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I arrived in Venice at about 5pm.
I was staying on the main island and the bus station is at one end of the island and my hostel was all the way over the other end of the island. I had no problem walking there with my backpack and luggage, it only took about 45 minutes. But what made me smile was that in those 45 minutes I had walked the full length of Venice.
During that walk, I was trying not to pay too much attention to my surroundings. I just wanted to get to my hostel. I thought it would be best to leave the exploring to the following day when I would have the luxury of being able to take my time, wander at my leisure and take in everything around me.
Have you seen the movie ‘Taken’?
I managed to navigate myself to the street that my hostel was supposed to be on, but there was no sign of a hostel existing anywhere. I walked up and down but every door looked as though it led to people’s homes and personal apartments.
I went to the house that matched the number I had on my piece of paper, but it looked like a private dwelling. Not knowing what else to do, I rang the doorbell anyway.
A man opened the door and welcomed me in. As I entered there was still no sign of this being a hostel. I was invited to take a seat whilst he spoke to another man in another language.
I felt very uneasy at this point.
He took copies of my passport (which is standard procedure) and asked me how long I was staying.
I was very aware of my surroundings at this point, trying to think two steps ahead and stay alert. I had flashbacks of the films ‘Taken’ and ‘Hostel’ and started wondering if this place was just a front and I was going to be shipped off, tortured and/or sold.
He then said he would show me to my room and proceeded to go upstairs. As I cautiously followed him I was creating an exit plan and consciously noting all the exits and windows of the property.
Once we reached the room, he opened the door to a 4-bed dorm where there was a girl from Belgium chilling on her bed on her phone.
It is an actual hostel and this other traveller looks safe, happy and content. No cuts or bruises. She looks healthy and well fed.
I later asked him why there was no sign outside and why the place doesn’t look like a hostel. To which he explained, ‘We put sign outside, we pay lot of tax. No sign, no tax’.
After dropping my stuff off in my room and getting settled in, I had to force myself to stay in for the night. Even though I desperately wanted to go out and explore (especially after the few sights that I had seen on my walk over to the hostel) I had two clients that I needed to do some website edits for.
There was a table in the common area next to the kitchen where I plugged in my laptop and made myself comfy for the next few hours.
The girl from my dorm came into the kitchen and we started chatting whilst I was working. She was cooking some pasta and kindly offered to make me some too.
I was so grateful. I hadn’t eaten much that day because I had been travelling on the coach for most of it, so pasta was perfect.
She kindly served me a bowl whilst I was sat at my computer, but instead, I went with her up to the roof terrace and ate with her whilst we chatted and got to know each other a bit better.
…and the view from the roof terrace was pretty awesome
After we had finished eating we went back downstairs to the kitchen and I offered to do the washing up. She wouldn’t let me and said that she would do it.
I went back to work and a few hours later I could hear her packing her stuff away. She was catching an early flight the next morning and was making sure that she was prepared.
She came into the common room and gave me a full sized, unopened, Milka with Oreo chocolate bar!!
At this point, it was obvious that she came from Belgium because where I come from, you don’t give away chocolate.
You may share chocolate…but you don’t give it away.
My money situation was now getting extremely tight and I was having to really budget my food. But I never mentioned this to her. She wasn’t doing it because she felt sorry for me, she was doing it because she was a genuine and kind human being.
…and because she said that she had too much food to take back with her.
Either way, her generosity made my night in working so much more pleasurable and I was very grateful.
Falling down the pretty rabbit hole
The next morning, I was up and ready in my summer dress with obligatory holiday sunglasses and ventured out into the streets of Venice.
The hostel manager kindly gave me a map and circled all the top attractions on the island as well as devising the best walking route to complete them all. If you want to find out where I went, keep your eyes peeled for a new post coming soon, where I will detail the route.
I did get lost. Several times. But I am not sure if you can call it lost because the place is like a rabbit warren. I don’t think that there is a ‘right way’ to anywhere. And I feel as though you have to wander down a few streets without knowing where you are going to truly experience this city.
If I had to sum Venice up in one word, it would be ‘romantic’.
I’m a solo traveller wandering around on my own doing the tourist thing and even I was filled with the feeling of romance.
The place is so god damn pretty!
I took more photos of Venice than any other place that I have visited. Each street I turned down and every bridge that I crossed was worthy of a picture.
And the place is full to the brim with sparkly and artistic products. Apart from the restaurants and food shops, almost every other shop sold jewellery, masks or glass items – and they are beautiful. I frequently stopped at shop windows to gaze at items that I couldn’t afford (or at least shouldn’t be buying since my budget was so tight).
Sadly, I didn’t get to take a gondola ride either. The cost was €80 for 30min (or €100 for a night-time ride) and even though the gondola could take up to 6 people, I didn’t have 5 other people to split the bill with, and I couldn’t justify €80 as a solo traveller on a budget.
But I admired them from afar, took lots of pictures and spoke to a few gondoliers – who remind me of a cross between Zoro and Where’s Wally.
It’s the little things in life
On my last day, I was wondering around the market place and taking some photographs of the sculpture ‘Support’ by Lorenzo Quinn. It’s a visual statement of the impact of climate change and the rising sea levels that affect the city of Venice.
I was stood right next to the canal when a man shouted from a boat and asked where I was from. Well, first he shouted something in Italian, but then when I said I could only speak English he asked where I was from.
Whilst he was working and unloading fresh fruit and veg from the boat and onto the market stalls, I replied and said that I was from England in the UK.
His next words were…
‘You are very beautiful.’
Those four words make me feel great. And what made it even better was that they were said to me in a very gentlemanly manner. I don’t think that I have ever received a compliment so sincerely and politely from a stranger.
To any guys reading this, you need to take notes here.
I spoke to him for a few moments (found out that he had lived in Venice in whole life) and then continued on my way whilst floating just a little bit off the ground.
He probably doesn’t know it, but that guy just made my entire month!
It’s not where you go, it’s the people you meet
It was my last night in the hostel before checking out and catching a bus (actually two buses) to Zadar, Croatia. The plan was to have a shower, have something to eat, pack everything away and get an early night since I had to be up at 5am to make it to my bus stop in time.
I was packed, showered and finishing off the last of my cornflakes (a standard meal whilst staying in hostels) when I got chatting to a new roommate of mine from Australia. We decided to go up to the roof terrace (cornflakes in tow) to watch the sunset.
Whilst up there we met 4 other lads who were also staying in the hostel, but they were staying next door so we hadn’t met them yet. 3 of them were from Canada and 1 of them was from Turkey. We were all sat round a table chatting and exchanging stories as the sun started going down.
After it got dark the lads were heading off out into the city for a mooch around and invited us to come along with them.
This was a tough decision for me.
I was already in my PJ pants that had fluffy sheep on them. Going out would mean changing into a proper pair of pants. Which meant semi-unpacking my rucksack to find a pair of proper pants. Plus, I needed to sleep.
They twisted my arm and went and shot on a pair of jeans and all 6 of us went out to explore Venice at night.
…and yes, Venice was just as beautiful, if not more, all lit up at night.
We ventured off into the square where there was a quartet playing. I made a joke about dancing and the next thing I knew I was getting spun around by a Canadian lad who knew how to do a bit of ballroom dancing.
I loved it!
I really wanted to learn a bit more, but at this point, we were on the hunt for pizza and gelato because other members of the group were hungry. We agreed that we would come back after finding food and he would teach me how to dance.
After the group was fed and watered we made our way back to the square and after a few moments of rehearsal, we did indeed dance.
Check it out….
(It’s a bit fuzzy at the beginning but clears up. The colours may look a bit dodgy because the video was a lot lot darker, but YouTube’s auto editing brightened it up.)
This is what travelling is about! Making new friends, having new experiences, learning something new and making lifelong memories.
What a great way to spend my last night in Venice.
You can sleep when you’re dead…or on the coach
We all headed back to the hostel just after midnight. A few of us stayed up late carrying on the conversation. By the time I got into bed it was 2am. I had to be up at 5am, so that was 3 hours sleep – probably 2 hours of decent sleep at best.
I had a coach journey the next day that was going to last around 10 hours – which was plenty of time to catch up on some beauty sleep.
As was walking back through Venice the next morning on my way to the way to the bus stop, I was grinning the whole way.
Out of all the four places that I have visited in Italy, Venice tops my list without a doubt. I have so many wonderful memories from my time there. I found the city to be romantic, enchanting and magical. I look forward to revisiting one day.
My next and last stop on my mini European adventure trail is Zadar, Croatia.Next: My Zadar Story