Aug 17, 2016
TRAVELING ALONE, PART 4—How Not to Fall into a Venetian Canal, Or A Cautionary Tale
First, a bit of background:
In 2014 I travelled with a group of artists to Italy—Cinque Terre, Florence, and eventually, Venice. The group went home from Florence, while my good friend and painting pal extraordinaire Benda Bickerstaff-Stanley and I went on the Venice to sketch and paint.
To visit Cinque Terre (“Five Lands”), many groups stay in La Spezia, which is just a 5 minute train ride away, and has hotels large enough to hold larger groups. Lovely town, we stayed ACROSS the street from the train station, and were just a 20 minute walk from the harbor if we wanted to get boats to take us around. All of it up and down hills. UP. AND. DOWN.
I love getting up early and walking around the streets alone, before lots of people are up and about. The first morning in La Spezia I walked to the train station (I had to get the concierge to let me out of the hotel because it was so early the doors were still locked) to see what was going on, and get some coffee.
Everybody was going to work. Who knew? We were in I-T-A-L-Y. I’m feeling the beauty, the charm, the elegance, the warm of the Italian people. What I got was people catching the commuter trains to go to work. And they were all in McDonald’s in the station getting breakfast. This was good, because I REALLY wanted some coffee, and the breakfast at the hotel would not be served (for our group) for another hour. So I watched. Women in their heels, men in their suits, all ‘belly up to the bar’—ordering their coffee from seemingly endless choices, paying for it, drinking it, and then walking away. Mostly espresso and cappuccino, and croissants or some other pastry. Order, pay, eat, go. All standing.
So, after a few moments of observation, I determined that I could do this, and I did. But I sat down, so I could also watch the trains. So much fun to just watch people walk by. AND I saw them use a fancy lift to move a woman in a wheelchair from the platform to the level of the train. Very cool!
What does this have to do with the canals of Venice? You will see…
So, fast forward about ten days, and Brenda and I are in Venice.
Ah, Venezia. I was there in 1975, and it was great to be back. After 8 days of walking up and down the hills of Cinque Terre, it would be great to walk on flat land. I thought. Odd thing though, all those little bridges crossing over the canals are like little hills. Hills with steps, but hills, nevertheless. Lots and lots of little hills. It was like Cinque Terre on the east coast.
Lovely room, on the corner with TWO views of one of the many canals, with great views of stucco, flowers on balconies, and laundry in the sun. Heaven.
The next morning, my first day of Venice in 39 years, I decided to get out and walk around. Early. Because that’s what I do.
The great think about Venice is that so many of the streets lead right to a canal. Straight into a canal. Like, you could walk right to the end of a small street, and step down (just 2 or 3 steps) into the water. Such a street was just two turns away from the hotel. This little street had a great view. A great, great view. So I walked along and took photographs. When I got to the end, I looked left and right, and could see down the canal in both directions. Took more pictures. Leaned out a bit, took more photos. Looked down, saw the step was clear, stepped down and took more photos, leaning out. But I really wanted a clearer view to my right. I looked down, and saw the next step was muddy-looking. But when I see mud, and I think grit. Silly me.
So, I v-e-r-y c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y stepped down.
When I came to, I was seeing stars, and I could not feel anything from the neck down. While I was waiting for my vision to clear, and chastising myself for being so incredibly STUPID, the feeling came back into my body. I was sitting up against the wall, so I must have landed straight down on my spinal column, and the shock went right UP my spinal column. I tried to get up, but could get no purchase on the mud. I needed to get up one more step before I got to the street. I did not want to move too much, in case I slipped and DID end up in the water. I certainly didn’t want to move while no one was around. When I looked up the street, I noticed one lone gentleman walking his dog, at the other end of the street.
Trying to remember any Italian for help, I decided on ‘Attenzione, attenzione!’ ‘Attention, attention.’. He heard me, and came over. His hand gestures told be how foolish he thought I was, and I thoroughly agreed! I could not let him pull me up, because it was too slippery and I was afraid I would pull him into the water (and I think he was afraid, too), but with him nearby I had enough courage to get on my knees and crawl up to the street level, at which point he could help me up. Standing up we took an inventory, discerned that I could walk, and I walked back to the hotel.
I told the concierge what had happened (in case I didn’t make it to my room) and Brenda checked me out. At that point I realized that I had hit the back of my head against the wall because I had some blood in my scalp, and a big ol’ goose egg. However, I did not want to lie down, I case it was more serious than I thought. We went down to breakfast, and walked around the rest of the day. That is all. Other than my head being so sore I could hardly put my head on my pillow, it was a non-event.
The reason I share this is because I did one thing REALLY wrong (aside from the obvious). I did not have the identify of the hotel on me.
If I had become unconscious, there would have been no way for anyone to know where I was staying (although I did have ID on me, and eventually they would have found the hotel).
RULE #1 for travel (thank you, Garry-Lou Upton): Always have your hotel card on you. One at a time—do not carry your collection with you.
RULE #2 for travel: Get extra medical insurance for travel (which I did). Not just hospital, but transportation. Suppose you have to be helicoptered out of a situation? Often your U.S. health insurance will not cover overseas issues. This is not a luxury.
And what would I have done if I had been alone? I would have sat in the lobby for several hours, until I felt that I was showing no signs of concussion. or worse. And if I had, at least I would have been out in public, instead of ill in my room.
Next week? Getting through Security. Or at least, TRYING to get through Security…
Deb K says (Aug 17, 2016):
Linda! That was some tumble you took!! I'm so sorry you had to endure all of the trauma especially on your trip. I'm really glad you're alright. Thank you for sharing about your beautiful vacation! I would have never thought about a few things like the hotel card - thank you! Information like that is extremely important yet it's rare to hear. I enjoy our virtual friendship very much and hope one day to see you and your paintings in person. Warm regards, Deborah
Linda Hollett- Bazouzi says (Aug 17, 2016):
Thank you, Deb! I glad you like the post. I thought having that card was a great idea, too. Linda H-B
Ida Simmons says (Aug 17, 2016):
Linda, I am so glad you are okay! and you didn't fall in the water (yuk). Thank you for sharing. Have you read Donna Leon's essays on living in Venice? Priceless.
Linda HB says (Aug 17, 2016):
Ida, I have not read her account, but I will look it up. And yes, 'yuk' would have been the word, although the water had no smell at all. It's just the idea. Thanks so much for commenting!
Brenda Bickerstaff-stanley says (Aug 24, 2016):
It is always a "TRIP" traveling with you. Can't wait till theme to in a few weeks
Linda H-B says (Aug 24, 2016):
Thanks, Brenda. I am looking for to our working together!