Roger L. Simon

Night Train to Venice

By late afternoon Sunday I felt like a dead man and was secretly regretting my vacation before it had barely begun. We had flown over night to Paris where we only were to stay for the day, leaving our bags in a creepy consigne at the Gare de Lyon while traipsing around the city for a few (actually almost twelve) long hours, waiting for the train to Venice. And to be honest, I have mixed feelings about Paris, some of them personal and some of them related to the coldness of the city despite its extraordinary beauty and unlimited attractions.

Madeleine had never been there and some of our excitement in this trip is seeing old sites through her new eleven-year old eyes, so we dragged our sleepless selves from the Notre Dame to the Musee d’Orsay to the Tour Eiffel and by the time we were back at the Gare de Lyon and shlepping our bags from there to Gare de Bercy for our train, I had about given up. This European vacation stuff was over-rated…. or it was something I did when I was younger and more energetic and should put on the shelf now. To make matters worse, the Paris-Venice express looked pretty tatty and our roomette made a sardine can seem generous. The dinner in the dining car was atrocious and the only reason I didn’t start crying over the absurd cost (99 Euros for three for some rubber chicken and a half bottle of wine that made Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck taste like Chateau Lafite) was that it kept us out of the tiny room for an hour.

But then something happened. We all fell into a blissful sleep on the train and woke up in Venice refreshed to arrive at this extraordinary hotel the Palazzo Abadessa. It’s an old palazzo with gigantic rooms and Venetian art, far from the San Marco crowds, but not too far. Sheryl, who is a genius at ferreting out such things, booked it. This is a quick shot I took of their second floor foyer, to give you an idea.P8240030

We made it in time for breakfast in their garden.P8240025 Now, after a day doing the tourist thing (Ca d’Oro, Doge’s Palace), I am sitting in their lobby typing this and staring out at the small canal in front of the palazzo’s water taxi entrance. An occasional small boat putters by. Life is good. I even stayed calm listening to that Scottish doofus MacAskill explain his moral phoniness on CNN. I mean – let’s keep everything in perspective. The world may be going to Hell in the proverbial hand basket, but I’m going to have a good prosecco with squid risotto tonight. What could be bad?