Monday, 2 September 2013

The Aggressive Frenchman

Perhaps the most downright stupid behaviour ever seen from a tourist was from the guy Caroline saw on Saturday morning who, having realised the vaporetto was leaving without him with all his friends on board, took a running jump and hurdled the gate while the boat was moving away from the pontoon. An action which, had he got it wrong, could easily have killed him.

The most unpleasant though has to be that at the Regata Storica. We have two friends visiting for the afternoon, so we pack up some deckchairs, some wine, and the rest of our gear and go down to Campo San Samuele. We did this last year : it doesn't get too busy, and you can normally get a spot near the front without too much trouble.

There are a few people already there, all seated right on the edge of the campo with legs dangling over the canal. So we put up our chairs a few feet behind them :  plenty of legroom for us, space for people to get past if they need to, space for the people in front to lean back if they get tired.

The guy in front of us - scrawny, bespectacled, unkempt - is reading Le Monde. Time passes, the sky clears and the sun comes out, and it seems it might be a good idea for me to go back to the flat to pick up some hats, umbrellas, sun cream etc. By the time I get back the French guy has shuffled back a bit from the edge. Nothing too annoying as yet, but starting to impinge on our space.

Over the next half hour, he progressively moves further and further back, stretching his arms out behind him until his hands are starting to stray suspiciously close to our stuff. I can't work out if he's just being antisocial or if he's planning on trying to nick something.

And then, all of a sudden, he tries to move back, realises he hasn't got room, and starts moving our bags out of the way. Caroline immediately moves them back..

He pushes himself further back, more forcefully this time.

I ask him, in Italian, if he'd like to use my chair as he's practically sitting on me anyway. I could use English, but I figure Italian will annoy him more as I suspect he doesn't speak any.

Caroline attempts to prod him forward with her foot, at which point he turns and snarls and snatches her handbag.

I grab the other end and wrestle if off him. At which point all those hours reading Sherlock Holmes in Italian really pay off and I shout at him something which translates along the lines of Next time it'll be the worse for you, wretched Frenchman!

He's properly angry now, and I realise that he might do something stupid - either grab something of ours and throw it in the canal, or possibly even hit me. And it strikes me that it would be really, really stupid to get involved in a fight. Thankfully, he seems to think the same, and turns away from us in a fury and tries to push himself back once more. But I've got my foot in place now, so if he wants to do so he's going to have to sit on it; which is going to be more uncomfortable for him than me.

Impasse, then. We stay like this for the next twenty minutes or so,  my foot braced ready for him to try something, and Caroline's handbag looped around my arm. I am almost shaking with anger and the worry that he might try something stupid. Eventually he gives up, and wanders off to the back of the campo, but even now I think I need to keep a half eye on him, just in case.

The Regata passes pleasantly enough but  the shine has been taken off the afternoon for me, although a stiff drink and nice meal on the Zattere help matters. I'm still unsure if it was a cack-handed attempt to steal something or an audacious (and, indeed, successful) attempt to propel the French to the head of the Crap Tourists league. Still,he has to go back to France. We get to stay in Venice. Ergo, we win.


  1. That does sound like one of the most obnoxious things I've ever heard. My sympathies at having to deal with someone like that. How terribly unpleasant.

    1. Thanks Erynn. Still not sure what his problem was, or whether he was just on the lookout to steal something. Still, it's acqua passata now.

  2. Phil sounds like a few rounds I've had on airplanes.....sigh....hellilsh!!
    I bet you can't wait for autumn....less tourists...cooler weather!!
    From what I've seen this summer on Facebook...Venice has had a tough time with the crowds...sleeping in calli....walking around half naked...the purse-sellers setting up shop on ponti.

    So sorry to hear about your really puts a damper on wonderful plans!!!

  3. Well, these things happen, and, to be fair, they can happen anywhere. It's starting to cool down now, and the city feels like it's getting back to normal again.


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