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?