[ 19:45 tuesday 26 july – british airways flight 696, vienna to london ]
a slightly dazed post-meal, post-alcohol glow pervades the cabin as middle europe slips past thirty thousand feet below. i’ve spent the last two days in almost constant travel. yesterday morning i woke up in porto levante, a quiet fishing village on the adriatic coast. fernando picked me up and drove me to rosalina, a 1970s beach resort up the coast, from where i trundled along in a tiny regional train to the end of the line at chioggia, on the southern shore of the venetian lagoon. i crossed by vaporetto to the southern tip of the island of pellestrina, then continued by bus to the island’s northern tip. the bus drove onto a ferry which crossed to the south of the lido, where the bus rolled off and carried me on to the north of the island. here i boarded a vaporetto and finally arrived, fairy tale style, in venice.
after five hours exploring (this was only my second visit) it was time to take a vaporetto to the railway station for the train to treviso, a taxi to the airport, a flight to stansted, a coach to liverpool street and a bus home; where i arrived at two in the morning. less than four hours later, at a quarter to six this morning, a taxi arrived to take me to paddington station for a train to heathrow and a flight to vienna. i’ve been in meetings all day and now, happy but weary, i am going home.
getting to the airport after thursday’s explosions proved less difficult than i feared. ironically, the greatest challenge was travelling the short distance from the office to the house by bike. the police had cordoned off a big area around the junction between hackney road and old street, cutting off all direct routes. the policeman i asked wasn’t optimistic of my chances of getting to the house, telling me all side roads onto columbia road had been closed off. i was mentally preparing a list of items for sergio to pack for me (he’d been in the house all day), but thankfully i was able to pick a route through back streets further north which cut back onto hackney road between the road blocks and got me home.
these four days in the veneto have been fabulous. from our base of a loaned apartment in porto levante (mille grazie, fernando) we took the tiny ferry to a wild beach-ringed island on friday afternoon. i swam in the murky water, found a turtle shell and photographed sea holly. a couple of hours later a boy drove down the beach in a tractor to tell us the boatman was nervous about the weather and was making his final journey back to the mainland. when we got to the jetty he’d already departed and leaden clouds were amassing on the horizon. luckily he heard my hollering above the noise of the motor and came back, or we’d have been stuck there overnight.
we spent saturday amidst the massed ranks of ombrelloni and lettini occupying the beach at rosalina. fernando is working here as a lifeguard through the summer, attracting a devoted following of scantily-clad young ladies. on sunday we braved the ever-present mosquitos and set off into the nature reserve lying to the south of porto levante. amongst the swamps and lagoons we found an abandoned house which looked like it had last been inhabited in the fifties or sixties. naive scenes of the surrounding land and seascape had been painted on the walls, an oddly intimate connection with the former resident who so sought to record the world he inhabited. most of the furniture and chattels were still in place, covered with cobwebs and bird droppings. a deck of cards lay spread on the floor. my camera was busy and i was in my element.
on sunday night we went to a party on the beach at bagni di spina as the sun set. then we drove further down the coast to ravenna and threw ourselves into another party on another beach. this was a real corker, crammed with maybe two thousand exotically-dressed revelers, driven by excellent and surprisingly abstract music. i had a wonderful time.
: c :