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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 3: 27 September

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysWe move at a stately pace up the canals, hurrying for nobody. Refuse collecting gives one a smug sense of superiority. The veneered-wood and polished brass launches may huff and puff as they try to get past us with their expensive cargoes, but we know they know how much they need us. We've seen what they like to keep out of sight.

I enjoy my refuse-eye view of Venice and suggest to Roger that we make it the first of a Great Dustmen Of The World series, to be followed, if successful, by Great Sewers Of The World.

Ron Passepartout baulks at this. 'I've just spent five weeks in the sewers, thank you!' He is referring not to conditions at TV Centre, but to a programme he's just made about a man who had taken refuge in the war in the sewers of Lvov. Ron has been everywhere and met everyone. On the very first day of filming the phone rang on location and a P.A., covering the mouthpiece, shouted, 'Ron! Can you do the Pope, Friday?'

By boat to the Venice Post Office to send my dinner jacket back to London, the smartest part of the journey being already over. This is one of The Great Post Offices Of The World, located in the Fondacio dei Tedeschi built between 1505 and 1508 as a base for German merchants in Venice. There's a wide brick-tiled courtyard with a stone fountain in the middle surrounded by three levels of pillared galleries. The walls were once decorated with the works of the great Venetians - like Titian, but of these (as the guide book has it) only 'one much-impaired nude' by Giorgione remains. I notice a lot of young, beautiful women heaving mailbags out onto the quayside beneath the Rialto Bridge. They also work for the Post Office. The Grand Canal, at this point, is like Piccadilly Circus, and the driving is terrible, with motoscafi cutting up vaporettos and cement barges cutting up taxis and gondolas gliding serenely and suicidally between the lot of them.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 3
  • Date: 27 September
  • Country/sea: Italy
  • Place: Venice
  • Book page no: 24

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