Menu Close

Shoulda, Coulda, Wouldn’t: Introduction

Everybody travels differently.

My brother and his family recently took a smashing tour of parts of Europe. In their 4 days in Amsterdam they managed to see nearly as many museums as I have seen in about two-weeks time over the course of multiple visits. Although they feel that they spent plenty of time just walking around, their itinerary was certainly weighted a lot more towards specific points of interest than towards idle perambulation.

I know of people who would never even think of slowing down when in a foreign city. If they are interested in museums, they would hop from one to another for days on end. If they have no desire to spend time on museums, they would quickly look at major sights and monuments and then become bored with the destination.

Upon returning home, they would likely complain that the destination is “too touristy”.  The irony of the fact that they were tourists themselves who only went to places that other tourists find popular escapes them.

Me, I am certainly a lover of classical and impressionist art who would find it hard to skip a major art museum. I am also an admirer of architecture, so the most important monuments, places of worship, and other notable buildings are nearly unmissable for me.

At the same time, I am a big fan of people-watching as well as of the aforementioned idle perambulation. I try to walk as many different routes in a city as I can devise, with no specific goal in mind other than absorbing sights and sounds (and, sometimes unfortunately, smells) of the place – and taking an occasional picture, which I increasingly realize I don’t do nearly enough. I also find a healthy dose of enjoyment in parking myself at a street corner café or on a bench in the shade and letting the life of the city glide around me for a couple of hours. I may still be a tourist, but I manage to experience the non-touristy face of the destination when I do that.

Allocating time for slowing down necessarily means cutting some of the major-time-investment sights from my itinerary.  I define major time investment as anything requiring more than 90 minutes, including travel to/from, standing in ticket or entry lines, and the minimal time to see the place without feeling that you are rushing it.  Specialty museums, modern art collections, and anything that requires non-trivial efforts to get to and back from are frequently main candidates to be left out. Some of those even on repeat visits.

And I am completely fine with that. You cannot see everything anyway, you have to pick and choose what matters to you the most. Plus, some of the most popular and well-known sights in fact do not justify the investment to see them. Especially, when you are on limited time.

With that in mind, I am going to try a new series on this blog. I have been faithfully keeping a comparatively detailed Travelog for nearly a decade, listing all of the visited sights and places with brief narratives and ♥ ratings. Although the ratings provide an insight into what I liked most and least – and some narratives in no uncertain terms express my feelings about given sights – Travelog has been primarily meant as a reference, rather than a list of recommendations.  Now, I will try to re-imagine some of its entries as clear recommendations of what to see, what to skip, or what to consider for special interests, for a relatively short first visit to a city that I know well. The sights will be grouped in the following buckets (hence, the name of the series):

  • You should place this sight at the top of your list, or
  • You could include this sight on your itinerary if its subject is important to you and the time allows, or
  • I wouldn’t recommend that you spend your time on this sight.

I am starting with Amsterdam. My brother will be cross with me when I put some of the places that I rated in the Travelog into wouldn’t category here…