A person decides to go for a week-long trip to Paris with her teenage daughter. Neither of them have travelled much before, especially to Europe, and they’ve never been to France. Neither of them is much interested in history, art or architecture. They picked Paris as a holiday destination because, well, it is one of the first foreign non-resort destinations that come to mind; plus, a chance acquaintance at the ice rink where the girl regularly skates lived in Europe for a few years and gives Paris very high marks all around.
The woman does not do any pre-trip research. She grills that chance acquaintance on the must-see sights and asks her for various advice, but otherwise departs on her trip with very little idea of what she and her daughter would be doing in Paris.
They end up skipping several major points of interest while in the French capital. Since they are not museum types, they make a cursory visit to the Louvre and pass up all other great art museums. They climb the Eiffel Tower, but skip Ste-Chapelle. They don’t visit Latin Quarter or Monmartre. They do not like walking around much, so they run out of things to do, once they are done with all of the different routes of the hop-on/hop-off tour-bus. Paris bores them. Their best activity ends up a day-long guided tour of Bruges, in Belgium, – regimented schedule, constant English-language narration, no need to improvise in order to keep themselves occupied.
Since they do not speak any French, they tend to have their meals in touristy establishments, where the prices are higher and the portions look fancier but are decidedly smaller. They certainly come away from that not liking the food and bemoaning the cost.
When they are back in America, they tell all of their friends and acquaintances that they don’t understand what’s the big deal about Paris. They could not find anything to do there, they saw almost nothing that impressed them, they had to spend so much money for bad food and cramped lodgings…
Any of my American readers recognize themselves in this portrait?
I sincerely hope not.
You might have guessed from the beginning that the “chance acquaintance” was no one else but my lovely wife. And the person described here is one of the moms that she regularly sees at the rink where Becky and Kimmy have recently resumed their skating. Natasha tried to help the woman before the trip, but the attitude was all wrong; it was as if the woman was expecting to arrive at an all-inclusive resort/amusement park and book additional activities as needed. And her lack of interest in art and culture pretty much doomed the entire endeavor from the very beginning.
No wonder Americans do not travel much beyond “standard” destinations of Disney parks, Florida shores and Caribbean islands. You start off as a narrow-minded highlights-reel-seeker and you make no attempt to experience what a foreign destination have to offer – you probably will lose any cursory interest you may have had after just one attempt…
Present company excluded, of course.