The girls were bored. We had been in the hotel most of the day because of the rain and general touring exhaustion. My wife, 18 year old daughter, and her 18 year old friend, had been chasing around Italy for two weeks with glorious sunny weather every day. Rome, Pompeii, Siena, Florence, Cinque Terre. We were having a great time. Today was the last day of our trip. We were in Venice.
We had walked in the rain that morning to St. Mark’s Square. It was raining so hard that the city had set up risers for sidewalks in the square, since it was six inches under water. This didn’t deter the crowds of tourists. We were attempting to stay dry with umbrellas borrowed from the hotel, to no avail. My shoes and pants were soaked because somebody I know and love just had to go back to that little shop near the square where they sold the exquisite party masks that Venice is famous for. Navigating the risers and the narrow streets full of umbrellas was difficult for me. I kept dodging my head away from shorter tourists who were determined to poke me in the eye with one of the tips of their umbrella spines.
Back at the hotel to change clothes and take a hair drier to my shoes so I wouldn’t get jungle rot in my toes and squeak all the way home, we planned a nighttime strategy from the Rick Steves Italy guidebook and hotel lobby brochures.
“Here are your choices” I said. “Number one. We stay in our hotel rooms and watch Italian TV.” (I think commercials in Italian are hilarious).
“Option Two. We take the vaporetto again down the Grand Canal and actually listen to the Ricks Steves’ commentary I have on my iPod about all the buildings we see. There will be a quiz at the end, when we get to St. Mark’s Square.”
“Plan C. We try to find a small out-of-the-way family restaurant on my master list of recommended Venetian restaurants.”
“We’re sooooo tired of Italian food,” said my daughter.
I was flipping through the brochures and my eye caught the image of a shiny saxophone. It was advertising the Venice Jazz Club. It scheduled live concerts on Saturday nights. Today was a Saturday. I’m not a huge fan of jazz, but I like to hear live music. Perfect. This would be a nice change from touring museums, monuments, and waiting in lines.
The girls had been waiting for a chance to get dressed up and go out on the town on this trip. Against our better judgment as parents, we had let them go unescorted to a late night disco in Florence. They thought they were going to meet hot young Italian men. Instead the disco was filled with unattractive American servicemen with short haircuts and Texas drawls. Not quite what they had hoped for. It turned out fine in my opinion.
“How would you like to eat at the Chinese restaurant across the street and then go to hear live music at the Venice Jazz Club?”
The voting was unanimous. Pork fried rice and jazz it was to be.
At dinner time we met in the lobby. The girls were dressed in cocktail dresses. On their feet were shoes with four inch stiletto heels.
“You do know that we are in Venice where there are no cars. There are water taxis, but they’re expensive. We’re going to walk everywhere tonight,” I said, dispensing parental wisdom.
“Dad, we can’t get dressed up and wear athletic shoes or flats, what fun would that be?” said my daughter. “We’d look like dorks! How can we meet any hot Italian guys that way?”
“As you can see, I am wearing sensible loafers like the middle-aged man that I am. If you lag behind, I am abandoning you to the paparazzi.”
After a surprisingly decent Chinese dinner served to us by an old Chinese woman who spoke no English or Italian, we began our quest to find the Venice Jazz Club. Luckily the rain had stopped. I had my trusty maps, the address of the club, and my innate sense of direction.
According to my spiritual advisor Rick, one need never get lost in the maze of Venice because there are signs everywhere pointing to either the Venezia Santa Lucia train station or St. Mark’s Square. If you’re staying in a hotel nearby one of those two sites, which many tourists do, just follow the appropriate sign home. It’s as easy as following the yellow brick road. Unless you haven’t got a brain.
We were staying just around the corner from the train station. I was supremely confident of my navigational abilities.
We set off on our quest. The night was warm, some of the clouds had cleared, and the moon was out. It was a fabulous night for strolling the romantic by-ways of Venice. To be continued…