The great, unexpected and glorious bonus on the Venetian leg of my journey proved to be another internet ‘find’- my guides for the next two full days. Two weeks earlier, at home, I had narrowed down the possibilities of help in viewing a complex city like Venice on an extremely limited time scale, and came up with Karen and Mike of The Venice Experience. A husband and wife team of expat Americans, now permanently in residence in Venice, they tailor tours both for individuals and groups based on specific requirements as discussed in advance. So they can cater for photographers, artists, architectural lovers, gourmets – you name it, they can supply it. However, as I entered into quite a lengthy email correspondence with Karen, it became clear as we got to know each other a little better that she could offer another and hugely appealing alternative, “the city through their eyes”. On learning that she is a retired college professor, and he an artist, this seemed the best option of all.
So shortly after stumbling up and down the Paunasia’s staircase for the final time that morning, Karen presented herself in the lobby and my expanded city tour began. I can’t begin to list the delights she showed me that afternoon, and Mike continued to introduce me to the day following. All I know is that I shot over 650 photographs of Venice in under 48 hours, and discovered that far from being restrained by the numerous waterways, the city could be penetrated, crossed and re-crossed entirely by foot if not with ease, at least with confidence, provided you had the right guide.
It was on the second day with Mike as we hit mid-morning that things slowed down somewhat, but in a most delightful way. He has worked out a way of showing the city off via its best cafes, which, as a necessary bonus, usually supply the most accessible and cleanest toilet facilities in the neighbourhood. So a small glass of umbra (umbra: shadow, a modest tincture) here, another glass there, and we began to swop confidences, to the point of absolute agreement that the world is actually 99.9% (recurring) full of time-waster, no-hopers, tossers and fools. Fortunately my hi-tec Canon 5D camera has an image-stabilizing lens, else nothing much would have been caught in focus by the end of the day.
As it happened at about 5.30pm Mike had arranged to move some of his large and extremely interesting abstract paintings into a local café, so I moseyed along to help with the transportation and installation. By then umbra’s had transformed themselves into something more substantial and we ended up at a wonderful family-run local restaurant eating marinated goose breast followed by calves liver (Venetian specialty). A great end to a memorable two days in the expert and convivial company of Messrs Venice Experience. An experience I truly urge you not to miss!
So from this point on I joined the Azamara Quest leaving from Venice for an eight-day cruise to Athens. As they knew in advance I would be writing an Arbuturian review they had kindly upgraded me to a balcony cabin. This was a much-appreciated gesture, although the variable weather did not allow me to fling the doors open on too many occasions.