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David and I each took a handle and carried the box through the square where boys played soccer, pushed through people in the crowded narrow roads, bumbled across the ritzy shopping district, and plodded up and down the stairs of several bridges. At one point, a woman halted our path so she could take our picture, probably for her "Idiots around the World" photo collage. When we arrived at the FedEx office, we were, yet again, flustered, panting, and perspiring.

Because most of the stuff we put into the box was either newly purchased or from our carry-ons, the $280 exercise of shipping the box home merely restored our suitcases to the same weight they were when we began our trip.

When it was time for us to head to the train station to catch a night train to Nice, our growling assistant was nowhere to be found. Instead, a young woman with less muscle mass than me appeared and tried to maneuver my bag to the door. The charming, but frequently absent, host of the bed and breakfast had arranged for a water taxi to collect us. Our last struggle was to walk the gangplank behind the building, a rotting piece of wood on toothpick stilts that was 20 feet long and barely one and a half feet wide. I inched my way along the plank, convinced that my two-foot-wide suitcase was going to topple off the side and into the water below.

Once on the boat and cruising down the main canal, the evening breeze on my face, the lights of the town glistening in the ripples of the water, I could finally appreciate the romantic allure of Venice. The ten-minute ride cost 60 euros, or $84. But when David and I arrived at the train station, after the taxi driver lifted our bags from the boat and set them on a much wider, sturdier plank, we agreed that it had been worth every penny.

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vmje4s July 16, 2008 @ 9:16 a.m.

Great story. I applaud your advice on packing. As an inexperienced traveler, I always pack the wrong things and too many pairs of shoes. My first trip to Bermuda, I packed 15 pairs of shoes - and wore about 3 pair. I'm sure I had at least 25 ourfits for the 5 days we spent there. However, with ever trip I take I learn a new lesson.

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