Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence is my favourite major rail terminal so far. The building is beautiful. Marble flooring and stylish signs, cool natural lighting. I read that it’s supposed to be a good representation of a certain style of architecture, but can’t remember which offhand. It is very nice though! Gives an impression of solidity and blue collar work, in a very polished and professional manner, with artistic embellishments for the sake of art and nothing else.
And here we are in Venice! Where a pound of flesh is truly expensive. As the train enters Venezia Santa Lucia we are greeted by the great gleaming lagoon. The sun shines and the water sparkles. My soul misses islands, having lived on one all my life.
Venice is bridges and tiny streets and a million tourists even during the down season. It’s little boats and grey green water and canals. The canals! Wow. Truly the veins of the city, channelling life.
Lunch is on the Grand Canal… The water, gondolas going by, tourists sitting dreamily on them boats, all enchanted by the fact that they are in Venice, the lagoon city. Everything in Venice is short: the tops of the cruise ships tower over the rooftops. There are gulls flitting around, occasionally paddling around in the water. I suspect they are secretly lurking and waiting for some poor fool to feed them bread, whereupon they will descend upon their victim in a vicious cloud of claws and feathers, taking all the rest of the loaf…
Transport is very cool, boats of all types populate the river, and shop fronts open into mini piers. Other than that it’s just walking and walking… Which we did. Straight line distance from train station to hotel was 1.1km, estimated total walking was 1.5km, across many bridges and walkways. Carrying a total of approximately 14-15kg on my shoulders, I feel tired! Clearly I am not in any condition to go on a route march. Oh dear.
After wandering the tight streets of Venice we enter St. Mark’s Square. Wow! Huge and majestic and delightful. Historic buildings on every side, white walls shining in the sun, a tall tower of brick to one side, the church to another… Crowds of people feeding crowds of pigeons, cameras snapping in an attempt to preserve the wonder of the moment. The friezes and statues are covered with pigeons. A gull perches nonchalantly on a statue of a winged lion, which itself stands atop a tall stone pillar. It is quite amusing.
Sitting by the canal near the Ponte de L’Arsenal o del Paradiso (bridge of the arsenal, methinks), I fold a little paper boat and set it down the canal. I make sure the edges are straight, it’s origami bottom carefully folded. To my secret joy it floats! And makes its jolly way down the canal. How a shipwright must feel, to see his creation set off from port! This is great.
Dinner is McDonald’s. Here we go.
My fries are golden and as stringy as ever, that wonderful oil-soggy that Macs is famous for. Covered unevenly in salt crystals, they are the epitome of unhealthy junk fast food, in their iconic red and yellow packaging. Their semi-crispy edges feel familiar in my mouth, reminding me that one of the constants in life is how exciting franchised fast food is.
My burger is a Crispy McBacon, which is basically bread mustard sauce standard crappy beef patty (SCBP), synthetic cheese, one measly piece of bacon, bread. I’m really looking forward to this. The beef patty is the standard familiar cardboard/minced crap texture that is found all over the world. I’m reassured that young kids around the world still taste packaging and not real food. The cheese is plasticky, and not stretchy at all – just the way it should be! Bread has no taste and merely serves for you to hold the other stuff together. The bacon also has no taste and all it does is to add a little hardness into your mouthful, something like a lau hong biscuit. All in all, a satisfying Macs meal, just what we were looking for. Lots of salt and imagination. Woo! This nonsense is 7.50 euro… That’s what you get from the only Macs in Venice. For the same price (12.30 SGD) I think you can get a McSamson meal. 8.55 for the Double McSpicy meal, 2 for the double cheese, 50 cents for upsize, 1 for apple pie… That works out to 12.55. What??!!!!
Macs must have some secret base, where trees grow hamburgers and Coke sprays from drinking fountains, and fries grow like grass. Ronald and the McDonald factory is what they would call the book, then movie, then happy meal tie-ins. Franchising!