It’s hard to put into words quite how exquisitely beautiful the city of Venice is. It is an aesthetic dream, an artist and bohemian’s paradise. On arrival I had to delete applications and wipe my entire photo memory on my iPhone to make space for me going trigger happy, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t seem to fit the scope of Venice into my camera lens. It is the scale of detail that is overwhelming. The chipped plaster, exposed brick walls, rusty reds, dusty pinks and salmons, perfectly offset against the aqua green of its surrounding ocean. Every doorway is encased in history, every doorbell is ornate. Window shutters vary in shape and style from building to building and no one alleyway is the same. As we entered the city (on a speed boat. As you do) James spotted graffiti and commented on how sad it was for such a stunning city to be marred. I actually found its scrawled walls added to the rough elegance of this city. It’s not pristine and, as you probably know by now, I like things that are flawed. All of this is currently being shown off to its finest by blazingly hot sunshine and spotless blue skies.
Extraordinary as this place is, getting decked in our finest garments in the 35* heat for my father-in-laws wedding last Friday was rather challenging for our party of 20 Brits. I ought not to complain, as my petite frame suffered the least of it. But it really is amazing what the human body finds it can endure when driven by Love. Even the longer lived of our group navigated their way through the subterranean heat to support their children’s union.
As I’ve written before, weddings (in my opinion) are complicated affairs. Even my father-in-law and new wife, in spite of opting for a small, private family gathering away from the hustle of normal life, couldn’t avoid the complexities of a seating plan. However, to their credit, they totally nailed it. The morning of the day before I received a panicked phone call from James’s Dad saying they needed some place setting cards. They thought they’d put on me, but for me being asked to whip these together last minute was the best job ever. I can’t take much creative credit at all for them though, as I conveniently found some ready designed cards. I just brought out the trusty stamp set, stamped each individual’s first initial and hand wrote the rest. Secretly (not so much now) I was actually quite chuffed to get to contribute a little personal touch.
They managed to bring their mothers, siblings, children, all plus partners and their closest friends together in an uncomfortably hot foreign country, give an extraordinary experience in the most beautiful of cities, kept us well fed, watered and even arranged all travel and accommodation. I’m delighted to say that everyone bonded beautifully in the way you would hope two families becoming one would do. It made me burst with pride to be part of an extraordinarily generous and selfless family, who really do love one another.
My new stepmother-in-law wore an elegant, pristine, pure white silk gown, with her natural blonde curls subtlety pinned beside a beaded head dress. Her closest friend of many years fixed her hair for her the morning of the wedding, an act I personally felt very moved by. My father-in-law looked perfectly handsome in a navy suit and matching suede loafers. His face as he dismounted his speed boat water taxi, arriving at Venice Town Hall reminded me of his son and my husband on our wedding day. Sheer pride, excitement and joy. It truly was an honour and a privilege to witness these two joining in marriage, seeing how happy they evidently make one another, idyllic setting or not.
For this special occasion I knew I needed an equally special dress. I had a mild panic about hitting the high street shops and spending a small fortune on a dress I didn’t feel comfortable in and would be unlikely to wear again. Then it struck me that I am blessed with a very talented friend who incidentally made my wedding dress. I approached Alex to see if she might have the time and inclination to make me a dress for the occasion and thankfully she agreed. We emailed to and fro for weeks gushing over various ideas (which actually originated during the creation of my wedding dress) and as ever Alex knew perfectly which direction to encourage me in. This dress is a union of both of our love for the romantic and bohemian and my personal preference for a more relaxed, less glamorous, dress style. My dress is handmade entirely (right down to the buttons) with crepe, silk crepe and silk. I don’t think I’ve worn an entirely pink dress since I was a little girl and I’m not ashamed to say it felt absolutely wonderful.
The other creative indulgence I got to have on this trip was to whip out my circa 1970’s Polaroid camera, which I found in a charity shop in London in my early twenties for just £9.99. Annoyingly the film still costs an arm and a leg (at £15.99 for a film of 8 it’s a pricey hobby to have) but the results are absolutely priceless. My clever sister-in-law had the idea of compiling a guest book of Polaroids. I zoomed around annoying everyone all afternoon, by bringing out my huge, black plastic monstrosity, shoving it in people’s faces then eccentrically whipping the instant photo into a dark cool space (which was difficult to find) to develop. But my sister-laws-plan was a perfect one and when she presented the Bride and Groom with the book later that night…well, it was pretty special.
James and I decided to take the opportunity of these nuptials to have a little break and explore a new city. This is the first holiday abroad to a new place James and I have had since our honeymoon 2 years ago. I’m not complaining; we have the spectacularly good fortune of being able to use James’s father’s apartment in Spain for our holidays. Grateful as we are for this, we both have a serious itch to REALLY travel. James has already explored one side of the world (New Zealand, Australia and Thailand) and I the other side (USA, most of Europe, North and East Africa) before we met. We still however have a bucket list a mile long…and not substantial enough of a pay packet to fund it. But being in this exquisite city, as I feared it would, has seriously scratched that itch rather than temporarily satisfy our wanderlust. Much of our conversations whilst being in Venice have been dominated by where, when and how we would travel. When our Real Adult Life will only become more and more responsible in the coming years, with the potential of a mortgage to pay, children, changes in our work lives, unforeseen circumstances, it seems that now potentially may be our last opportunity to see the world properly together.
I really can’t adequately describe Venice. So I’ve tried to accumulate some pictures to do the talking, however I fear that even they won’t be enough. I hope they at least offer a glimpse or a moment of transportation into the eclectic romance we experienced.
I say ‘romance’, there was a fair bit of huffing and puffing, in true British style, around the streets of Venice. We started each day enthusiastically, with a hearty continental breakfast inside us both, eager to explore, then 45 minutes later I’d be complaining about my knees hurting and James about his sweat. My family have an ‘in’ joke that on one day, every holiday, each individual would hit a wall, get seriously fed up, grumpy and generally unpleasant. In the case of us kids (back in the day when you weren’t at risk of being imprisoned for disciplining your children) when we hit this wall we would get a little smack to bring us back into reality. These days on holiday have henceforth (rather inappropriately) become called ‘Smacking Days’. The other way my Dad would try and get me past the holiday grumps would be to take me shopping and buy me a little trinket of jewellery. I cringe now at how bad I must have been for him to resort to this, but I still have and treasure all of my token trinkets from the various parts of the world I was privileged enough to visit with my parents. And I’ve learnt that even as grown ups, Smacking Days still happen! Thankfully we haven’t had one on this trip, just the generic, British tourist grumps, having the occasional whinge and moan about pretty much everything.
In which case, maybe we won’t make the best travellers! But one thing that travelling reminds me of is how great a team we are. Even through the grumps, we find out more about each other and what we really want in life. He is strong where I am weak (like when I’d be happy to offer all our money for a necklace, he swoops in and barters it down to €5) and vice versa (when James strategically planned where we would try and find a really nice restaurant, my first instinct was to try the place opposite our hotel, which we eventually circled back to and it was perfect. I also spontaneously found two amazing gelato parlours). Either way, adventure is on the cards wherever we go.
(Some of these pictures have been edited using the VSCOcam photo editing application to bring out the Venetian colour palette)