I was supposed to go to London for fashion week. But I can’t seem to say “no” to beer, brats and bread. Actually, I’m gluten free – like the trendy hipster I am – so more likely it’s wine, veal sausages and Italian olive oil. Either way, the closest I was getting to a cat walk was the carpet runner from the sofa to the wine fridge. To keep myself in the game, I took a small modeling job in Venice, Italy. I convinced one of my besties and her two tiny tots to join me and mine on a 48 hour adventure to the amazing world of canals and bridges and masks because it’s
VENICE DURING CARNIVAL!
Let me admit that I had never heard of Venice Carnival. Thanks to wikipedia, my image of it was much more Mardi Gras than 19th century masquerade ball. In truth it was somewhere in between. People were dressed in outlandish costumes that ran in the thousands of dollars, being followed by flocks of hungry pigeons eyeing the feathers and camera totting tourists with the same enthusiasm. We liked the birds better.
One of the advantages of living in Europe is it’s very economical to fly from city to city. We found flights for less than 50 Euro per person round trip for our quick stay. However, everything is extra. Luggage, for instance, can easily cost twice the ticket value. So we packed light. It was only 48 hours after all. How much do we really need?
Upon landing, I received the following email…..
We immediately squatted in the baggage terminal logging on to book a return ticket before the other 100+ passengers realized their predicament only to find out the next flight off the island wasn’t until Saturday. It’s Tuesday. We were screwed.
We gathered our gaggle of children, bundled up and headed for the 50 minute water taxi. Water taxi = boat. Of course because we’re traveling to a city half under water. This is the part of the story where I tell you I get seasick in the shower.
It gets worse.
Wednesday morning, our only full day in the city (before the baggage strike that stranded us and our 2 pair of underwear for an additional 3 days), my 5 year old wakes up with a fever. In a hotel. In Italy. We hunkered down in bed in our only pair of pajamas for 24 teary, traumatic hours. My friend and her kids dressed up in their fasching finest and headed out to see the sights. I’ll share their photos as mine were of the hotel ceiling and black out drapes.
The next morning everyone was healthy and I had a photo shoot to rush to. Not having an Italian make up artist, my dear friend watched a herculean amount of Youtube videos and was able to transform me from soccer mom to Carnival Queen.
To my dear friend who turned me into a Kardashian with half a suitcase of make up and false eyelashes, thank you. To the creator of photo editing, God bless you. You make my eye bags less depressing. To the photographer and the male model on the gondola, thank you for not making us actually leave the pier. It’s hard to maintain a classic red lip while hurling over the side of a canoe.
Venice itself is an amazing city. You’ll need your weight in gold to afford a cup of coffee but that coffee, with its delicate notes of expresso, will taste like it was poured by Sofia Lauren in a silk neglige at sunset.
Of course we couldn’t afford said coffee because Venice during Carnival is 100x more expensive than Venice in May and by Friday at noon, our budget was blown.
We checked out of our luxurious fabric walled hotel (I became intimately involved in the details of the room as I spent my first 24 full hours in its loving care) and headed for the pier.
Not having the combined cash to take a $150 taxi off the island, we took a water taxi to the main side then hauled our children and luggage on to the city bus. Our “luggage” now included grocery store bags of juice boxes, restaurant bread sticks and every bit of hotel shampoo which, thanks to desperate ingenuity, made great sink laundry soap. We sat among local Italians, immigrants and the occasional chicken for the 50km ride to the countryside where we’d spend our final romanesque nights.
There’s an amazing movement across Europe – giving families, millenials and busy city dwellers the opportunity to participate in working farms – milk the cows, feed the goats, churn the butter – in exchange for a less expensive stay on the property. There’s something humbling about feeding the birds in Louboutin heels because you couldn’t spring for an international credit card.
We made it home hungry and humbled.
I have three takeaways from my grand Italian adventure:
- Shit happens. Sometimes the plane gets canceled. Sometime people get sick. Sometimes the pigeon poops on your head. You can’t prepare for everything. You’ve got to learn to roll with it.
- If anyone tells you to “roll with it” when you’re vomiting over the side of a boat, punch them in the face.
- Travel with friends. Good friends. Friends that will help you when your kid gets sick, will paint your eyebrows on when you over pluck, will delete the pictures from their phone when you’re laying on the floor of the city bus singing “Amazing Grace” while Giuseppe chain smokes and tries to grab your ass.
And, wherever you go, Run to Win.