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An occasional newsletter from David Hewson - Issue #3 - Good travel news!

David Hewson
David Hewson
Some good travel news for once, a writing tip and a recipe for something Christmassy that’s a sight better than panettone.

Flying just got better
I’m back in Venice, starting to think about what to write next (I know I left my mojo here – just unsure where). I’ll let you know more about the state of the place in another letter when I’ve had time to think about it. But good news for once - in spite of all my fears getting here was probably the easiest flight out to Italy I’ve ever had - even through Heathrow, an airport I usually loathe.
Let me explain. A few days before I was due to fly (BA Club Class) they told me I needed to upload three pdfs in order to check in: the proof of double vaccination from the NHS app, a filled in EU passenger locator form, and proof of a negative lateral flow test taken not more than 48 hours before arrival in Italy.
Bah, I thought. Another example of airlines making us do their work for them. Still it was easy enough to comply and the alternative was checking in at the airport with the printed copies I had already.
Then to Heathrow only to discover a friendly BA chap standing outside the entrance with his own bag drop. Had I checked in online? he asked. Well yes. In that case he could take my case right there with just my boarding pass and passport. It took a minute or two then I had my luggage tag and headed straight to Fast Track security. I was in the lounge no more than ten or fifteen minutes after getting out of the car. Since BA had all my necessary forms - and I presume passed them on to the relevant authorities - I never had to show a thing. At Marco Polo airport it was a quick scan of the egate, a stamp in the passport and then I was through, again in record time. The only slight oddity was that everyone on the plane had to fill in a paper form for the Italian authorities basically giving the same information you provided for the EU passenger locator form - which was a new one for me.
The kerbside check-in has been running for four months or so, the chap said. I hope it’s a permanent feature - and it appeared to be for all passengers, not just those in Club.
This is just BA and Heathrow, of course, but it’s nice to think something is getting better.
The writing tip
You’re writing a scene in a foreign country. How does that affect the dialogue? If it’s France is everyone saying, ‘Merci beaucoup’ all the time? In Italy ‘Per favore’?
It’s up to you. My general approach to foreign words comes down to three things.
  1. Use them sparingly.
  2. Use them in ways in which an intelligent reader can guess their meaning, either from the similarity to an English word or their context. No one should have to reach for a foreign dictionary to read your work.
  3. Keep it simple. Long passages of foreign words are baffling, speed bumps in the story.
That’s just my approach, of course. You should make up your own mind. The worst example of foreign language usage I ever saw was a book which opened with a quote in Greek, which wasn’t just a language I couldn’t understand but an alphabet I couldn’t read too. It didn’t stop the book selling very well, even though most of those who bought it I suspect hadn’t a clue what that quote (which wasn’t translated) actually meant.
Travel tip
This one’s aimed squarely at newcomers to Venice. Doubtless you want to arrive in the city by boat. This is understandable. It’s an unforgettable experience… if you do it right. But oh so many don’t. There are two ways to get to Venice from Marco Polo airport by water. The first, most expensive, most memorable, is by private water taxi. You can book them through the links at the airport and they’ll cost you €110 or so each way for one or two people.
The other is the public water bus, the Alilaguna. This is €15 euro each way or €27 return. But it’s not great. The boats are poorly designed and give you little or no view of the city as you approach. They also take ages, an hour on the orange line to Rialto and one hour twenty to San Marco. Plus you need to add twenty minutes or so to that to get from the airport terminal along the travelators to the jetties (as you do with the private boats). It really isn’t worth it.
The ATVO land bus will get you from outside the airport to Piazzale San Marco, the main transport hub in Venice, in a little over 20 minutes. It’s fast, it’s comfortable, your luggage gets slung under the bus, and when you get out you can connect to any of the main city vaporetto lines and buy tickets. It’s €8 one way or €15 return. Private boat or bus are the only ways I consider these days.
What's in the kitchen
The UK shops will be full of panettone any day now, if it’s managed to get there. It’s OK but here’s the chance to make something much more special. Panforte is a real Christmas treat, a dense, chewy cake that originates from Siena. It’s easy to make and there are numerous variations. I particularly like the spicey one with pepper. One important tip, though. Candied peel is an important ingredient and it needs to be better than our standard mixed peel. I always bring some back from Italy at this time of year – a mix of orange, lemon, and citron. If you hunt around for something like this you’ll get a much better result.
That’s all for now. If you enjoy the newsletter do please share around - the more the merrier if it’s to be worthwhile. Next up, a report on what Venice is like at the moment.
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David Hewson
David Hewson @david_hewson

Writer. Nic Costa in Italy. Pieter Vos in Amsterdam, Sara Lund in Copenhagen. Won an Audie (no, it's not a car). In 2021 The Garden of Angels from Venice and Devil's Fjord from the Faroes.

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