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Adventure Magazine

Adventure Main | E-mail the Editors | Adventure Customer Service | Subscribe November 2004

There & Back
Venice by Paddle
NAME: Olivier Renck
DESTINATION: Venice, Italy

Photo: ADVENTURE subscriber Olivier Renck

Olivier Renck, 33, a former professional speed skier, set a personal record of 134 miles (216 kilometers) an hour at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. During his travels in the hunt for perfect powder, the Grenoble, France, native began taking pictures. His work has appeared in Paris Match and L'Equipe. He's currently working on his first studio photography project in Los Angeles.

Photo: Kayaks in Venice canals

I like to mix up my travel experience. Venice is not your average sports environment. I thought taking kayaks into the canals would be a great way for my girlfriend and me to marry outdoor sports with history and culture. Plus, with all the exercise, we could have two gelatos instead of one.

Thousands of visitors walk through the famous Piazza San Marco daily. When we paddled the Grand Canal—which many consider to be the most beautiful "avenue" in the world—we were able to avoid the crowds and park right next to the piazza. The police completely ignored us. Another area, called Sant' Elena, in the Castello district, was different from other parts of Venice. So tranquil. We just pulled out our kayaks and took a nap on the grass.

We entered Venice from the sea, paddling in through the Veneta Lagoon. From this perspective, the city was amazingly quiet. You can get right up close to the buildings and really see how old the architecture is. When you touch the walls, it's like you're traveling back in time. Though they say Venice is sinking, we didn't see buildings halfway underwater. The bottoms of some old doors were damaged, but we really didn't get the feeling that the place was going to disappear.

Everyone told us the water was going to be extremely dirty. We were very concerned that the odor might ruin our trip. It's true it is not clean—you don't want to drink it—but it doesn't smell. It was beautiful how the green contrasted with the walls and how things reflected off the water.

Venice is just like any other city, except that here most deliveries and inner-city transportation happen in motorboats. They even have "valet parking" at restaurants. People were always happy—and surprised—to see us coming in our colorful kayaks.

Photograph by Olivier Renck
Portrait courtesy of Olivier Alluis

Additional Excerpts
From the print edition, November 2004

Adventure Travel 2005: Amazing excursions for the new year
Return to Zootopia: David Quammen revisits the Galápagos
No Margin for Error: America's most perilous peak
Pelton's World: Former no-go zones make a comeback

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November 2004

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