Venice is a beautiful city. It’s surrounded entirely by water, using a winding system of canals and bridges to allow people to get to the various areas within it. It is composed of a number of islands, with boats (vaprettos) traveling to and from them at regular intervals (not unlike a bus schedule). So you can imagine the excitement one feels when their friend proposes a quick getaway to Venice. Now of course, not everyone can just jump over to Venice.
But Marie was a young college studying abroad and she decided to go for it. Rather than spending 100 euro on a flight to Venice, Marie and her friends decided that the best way to save was to take an overnight train there from Paris, where Marie was studying for the semester. Next, they could take the 13-hour train ride through France and Switzerland.
The tickets were a surprising 13 euro, because they were taking the train one-way on a Thursday. But no amount of money was worth 26-hours on a train, and Friday’s class was largely optional as a junior studying abroad. Marie’s friends had been pressuring her so she quickly booked a train ticket and a return flight from Venice at 6:00 pm. She would be back in time for Monday lecture.
The gang piled into train at Gare de Lyon in Paris. Once they boarded on the train, they could not stop laughing. The sleeper cabins (if you can call them that) were no more than four feet in width, with hard seats. It was designed to fit four people, with a ladder up to the bunk beds that had similar seats. Each person was provided with a sketchy pillow wrapped in plastic, which they cleverly decided not to take off. Luckily, they had packed well for the trip. There was plenty of wine (and a wine opener!) to drink out of small plastic cups, as well as cheese and bread. The door to the cabin had a curtain that could be pulled (read: forcibly tugged) down for privacy.
As the train company advertised, the ride came with a beautiful view of the French countryside at night, a true scenic marvel. Just kidding. It was pitch black the entire ride, which was almost as funny as the fact that they were instructed to bring their own toilet paper. All in all though, the extreme budget train did come with waking up to a beautiful sunrise in the Swiss mountains and they slept soundly enough until Verona, and arrived at Venice at 9am.
Touching down in Venice made the ride worth it. The first thing that greeted them was the stunning blueness of the water in the morning. The sun shone brightly off the water and revealed the fading beige and salmon color of the buildings. The city comes alive in the morning, with the smell of saltwater and food filling in the air. They walked around, getting lost in small side streets until they found a small café.
The espresso bar was a stand up bar. Although Venetian Italian sounds a bit different than most dialects, Venetians are undoubtedly Italian. And like Italians, they drink their coffee standing up. Marie mustered her best Italian to order a coffee, but learning French was hard enough, and she failed miserably. In her defense though, the most beautiful man in the entirety of existence was asking her for her order. He was the sort of person with a face that people would just pay him to be in the same room. He must have modeled on the side to keep the coffee business going. Marie lost all words. Unfortunately, this was a stand up bar, and they could not stay for long. So after finishing her cappuccino (see, she knew some Italian!) she left her future husband to serve other guests.
Venice is composed of hundreds of islands, though most people stick to the center. Sant’Erasmo and Mozorbo have charming farmer’s markets and greenery; beautiful bike rides through Lido are heavenly. After much debate, they decided to stick with the touristy route and wandered off to Piazza San Marco, a walk which took them 45 minutes because they kept getting lost. The streets are tiny and the buildings are high in Venice so it makes it almost impossible to navigate without getting distracted by souvenir shops, cafes, or more food.
Gondola rides are available for a fixed price of 80 euro (don’t let anyone charge you differently; there are laws about the price fix). Of course, they had to pair off and try them. Though it’s not as adorable as being there on your honey moon, a gondola ride is still one of the most fun experiences of Venice (especially if you save money by getting there on the sketch train). You can even go alone! You’re not single; you’re falling love with life.
They then went into Saint Mark’s Basilica, a stunning gilded cathedral and Doge’s palace. One thing that people don’t mention about the basilica is the amount of birds hanging outside. Marie had ordered a crepe nearby to snack on while they waited online for the Basilica (the lines huge, even on weekday) when suddenly; a seagull swooped in and snatched it. She was so stunned; she did not say anything until she heard someone behind her laughing hysterically. It was the man from the café! No it wasn’t. This isn’t some cheeky rom com; it was an old Italian man. Still, Marie laughed.
The basilica is a marvel of medieval architecture, much like most of the city. The buildings are slightly worn down from the water exposure, adding to the charm of the city. Of course, there is a chic quarter where all of the designer stores set up shop right by the Grand Canal. The Grand Canal provides major transport through much of the city and is easily accessible. Walking to the central square, the gang regrettably said goodbye to Venice and caught a vapretto to the airport.
It was at this point that Marie realized that there was no flight for 6:00. She looked at her friends’ tickets: 18:00. Oh no. Marie realized what a grave mistake she had made. Her flight had left Venice even before she had touched food inside the city. As her friends boarded their flights, she went up to the flight counter to see if anyone was willing to help a sad (and now stranded) college student who spoke little to no Italian.
Fortunately, the people of Venice are very accommodating. The customer service rep laughed at the mix up, making Marie ease up a bit. She found her a flight leaving at 9pm that night (or 21:35 to be exact). In the meantime, Marie was able to use her friend’s miles to relax in the lounge next door, drink free champagne, and think about what the beautiful model from the café might be doing at just that second. A couple of hours in Venice was magical, but it certainly was not enough.