What do people go to travel conventions for? Is it the drawings for free trips? The stacks of brochures? Brightly colored shoulder bags proclaiming things like, “Palm Springs: Like No Place Else!”?
I went to hear Rick Steves and to shmooz. And there was some overlap.
First, I discovered a cool travel magazine called Afar (afar.com) meant for people who don’t want to go somewhere to lay on a beach or be waited on but who want to meet locals and experience culture. Their March/April issue, which they generously gave me, features gondoliers on the cover. While we talked to the magazine rep, I flipped through the mag to see if I knew any of the gondoliers featured. None that I can recognize, though they have a shot of the Santa Sofia traghetto and another of the San Marco station where my friend Franco works.
People keep telling me that I should pitch my book Seductive Venice to travel agencies, so I talked to two of them today: Intrepid Worldwide Adventures and Gate 1 Travel. Their reps were both very encouraging and didn’t send me away with curt replies. Maybe it helped when I began by saying, “I have a weird question for you…” Then they were ready for anything, and my request seemed pretty mild. I also talked to a guy from Distant Lands travel bookstore in Pasadena. I hope to report soon that they’ll be carrying my book!
We ended the day by catching one of Rick Steve’s talks. He focused on Italy, and a few of his remarks on Venice are the real reason behind today’s blog. He talked of Venice’s shortcomings–the crowds, the tourists, and the streets packed with people–and said he thinks that’s the real reason why Venice is sinking. None of this decay and subsidence stuff. He also talked about the “shopping trance” that people get into as they shuffle between the Piazza San Marco and the Rialto. “Get away from it,” he advises. “In twenty minutes you can be far away from the crowds.”
“When you arrive at the car park or train station,” he said, “you’ll probably get on a vaporetto, which is like the city’s buses, except if you get off between stops you’ll drown.” The city is shaped like a fish, he pointed out (as does the book Venice Is a Fish by Tiziano Scarpa), and going down the Grand Canal is like traveling through its intestines until you come out at the Piazza San Marco. He did not finish this thought by asking, “What does that make Piazza San Marco?”
Okay, I know you’re all asking right now, “Kathy, what did he think when you handed him a copy of Seductive Venice? Did he break out in paeans of praise and promise to read it on the flight home? Well, no. When I walked toward him, he avoided eye contact and left the building quickly. Maybe that had something to do with the flight he had to catch. I gave a copy to his staff and can only hope it makes it into his hands. He has said often how much he loves Venice, and all I can hope for is that he has patience and compassion for one who loves the city like he does.
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