Venice was, of course, wonderful and I have nothing to add to everything that people have said over hundreds of years.
Other observations instead. They are very fond of dogs there and, to my pleasure, most of those we saw were mongrels. Not even designer cross-breeds. I suppose if you are Venetian you have absolutely nothing to prove about your status in life and don’t need a pedigree animal to demonstrate your poshness. Charming dogs anyway, and I really rather wanted to bring one home. Not a kindness of course, even if it were possible, as many of them would never have seen a car and would be frightened. I only saw one cat during the week.
I stayed so clean. Usually one gets awfully grimy in cities but when there’s no road traffic there’s nothing to make you dirty.
Easy to find your way about; equally easy to get lost in a small way; that is, you can always find your way to St Mark’s, the Rialto etc as there are signs, but the glove shop 50 metres away could be down any number of little lanes and it’s very hard to find again. And it would be useful to have cul de sacs marked as by the time you have ambled down a few blind alleys and back again you have completely lost your sense of direction. Fortunately it doesn’t matter. It was extremely funny, however, on the last evening, to find ourselves walking by the restaurant we had left 10 minutes earlier and be greeted by the startled waiters again. In fact, I was laughing so much that I was obliged to pop in and use the loo, which must have given the other diners quite the wrong impression of me ‘how rude, she just came in off the street, went to the lavatory and strolled out again’.
It’s so entertaining, just watching people. Not just for what they do, but for what they wear too. There are two who particularly stand out in my mind and I will remember them fondly.
I watched her in the Doge’s Palace. She was on her own and went round with a guidebook in her hands, which she read intently. She was small and slim, with neat features and long curly hair and the most retroussé little nose I’ve ever seen.
But what made her noticeable was her jacket. It was knitted, multi-coloured, patchwork; unusual but not remarkable. Until you noticed the long pointed hood extending all the way down the back with a tassel at the end, which made it look like a garment straight out of the Brothers Grimm. Why, I wondered, if you are born looking like a pixie, would you emphasise the point by dressing like a pixie too? Quite sweet for a little girl I suppose, but don’t ever expect to be treated like a grown woman.
Oh now he was wonderful. I noticed him the first morning at breakfast. His appearance was unexceptional and so were his clothes except for his astonishing spectacles. The lenses were quite small and oval; the rims were black and thick and close-fitting. The followed the curve of his face exactly, like goggles. He looked exactly like a raccoon. We watched for him keenly every day and one night we were truly blessed; we were going to a concert so dined quite early. As I opened the door of the restaurant to leave, there was the Raccoon preparing to enter. I stood aside for him, he said ‘grazie’ and I smiled at him. And turned to my sister with joy on my face.
There is a third person who was considerably less entertaining and I remember him with no affection at all. We went to the concert, which was held in an upper room in the prison next to the Doge’s Palace. Behind us sat an elderly French couple and unfortunately he suffered audibly from catarrh. Well this happens and one should be tolerant. But he seemed unusually attached to it and regularly honked and snorted the viscous matter through his facial passages, when surely he could have expelled it into a handkerchief. Or spat or swallowed, indeed, I am a broad-minded woman and could have borne either eventuality if done discreetly. He did, fortunately, stop when the music started, although that removed a faint doubt that he had either been unaware of his behaviour or been unable to help it.
The string quintet entertained us for an hour. One piece they played was Pachelbel’s Canon. I was slightly surprised when they started it at a speed I don’t usually work up to for nearly a page and a half, but I consoled myself with the thought that it took all five of them to play the notes I manage solo. Tho slo.