Sunday, February 12, 2006

Travellers' Tales

If this is middle age, then I’m really glad to have got here! Don’t misunderstand me.
I had a wonderful childhood, and a pretty good time through most of my teens and twenties too.
Being a mummy at home with small children was pretty blissful; I knew exactly who I was, and revelled in the whole experience. But though I have never felt remotely trapped by my existence, the last couple of years have been a time when windows and doors seemed to fly miraculously open in all sorts of areas, and it is (to quote that great traveller, Lady Mary Montague) , “all most interesting”. I am happily discovering that many of the things I just “didn’t do” I not only can do without the earth shifting on its poles, but I actually enjoy doing.
Take last week, for example. In my book, middle aged mothers did not fly off, accompanied by only one family member, for 3 days of unadulterated pleasure in Venice, just because they felt like it.
We couldn’t possibly afford it, and if we did, it would be hugely unfair to the rest of the family to spend all that money on just two members, and anyway, I hadn’t flown abroad on my own for a good 22 years, and I probably didn’t know how…
But the truth is that bargain city breaks cost rather less than 3 days B&B in the Cotswolds, that the male members of the family coped perfectly well, thank you, without my solicitous enquiries “are you sure you feel OK about this” and Bristol airport, in case you are interested, is a dear little thing, so small scale that even the most neurotic of travellers can surely be confident that they are boarding the right plane.
And Venice?
Venice was predictably and utterly wonderful.
DarlingDaughter drank in its beauties as if she’d spent her life shut away in a coal hole, and we spent our daylight hours mostly wandering beside the canals, loitering in the piazzas, and, of course, trying not to spend the money we’d saved thanks to EasyJet. (In this last we were, I fear, staggeringly unsuccessful. As one guide-book put it, Venice has been fleecing visitors since the Middle Ages, so we were at least conforming to tradition). This trip was very much dedicated to DD, who was not keen on intensive sight seeing, so though we did visit San Marco (highly recommended in February, when it is possible to wander around freely, in stark contrast to the summer experience of being herded in continuous multi lingual file through one door and out the other) and crossed the Grand Canal via the Rialto, we otherwise sat very light to the “must sees”. Instead, we bought a sort of church season-ticket, - offering free entry to a selection of second rank churches,- each of which boasted at least one Veronese, Tintoretto or Rubens, and they provided a vague itinerary for our wanderings. In one, we found ourselves inches away from the most beautiful medieval book of the Gospels, open at the Baptism of Christ. The memory of the jewel-like colours of the illustration, with the tiny figure of Jesus rising from the water as the dove descended in a shaft of golden light should enliven the gloom of many a February morning in Charlton Kings. In another, there was a surprise exhibition dedicated to the musical instruments of the age of Vivaldi, and we two string players gazed lustfully at an Amati bass, standing on the chancel steps inviting someone,- anyone,- to pick up its bow and play. Church visits were rationed, to avoid overload, so the last one we visited was in fact in mistake for somewhere else...but it was here that we followed entranced a set of Stations of the Cross by (I believe) the less famous son of Veronese. They were hung at a very comfortable eye level, so that you found yourself looking directly into the face of Christ as he was whipped, or greeted by the women of Jerusalem; but the crowd wore the clothes of Renaissance Europe, and the faces were those you might recognise in the crowds on the Rialto. In one way, this was incongruous, in another a statement of the profound truth that we are all involved in those events in Jerusalem 2 millennia ago.We had barely finished talking about the relative merits of assorted Venetian lions, when we met this one, clearly newly arrived and breathless from his flight.



Serendipity was the order of the day, and maps were outlawed. We were in the midst of a discussion as to whether Othello (an A level set text) should more properly have been named “Iago” when we crossed the Ponte Mori and found ourselves gazing on a house which carried a plaque depicting a camel and a small, turbanned figure…indisputably the Moor of Venice.
Gondoliers are no less beguiling in winter than amid the summer crowds…we both giggled as we realised that the ubiquitous cry of “Gondola, gondola” is so much a reflex that any gondolier worth his salt will produce it regardless of the time or season (as evidenced by one who pursued us with it, while at the same time clearly intent on shutting up shop as the winter evening drew in); we imagined a gondolier, woken at night by the phone, automatically answering with the well worn cry…
We bought masks, and glass and wonderfully extravagant ear-rings.
We ate wonderful sea-food (spaghetti with cuttle fish is my new favourite supper dish). We sat in the chilly winter sun and ate ice cream, just because it was Italy. We laughed. We danced. We sang bits of Noye's Fludde as we ran over bridges in a flurry of snow. And most of all, we pottered harmoniously. And proved that we CAN do things on our own.
And loved being there, and being together. Life with a grown-up daughter is clearly tremendous fun. Thank you L, for a lovely holiday.

13 comments:

Songbird said...

What a wonderful tale of your travels! I was 18 when I visited Venice with my family, and its sights and sounds remain thoroughly romanticized in my heart. (Hmm, maybe in another 8 or 9 years, I can take *my* daughter...)

serena said...

Oooooh ... my parents loved Venice, when they went there about 4 years ago. I think they're intending to go back - and Alastair and I definitely want to go. So I'm now incredibly jealous, stuck here writing a dissertation ...!

Most of all, I enjoyed reading about another mother and daughter who seem quite as barmy as Mum and I ... Hurrah for mother and daughter time! :)

jo(e) said...

It sounds wonderful!

Mary said...

Welcome back - I'm glad it was so good! I haven't been to Venice since receiving my O level results whils staying in a youth hostel there (as you do). As to offspring, sons are definitely different - good for many activities but not for anything involving shopping that isn't for books or music. D and I watched High Fidelity on Saturday and he identified worryingly with the men in the record shop.... oh dear.....

dave paisley said...

Ah, the marvels of modern travel. I was actually at a UK university last week talking with a professor of air transportation about how weekend breaks are changing the world...

But you left out the part about how you make a venetian blind...

Kathryn said...

Dave, I'm not sure...though i do know that to make a Maltese cross you jump on his toes.
and that to make a Swiss roll you push hi,/her down an Alp...
And that, if it weren't for Venetian blinds it would be curtains for us all...Now, see what you started!

Lorna said...

wonderful!

Happy Friends' Day dear friend. I've come to appreicate you a lot in the short time we've met.

I rejoice that you and DD are - in 2006 - able to leave the menfolk and wander aimlessly in a beautiful city and allow the winter sun to warm your face.

be blessed

sally said...

An excellent use of three days. Do it again! I think I'll work on Laura......

mibi52 said...

Bravo! A wonderful walkabout in one of my favorite places on earth. Yes, it's ridiculously expensive. Yes, with the tourists about it sometimes seems like Northern-Italian-Disneyworld for literati. Yes, finding things is a challenge that maps do not help. But there is no more beautiful confluence of Italian and Moorish architecture, no more delicious treatment of all things seafood, and no more intense concentration of exquisite artwork (in some ways more so than Florence, tho some would argue with me).

And the gelato at Bar Nico is indescribably good. And the cats have a lovely worldly-wiselook about them. And the dungeon in the Doge's Palace is wonderfully cold and creepy.

DD is beautiful. What a gift!

Ah, La Serenissima!

Sue said...

How lovely! I'm glad you had the opportunity to share this journey with your daughter.

Tony said...

Oh wow! Envy, envy. Even having just got back from a 2 day break in Paris, I'm longing for all those other places I dreaqm of visiting, and Alison keeps reminding me I've promised to take her to one day... (Of which Venice is the chief.)

Dr Moose said...

You can tell I've been a bit out of it - I wondered where you'd been.

Glad you enjoyed it immensely!

Rebecca said...

You made me all teary with this - I loved Venice with my parents and my boy, and to visit it with one such as Lucinda must have been wonderful. You were both lucky :-)