We’ve all heard “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” right? However, usually when you spend time and money to go to Europe, you hope to return home with good memories, great pix and maybe an inside joke or two. Moreover, you look forward to sharing your adventures and pictures with anyone who will listen to you! I had not planned to tell this story, especially to an unknown audience however, it’s been a year and it’s time…I think.
We traveled to Italy last year and had been in Venice a couple of days. Anyone who has been will know that you become accustomed to traveling the waterways via vaporettos (water buses) or water taxis. Jumping on and off these boats becomes second nature. I thought I had done pretty well until I decided that my trip to Venice would not be complete without a gondola ride.
I was with my husband and we found some Gondolieri (Gondola, captains, operators?). After agreeing on a price, and yes we got ripped off…they see Americans coming from a mile away, we were led to two gondolas. The Gondolier jumped into the long boat and motioned for us to do the same. I was next and my hxh waited behind me on the steps of the dock. I held on to one of the wooden poles as I attempted to step down onto the gondola with my right foot. Unlike the other boats I’d experienced, the gondola did not float as I stepped down. Rather it continued to sink beneath my foot. In a split second I spontaneously attempted to pirouette, twisting my body around toward the dock and my hxh, eyes pleading HELP ME!! It was too late. The movement I made had the effect of moving the boat further away whereby I now had two choices: a) fall into the water or b) cling to the pole with as much of my body as I could manage. Embarrassed to say, I, well, my body, chose b. Now I am stuck to this wooden pole that is lodged into the floor of the Grand Canal, like a scared cat on a greasy pole-arms wrapped round, splinters digging in, one foot on the dock and one on the edge of the gondola behind me. The Gondolier is yelling at me as the gondola slowly moves away from the pole. It is just a matter of time before I am drinking polluted Venetian sludge water. Just when I am resigned to my fate, I am shocked and horrified to realize that the Gondolier has thrust his arm between my legs (no,I’m not making this up-God, I wish I was), lifted me up and placed me in the boat!
I don’t know if they teach this maneuver at Gondolier school however the shock of being attacked in this way had the desired effect as I did release the pole with an accompanying gasp. I instinctively moved backwards toward the upolstered seats to regain my composure and recuperate from the violation! My hxh then stepped into the boat, effortlessly I might add. Now as if this wasn’t bad enough, the Gondolier then says “ok, now get into the next boat” (see picture above). Was he insane? Did he really expect me to go through this all again? There was no &$%^ way I was moving let alone jumping into the boat beside us! His mate was gesticulating in Italian and motioning for me to move to his boat. I was too overcome to speak though shook my head whispering no, no, no,no.
The gondolier took one look at my face and gave up, knowing it was hopeless. We proceeded on, he rhythmically moving his pole along the canal floor as my hxh took in the sights. I repeating a mantra of “I’m sorry, oh my God!, I’m sorry, Oh my God!” The gondolier took us through narrow corridors and alleyways, chatting with other Gondolieri along the way (I know he told them he got to use the maneuver!). It was an expensive and vague blur of a ride through a veil or mortification. Would I do it again you ask? Probably. How often does one get to Venice and how long before it’s under water? I would recommend it because really there is nothing like it. There is an intimacy (cough/blush) with the environment that is like no other in the world. For the love of pasta though, if you do decide to take a gondola ride, just close your eyes and jump in quick!