LIGHTS OUT IN VENICE

LIGHTS OUT IN VENICE

Venice, Italy

July 2006

Our wedding anniversary is officially in September but work and school schedules usually prohibit us from traveling then so we went to Venice in July to celebrate early.  It was our 20th and we were going to splurge and stay at a famous (and expensive) hotel right on the Riva degli Schiavoni.

Walking back from dinner our first night in Venice, we glanced at the hotel and thought it looked well, kind of dark.  Maybe it was the clouds over the lagoon?  Maybe it was the lack of proper street lamp wattage in the public areas?  Maybe it was because the hotel had lost power?

We walked into a dim hotel lobby which was hot and crowded with people desperately trying to find a place to sit. Why were they sitting in the lobby?  Because upstairs, the rooms were dark and suffocating.  The lobby, even though overheated still had emergency generators pretending to blow out a bit of A/C.  We looked around for some staff.  The only staff members we saw were hurrying about carrying flashlights.  Did they volunteer to tell us what was going on?  No.

A good bar is always a place to seek refuge.  The bar in the lobby was packed with people trying to get a drink.  It looked like the hotel staff was pouring free glasses of wine for the guests to compensate for their inconvenience. After all, it was the peak of the tourist season in Venice, the hotel was booked, expensive and ultimately filled with high rollers. 

As we inched our way up to the bar, we were handed two half-filled glasses of wine.  We managed to have a few sips before the lights suddenly went back on. People immediately started leaving the lobby and going back to their rooms.  We decided to hang out for a bit when we were suddenly approached by a staff member of the “flashlight brigade.”  He handed us a bill for the wine.  We thought the wine had been a freebie.  Wrong!  Two half filled glasses of Valpolicella?  20 euros. 

We told the staff member we weren’t paying the bill.  He looked at us as if we were crazy.  Then he told us we were not “allowed” to leave the bar area unless we handed over a credit card or signed the bill charging the wine to our room.  We forked over 20 euros and headed upstairs.  Halfway up to our room one of the lobby waiters ran after us and accused us of not signing the bar slip.  When we told him we gave one of his colleagues cash, he seemed confused.

We finally made it up to our room only to be in the dark (literally) 30 minutes later when power was lost again.  Dare I mention we were paying over 300 euros a night for a room with no power?  (Ok, the bathroom did have an emergency light but not enough to read a book by.  Who wants to sit on a toilet in Venice and read anyway?) I know having sex is a big deal in a power outage.  Trust me, it was way too hot in the room to even think about touching each other. 

When we got up in the morning, the power was back on but started to flicker on and off just as we left the hotel to sightsee for the day.  When we returned in the late afternoon, there was a mob of people in front of the one hotel entrance.  Why was there a mob of people?  Turns out, there was a huge wedding and the bride-to-be decided she wanted to be photographed in front of the hotel’s gold sign.  Since the sign was to the right of the revolving doors, no one could get in or out of the hotel for a good 15 minutes. 

Just as we were about to check out of the hotel the next morning, we lost power again.  Interestingly, the credit card machines and computers at the front desk seemed to be connected to some mysterious power source.  Not only were the front desk staff able to generate a bill, they were also able to swipe our credit card.

Lesson learned?  Yes, it was a historic hotel.  Yes, we had wanted to stay someplace special for our 20th.   We spent a lot of money on a place we didn’t like with a staff that seemed ill-equipped to deal with:

  1. Power failure
  2. Guests in general

I believe they “forgot” they were a hotel not to mention it was the height of the tourist season.  But we weren’t going to let this experience ruin our trip.  Truth be told, walking around Venice yesterday, we had already found a hipper (and cheaper) hotel further down the block.  When we visited Venice again, that would be the hotel we would frequent.

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