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Old 07-21-2012, 04:17 PM
 
943 posts, read 1,557,969 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CRock View Post
I agree with Jezer.
...and CRock too...

also, if you have not visited the country of your heritage, then do that after delving into geneology.
It'll tie things up nicely.
just a thought.
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Old 07-22-2012, 10:56 PM
 
Location: Maryland
1,534 posts, read 3,785,192 times
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Just a different perspective: I'm often amused at travel advice regarding "avoid/skip the tourist traps. Go where the tourists don't, etc., etc., etc." The logic of that eludes me.

In visiting any foreign destination (or actually domestic, hey - visit Utah and skip Bryce, etc. - you'll definitely avoid the tourists) there is (in my not humble opinion) a serious disconnect between that advice and why one would travel umpteen miles and avoid the major attractions of given country or area.

By all means - go to Russia, skip Red Square, the Hermitage, the Kremlin and spend your time in the suburbs getting to know the locals. In Paris - avoid the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, spend your time in run of the mill suburban localities - you certainly won't be bothered by fellow tourists. Try London avoiding the Tower, the British museum, etc.

I think I've adequately made my point. Sorry, but when we travel to destinations we prefer to see the attractions that make the destinations worth the visit. That logically means you're going to be in the presence of other tourists - unless of course one prefers to vista Rome and just meet the locals in situ. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. JMO
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Old 07-24-2012, 05:45 AM
 
Location: Earth
24,639 posts, read 24,850,920 times
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Pilgrim, I agree.

I live in Europe and travel to Prague about once a month.
I love the city and have been to most of it. The only thing I will not do there is visit St Vitas Cathedral on a Sunday morning.
Other than that, I cut back and forth through the main attractions to learn more about the city.

I still visit the capitals of European countries and enjoy every second of it.
I prefer off-hours and in the rain (fewer tourists) and I have great travel karma.

I was at the Parthanon in Athens on a rainy day and there were about 6 of us on top; the forum, probably fewer people.
In Florence, I've never had a problem visiting the Uffizi with no prepurchase of tickets.
Rome, the Vatican museum when the Sistine Chapel closed at noon, leaving me free to explore the vastness of the remainder of the museum by myself all afternoon.
The small churches in Venice are great to visit during the Regatta (lovely sight in itself).
Istanbul during Ramadan. Ah, wonderful.

First time in a city, I'm always a tourist; I never leave without seeing the main museums and architecture wonders.

Again, I have the luxury of living in Europe and travel in a camper.
I have unique opportunities and travel about 40 weekends a year (if not more).
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Old 07-24-2012, 07:40 AM
 
Location: on an island
13,382 posts, read 40,941,952 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pilgrim21784 View Post
Just a different perspective: I'm often amused at travel advice regarding "avoid/skip the tourist traps. Go where the tourists don't, etc., etc., etc." The logic of that eludes me.

In visiting any foreign destination (or actually domestic, hey - visit Utah and skip Bryce, etc. - you'll definitely avoid the tourists) there is (in my not humble opinion) a serious disconnect between that advice and why one would travel umpteen miles and avoid the major attractions of given country or area.

By all means - go to Russia, skip Red Square, the Hermitage, the Kremlin and spend your time in the suburbs getting to know the locals. In Paris - avoid the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, spend your time in run of the mill suburban localities - you certainly won't be bothered by fellow tourists. Try London avoiding the Tower, the British museum, etc.

I think I've adequately made my point. Sorry, but when we travel to destinations we prefer to see the attractions that make the destinations worth the visit. That logically means you're going to be in the presence of other tourists - unless of course one prefers to vista Rome and just meet the locals in situ. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. JMO
I agree with you Pilgrim, and also with Chielgirl.

I think maybe what some people might mean is that there is more to the 'best' of Europe experience than its main attractions. I do enjoy *some* alone time on a trip, where I'm not rubbing shoulders with a bunch of other people. Getting off the beaten path has its rewards, especially the smaller towns.
But of course it is ridiculous (and self-defeating) to cross the Atlantic, then land in Paris only to smugly tell yourself that you are a traveler, not a tourist, and are avoiding the riffraff by skipping Notre Dame or the Arc de Triomphe.

When your days are limited, and unlike Chielgirl, you don't live in Europe, time is money and you must endeavor to make the most of it by traveling smart.
A tourist trap is an exploitative waste of time or money, perhaps both. The London Dungeon might be a must-see for some, but for me it is a tourist trap. Westminster Abbey is not. As Chielgirl said, timing matters.
San Marco in Venice can *feel* like a tourist trap at midday. At 8am it is glorious. Oia, Santorini, is seething with people clicking cameras at sunset.
At sunrise, it was just me and the caldera.
Couragemom posted a picture of a beautiful view of Positano. I have a similar picture. It was taken from the top of our hotel in Praiano, the neighboring town, which was quite charming and a far cheaper place to sleep than Positano.
And throngs of people can be a whole lot of fun! I would not have missed Hogmanay or the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh for anything.
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Old 07-24-2012, 08:10 AM
 
Location: Toronto, Ottawa Valley & Dunedin FL
1,409 posts, read 2,357,727 times
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I think the point is not to avoid the main tourist attractions, but to choose your times to visit them, to not feel bad if you miss a couple, and to avoid the obvious tourist traps that often accompany them (souvenir and fake craft stores, ersatz restaurants, etc.)

But also the point is to look beyond the tourist attractions and try to get a taste of what the place is like away from the tourists--there's a lot going on in the neighbourhoods of a big city, or in lovely countryside and villages where tourists don't go.

Go into a local department store or supermarket if you want to see what the locals are buying, for instance. Hang out in an interesting neighbourhood, sit in a patio and people watch. Find some local live music at night. All these activities I have done, and they have enhanced my experience of places, even if I did miss one or two "don't miss" attractions.
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Old 07-24-2012, 08:43 AM
 
14,253 posts, read 15,350,468 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wwanderer View Post
I think the point is not to avoid the main tourist attractions, but to choose your times to visit them, to not feel bad if you miss a couple, and to avoid the obvious tourist traps that often accompany them (souvenir and fake craft stores, ersatz restaurants, etc.)

But also the point is to look beyond the tourist attractions and try to get a taste of what the place is like away from the tourists--there's a lot going on in the neighbourhoods of a big city, or in lovely countryside and villages where tourists don't go.

Go into a local department store or supermarket if you want to see what the locals are buying, for instance. Hang out in an interesting neighbourhood, sit in a patio and people watch. Find some local live music at night. All these activities I have done, and they have enhanced my experience of places, even if I did miss one or two "don't miss" attractions.
I think the other point is that there are a lot of great places to visit that do not get the tourists but which are also very interesting and enjoyable. It just takes a little more effort and thought.

For example, in Switzerland, loads of tourists visit Gruyere (famous for cheese). Well, there is a nice castle, a pretty cobbled street and a ton of restaurants serving fondu. Or, you could go instead to Grandson (just north of Yverdon. Access by public transport is easier than Gruyere, the castle and its history is more interesting, there are also some pretty streets and, if you so wish, you can also get a fondu in one of the town's restaurants. What you don't get are the coachloads of tourists.

I understand that there are certain sites which are a 'must see'. But even in these it is possible to get off the beaten track and avoid the crowds. Thus, in the Louvre, skirt around the large crowd of people gawking at the Mona Lisa (which you cannot really enjoy due to the flashes reflecting off the protective cover), turn right then right again and you will find yourself in a side gallery full of Canalettos and, probably, just you looking at them.

(probably because most of the people visiting the Louvre are philistines who wouldn't know the difference between an old master and a reproduction poster).

And when you are ready for lunch, walk out of the touristy area and find a local restaurant. We did that in Florence. We walked about 15 or 20 minutes away from the Pitti Palace and away from the historical center of Florence and found a great little Trattoria where only Italian was spoken, very few tourists and reasonably priced.
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Old 07-24-2012, 01:14 PM
 
Location: on an island
13,382 posts, read 40,941,952 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wwanderer View Post
I think the point is not to avoid the main tourist attractions, but to choose your times to visit them, to not feel bad if you miss a couple...

But also the point is to look beyond the tourist attractions and try to get a taste of what the place is like away from the tourists--there's a lot going on in the neighbourhoods of a big city, or in lovely countryside and villages where tourists don't go.
Yes. I have had to deal with a few disappointments; there is always so much I want to see, and a limited amount of time. There is always what I *want* to do, and what I end up doing.
I agree that shopping in a grocery store (or even just validating your train ticket, or figuring out how to get out of a parking garage!) can provide auténtico experience. Sometimes just sitting in a café soaking up atmosphere, language, and vino is enough, especially if you are reflecting on what you did that day.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaggy001 View Post
I think the other point is that there are a lot of great places to visit that do not get the tourists but which are also very interesting and enjoyable. It just takes a little more effort and thought.
Yes. This type of planning, for me, is one of the most fun parts of planning a trip, but perhaps it's not for everyone. Research and logistics can be a challenge.
Quote:
I understand that there are certain sites which are a 'must see'. But even in these it is possible to get off the beaten track and avoid the crowds...And when you are ready for lunch, walk out of the touristy area and find a local restaurant.
Yes, traveling during shoulder season or taking the actual time to learn the layout of a museum can help immensely.
And yes, if there are guys out front touting their restaurant, or menus in English, it's probably a good idea to move along. On the other hand, in my experience, a restaurant is not necessarily good simply because it is spontaneously discovered away from a touristy area, but that's all part of the travel experience. Not everything is going to be sorted out and scripted to perfection.

If I am beginning to sound self-congratulatory, don't get me wrong. I have a terrible time with maps and do not always function well using public transportation, let alone driving. I've even made the classic stupid mistake of mixing up money from different countries! Somehow I always muddle through and have a great visit.
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Old 07-24-2012, 01:18 PM
 
2,601 posts, read 5,304,913 times
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> Go into a local department store or supermarket if you want to see what the locals are buying,

I'm not much interested in department stores...but food markets are an entirely different story.

Europe still have many more of these than the US and you get to see things that are very local.

As an example: Helsinki has a delightful old market building down at the harbor. You can see all the odd things they sell (and some of them are very odd) AND you can get an enjoyable and inexpensive meal at the same time.
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Old 07-24-2012, 04:38 PM
 
Location: Maryland
1,534 posts, read 3,785,192 times
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chielgirl: Every time I read one of your excellent posts I have to do penance - repeating "thou shalt not envy, thou shalt not envy". However, reality is unavoidable - I envy you the opportunity to really explore Europe. Our ongoing European forays simple feed the addict in us.

We spent two absolutely superb years RVing the US and certainly haven't covered it all by any means. BUT - Europe's physical dimensions are hugely appealing vis a vis the contrast of visiting contiguous US states. Its just much more interesting with so many different cultures within Europe (for a US oriented traveler) in such small distances. Its simply amazing!!! (Russia is a travel stretch but well worth the effort.)

BlueWillowPlate: For sure, the "shoulders" are the best time to go in our experience. Many of the highlight places we've been would be unimaginably packed in high season. I was in Venice in April and commented to my guide how crowded St. Mark's was - he advised me that the density was actually fairly light compared to the summer period. Bottom line - avoid high seasons if at all possible.

To the OP: Some greater specificity in your interests might aid folks in suggesting "must see" destinations/attractions.
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Old 07-25-2012, 04:27 AM
 
Location: on an island
13,382 posts, read 40,941,952 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rational1 View Post
> Go into a local department store or supermarket if you want to see what the locals are buying,

I'm not much interested in department stores...but food markets are an entirely different story.

Europe still have many more of these than the US and you get to see things that are very local.

As an example: Helsinki has a delightful old market building down at the harbor. You can see all the odd things they sell (and some of them are very odd) AND you can get an enjoyable and inexpensive meal at the same time.
Department stores in other countries do have their differences. We had a good time buying a cellphone in Fnac in Paris, but that's just us.
And grocery stores have their own ways of doing things that can be fun.

I love European markets of all kinds: Christmas markets, weekly food markets, antique markets (the ones in London are fascinating.)

The covered market in Chania on the island of Crete had stuff I'd never, ever seen for sale before.

We've (well, I have) been thinking about visiting Taillin and taking the ferry to Helsinki. Reading your post I am even more intrigued.
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