As a writer I’m always looking for inspiration, whether consciously or subconsciously, and because a lot of this is happening at the subconscious level it’s impossible for me to list everything which captures my imagination.
But I’ve narrowed it down to a few areas, and today I’ll be talking about places, or rather one place which got my creative juices going. Despite the stress of airports, I do love traveling, and in May this year I went to Venice, a city I’d never visited before. I only had one day there so had to think carefully about what I wanted to see and do. Forget about the Doge Palace and being serenaded in a gondola – I wanted the REAL Venetian experience!
Instead of taking one of the many ferries which are moored just outside the central train station, my travel companion and I decided to walk to the St. Mark’s Square area, through the narrow alleyways and over tiny bridges, in search for an optician’s. Yes, that’s correct 🙂 He’d visited the shop before and wanted to order a new pair of glasses. As one does in Venice…
We did a few touristy things too, and some window shopping (Venice is not cheap), but it was waiting by that optician’s which made me feel I was part of the city, and not just on the outside looking in. I became attuned to my surroundings in a way I may not have become otherwise.
The tang of brine in the air, the sound of footsteps on stone paving travelling upwards to be met by expressive, melodic voices somewhere above. The cool and slightly damp, crumpling plaster on the walls, a stark contrast to the tiny, tidy and well-lit shops everywhere, and the sense of water around you at all times, even when you can’t see it. I pondered at the curious metal guides on either side of people’s doorways when I realised that this is where the inhabitants slide in a metal plate to protect their houses against the acqua alta (Italian for “high water”), floods which occur between autumn and spring.
Being from Denmark, which is mostly surrounded by the sea, means that water has always had a special significance for me, and I suppose it’s no surprise that my first novel Up Close is set on the English east coast.
Dinner was a typical Venetian dish called cicchetti, which are small snacks or side dishes, a bit like Spanish tapas. The importance of the cicchetti isn’t just the food itself but also how, when and where they are eaten: with fingers and toothpicks, usually standing up by the bar. They’re incredibly cheap and on offer in cicchetti bars pretty much all day. I had deep-fried courgettes and risotto balls, and ended up making a real mess because they fell apart in my hand. So much for trying to blend in with the locals!
Of course, as a writer I simply had to visit Harry’s Bar, which was one of Ernest Hemingway’s hangouts, and where he drank himself into oblivion. The bar is famous for its dry martini, which is exceptionally dry (be warned!), so I opted for a Bellini instead, another of their signature drinks. It consists of peach juice and sparkling wine, and is extremely yummy, but very expensive at 22 euro.
Venice was enchanting, and going back to the train station at the end of the day was like leaving a fairytale kingdom behind. But I came home, brimming with ideas: narrow alleyways, fog, jealous lovers, dysfunctional relationships, a sense that something is lurking around the next corner, murder…
Surely this hasn’t been done before? 🙂