A couple of days off and so much has happened. After the excitement of the Stelvio and other passes, the bikes deserved a well earned rest in their underground, secure car park. Knowing they are safe means we can relax and enjoy ourselves!
As Vinnie Jones once said – ‘it’s been emotional’ and I can honestly say that these last couple of days have been.
First of all, and more exciting than any Stelvio Pass, was the news that Bryony and Simon had welcomed the gorgeous Willow Irene into the world. Well done both – we were both overjoyed (but particularly Grandad) and we were both grinning from ear to ear at the news – enthusiastically sharing the lovely picture of Willow with equally enthusiastic Italians – as you can imagine. Then, only a couple of days later we were congratulating Hannah on becoming 21! The whole world in front of her – fantastic. It’s all happening I can tell you. So very, very lovely.
Hair today, gone tomorrow
Although I was trying to ignore it, the time for a haircut had arrived and I needed to find a salon. A bit of research and – voila – an Aveda salon in Verona. Just the job given that we had a couple of days to go at. A quick call to the salon revealed that they didn’t do appointments, just turn up! I was a bit unsure but actually it was the easiest and lovelist experience you could imagine. Marco was amazing (very nice hands…) and so professional, it felt like I’d been going there for ages – they made you feel so welcome. Expresso for coffee of course – keeps you focussed I can tell you. Anyway, if ever you are in Verona and need a haircut, the Milan Hair Team salon is highly recommended – they are fantastic!
So, hair do done, it was time to check out Verona – what a beautiful place. Gorgeous buildings, lovely cafes and restaurants, steeped in history, it was like going back in time. And such a lovely size city – not too big to be impersonal but big enough to provide lots to see and do.
Go to Venice and get lost
That was the advice I read on the evening before we ventured in and what good advice it was too. A quick walk to the station from the hotel and then straight in to Venice – about an hour’s journey. The first sight of the place as you cross the water was so exciting – reminded me of years gone by when it was so exciting to see your first glimpse of the sea when you went on a family holiday – I was on the edge of my seat! And then you step out of the railway station straight on to the side of the Grand Canal! It felt surreal – like a film set – and we just had to sit and take it in a minute. It was busy (well it is the middle of August) but the advice paid off. With a quick shimmy here and there, you are soon out of the busiest parts and wandering aimlessly around the back street and alleyways of Venice – amazing. Clearly you have to check out the key features and St Mark’s Square did NOT dissappoint – even if it was busy. As I stood at the outer edge of the square looking in at the Doge’s Palace, a spontaneous, wave of emotion surged up inside me. I’m not entirely sure why but it’s genuine and I’m not ashamed to say that tears actually welled up in my eyes. I tried to understand why – was it just because it was so amazingly beautiful? Was it because I had imagined it for so many years – seen it in films – and now I was here? Was it because, actually we had ridden almost 7,000 km and now we were here? I decided to just accept and go with it and enjoy the fact that there are, have been and will be more moments on the trip that are so amazing they make you weep. Top that off, if you dare, with a ride in a Gondola which, yes took us on the M25 that is the Grand Canal which was amazing, but also down the side ‘streets’ that were well off the beaten track and which gave us more of a glimps of the real Venice. We saw where the boat was ‘born’ (Alberto’s words not mine) and heard his amazing singing voice. Very special.
Talking of moments to make you weep, another emotional experience was the opera. Neither of us had been before and what a way to do it! The Arena di Verona is an ancient colossium structure built in 43 AD – I know, ridiculous – and now hosts the Verona Opera festival (and other events) each year. We had gone for Nabucco because a) it was by a nice Italian – Verdi – and b) because it contained something I recognised, namely the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (listen to it if you haven’t already, it’s stunning). It was immense. Rivetted from start to finish: the set, the cast, the setting, the atmosphere – yes, inevitably there were more tears. I don’t care. Hanging on every word whether I understood it or not and mesmerised at every movement. Epic. Definitely would do more opera although I think we have been spoilt. A cheeky bit of sparkly to round off the evening then a lovely stroll through the streets back to the hotel. Magic.