingle cousins do, isn’t it?”
The continuity of Robert instinctively knowing the right moment to add that bit of levity to a situation where Aaron is fragile and low-spirited is a trait to hold on to right now. He’s done it ever since that dark day in January and held the power throughout their entire relationship development. It happened when he teased about Chas thinking they were together, it happened when he joked about Pearl on the bridge and it’s happening now as he faces this nightmare.
Robert making a lighthearted joke and brightening the mood, lifting him up, knowing how and when to make Aaron smile and wanting to make the circumstances more tolerable for him using his humorous charm is such a beautiful thing. His husband is the only person who can derive a small, carefree laugh out of Aaron with all he’s going through and without being able to physically show affection and that’s a pretty damn special emotional connection to share no matter what happens.
Here’s an important thing to know: I romanticize (and sometimes Romanticize) everything. I get sighing and poetic and starry-eyed over things like trains and hostels and rainy windows. Cities are especially bad. If I’ve read the name in an old book, even once in passing, I’m going to be imagining intrigue and antique maps and winding streets and merchants of unimaginable riches, and no one can stop me. Of course, this being A. the 21st century and B. real like, it’s never quite what I imagine.
Here’s another important thing to know: Venice is the only place I’ve ever been that was exactly what I’d imagined.
Venice (La Serenissima, the Bride of the Sea, the Pearl of the Adriatic, the City of Bridges… I’m not the only one who gets all soppy and prosy over it) is an absolute labyrinth of bridges, milky jade-green canals, and ornate 14th century architecture. Lit with rose-colored street lamps and awash in Adriatic fog, it’s eerie and heartbreakingly beautiful. Without exaggeration, there is nowhere like it in the world.
The city appears virtually the same as it did six
hundred years ago. It’s a large part of its charm. Unfortunately, this architectural stasis also applies to the septic system, which in many cases still empties into the canals. Never touch the fucking water.
Incidentally, the best times to visit are spring and fall. You’ll miss the majority of the tourist crowds, and the weather is mild and pleasant, if not necessarily sunny. In the winter the city often floods, and in the heat of summer the canals reek.
If the city floods (l’aqcua alta, the high water, caused by rain and exceptionally high tides in the winter months), you may want to buy waterproofing covers for your shoes (usually about €20).
You can find L’Acqua Alta maps at the railroad station and Piazza San Marco, showing you the routes still accessible, either because they’re naturally higher ground or because of second sidewalks that can be folded out during the high water. At the vaporetti terminal (the ferries that function like public buses), you can find a calendar predicting l’acqua alta over the next month.
You get from the airport to the Venice proper by public bus or by train. Both bring you to the small station at the edge of the city. The rest of Venice is strictly pedestrian.
Climb the bell tower in Piazza San Marco. It’s not expensive, and it’s a beautiful view of the piazza, the city, and the surrounding ocean.
Venice the perfect city to get lost in, because it’s gorgeous, impossible to go in a straight line, and impossible to actually leave. For someone who once held a map of Paris upside down for a literal hour before realizing why it was taking me so long to find the damn hostel, that is an ideal combination.
A useless navigation tip is to watch the house numbers. If they change dramatically when you cross a bridge (e.g. 13, 14, 77, 78) then you’ve just crossed from one island to another. If they stay the same (e.g. 13, 14, 15, 16) then you’ve only crossed one of the later man-made canals.
It’s virtually impossible to walk ten feet without passing a store selling Venetian masks. The intricate designs and empty, staring eyes contribute quite a lot to the general eerie, era-out-of-time atmosphere.
Gondolas are quite expensive, used for tours rather than getting around (and haggling down the price means they’ll more than likely cut out the best parts). But to ride in a gondola for only about €2, look for traghetti: worn down gondolas used to ferry people back and forth across the Grand Canal, usually as people are coming and going from work.
If you need to get around, take the vaporetti along the Grand Canal, or a more expensive water taxi. I recommend you get on a vaporetto during sunset to see the city from the water.
The vaporetti can also take you to the islands: Murano, Burano, and the Cimetario. Murano and Burano are famous for glassworking and laceworking respectively, as well as houses painted every color of the rainbow, to help fishermen find the right home in the fog. (At low tide, when there’s a tiny crescent of beach by the Murano vaporetti terminal, you can see the ‘sand’ is almost entirely seaglass). The vaporetti also stop at Cimitero, Venice’s cemetary, which is silent, beautiful, and eerie.
The Doge’s Palace is beautiful inside as well as out, but honestly, if you’re on a tight budget it’s not worth the €16 admission ticket.
If you want to visit the Basilica di San Marco, book a reservation online (€1.50) to save yourself literal hours in line. Bring the printed reservation. No photography is allowed inside.
Surrounding Piazza San Marco, you can see the astronomical clock, Basilica di San Marco, the Doge’s palace, the column topped with the winged lion of Venice, and thousands upon thousands of pigeons. Nearby is the Bridge of Sighs, which connected the prison to the interrogation chambers of the Doge’s Palace.
In January/February there’s the famous Venetian Carnival; in September there is the Regatta ‘Storica.
Venice is very expensive and many of its restaurants are frankly garbage. Instead, find one of Venice’s many bacari where you can have a drink and cichetti (small, savory finger food). Basically, you pick out the ones you want and they’ll make a plate for you. Locals tend to have two or three while chatting with friends, and then possibly move to the next bacaro and repeat. Tourists often get ten or twelve for a full meal. Either way, the seafood is almost always delicious, and a glass of wine or spritz shouldn’t set you back too much here.
If you do want to sit down and have a proper restaurant meal, some local specialties are polenta, risi e bisi (a dish of peas and rice), and several different plates seasoned with cuttlefish ink (alla seppia).
Try spritz, a traditional Northern
Italian drink made of Aperol and Prosecco. I recommend a small bar called
Al Merca, right by the Rialto bridge, which is quite cheap at €2 a glass.
Only four bridges cross the Grand Canal. The most iconic is the Rialto, which in the morning is surrounded by a busy market of fruits, vegetables and cheeses. Be careful in the rain on Ponte della Costituzione; the turquoise glass is pretty but gets as slippery as if it’s been oiled.
oldest cafe in the world, Café Florian, is in Piazza San Marco. It’s gorgeous, dates back to 1720, frequently offers live music,
treats you like royalty, and charges somewhere between €10-15 for a coffee. If you have money to burn and some nice clothes, get a bit fancy and go have an espresso.
is no such thing as cheap accommodation on the island of Venice. You can pay upwards of €30 a night, you can stay in Mestre (the mainland extension of Venice), or you can couchsurf. That said, if your heart is set on staying in Venice proper, I would
recommend the Ostello Santa Fosca. It has a lovely garden and courtyard
overlooking the canal. Get a bottle of wine and some good bread and watch the gondoliers go by.
On a map, Venice looks vaguely like a fish. At the eastern end, the tail of the fish, there’s
a beautiful park. If you’re getting sick of the bustle and narrow alleyways and tourists, it’s a lovely walk along the ocean to a calm green park.
Pearl learns her favorite cheesy soap opera from the early 1980s is being revived, but her mood quickly sours when she discovers it’s nothing but an uninspired retread that leans too heavily on nostalgia. She writes a scathing review of the new show that becomes popular on the Internet, inspiring her to begin a new career critiquing pop culture. But when Pearl’s newfound cynicism goes too far and she develops a snarky attitude toward Steven and the Gems, only Amethyst and a Li’l Butler marathon can bring her back to reality.
Bronwyn’s fiddle is quite special. Inspired by real Hardanger fiddles, the instrument is painted white with pale blue flower decorations. The neck is dark polished wood with mother pearl inlays. The bridge is flatter than normal violins and there are four extra strings underneath the ordinary ones for extra resonance. It’s enchanting to listen to and quite a beast to play, but it’s hell to tune.
( ) smoked a cigarette ( ) crashed a friend’s car ( ) stolen a car ( ) been in love ( ) been dumped ( ) shoplifted ( ) been fired ( ) been in a fist fight ( ) snuck out of your parent’s house ( ) had feelings for someone who didnt have them back ( ) been arrested ( ) gone on a blind date ( ) lied to a friend ( ) skipped school day or class ( ) seen someone die ( ) been to Canada ( ) been to Mexico ( ) been on a plane ( ) eaten Sushi ( ) been skiing ( ) met someone in person from the internet ( ) taken painkillers ( ) love someone or miss someone right now ( ) laid on your back and watched cloud shapes go by ( ) made a snow angel ( ) had a tea party ( ) flown a kite ( ) built a sand castle ( ) gone puddle jumping ( ) played dress up ( ) jumped into a pile of leaves ( ) gone sledding ( ) cheated while playing a game ( ) been lonely ( ) fallen asleep at work/school ( ) used a fake id ( ) watched the sun set ( ) felt an earthquake ( ) touched a snake ( ) slept beneath the stars ( ) been tickled ( ) been robbed ( ) been misunderstood ( ) petted a reindeer/goat ( ) won a contest ( ) run a red light ( ) been suspended from school ( ) had braces ( ) eaten a whole pint of ice cream in one night ( ) danced in the moonlight ( ) liked the way you look ( ) witnessed a crime ( ) questioned your heart ( ) been obsessed with post-it notes ( ) squished barefoot through the mud ( ) been lost ( ) been to the opposite side of the country ( ) swam in the ocean ( ) felt like dying ( ) cried yourself to sleep ( ) played cops and robbers ( ) recently colored with crayons ( ) sung karaoke ( ) done something you told yourself you wouldn’t ( ) laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose ( ) caught a snowflake on your tongue ( ) danced in the rain ( ) written a letter to Santa Claus ( ) been kissed under a mistletoe ( ) watched the sun rise with someone you care about ( ) blown bubbles ( ) made a bonfire ( ) crashed a party ( ) gone rollerskating ( ) had a wish come true ( ) worn pearls ( ) jumped off a bridge ( ) wanted to jump off a bridge ( ) ate dog/cat food ( ) told a complete stranger you loved them ( ) sang in the shower ( ) pick and ate an apple right off the tree ( ) climbed a tree ( ) had a tree house ( ) more then 15 pairs of shoes ( ) worn a really ugly outfit to school just to see what others say ( ) are scared to watch scary movies alone ( ) believe in ghosts ( ) have gone doorbell ditching ( ) pushed into a pool/hot tub with all your clothes on ( ) broken a bone ( ) been easily amused ( ) caught a fish then ate it ( ) caught a butterfly ( ) laughed so hard you cried ( ) cheated on a test ( ) forgotten someones name ( ) been skinny dipping ( ) been threatened to be kicked out of your house ( ) been kicked out of your house