The Madding Crowd

It’s a year since I abandoned my old blog and moved here. In terms of readership, it was probably a mistake – I have gone from a  total of over nearly 1.8 million hits to 13,000 – but I feel strangely happier about it.

I’ve noticed that a number of bloggers have gone quiet over the last year or so. I don’t know if it’s part of some social media phenomenon, or simply a case of running out of steam. I suspect that it’s both.

In my case, laziness has resulted in several blog posts being whittled down to a photo on Instagram and if you follow my account, you’ll have seen that I recently spent some time outside the Truman Show bubble of Lewes.

I’ll spare you a blow-by-blow account of my travels around Yorkshire, Scotland and Wiltshire, except to say that it changed my attitude to travel and when I read several newspaper articles about anti-tourist protests, I nodded my head in agreement.

The contrast was most striking in Wiltshire, where I began a day in an extraodinary Neolithic tomb, over 50 centuries old:

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It is situated less than half a mile away from a main road, but it might as well be ten times further, as it felt so removed from the modern world. I had expected a handful a visitors, but it was silent and empty.

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A small tunnel leads to a wider chamber that had a faint smell of damp and woodsmoke. It was so quiet, I felt as if I could hear the faint, dull roar of all those past centuries, but it was probably just the A4.

I felt very privileged to be alone in a place that was 500 years older than Stonehenge and tried to imagine the tomb’s builders, huddled around a fire in winter. We know next to nothing about them and the language they spoke and I was brought up to regard these people as primitive. However, they had moved these huge, impossibly heavy stones and created a structure that has lasted for over 5000 years.

To compliment the Neolithic theme, in the afternoon I took my family to Stonehenge. Sadly, it was a very different experince:

stonehenge

This photo doesn’t do justice to the full horror of visiting Stonehenge. It doesn’t include the huge car park, money spinning vistor centre or the fleet of buses that ferry visitors to and from the stone circle. Also, it doesn’t show how many of the visitors seem more interested in the stones as a backdrop to a selfie or group photo, rather than as a place worth contemplating (perferably in silence).

These people had obviously gone to some effort to get here – many had come all the way from China – so why were they behaving as if they were at a rock concert?

During the next couple of weeks, I observed the same phenomenon in a number of places, from York Minster to the Isle of Skye and I concluded that many of these visitors were simply interested in these places because they were ‘bucket list’ destinations.

Stonehenge is, to use that vapid phrase, an ‘iconic’ place; particularly since it became a World Heritage Site. It is a boxed that needs to be ticked and for some of the visitors, the impetus to take photos is, perhaps, about adding a prestigious place to the narrative of one’s life. This is me, in Stonehenge.

We’ve all done it, in varying degrees and I’m as guilty as the next person. My photo albums include the obligatory shots taken in front of the Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge and New York skyline. But over the last few years I’ve begun to see how much damage tourism is doing to some places, negating any short term benefits to the local economy. Even a day in London is now an 80s video game, requiring an ability to dodge wheeled suitcase and selfie sticks coming from all directions.

Venice and Barcelona now have anti-tourist activists and while I don’t agree with all of their methods, I fully sympathise with their sense of desperation. Barcelona has always been on my bucket list, but unless things change I’ve decided that I won’t become part of the problem.

A very good article in The Guardian recently commented that “We should learn from Henry David Thoreau that one can travel as much – and develop as much as a human being – in one’s own locality as in the far-flung and exotic corners of the globe.”

It reminded me of the famous Blake verse:

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

In fairness, he probably didn’t live in Croydon.

41 comments

  1. Toffeeapple

    Ooh, I do like to see you pop up in my feed. I will add to your post by saying that my partner and I were given tickets to ride the Jacobite Express steam train a couple of years ago, simply because riding them is one of our pleasures. It is a long ride but I can’t say that I recall much of it because every single one of the people on the ‘picturesque’ side stood up taking photos so that we on the ‘boring’ side could only see the backs of their heads.

    As for Stonehenge, I went there in the 60s and my boyfriend and I drove right up to it on his motorbike and we spent an hour or so observing and even climbed onto one of the stones; we were the only people there. Tourism might improve the economy but nothing else.

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    • Steerforth

      You’re very lucky to have had the stones to yourselves. I do remember being able to walk inside the circle and I think we had a picnic there, but I can understand why access had to be restricted. Your Jacobite Express experience sounds like my Loch Ness cruise last year. Never again. Fortunately, there are lots of beautiful, lesser known lochs in Scotland.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings

    So, so depressing – the Stonehenge thing, I mean. Your posts are never depressing, always entertaining. I grew up near Stonehenge and we visited several times – it was wonderful, because you could get so close to the stones, touch them and really soak in the atmosphere, and it was so peaceful. This madness of having to ‘do’ certain things without actually take them in or enjoy them is stupid – there’s a fine balance between improving the economy and ruining the particular environment you’re selling, and I think we’ve gone well past the tipping point. I think the selfie sticks are definitely the final nail in the coffin….

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    • Steerforth

      We’ve definitely gone past the tipping point, in some places at least and a weak pound will only make it worse. I’m not sure what the answer is. Perhaps as the word gets around how crowded places like Stonehenge have become, more people will seek alternatives. That would be a mixed blessing, as I like having my ‘secret’ places that the Chinese tourists don’t know about, but it will probably have to happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ange

    I’m soon to visit parts of Europe on a much awaited 6 week trip. I have been three times over the past 25 years. It’s a long way (and a large expense) for us from Australia and it’s an enormous thrill to see some of those sites that we have heard and read about for so long. I’ll never forget my first visit to London in 1992, similar seeing Venice for the first time two years ago. I enjoyed visiting Stonehenge 4 years ago – we look back at our photos now, and it’s remarkable how few other people appear in them (certainly compared to yours) and I believe we were able to undertake some silent contemplation – we don’t own selfie sticks! I just want to say that it is not always easy to control the circumstances under which you visit a tourist site when you travel so far and have limited time available. If you don’t live nearby there isn’t the luxury to come back another time – and because we can’t get up close does that mean the experience is not worth having? There is no option to touch the stones any more – that’s our misfortune, but the experience of seeing them was still one I value. We always take in some of the well known attractions in any country but many of my best memories come from our wanderings off the beaten track. So I do have some sympathy with your views (and I am often annoyed by the serial pests taking their selfies) – but I think it’s a mistake to assume that everyone wants the same experience from travel, and even to assume that one type of experience is better, more worthy or more enjoyable than any other. Each to their own I guess.
    After that grumble, I still enjoy your posts – so have followed from your previous blog. It’s one of very few that I read now.

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    • Steerforth

      It’s good to hear a visitor’s view and I completely understand your point about seeing something because you might not get another chance. My bugbear is with people who don’t seem to have any real interest in a place, but are taken there as part of a package. It’s fine if a tourist site can absord the visitors, but in the case of Stonehenge, it struggles and I wish that there was some way of limiting access to people who really wanted to be there. However, I accept that I can’t second guess why people are visiting somewhere and just because their behaviour seems odd to me, it doesn’t necessarily signify a lack of respect or decorum in their own culture.

      Maybe the best solution would be to make access to the stones dependent on completing a five mile walk (the disabled and elderly excepted), then you’d know how dedicated people were!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve Mitchelmore (@Twitchelmore)

    Two things: VS Naipaul’s novel The Enigma of Arrival is about his time renting a cottage not far from Stonehenge, and it gives a profound sense of what it to be a witness to such a landscape, so if you haven’t read it, please do, especially as it could be characterised as a novel version of your blog written by a Nobel Prize winner.

    The other thing is about bloggers going quiet. Your flipping to this site is a symptom of the vague dissatisfaction or boredom blogs can induce in the blogger. I think this is the main reason. It’s nothing new but never stops bothering me because I take heart from persistence. When they go quiet (are you listening John Self?) I take it as a personal slight.

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    • Steerforth

      I shall make sure I read it. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Re: blogging – I can understand why Asylum has gone quiet, as John Self is now in demand as a reviewer. My move was partly prompted by a concern about ‘jumping the shark’, along with a desire to lose some (but not all) readers who knew me in real life, like my mother-in-law. I also thought that WordPress would be better for images. I’m not sure if I did the right thing, but I might as well carry on rather than go back with my tail between my legs.

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  5. Michelle Ann

    Totally agree with you. Tour companies are partly to blame for shipping thousands of tourists to areas they really have little interest in, and are regarded by many as Disneyland experiences. A recent TV programme on the Isle of Skye showed most people getting off a cruise ship and heading straight for the shops. One passenger thought they were in Dublin, and another wanted to get a bus to Edinburgh. Perhaps we need to have replicas of attractive places, like the Lascaux caves, to save them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steerforth

      There was talk of building a replica of Stonehenge a mile or so away. At the time, I thought it was a mad idea, but it seems increasingly attractive.

      I think you’re right about the Disneyland aspect and local tourist boards have colluded with this by branding regions, e.g. Dorset’s ‘Jurassic Coast’ after the success of ‘Jurassic Park’. I can fully understand the temptation, but the end result is often a miserable experience for both the locals and tourists. In Portree, a few weeks ago, the town centre was gridlocked with visitors (sadly I was one of them) and people were having to step into the road to avoid a coachload of Chinese tourists who were queuing for a single public loo. We can either build more hotels, visitor centres and gift shops, which will help the local economy but ruin the character of the place, or we can try and manage the situation with a carrot and stick approach.

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  6. mateodepoose

    I visited Stonehenge a few years ago, I think before some recent changes were made to the arrangements. It wasn’t a bad experience, but it was off-season and the crowds weren’t too out-of-control, and I even appreciated the gift shop (but I think it’s different now?). I’m glad I went, but I have to say that the visits we made to Avebury and to the White Horse of Uffington, both of which were largely deserted, are more memorable to me now.

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    • Steerforth

      Perhaps Stonehenge is a necessary sacrificial lamb, drawing the majority of casual tourists so that the devotees can enjoy the lesser known places in relative peace and quiet. For me, the magic of visiting these ancient sites is the ability to partly leave the present and feel a connection with a different time. Avebury has actually improved, I think, over the last 25 years. When I first went there, a number of people were hugging the stones, which was very irritating. That doesn’t seem to happen any more.

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  7. Allen

    Julian Barnes wrote a novel about building a replica England consisting entirely of the tourist bits. It doesn’t come out well for anyone.

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    • Steerforth

      It’s an attractive idea. The Isle of Sheppey is an ideal candidate for this idea and if the ‘Boris Airport’ idea was revived, there could be direct flights from Beijing.

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  8. Numbatty

    Once again you made me chuckle. Stonehenge is better since they closed the side road and moved the visitor centre to give the illusion of its place in the wider landscape but the circling hoards really spoil it. A shame

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    • Steerforth

      The actual layout is better, I agree. There are some interesting plans under discussion, but none of them will solve the problem of how many people visit. Perhaps I’ll circulate a rumour on the internet that the stones are cursed and anyone who goes within 500 yards of them is plagued with ill fortune for the remainder of their days.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dale

    The trouble with mass tourism is that the best places are always the first to be inundated and sacrificed.
    I spent last weekend up to my hocks in visiting Chinese package tourists as I was attending a convention in Rotorua, New Zealand, a major tourist hub because of its thermal and volcanic attractions. At least these were staying in an international hotel. China has a way of tying up tourist’s money by starting up its own bus lines, hotels and souvenir shops, which is of no benefit whatsoever to the host country.
    Putting up prices will cut out some of the international parasitic travellers who want everything for nothing, maybe introducing a two tier pricing system with locals getting the discount. Restrictions on what sort of campervans may be hired out also pays off, as New Zealand is currently discovering. And a tourism levy to develop infrastructure like toilets will help out local authorities in areas where there is a big attraction but low local population of ratepayers. Governments always seem unwilling to take over much of the responsibility from local authorities.

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    • Steerforth

      There was an interesting article in today’s Times about the same phenomenon. I’ve copied it, in case it’s of interest:

      “It is lunchtime at the Harbin restaurant in St Petersburg and diners are tucking in to plates of pigs’ ears and bowls of sticky rice.

      Outside are the spires of Russia’s magnificent former imperial capital, but in here it feels like a little corner of Podnebesnaya, the Celestial Kingdom, as Russians like to call China.

      A boisterous group of Chinese sit at one debris-strewn table, ladling soup from large bowls. They pour tea from jugs into their flasks and, with a scrape of chairs, hurriedly get up to leave.

      These diners are tourists, some of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese now visiting Russia every year as relations between the countries strengthen. Not everyone is happy with the development.

      President Putin and President Xi exchanged visits this year and spoke of improving ties. A visa-free scheme for groups means that 80 per cent of Chinese tourists travelling to Russia do so on organised tours of betweeen five and 50 people.

      Almost half of those head for Moscow and St Petersburg, while some groups, remembering the countries’ shared communist past, follow a “red route” that includes the city of Ulyanovsk, Lenin’s birthplace.

      It is an influx that brings benefits: the average Chinese spends £400 a day in Russia, including accommodation and travel.

      Critics complain that tourists from other countries are being squeezed out of major attractions and that a shadow economy has blossomed around the boom.

      The number of visa-free Chinese tourists visiting Russia ballooned from 87,000 in 2010 to 760,000 last year, which represented a 40 per cent increase on 2015.

      In St Petersburg, the city’s airport and many shops now have signs in Chinese. Chinese tourists knocked Germans from the top spot two years ago and numbers are expected to rise.

      “I wanted to come here because Russia is a great culture of literature, art and poetry,” said Li Ya Meng, 45, an economist from Qingdao. “Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Tolstoy. I read War and Peace when I was ten.”

      Industry experts say the fall in the value of the rouble and rising incomes in China have caused the tourist expansion. “It’s also about the political background, the warm relations,” said Anna Sibirkina, who heads China Friendly, a Russian scheme to support tourism from Podnebesnaya.

      Despite an increasing closeness between Moscow and Beijing, spurred by common opposition to US global hegemony, suspicions between the two countries’ citizens remain.

      Russia and China clashed over their shared border in the Zhenbao Island Incident of 1969, when scores died on both sides. Residents of Russia’s far east region have a visceral fear of encroachment by their vastly more populated neighbour.

      In St Petersburg, the popular website Fontanka recently ran an article headlined: “How Petersburg became ‘China Unfriendly’.”

      It detailed a litany of residents’ complaints about Chinese tourists making slurping noises as they ate on trains, stealing coat hangers from hotel rooms and wiping their hands on table cloths.

      Dmitry Mazanikov, head of the Union of Tourist Agencies for northwest Russia, said a more serious problem was unregulated commerce growing around the inflow of Chinese. “There are many shops here with Chinese owners that operate in the shadows,” he said.

      “They close off to sell souvenirs at inflated prices to the tourists. That robs the city budget of a lot of money in unpaid taxes. The Chinese also arrange backdoor cash deals with hotels and sights which deny accommodation and tickets to visitors from other countries.”

      Boris Vishnevsky, a member of the city council, said he had appealed to state investigators to examine the claims of tax-dodging.

      The Times visited one high-end store on the city’s Petrogradsky Island called Skazka, or Fairytale, which is said to open only for Chinese tour groups. A manager asked sharply, “Who are you?” as soon as I opened the door.

      She then claimed that the empty store was open to all visitors, although I was asked to leave after three minutes looking at amber and malachite jewellery.

      Mr Mazanikov said that closed shopping sessions for Chinese tourists were not necessarily illegal but spoilt the city’s welcoming image.

      Some, like Leonid Flit, a veteran travel company boss who once ran the Soviet Intourist agency in the city, thinks the claims of chicanery are exaggerated.

      He warned that the Chinese should not be demonised. “It’s true they may be a little loud and there are things they do that seem unusual to Russians, like picking up food at the breakfast buffet and putting it back,” he added. “But these are cultural differences. We should be tolerant.”

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  10. George

    I work in Washington, DC, near the White House, and therefore walk past crowds of tourists any time I walk south. It can be a challenge to dodge them, it is true. I should say that the densest packs are likely to be from American schools: all of one grade at some middle or high school somewhere in the US. Well, I was in town on an eighth-grade tour long ago. There are plenty of tourists from the rest of the world, so that it is routine to hear three or four other languages, without trying, in the course of a two mile walk.

    Washingtonians affect to grumble about this: the tourists stand on the left of escalators where locals wish to walk, tourists cluster on sidewalks, etc. Yet owing to the way Washington was laid out, with large spaces around the White House, the Capitol, and the primary monuments and museums, the tourists seldom create dense crowds. Maybe twice a year, for the Independence Day fireworks and for the bloom of the cherry blossoms by the Tidal Basin, it can become uncomfortable.

    I do enjoy tourism elsewhere. Yet I do see the odd way it may be practiced: the people hurrying eyes front down a hall that would be the best museum in any but a dozen of the world’s cities, so that they can stand five paces from the Mona Lisa, take a picture, and march on back ignoring excellent work.

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    • Steerforth

      I remember seeing the Mona Lisa when I was 20. Later, I wondered why I had bothered making a special journey to see a painting I didn’t particularly like. It was exactly what I expected it to be, except smaller.

      I think the best travel moments are those serendipitous ones, when one is ‘surprised by joy’. One that springs to mind is when I was in a remote forest in France and bumped into a Catholic priest, who was staying in a local retreat. He invited me back for tea and we had bread and jam in a beautifully austere room, where we discussed R.L.Stevenson’s ‘Travels With a Donkey’. Those moments are the stuff of life, but they won’t be found if you travel everywhere in an air conditioned coach with your compatriots.

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      • George

        It may take a better eye than I have to see the Mona Lisa as it is. A sister in law once looked at the painting “Ginevra da Benci” (also by Leonardo) at the National Gallery of Art here, and said that the subject looked as if she had eaten unpleasant, and in fact had a greenish tinge to her complexion. I didn’t agree, but had a closer look next time. One of my difficulties with art museums is that I have a limited power of concentration, and often require a second look: two forty-five minute sessions are worth more than one hour and a half.

        I agree on serendipity, and don’t care for the group tour. At the same time, one of my rules is that the obvious got that way for a reason. If you are in London and haven’t seen them, see the Tower, see the House of Commons, preferably during Question Time. If you are in New York, see the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if your feet are up to it walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Erika Edmondstone

    One of the good things to come from the internet age – we can visit digitally. Agreed, nothing like being there in real life (well, at least until the feelies of Brave New World come into being), but a heck of a lot lighter on the wallet and the environment. And when you’re someone with a chronic illness that really limits how much you can do, digital is brilliant.

    I have a photo my mother took of Stonehenge in the late 1950s. Nothing like today, much more like the neolithic tomb you visited (love that, by the way – the skills involved are somewhat boggling).

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    • Steerforth

      Google Earth has been a real boon and I’ve virtually travelled to a number of places using Street View. I’m looking forward to the technology reaching a stage where we can put on a headset and ‘drive’. I appreciate how difficult it must be to travel with a chronic illness and each journey becomes fraught with potential problems rather than being an act of escape from life’s difficulties. It’s particularly hard when you’ve planned to make certain journeys and have to curtail your ambitions, but sometimes the planning of a journey can be as pleasurable as the actual trip. In my case, it’s often more pleasurable, as the reality sometimes involves my son having one of his episodes.

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  12. Erika Edmondstone

    Meant to add – I always wonder about people who visit sites, art galleries or museums and they don’t actually *look*. Seriously – they attend, tick the”done” box and move on. True, unthinking consumers and I find that tragic.

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    • Steerforth

      I think it takes time to work out how to view a gallery or museum. I used to be one of those people who looked briefly at everything, before I realised that it was better to look at five paintings for at least 10 minutes each rather than speed past a hundred or so.

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  13. Sue

    Timing is really important – even here at home in Canada, there are local day-trip destinations that have had to impose caps on the number of visitors at any given time because of overcrowding. They are usually local scenic sites like waterfalls or natural grottoes, and the current situation seems to be a result of a government decision a decade ago to switch park management’s focus from conservation to marketing. We have given up trying to go to popular places on a Sunday afternoon and are lucky enough to have flexible schedules so we can pop off somewhere on a mid-week afternoon instead.

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    • Steerforth

      Same here. The nicest local beach is packed at the weekends when the sun’s shining, but out of season or early in the morning, it’s deserted. I’ve also noticed that even on a busy day, nearly everybody congregates within 100 yards of the entrance, so you only have to walk for five minutes or so to have some peace and quiet, where the only sound you can hear is the lapping of the waves and the cries of seagulls. Bliss.

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  14. Martin

    You know my thoughts, from comments I’ve made in that ‘other place’, Steerforth. I wonder if I’ll ever get to where George Harrison was heading on ‘The Inner Light’? “Arrive without travelling.”

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    • Steerforth

      Good luck. I’ve tried Mindfulness and other forms of meditation, but all I ever do is nod off. I’m hoping to move to a house with a proper garden, so that I can spend more time exploring the microcosm.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Andrew Goodsell

    Another lovely post. Keep going.
    You have reminded me of my aunt and uncle who were great travellers before people went abroad. They took their car on the ferry to France in the 60s, drove to Paris and parked *under* the Eiffel Tower.
    On the upside, tourist magnets like Stonehenge keep the tourists away from places that we locals know about. For example tourists queue round the block in London to go on the London Eye for £30 for 30 minutes, whereas the viewing tower at Westminster Cathedral is nearly always deserted and a bargain for £6 for as long as you like.
    Sorry, I didn’t mean to come off sounding like an advert, but you know what I mean.

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    • Steerforth

      I really envy the older generation who were able to drive along uncongested roads to places that were still relatively free of tourists. Parking under the Eiffel Tower seems unbelievable – parking anywhere in central Paris seems rather fanciful! And they would have been travelling at a time when restaurant staff wouldn’t be seen dead speaking English, so it was much more immersive.

      Thanks for the tip about Westminster Cathedral – I’ll have to try that.

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  16. Kristin

    Lovely post, and I’m glad that you’re still blogging. Like you, I’ve noticed a drop off as well. It might make me sad, but I’m trying to figure out how to add value–and not noise–to the world through words myself, so perhaps it’s good to have a bit of quiet.

    And even better if that quiet can be somewhere magical and a bit untouched by tourism.

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    • Steerforth

      One of the things I like about your blog – neatly summed up by its title – is your attitude towards travel and I’ve vicariously enjoyed your trips to places I’ve often never heard of. My future journeys will be in the same spirit.

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  17. Joan Kyler

    Tourists aren’t the problem, it’s the number of tourists. As I see it, the root of most of our problems today is too many people. Okay, that off my chest, I used to live in Boston, on Beacon Hill, which is a tourist attraction. Because the tourists didn’t come in busloads, just a family or small group on foot, I liked to help them by giving directions and adding interesting facts. I lived beside a faux house, a facade built to keep people from falling down a steep incline, something most people didn’t know about.
    I could swear that when my husband and I visited Stonehenge in the early to mid 1980s, there was no fence. Wiki says differently, so I’ll have to dig out my old photo albums. I do know that there were very few people there and the atmosphere on that grey day was tangible to us. We always travelled in off seasons to avoid crowds. I’m glad we travelled so much in the 1980s because I certainly can’t stomach it now.

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    • Steerforth

      You’re right, it’s the volume of tourists that’s the problem. Like you, I enjoy helping tourists in Lewes because there aren’t many of them and this is a ‘working town’ where the attractions aren’t always obvious. I recently spared an elderly American couple from having one of the worst meals of their lives and pointed them towards somewhere that would give them one of the best, for the same price. It’s natural to want to help strangers, I think, but mass tourism has produced a culture in which besieged locals of popular places now view visitors as, at best, cash cows; at worst, a terrible nuisance.

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  18. dazedconfused2016

    How lucky that my comment comes after Joan’s above, thank goodness for the “80s… Then again my traveling partner kept saying that the ’60’s was a real adventure rather than the global village we now have where most travel is pointless and certainly ” World Heritage status” is a curse and warning to avoid at all costs.
    We had just been contemplating a drive through France only to decide to trade two hours of hell in an airport for having to spend ten days on the road avoiding all the places which were once a joy to visit. A few weeks on back roads and life in a sleepy village living at “Walden” pace won my vote.
    Scotland needed a sign on the road north saying FULL! So many intent on visiting the film sets for so many popular productions has jammed up the narrow roads and filled every available bed whilst ruining the experience for everyone. If you hate disgusting toilets, avoid the “Road to the Isles”, if you love two hour traffic jams, visit Fort William at about 5pm!

    As for blogging, nearly everyone in my blogging circle moved over to the antisocial media sites and dialogue through commenting died a death.

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    • Steerforth

      I wish I’d been born 20 years earlier – the 1960s sounds like the perfect era for exploring the world. You could even drive across Africa without having to worry too much about being brutally murdered by guerillas, robbers or religious nutcases.

      I hadn’t realised how popular Scotland was. I stupidly thought that because I’d driven for the best part of a day, I was shaking off most of my fellow travellers along the way. The lack of roads in the Highlands is a curse when you’re stuck behind a campervan, or a person who thinks that anything over 35mph will produce some unpleasant G-force effects. I think you’re right to go for the Walden option – next year, I want to keep the driving to a minimum and find somewhere where we can just amble around and enjoy the local scenery.

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  19. Pete

    First, I wouldn’t mind an account of your travels.

    I just spent a few days in NYC and was very surprised at the number of tourists, especially from abroad. I guess I’m happy folks still want to come, and happy we still let them in. Still, though, on Sunday I was going to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to meet a friend but abandoned that plan when I saw it was jam-packed with people. I don’t remember it being like that.

    Funnily enough, I’ve only spent two nights in the UK, both in Croydon. I remember being very confused by the trains.

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    • Steerforth

      You have my sympathy. I can only assume that you stayed in Croydon by chance rather than design, as it has to be one of the ugliest places in the UK. Whenever I pass through East Croydon station, I feel an immense sense of gratitude that I don’t have to live there.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Lucy Fisher

    A few thoughts. Population is increasing. Travel is easier. We’re all tourists. A couple of generations ago we whinged about people in charabancs with Box Brownies and wind-up gramophones. I take your point about the cruise ships and coach parties, but these people couldn’t get to Skye/Stonehenge on their own (language, mobility). Though why do they want to go there?

    My own personal moan: the old-fashioned Italian cafes opposite the British Museum have morphed into noodle bars. 😦

    PS I live in Central London and hardly ever see anyone with a selfie stick. I often have breakfast with guests from the local Travelodge and eavesdropping on their conversations is fascinating. Most of them are friendly Americans.

    PPS Sometimes I direct tourists who think “central London” is a kind of theme park with the Eye and the museums next door to each other.

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    • Steerforth

      It’s not just increasing population, but also a growing affluence and change in expectations. I remember that in the 90s, it suddenly became the norm to have one foreign holiday and at least one European city break every year. America, which was once beyond most people’s price range, suddenly became affordable (post Freddie Laker) and things reached a point where if you hadn’t been to New York by the age of 30, you were regarded as vaguely eccentric.

      I’m relieved to read that you don’t see many selfie sticks. I’ve spotted a few in London, but they were in the obvious places, e.g. with Big Ben in the background. I don’t know if I would have embraced the selfie when I was young, but these days, when I accidentally touch the reverse button and see a middle aged man appear on the screen, I feel very disappointed. How different life must have been before we had mirrors.

      Like

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