This is guest post by Caroline Quinn Pratt based on her experience visiting Venice while studying abroad in London. If you would like to submit a guest post to please contact me.
It started on the island of Murano. My flatmate Kimberly and I had spent a lovely morning touring the glass bead-making shops on the island and we were now headed back to the docks to go back to the main part of Venice. Venice is famous for its glass industry but the operations themselves were moved to the island of Murano in the 13th century to prevent a possible fire from burning the entire city to the ground. Of course now the whole city is sinking anyway but that’s beside the point.
Kimberly and I were waiting in line to board one of the small passenger ferries that function as buses to go back to Venice when I started to feel sick to my stomach. I tried to ignore it at first but there it was sitting in the pit of my stomach. The last thing I wanted to do was get on a crowded boat for 30 minutes. I weighed my options: get on the boat now or stay on Murano and possibly start feeling even sicker later.
So I boarded and stood by the rail as we pushed off from the dock. I tried for a few minutes to let the cool breeze distract me from feeling sick. Suddenly though I had to throw up. I looked around, nothing but tourists to my left and right. The only viable option was into the water. So I leaned over the boat’s railing and went for it. A European tourist and his young son watched and eyed me with suspension. They seemed to be judging me for being sick off the side of a boat in Venice. How American of me, I’m sure they were thinking.
My flatmate at this point was already sitting down below at this point and so was nowhere to be found. I stood back up and tried to pretend nothing had happened. I guess I was doing a poor job of it though because a few seconds later the captain of boat came over and asked—or I assumed was asking as it was in Italian—if I wanted to get off. No, no, I gestured as my stomach screamed yes, yes. Even if I got off now, I would have to get back on a boat point at some point that day since staying the night on an island long on glass factories and short on hotels wasn’t really an option.
The combination of a freezing cold fresh breeze and standing very still got me back to Venice without further incidence and I gratefully clambered to solid ground. Unfortunately my troubles were not over yet. As soon as we got back to our hotel, I was sick again and this time the only option was the communal bathroom located down the hall from our room. I felt bad for whoever was going to have to use the bathroom after me but least now I didn’t have spectators.
I spent the rest of the evening curled up in a ball on our bed—oh that’s right. My flatmate and I still had to share a bed that night. I’m sure she was hating me just a little bit at this point but, again, no other options. At 4:30am the next morning, after a few deep breaths to pull myself together, we strapped on our backpacks and headed out into the darkness of early morning Venice. In order to catch our 8am plane to Athens, we had to take a bus to the airport. We were about two miles from the bus station though and did I mention there are no taxis in Venice? There are only boats and none of them seemed to be operating at that hour. So we walked. I consider it one of the miracles of my life that 45 minutes later we made it to the bus station without being mugged or me passing out.
Getting to the airport was only half the battle though. In season four of 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy explains that, “There are no rules in real estate. It’s like check-in at an Italian airport.” Unfortunately, by the time that episode aired I knew exactly what he was talking about. Once at the airport, we had to go to the counter to pick up our tickets so we tried to get in line as soon as we arrived. I say we tried to get in line because there really was no line. Already at 6 o’clock in the morning a giant mob of people had formed in front of the check-in desks. People pushed ahead of each other whenever they saw a chance without any regard to who had been ahead of whom. No one seemed concerned in the least about tried to create order or attempting to expedite the check in process. I sat down on my bag, longed for the orderly queues of London, and tried not to pass out from not having eaten anything for the last 24 hours. Actually I may have kept down a Sprite. Eventually we somehow arrived at the front of the mass, got our tickets, and boarded the plane.
By the time we landed in Athens, I was feeling better and was even able to enjoy a shot of free Ouzo that night. Okay, I didn’t really enjoy licorice-flavored vodka, but I kept it down anyway. Apparently my illness had just been a 24-hour virus. I went to bed that night in our hostel suite feeling excited for seeing Athens in the morning. I was just drifting off to sleep when I heard Kimberly make a rush for the bathroom. It was now her turn for me to hate her just a little bit, at least for 24 hours.
Caroline is currently volunteering in Kenya. She will hopefully be back on L’appel du Vide soon to share some tales from that trip!