In the summer of 1989, I backpacked through Europe with nothing but a Eurorail pass and a Let’s Go travel guide.
Each day, I took out a big rail map of Europe and went to the places I felt like visiting. The red light district of Amsterdam. The cafes of Paris. The beaches of Sicily. I slept in railroad stations, strangers’ houses and the occasional hostel.
Four years later, in 1993, I thought I’d do it again. Same spontaneity. Same free-spiritedness. Same sense of adventure.
The only difference: I was now with Staci. And we were married.
And it was our honeymoon.
Cue disaster music.
The Honeymoon Debacle of ’93 started out auspiciously enough. With a nice day in London.
It was raining. And the hotel was far away from everything. But it was great.
Great because it was the only day of the trip where we were (a) not injured; and (b) not crying.
That would change in Venice.
Venice the Menace
We were booked to stay in a $200 per night hotel. Which, when neither of you have jobs, is about $200 more than you can spend a night. We rationalized that it would be our one fancy hotel of the trip.
That illusion was erased when we found the fat guy’s house with the homemade “hotel” sign.
Picture a place where prostitutes are killed, but not as classy.
Our room was painted four different colors, one per wall. I think the fat man painted one wall, ran out of paint, and bought whatever color was next on sale at the Italian Home Depot.
But that was nothing compared to the bathroom.
The bathroom stood three feet below the bedroom, which meant you had to remember to walk down two stairs every time you needed to use the bathroom. The steps were tiled and there was always water on them.
Here’s a rule the rest of the world needs to learn about bathroom entrances:
They should not cause concussions.
The good news is my falls got better over time. By the fourth time, I was downright skilled at catching myself on the bidet.
I say bidet like I know what one was. I do now. I didn’t then. Which is why I will give you this tip:
They are not drinking fountains.
The best part of the bathroom were the dimensions. Thirty feet long and six feet wide. Rarely do I stay in hotel rooms where the bathroom is a converted bowling alley.
And all of the surfaces — floors, walls and ceiling — were covered in tile. That was due to the “shower.”
I put “shower” in quotes because I fear it may conjure up images of an actual shower. You know, four walls, maybe a soap dish.
But not in Italy. Here’s what a shower should be called in Italy:
A hose in the corner.
Allow me this brief historic digression:
Somewhere during the three centuries that have passed since America’s split with Europe, the two continents took wildly divergent courses. One discovered that showers involve water and should have walls. The other decided that the entire bathroom should be hosed down like a car wash every time wants to be clean.
Your toiletries, the toilet paper, the bath towel — all should be thoroughly soaked by anyone taking a shower.
The other advantage of the European method is that the entire tile floor becomes wet. So when you fall off the stairs and onto the slick floor, you can ping off in any direction, like you’re the little metal ball in a pachinko machine. That’s good, because it can be boring to crack your head on the same bathroom fixture every time. You need variety.
After one day, we wanted out. But we had already booked the room for two nights. That meant talking to the fat man. Who didn’t speak English. Or at least didn’t speak English when it would be convenient for him to not speak English.
It was an odd fight. In one corner was a fat Italian man making a lot of hand gestures and saying a lot of things that didn’t sound like compliments. In the other corner was me, trying my best to communicate that we were not going to pay for a second night because the fat man’s “hotel” was not what we expected. Of course, my Italian was not perfect, so what came out was this:
“Me-o not pay-o you-o.”
All I knew for sure as Staci and I were fleeing, er, walking briskly, out the door was this:
The fat man was now peppering his conversation with a lot of “polizia” this and “polizia” that.
Which is a good time to be on the first train out of Venice.
Wherever it’s going.