The sad fact is that not every trip goes the way we want it to. Mishaps always occur and even entire cities don’t live up to our expectations. Sometimes it’s our fault – whatever mood we may in absolutely colors the travel experience. But other times it’s the destination itself. If someone only wants an action packed trip, then the English countryside won’t be a good option. That being said, there have been a few places I’ve visited where I have left disenchanted. I didn’t hate my experience, far from it, but I certainly didn’t have the time of my life either. Of those I thought I’d mention a few here, more of a personal exercise than anything else. I never want to not like a new place, so hopefully I’ll be able to revisit these destinations at some point and see if my opinions change.
Durham, North Carolina
A few months ago I went on a weeklong road trip around North Carolina, a state I was familiar with even if I hadn’t visited in many years. The experiences were great, from relaxing along the Outer Banks to eating some of the best BBQ in the country; overall it was a wonderful trip. Until I hit Durham. A large city home to Duke and part of the famous Research Triangle, Durham is one of the most urbane and multi-cultural cities in the country. And I think that was part of the problem. I ignored my normal instincts to learn more about the history of any new city through its landmarks and museums and instead decided to learn more about the modern city and daily life. That’s fine, but only if the two are married on the same trip. I had only a day there though, and so I missed an important half of the Durham story. The result was that I didn’t enjoy my experience there very much. Like other cities, I found a lovely area where I could easily see myself living, but found very little to do as an actual tourist. There’s a big difference between those concepts, but this time I fault myself and not the city. I should have skipped touring some of the new revitalized neighborhoods and instead should have learned more about the city herself. Next time I’ll know better.
A couple of years ago I wrote a post about Toronto, Canada. It’s a city I have visited a few times and so I felt well positioned to write about it and the results were stunning. In the post I maintained that while Toronto may be a fantastic place to call home, it is not the best place to be a tourist. If I were to plan a week’s vacation there, what would I actually do? The comments are fun to read, so take a peek if you haven’t already, but the opinions are mixed. Many Torontans agree with me, that the city has little to offer a tourist that is unique or interesting. Still others point to the city’s great attributes, namely fun neighborhoods and food, as great reasons to visit. I’m still not convinced but one thing is certain, I’ve never given Toronto the chance that it deserves. Yes, I have been to the city three times but each instance was brief and work related. I never took a few days to putter about, learn more about the city and to try to discover those unusual places that surely must exist and which would hopefully wow visitors. I offered an appraisal based on very little information and without trying to find the touristy-side, something I hope to correct in the not so distant future.
I think my problem with Los Angeles was that I first visited it thinking that I would hate it. I even think that part of me wanted to hate it. That’s how intensely I personally don’t want to be identified with Southern California. I have no basis for this judgement and indeed everyone I know who lives in Southern California (well almost all) are wonderful, fun and pleasant people. So it must be movies and TV that prejudiced the city for me, and I’m sorry to say that I let them get away with it. In my own defense, LA is a tough town to get to know and it takes a lot longer than a three-day weekend to discover the fun and quirky spots that make it fun to visit. Now that I have friends in the area though I’d love to return and try to learn this massive and confounding city.
When I think of Barcelona the first word that comes to mind is, “ugh.” I’ve been through Barcelona a couple of times and aside from meeting a famous chef, I really didn’t care for the experience. It was hot, crowded and just an unpleasant place to be. The touristy areas were super-touristy, the likes of which seen only in a few places around the world. Part of that is due to the fact that Barcelona is a major cruise port, attracting millions of people every year (many from the US) to spend a couple of days before they set sail on the Mediterranean. I like cruises, but that many cruisers in one place was almost too much to take. I prefer lower key cities, with some but not too many tourists. Barcelona about did me in. Still, I think I missed something, I must have. So many people love it and I wonder what’s wrong with me? How can I not love what is purported to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world? Well, I’d like to go back and see if that might change.
I just don’t think I’m a Vegas kind of person. I hate gambling because I hate losing money and going out to a club is a far more effective form of torture for me than waterboarding will ever be. That being said, I decided to recently give it a second chance and the results were decidedly mixed. Vegas was exactly the same as I remembered it. Too many lights, too much noise and far too many people. The one saving grace in all honesty was staying at the Four Seasons Las Vegas. Truly an oasis in the desert, the hotel lacked the clanging of the slot machines and the hordes of people found in almost every other hotel on the Strip. But as nice as the hotel was, I couldn’t just hole up there and almost every time I left the safe confines of the property, my senses were once again assaulted. What did soften my perception was visiting Wayne Newton’s estate, Casa de Shenandoah. I think it helped because it was an actual, interesting activity that didn’t involve a vice of any sort. I’d love to return to Vegas but not spend any time there, instead I want to get out and see Hoover Dam, drive through the desert terrain and eventually see the Grand Canyon. Now that’s a Vegas experience I can get behind.
These are just a few of the places that have made me feel as if I missed something during my visits. What are some of yours?
9 thoughts on “A Few Destinations I’m Still Not Sure About”
Interesting post, thanks for sharing!
We feel kind of the same way about LA as you. We loved the beaches though! And San Diego is close, too – we loved that city very much.
‘It was hot, crowded and just an unpleasant place to be.’ – exactly what we felt in Thessaloniki, Greece. But we just don’t want to believe it about Barcelona, so many of our friends were amazed by Barcelona and it’s on our dream list, too. Hope it won’t disappoint us. But we should definitely plan to visit it in low season.
Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California is another for us. Not that it’s not a nice beach, but it’s just not sooooo special… especially if you’ve seen tons of perfectly photoshopped pictures about the beach before your visit as we did. But we try to learn from this and don’t let perfect pictures lead our expectations.
LA has never been and never will be a city I enjoy. I almost feel like if you weren’t born and raised there (or an aspiring entertainer), you’re an outsider. Toronto, I feel similar in that it’s probably more fun to live in (day to day pockets of life) than it is to visit (big attractions). I’ve yet to give Vancouver a try and it’s been recommended if Toronto isn’t your kind of place.
I haven’t checked through your blog yet but have you done a post about places that surprised you? Even though I liked Madrid, Granada surprised me and I’d almost venture to say that I liked it more.
Merida Mexico was the one place I just couldn’t click with. I couldn’t wait to leave. I don’t care for LA but I visited for work, not as a tourist. I just got back from Barcelona and love love it! But I think going in the off season may have played a part. A friend and I visited Italy a couple years ago. I loved Venice and she hated it while I loathed Verona and she loved it. Go figure!
I found this so interesting – usually everyone writes about how fabulous places are. Sometimes you don’t explore more (like you mention in Durham) or sometimes the things that everyone else loves about the city, you don’t enjoy (like Las Vegas). I have heard similar reports about Toronto although I have never visited – but what I’ve read means that Toronto is not top on my list of cities to visit. Barcelona I love – even the touristy bits – but also the quiet alleys, the food, but mainly the architecture of Gaudi just blew me away. As for Los Angeles – I live here and love it, but I can see it not being an appealing place to visit. I traveled here for work several times, never thinking I would want to live her, but fascinated by the weather and the lifestyle. Now I can’t imagine not being here and using it as my home base to visit every where else. Places that didn’t do much for me: Denver, Singapore, Brussels.
I really enjoyed your post, I have a similar list of my own, too. However, I think next time you have the chance to visit Barcelona, you should forget about the famous attractions and just go with the flow. Explore some lesser-known neighborhoods, spend time in tiny local cafes, soak up the vibe in the city’s tucked-away plazas.
Living in Toronto, I am of course biased :-) I didn’t like LA itself but we loved Santa Monica and Newport Beach as options close by but not in the metro area. I love Barcelona but always visit off season to avoid the crowds. The one at the top of my list is Naples. Love the pizza and want to visit the archeology museum but would likely stay again in Sorrento and do day trips in.
If you want to see the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam and enjoy a drive through desert terrain, and you’re not so keen on Las Vegas, why not consider staying on the Arizona side? I’ve made the drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas a number of times, and the desert vistas along US-93 between Wickenburg and Kingman are breathtaking.
Personally, I like Las Vegas, but then again I spend most of my time off the Strip. With respect to Barcelona, I couldn’t agree with you more. To echo some of the earlier comments, Brussels did nothing for me either. And if I could add one city to your list, Austin comes to mind. I must not be hip enough to understand why Austin is so hip.
I really love Barcelona, but reading your take on the city makes me feel like a big part of it is due to the time of year I visit. I go annually for work at the end of Feb/beginning of March and there are almost no tourists and definitely no cruise ships, but the weather is all blue skies and sunshine. It’s usually the first time in months I’ve been able to go out in just a tshirt and I therefore think of it very fondly! As for Vegas, I’m really glad I’ve been, but I have zero desire to ever go back.
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