TOURIST IS NOT A DIRTY WORD
How often have you been warned off a place, an attraction or a restaurant because it is “too touristy”?
There’s a reason why New Orleans ranks as one of the world’s most touristy destinations.
The word touristy or for that matter, tourist, is anything but a compliment these days; a traveller, on the other hand, has cachet, it confers a certain kind of cool.
Conventional wisdom has it that travellers like to savour journeys, seek out new horizons, take the road less travelled, but tourists, well, they do what’s expected of them and are content just to tick the boxes with a been there, done that, let’s board the bus and move on to the next destination attitude.
Bah, humbug to that I say. Call me shallow, call me callow, you can even call me a tourist, but you won’t offend me because there’s usually good reason why the so-called tourist traps are popular.
With few exceptions, the most popular tourist attractions have delivered great experiences, ones that live on in my heart and mind long after some of the off-the-beaten-track journeys and adventures I embarked on have been forgotten.
So with that in mind I offer you my list of tourist traps that even the most resolute of cool hunters should see.
New Orleans’ French Quarter
Apart from Disneyland, you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere more touristy in the US, and that’s saying something.
So why go? It’s a beautiful well-preserved city, it’s integral to American history – and since Cyclone Katrina, to its psyche as well – but most of all because it’s a non-stop party. The air fizzes with fun year round, not just during Mardi Gras. (I don’t know if I’d do Mardi Gras it looks a little full-on for my liking as I do like to get a couple of hours sleep every night.) There’s music blasting from cafes and jazz bars, people dancing on the streets, and there’s always a chance that you might catch a glimpse of Brad Pitt, who bought a house in New Orleans after Katrina, and has contributed greatly to the Crescent City’s renaissance.
Eight million tourists give or take a few thousand either way, find their way to the US/Canadian border annually to do the Falls. I did it a couple of years ago thinking I’d write a clever dick piece poking fun at it. But I loved it, every hokey moment of it, especially the Maid of the Mist boat ride where you get to wear a blue plastic poncho and come within spitting distance of the Falls. All that water, all that power, it was compelling. But then Mother Nature at her powerful best always is.
The Taj Mahal
What’s India’s most popular tourist attraction? The Taj, of course, and with good cause.
Be warned, the number of tourists, and touts trying to make a living from the tourists, will just about do your head in, but don’t let that put you off. It’s worth it. Once there, don’t hold back, go the whole hog and, like me, have your photo taken on the Diana bench – so named because it’s where Diana, the Princess of Wales, was photographed at the height of the speculation around her non-marriage. The media made much of the fact of how unhappy and alone she looked at the world’s most famous monument to love.
It’s all the things that you’ve ever heard about New York and more. It’s gritty, it’s dirty, there are people everywhere, but you feel like you have made it to the centre of the universe.
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