YOUR HOLIDAY DISASTER

Caspar Van Vark sought a mysterious Venice, but wished he had stayed at home

I needed a break on my own, and a week in Venice seemed just the ticket. It was a dreary February and although it would be just as cold over there at least the carnival would provide some intrigue. I imagined myself exploring silent canals and bumping into ghostly masked figures at every corner. In the evenings I would be the lone foreigner in the hotel bar, nursing a martini and a mysterious past. It would be perfect.

So when my travel agent pushed a receipt under my nose and looked the other way, I scribbled my agreement without another thought. The holiday was remarkably cheap and the hotel, I had been assured, was four-star and close to the centre of Venice. What more could I ask for?

My suspicions were aroused during the journey from the airport to the hotel, on a courtesy minibus. The driver ignored a sign saying "Venice 2 km", zooming instead in the direction of a place called "Lido di Jesolo 15 km". I waited a few minutes before tapping him on the shoulder. "Si! Lido di Jesolo," he coolly replied, swerving to avoid a pothole.

On arrival at my "hote-" (the L had long since fallen off) I found myself in the Italian equivalent of Blackpool. Lido di Jesolo was a beach resort shut down for the winter, and my "hote-" was the only one open. The only other guests were a party of Polish schoolchildren with a fierce headmistress. So much for mysterious evenings in the hotel lounge. I decided to make the best of it. After all, I had come for solitude? I'd certainly got my money's worth in that respect. My room was comfortable enough, and surely it would be quite easy to find my way into Venice. Wouldn't it?

Two hours later I was still standing alongside a deserted road, waiting for a bus which would take me to a boat which would take me to Venice. At last a speck appeared on the horizon, and sure enough a ramshackle bus spluttered to a halt in front of me. After a bone-rattling 45-minute journey, I staggered off the bus and on to a boat which finally deposited me at St Mark's Square, stripped of any romantic visions.

Elbowing my way through a gaggle of masked carnival-goers, I headed for the first cafe I could find. Tentative enquiries about a hotel room in Venice were met with hilarity among the waiting staff, so with my bubble completely burst I later caught the last boat and bus back to the "hote- ". The next morning the same courtesy bus driver rather less courteously took me back to the airport where I caught a flight back to London, vowing that the next time I needed solitude I would take the phone off the hook and stay at home.

Correction: In last week's Holiday Disaster, Sara Grove desribed a disastrous flight and her cavalier treatment by the travel company in response to her complaint. Unfortunately she wrongly identified the company concerned as Trailfinders. We would like to apologise wholeheartedly to Trailfinders for this error.

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