Monday, December 20, 2004

Fed up with being treated like a sheep?

Along with the hipster tourist guide, there's the highbrow, us vs. them guide to a city, one which pits you, the individual, against the hordes of tourists who are clearly less sophisticated than you are and whom you thus want to avoid. The NYT Travel section suggests going to Venice in the rainy off-season, not because it's much cheaper, not because rain can be pleasant, but because, notes Mary Billard in her article, "Breathing More Easily Without the Throngs,"

For anyone who has been to Venice in summer - when it becomes an Italian theme park, with thousands of tourists jostling for space on the Piazza San Marco, trying to snap a souvenir photo of the Campanile and then lining up for a coffee at Caffè Florian, which opened in 1720 and has presumably been overcharging ever since - winter can be a revelation. Gone are the cruise ships, the group tours, the throngs of camera-toting daytrippers flooding out of the Santa Lucia train station each morning, guidebook in one hand, stopwatch in the other. In winter, there is nary a Biennale or film festival luring the crowds, and Venice no longer resembles its Las Vegas imitator...

Billard seems to be channelling Eric Idle's would-be tourist character in the Monty Python "Travel Agent" sketch, one of my all-time favorites, who tells Mr. Bounder, his travel agent,

I mean I'm fed up going abroad and being treated like sheep, what's the point of being carted round in buses surrounded by sweaty mindless oafs from Kettering and Boverntry in their cloth caps and their cardigans and their transistor radios and the 'Sunday Mirrors', complaining about the tea, 'Oh they don't make it properly here do they not like at home' stopping at Majorican bodegas, selling fish and chips and Watney's Red Barrel and calamares and two veg and sitting in cotton sun frocks squirting Timothy White's suncream all over their puffy raw swollen purulent flesh cos they 'overdid it on the first day'!...And being herded into endless Hotel Miramars and Bellevueses and Bontinentals with their international luxury modern roomettes and their Watney's Red Barrel and their swimming pools full of fat German businessmen pretending to be acrobats and forming pyramids and firghtening the children and barging into the queues and if you're not at your table spot on seven you miss your bowl of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, the first item on the menu of International Cuisine....

(From Monty Python's Flying Circus: Just the Words, Chapman et al., Methuen.)

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