Sunday, November 30, 2014

HOW TO BE A TOURIST




            A couple of weeks ago we made our second annual trip to the prefecture to ask Marianne* to let us stay here for another year. Among the paperwork required for our  carte de sejour, Cynthia and I have to sign statements swearing that we will not seek employment in France. This, coupled with my language incompetence has the effect of making us perpetual foreigners and permanent tourists.
            As if to prove it, this year Cynthia set for us a touring schedule at times so hectic that I wondered if her doctor had given her only 6 months to live.  We bought a used car back in May and have already put nearly 15,000 kilometers on it. This might not seem like much to an American, but considering that until two weeks ago we were living in an apartment, using public transit and shoe-leather express most of the time, it's a shitload.
            *Marianne is the symbol of France.

           
           Our "Run For Your Life" tour took us to Spain (twice), the Pyrenees, Ireland, Italy, Andorra (that one was my idea), Paris, Normandy, the Charente, Limousin, the Dordogne, Angers and probably a couple of places now lost in the blur. This was one of the reasons my posts have been getting less frequent. Another could be that, like Albert Brooks in the early '70s, I'm out of material. I mean, how much can a cranky old goat say about moving to a place where he doesn't know what's going on half the time.
            So what could I do to make this blog more interesting and readable? I don't follow all that many myself and the few I do are on specific topics and aren't much help. My wife reads several  because they share recipes or travel info. I could share recipes, too, but first I'd have to find some. But, as you read above, I do have some travel experience so I thought I'd offer a few of my observations and tips.
            First of all, most travel and tourist websites are completely useless if, like me, you want to avoid a lot of pain-in-the-ass tourists, especially those from your own country. This is impossible anyway so forget it. Resign yourself to the fact that wherever you go you'll run into dozens, if not thousands, of people from home and usually from the regions whose accents you find the most irritating.
            My wife used to be a fan of Rick Steves, whom I have nothing against, but his tips usually seemed to go along the lines of don't pack a lot of heavy shit - in fact you don't need more than will fit in a daypack and every night wash your only pair of underwear in the sink. A lot of people in heavy tourist areas seem to have taken this one step farther by wearing clothes that it looks like they found. But after years of carefully observing passersby in some of the world's most popular tourist destinations, the most indispensable item of touring clothing, hands down, is a pair of those cargo pants that let you take the legs off. I've seen these things everywhere, even on people who looked like the farthest they'd ever gone was to a Wal-Mart in the next county. If they're ever deployed as shorts it's escaped me and I got the distinct impression that packing light wasn't a priority for most of the guys sporting them - they wore them for the look. I'm not sure what making a fashion statement with a pair of converti-pants says about you but I think I'll just leave it at that.
Hardcore tri-level convertipants
            Speaking of looking like a dork, something to keep in mind next time you visit a big cathedral or any other place that require looking up for extended periods of time - while you're admiring the gargoyles remember to keep your mouth closed. I've seen gangs of tourists wandering around places like Chartres cathedral and about half always look like they're trying to catch peanuts in their mouths. For some reason, when lots of people tilt their heads back, their jaw stays in the same place so if you don't want to look like you're about to say, "Go-o-oo-lll-y", keep this in mind.
            But there is no condition of touristic dorktitude, however extreme, that cannot be amplified simply by climbing onto a Segway. We used to live right around the corner from a place that gave tours on these things and, unless your under the age of about 25, there is no way to operate this contraption and maintain your dignity. They just look silly, but if you're young enough, it doesn't matter, in fact, a lot of times it's the point.
I rest my case

          Alors, like I said before, lately it feels like I've been running out of material so to get out of this, here's a video of the aforementioned Albert Brooks, circa 1973, then another of people (and a chimp) wrecking Segways.

           
           
           
            

1 comment:

  1. Exploring new place in new location is always very interesting and exciting..thanks for this post.

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