The Brazilian honeymooner was my age by any reckoning, his glamorous bride a little younger, and like us they’d reserved berths in the overnighter from Venice to Rome. She held up a band of diamonds on her finger for our admiration, stretched out her legs over his, settled into her travel pillow, and was off to dreamland. Burdened by her weight, he snoozed rather than slept, but they at least didn’t seem put out at the train’s lack of air conditioning, or the attendant’s inability to open windows, turning our carriage of six into a sauna. In the morning, the middle-aged bride touched up her morning face with make-up, did mysterious things to her two-toned blonde hair, slipped into her stilettos and turned diva, while we wondered where to wash before heading for the airport.
Venice had been a disappointment for my wife who’d made me promise when we married that I’d take her there if I did nothing else, and now here she was looking like Godzilla next to the radiant Brazilian. “I don’t know why you had to take us to Venice,” she griped, “when I would rather have stayed in Rome.” Certainly, Rome had been cooler, requiring jackets, while Venice had been hot, and the only thing my daughter liked about it was that people could drink in the piazzas, or by the canals, without the fear of being driven home by drunken drivers. “But I bet they have police to fish you out of the canal and haul you up for drunken loitering,” her brother chortled.
We had certainly been heckled by drunks on Venice’s streets, but whether they were louts looking for a fight or merely revelling Euro Cup fans was something we didn’t wait to find out. As it is, we’d had trouble enough finding our feet in our B&Bs. In Florence, every time my wife or daughter took a shower, an alarm would sound. “Maybe they’re charging us for extra baths,” my son wondered, checking each itemised entry on the bill till we figured the ladies had been pulling an emergency chain next to the hand-shower that triggered off the signal. But when all the lights in our suite mysteriously failed the night we were self-checking out, we couldn’t but help wonder what we’d done to cause the blackout. More distressingly, we couldn’t let ourselves out, the wrought iron door at street-level refusing to open to our blandishments, while the taxi-driver outside seemed disinclined to help. We pleaded that we weren’t fugitives on the run till, finally, he relented, and we were able to make our onward connection, though it had been a near thing.
B&Bs, we found, were inhabited only by other guests. Unfortunately for us, we’d heeded the advice of friends and colleagues who had suggested we steer clear of work or emails during our vacation. But the B&Bs, it turned out, had emailed us the codes that would unlock their doors to let us in. It was merely coincidence that our arrivals in the morning coincided with the housekeeping staff’s duty hours, else we would have found ourselves as roomless as we were friendless in Italy. Through it all, my wife wore her gym clothes — and shoes. “Perhaps,” I said, looking at our pictures back home in Delhi, “you might have enjoyed Venice more if you’d dressed up.” “I wasn’t on my honeymoon,” my wife snapped back, “though I might consider it,” she negotiated, “provided you take me back,” adding for good measure, “on our son’s honeymoon.”