Last glimpse before we left yesterday evening. Phwoar.
It's hard these days to go anywhere without a preconcieved idea of your destination - films, the internet, old photographs all inform and shape the impression, feel, taste of a place. So of course, I knew that Venice has a lot of canals and very old merchants houses and palazzos; that Nancy Mitford went almost every year, writing spiteful funny letters about her fellow aristocratic guests; Joss Hay honeymooned there after his scandalous marriage to Idina Sackford - an iconic photo shows them arm-in-arm in ikat pyjamas on the Lido; Helen Mirren, Natasha Richardson and Rupert Everett had a disturbing encounter there and of course every red-blooded male I know has watched Don't Look Now more for Julie Christie in the buff than any glimpses of St Mark's Square.
Just like a Canaletto, innit?
So, I thought I was prepared for Venice. What rubbish. It is quite simply the most breathtaking city I have ever seen - the beauty is relentless - every corner brings a new and amazing vista and it has been cleverly described by more talented wordsmiths than I. Even that old Tart of the Doggerel, Betjeman, has had a go. So all I can do is tell you what I did and share pictures I took.
Just round the corner from here you can buy a nasty-tasting coffee for 20 Euros that comes in a crappy jug that pours it all over the table
and onto your bloody coat.
We ate the most amazing lunch of ham, lard and cheese as around us a school spilled voluble children and their impossibly glamorous mummies; a lady tipped rubbish into a winding street and caused a dozen infuriated shopkeepers to crowd under her window and give her the most musical bollocking I've ever heard; we drank prosecco and tiny bitter espressos as the waiters piled chairs about us and the rain sparkled off the streets outside; we walked miles along sunny canals choosing crumbling and empty palazzos to live in; we larked about in masks and cloaks testing the indulgence of out-of-season shopkeepers; we drooled over tiny intricate paper theatres in wood-panelled warrens; we stood in silent awe in a church made of blue-grey marble; I bought beautiful handbags and an outrageously elegant winter coat; we drank Bellinis in Harry's Bar and made some eccentric new friends; and above all, we never once got lost. I tried, but the Colonel had several maps concealed about his person and guided me surefootedly to shops, campos, bridges, palaces and food. Result.
That Turnbull & Asser smoking jacket conceals at least four maps. Which, after the three Bellinis I had before supper, came in jolly handy.