Beli Tempi


And so it was. Five went mad in Venice on a two-night jaunt to celebrate a chum’s fiftieth birthday. My four chums are not really high maintenance, although one was heard to say while waiting for take off, “now Ascot- that’s definitely a wedge. You just can’t get away with a heel.” But it was an interesting thought as we waited on the edge of the runway, the Captain apologising profusely for the technical hitch resulting in our delay.

We were three rows from the back happily flicking through the inflight mag when suddenly from the very back row came a barrage of expletives and complaints. While the rest of us tried to ignore the fracas, our Ascot-enlightened-chum went into panic mode twisting this way and that trying to get a glimpse. She caught the eye of a rather large man seated behind her who apparently removed his clip-on tie mouthing the words, “Don’t worry, it’s fine.”
To be honest, had it been me at that point I may well have been asking the stewardess if I could get off. But my chum is not only savvy with Ascot but bizarrely, with the ways of the police and secret service, who apparently only wear clip on ties in order to avoid strangulation when attacked. Who would have thought the clip-on tie was a recognized symbol of national security? – How very British!

All was calm as we took off and we heard no more from the prisoner, (as it turned out), from the back row. He was met at Marco Polo by the Italian Police and hurried away. All was forgotten as we were whisked across the lagoon in a private taxi, The Birthday Girl was loving it, “I feel like Amal Clooney!” she shouted above the roar of the engine.

No sooner than you can say ‘five Bellini’s please,’ and once the hotel maintenance man had taken a hacksaw to my chum’s case lock, we found ourselves sitting in the midday sun sampling anti pasti. One of our party had organised the whole trip brilliantly so we had a pre booked restaurant to look forward to that evening- plenty of time to acclimatise and acquaint ourselves with beautiful breathtaking Venice.
And so we did…for miles. So lost were we, that the even our phones’ Sat Nav. admitted defeat. Still, we arrived at Rick Stein’s favourite Venetian restaurant and dined on fish pasta and cones of deep fried shrimp, then managed to party on till 1.30am, (well, in my room anyway), chatting over the remaining G&Ts. As one had exploded in my roomie’s case; we resisted the urge to squeeze it from her white jeans.

The following day we embarked on a private tour of ‘Secret Venice’. With an Italian guide we were treated to tea and pastries in a house on the Grande Canal, a delicious lunch and other delights.

In the evening we hopped onto a water taxi for a choppy extended voyage around Venice to a prestigious restaurant. Now Venice is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways the exploration of which is aided by ‘sensible and comfortable shoes’ as one guidebook succinctly put it. Our birthday girl’s idea of ‘flats’ is around the three-inch mark, but for the evening…. she’s pushing four, possibly six.

“One must maintain standards, Sandra,” as she strode onto the water taxi resplendent in a white coat, stunning dress and towering black stilettos.

The Venetians aboard had clearly not seen the like of it before, clad as they were against the elements. They stood incredulously gazing upon the vision of our chum who had adopted the brace position, legs apart with heels stuck into the rubber matting and no handrail. She was going nowhere and, like a ship’s figurehead, she gazed stoically out to sea. No doubt the Empire was built by women like her.

By the end of our trip, despite thinking that she may have broken a toe, she declared Venice was her childhood dream made real.
See Venice and die? No see Venice and live lovingly and laugh loudly! Beli tempi!

Written by Sandra Pagan