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A Venetian Rendezvous.

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By Claudia Trotter.

Venice in the summer. A sweltering oasis of flustered map-reading tourists, decadent gold-rimmed gondolas and bustling market stalls selling fresh fruits of every colour. Separated by miniature bridges, the city is extraordinarily built on water, with tiny cobbled streets designed precisely to make one get lost. An activity I particularly enjoyed on my travels there years ago.

 The sun was beginning to set and I had somehow stumbled upon my hostel that I would be using as my solitary base for the following three nights. Run down, yet calm and quaint were my first thoughts of the old, slightly medieval looking building. An older lady with smudged purple lipstick and a beetle broach the size of my hand pinned curiously on her blouse sat at the reception desk dishing out keys to weary travellers. Room 414- I heaved my fraying duffle bag up the four flights of stairs and trudged along to the end of the dark corridor where I found my little single bed, along with six others all in a line for other like-minded explorers. I flung open the rickety wooden shutters and found myself looking out onto a canal just as a punter was treating his guests to a private ride on his red gondola. The smells of freshly cooked spaghetti wafted into my dimly lit room and my stomach grumbled as I remembered I hadn’t eaten since sunrise.

 I found myself later that evening in the common room of my hostel, curled up on the sofa with my book I was thoroughly invested in at the time titled ‘The Unknown Terrorist”- not exactly a light holiday read but it kept me entertained nevertheless.

“The Unknown Terrorist”, I heard a deep voice say from across the room.I looked up from my page to see a tall, blonde boy- similar to my age, perhaps a few years my senior reading the exact same book, although his was in a lot better condition than mine. After making some small talk with this stranger I soon found to be named Austin, 26 years old from Seattle, training to be in the army, we fell deep into conversation. I couldn’t help but notice he was riddled with mysterious tattoos yet all the while had a friendly, unassuming face. It appeared we were both in this city alone and neither one had plans for the evening- an adventure was certainly in order.

A little  spritz of  Rosamunda and I'm done.The alluring  scent of  Bulgarian and Turkish rose. The rose is bought to full seductive height infused with Patchouli, oud and spices. 

We left the hostel, hit immediately by the still muggy air of the summer evening, in search of some cheap wine and a scenic tour of Venice by night. Austin and I strolled, as cliché as it may sound, hand in hand along the canals, watching enviously as couples gorged on seafood platters at their romantic dinners in waterfront restaurants. The Rialto Bridge, which spans the Grand Canal was lit up by dozens of twinkling lights, swarming with tourists trying to execute the perfect shot for their next Instagram post. Austin and I had left our phones at the hostel, an unconscious yet utterly rewarding decision as it allowed for a truly immersive experience in enjoying a total stranger’s company in a foreign city.

Leaving Austin and our romantic endeavours behind, the following day, I took a small ferry to the little town of Burano, known as the island of glass. I was greeted straight off the ferry by little Italian ladies beckoning me to come inside their tiny restaurants, throwing their menus in my face chanting Italian words I just couldn’t quite make out. I quickly noticed it seemed the thing to do though, tourists were scrambled around tiny outdoor tables and chairs digging into heaving mountains of pasta and tomato sauce piled onto paper plates- a lunchtime hotspot.

 

Suddenly I was thrown into a kaleidoscopic world of colour- on either side of the small river were petite run-down boutique shops, each a different shade of the rainbow. With tiny bridges over the water, Burano seemed almost like a miniature version of Venice. I popped into a few of the giftshops and immediately noticed that they were only really selling one thing- glass, something I never thought could be turned into quite so many things. There was everything from paperweights to jewellery to plant pots, all made entirely out of glass, fired in a vast array of colours and patterns. I made sure to pick up a few to take home to my family as presents, provided they didn’t all smash on the plane!

 Upon return back to my Venetian hostel and packing up my duffel for my next destination, Paris, I reflected upon my solo time in this strange and wonderful city. I hadn’t quite prepared myself for travelling alone and what it would bring. But as my plane rolled down the runway to yet another foreign place, I had three extra things on board: an appreciation for complete, total strangers. Somehow when you find yourself alone, you are drawn to others who are alone- you wonder what their story is, what they are thinking, have they noticed you? Secondly, an internal GPS. At my previous destinations, I relied heavily on my travel companion to lead the way, directing us to this pub and that café, but being alone, this responsibility is thrust on you whether you like it or not. And thirdly, I had gained a belly. A belly full of arguably the world’s greatest cuisine, pizza and pasta and a whole lot of aperol. But I couldn’t wait to show off this carb filled tummy in Paris and replace it with croissants and frogs’ legs, at least I hear that’s what they eat there?