Sunday, March 13, 2016

“Mr. Right in Venice” by Deb Perris

I figured that a trip to Venice would be ideal for testing out the man who finally seemed to be Mr. Right. I imagined strolling along the canals hand-in-hand and sipping lovely red wine on a patio before retiring to our quaint room in an intimate hotel in this romantic city. Little did I imagine that the trip would test our patience as much as it did.  But really, what better way to test a new love than to see how he handles curve balls?

Since tourism is the primary industry in Venice, you would think that the locals would make every effort to make tourists feel welcomed, but you would be wrong.

When Dave (my new beau) and I arrived in Venice by train, our first ordeal was an hour long line-up to get directions to our hotel.  When we finally boarded the water bus with map in hand, we started to feel the excitement; the excitement soon subsided as we disembarked from the boat and rounded the corner to cross the bridge.  Who knew that the bridges in Venice were stepped, not smooth?  I looked up at the 24 stone steps facing me, and down at my suitcase that was far too heavy. “You go first, Dave, so I don’t slow you down” I said, and started the slow and arduous climb to the top.

After much struggling with hauling luggage over the bridges and up an incline, we arrived in the piazza that was our destination.  There were no obvious ‘hotel’ signs, and nobody in the piazza knew where we could find Ca’ Morosini.  Great – they were hiding our hotel! We finally found it at 5 p.m. nestled between a patio and a souvenir shop, both with awnings obscuring the front door and the very small plaque confirming that we had arrived at the right building.

The door was locked, and Dave rang the bell repeatedly but no one arrived to greet us.  They’ve locked us out!  Just as Dave was muttering “What the hell” and I was starting to feel the anxiety creeping in, two women emerged from the door of the church, a mere 20 feet across from where we stood.  

One of the women asked if we were checking in, then told us that the owner, Raffaela, was off for the day, but that she had probably left a key for us on the desk.  

Leaving Dave on the main floor with the luggage, I joined the other women on the second floor, where no key was to be found. Great! My attempt to contact the hotel owner by phone failed when I was met with a voice message indicating that the number was no longer in service. Double great – they don’t want us!

One of the women looked at the number I was dialing, and said that was not the same as the one that she had, so she went to her room to get the correct one for me. As we were waiting, I asked the other woman where she was from, and when she said Mississauga, I told her that I lived in Oakville, and we agreed that it was a small world. The first woman emerged from her bedroom, and as I was writing down the new phone number, I asked if she was from Mississauga as well, and she replied “No, I’m from a small town outside of Sault Ste. Marie.” 

When I told her that I had grown up in the Soo, she told me that her name was Sylvia Bumbacco. The Soo is full of Bumbaccos, and it turns out that I dated one of her cousins; I remember him well because he wore puffy sleeved satin shirts with long pointy collars.  (It wasn’t his fault – after all, it was the seventies!)   

I told her my family name, and she responded “I taught with John Stadnyk – are you related?”, and we were both so surprised and delighted when I said “John is my brother” – in my wildest dreams I could never have imagined this kind of encounter happening across the ocean from my stomping grounds.

As I attempted to contact our hostess again, Sylvia returned to her room and said to her husband “You’ll never believe who that woman is.  She’s John Stadnyk’s sister.”  Her husband replied “Debbie?  I taught her in Grade 7”.  Sylvia came flying out of her guestroom and we stood with much laughter and amazement at the way this story was emerging.  When her husband walked in, I exclaimed “Mr. Nippers!!!” and as he was giving me a bear hug he said rather flatly “You can call me ‘George’ now.”  Yes, that’s what I remember – a pretty dull, emotionless teacher.

With Sylvia’s help we finally found someone in the vicinity of the building who could connect us with Raffaela, and after some confusion on her part Raffaela determined that she did, after all, have a room for us.

Once settled in, Dave and I mused that had the two women not encountered us, let us into the building, and helped us track down the owner, we would have been wandering the streets of an unfamiliar city trying to locate alternate accommodation.  We agreed that, while the day had been challenging, we were lucky that it ended as it had.

As we stepped out into the piazza for dinner we saw restaurant staff at every patio frantically dismantling the dining areas; we looked up, and the black sky told us that we were in for some nasty weather.  We found the closest trattoria, sipped wine, chatted with the single server, Maria, and the cook, and enjoyed a fabulous dinner.

Just as we finished our meal the skies opened up. The narrow street quickly filled with a foot of mothball sized hail and torrential rain.  Maria began to panic, and kept exclaiming “Oh Dio Mio! Oh Dio Mio! This never happens here!”. Dave and I walked to the window, and realized that we weren’t going anywhere soon.  Dave shrugged, said “What the hell?  Maria, can we have another bottle of the Chianti, please?”

When the rain stopped and the water finally drained from the street (and we had finished that second bottle) we decided to head back to Ca Morosini.  Looking at the six inches of hail stones covering the road, we figured that we would be fine getting back – we’re Canadian, aren’t we? It wasn’t quite that easy: walking on ice in sandals after two bottles of wine impaired our judgement and balance. So, hanging on to each other and the walls of the buildings we made the precarious trip back to the hotel.

We crawled into bed, utterly exhausted.  Our misadventures on our first day in this beautiful city put our relationship to a test that we didn’t quite expect when we were planning this holiday.

Dave and I bought a house together this past October – I guess that our relationship passed the test.

Deb Perris has been fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people her entire life, and her great joy is telling stories about these people who have graced her life. With a background in business writing, she is stepping out of her comfort zone to write stories about these fascinating people, and struggling to not write an executive summary and table of contents.

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Alton, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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