I thought of you especially today when I was wondering around St Mark’s Square. There were loads of people and I wasn’t sure what to do. Other people were taking photos of themselves and each other in front of the basillica, or in front of anything really. Kids were chasing the pigeons, adults were being told off for feeding them (the pigeons, not the kids), some had pigeons sitting on their head or shoulders.
I was asked by loads of people to take photos of them with their cameras. Others I just took with mine …
I became aware of music. There are cafes in the square with orchestras playing and gorgeous waiters in white coats and black bowties. I saw a couple dancing
I wandered closer to the cafe and looked at the menu. The prices were out of this world, but then I thought “If mum was here with me, we’d be in there like a shot” … so Mum, I played ladies and thought of you while I drank my Darjeerling tea with lemon and listened to the beautiful music.
In Paris it isn’t at all unusual to see people walking their dogs. It’s not unusual to step over dog business or the streams of dog wee that seems to pour from buildings.
So I wasn’t surprised to see people walking their dogs in Avignon. But I was surprised to see dogs accompanying their owners on the train, or to a restaurant. One couple had a really big dog which somewhat surprised the lady at the next table when he showed a sudden interest in her food.
Imagine my surprise though, when I was walking up the Stada Nuova in Pavia the other day, to stop as a man and one golden retriever came out of a cafe. No, wait … not one … two. No hang on, there’s another one. Oh, and another one! Four! Four golden retrievers in the restaurant.
It seems the Italians love their dogs just as much as the French do. They take their dogs to Venice and sit with them in cafes in St Mark’s Square:
And they include their dogs in self-portraits standing in front of the church.
We (I obviously include myself in this as I’m one of them) are like rats … crawling over the city, finding our way into narrow (narrow) laneways, into buildings, onto boats. We are everywhere. We arrive by train (like I did), by plane (like Sarah and Ben will tonight), by car and by cruise ship (there were three in the harbour when I came into the station).
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting the noise – of the water hitting the boats (it was quite rough on the Grand Canal) and of the boats’ squeaks as they rub against the jetties, and of so many boats. The people noise I can shut out, but this other noise surprised me, caught me off-guard, made me feel a bit overwhelmed.
I called Nicola and we kind of managed to understand each other. I found the right vaporetto station (thanks Sarah for the instructions) and was pulled with the tide of people onto a boat. I found a place to sit – I was to get off near the end of the Grand Canal. Getting off meant fighting against the tide of people and in the end I had to stop being polite and I just pushed.
Nicola was waiting at Arsenale station for me. At each other train station in each other city I’ve visited I’ve had a print out of directions from the station to the hotel from Google maps. When I was home, on the other side of the world, it seemed like a good idea. Then I got to Avignon and the first direction said, “head west in the direction of the SS1”. That’s the equivalent of saying, “turn left where the BP service station used to be”. I didn’t know what the SS1 was, let alone what direction I was facing! It made for some interesting (long) walks.
But Nicola was there waiting for me, and I don’t think any number of directions from Google street view would have helped. We went across to a street (Calle dei Forni – sounds like California, remember that) which was directly opposite the station, and we walk down that until we reach the photographer’s shop. We turn left and follow the church around. We turn left and go over the metal bridge. Sometimes when men have been fishing and catch something they bring it back and sit at the little table and chair there … and something I didn’t catch). So we walk along the canal, with the wall of the Arsenale on our right on the other side of the canal.
We then turn left, walk to the end of that street (I think you call them streets – but they’re about three feet wide, so I’m not sure) and go under a low arch which has an angel on it and turn right. Remember that when walking back the other way. We go to the end of that street, turn right, turn left, turn right, turn left, turn right, turn left, turn right, and we’re the house with the lion on it. The red house. (There is no alternative to the lefts and rights – that’s just the way the street goes.)
I did that walk three times yesterday – once with Nicola and twice by myself – the last time at quarter to ten after the Vivaldi concert. It is not in the tourist part of town, so is very quiet … and when a man coughs behind you, no matter how sore your feet are, you speed up!
More of my adventures later – for now, breakfast is calling!