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A Venetian Holiday
by Patrick Vickery
by Patrick Vickery


Patrick Vickery lives in the Scottish Highlands and runs a small hardy perennial nursery (part-time). Patrick is also a part-time garden writer, and part-time special needs teacher.

Married to Liz, they have three children, two goats, two dogs, an assortment of small animals, and lives in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world.

Patrick gardens using a raised bed system and all, of course, chemically free - a chemical free zone!
Visit his blog
His first book was published in January 2002 by Capall Bann Publishers, UK:-
"In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden" (ISBN: 186163 1480)

Also visit his website at

June 16, 2013

We had a holiday. We stayed in Venice. What an extraordinary place. The narrow streets and alley ways are pedestrian only, no cars or bikes permitted, and consequentially the hum of background traffic is conspicuous only by its absence. But Public transport is good, with boats at regular intervals to ferry you about the city.

Venice was built on a collection of muddy islands. Hundreds of years ago tightly packed alder wood poles were driven through the mud into the clay and sand beneath. Planks were placed on top of these and then it was layered with slabs of marble upon which the buildings were constructed. The result is an architectural wonderland of crumbling antiquity and historical charm in a world where the very notion of buildings insurance and mortgages do not apply. Sinking foundations, winter flooding from high tides (‘the Acqua Alta’) and regular evidence of subsidence are the norm. It’s a unique maritime city, well worth a visit, although no one in their right mind would build in such a place today. Long term viability is not good.

After visiting the Basilica San Marco in St Mark’s Square we sat on wooden benches (‘passeroles’) and enjoyed an ice cream. We later discovered that these wooden benches were in fact ‘easy to assemble’ walkways that allow the inhabitants to rise above the flood water and continue about their normal business with minimum disruption. You need a good pair of wellington boots if you live in Venice, you know, and possibly this city has the highest number of fashionable ‘welly’ boots per capita than any other city in the world.

They do style well here, the Italians, it is part and parcel of being an Italian, and all attempts by me to blend into the designer consciousness of the nation were doomed to failure. My wife did somewhat better, she blended with her fashionable sunglasses and even had a few conversations thrown at her in Italian.

It’s important to speak the local language when abroad, show respect for the traditions and values of others, it’s always appreciated, so we made a genuine effort to have a bash at it. My main success was in the supermarket. I was looking for paracetemol. I asked for assistance in Italian. This elicited a response in French. I was clutching croissants at the time. Thankfully I wasn’t clutching Frankfurt sausages as my knowledge of German is limited to Vorsprung Durch Technik, Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich. My French is more versatile. I discovered that paracetemol is not on sale in supermarkets, only from chemists.

According to the guide book Italians have two passions - football and food. I would add a third – common courtesy. Venetians do courtesy well. As for the football element, the Venice team, Unione Venezia, gained promotion while we were there. Their visiting opponents travel by boat, of course, through the Grand Canal to the waterside football stadium. As for food, we admired some splendid dishes being consumed in the numerous restaurants and cafes (expensive), had a couple of meals out ourselves (pasta dishes) but in general used the local co-op to buy our own.

Venice is an expensive place to stay. Luckily my wife’s brother has lived and worked in Venice for many years, indeed he married into a Venetian family, so we were gifted their comfortable waterside flat for the week.

As well as dispensing accommodation the hospitable brother-in-law dispensed some valuable words of advice that undoubtedly saved us a fortune in the numerous cafes and bars dotted about the city.

“Eat and drink standing up”, he said, “it’s cheaper than sitting down”. On that note, may your holiday be as successful – though maybe not as upright - as ours.

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