Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wish You Were Here

I grew up in a seaside town. Lots of the houses on our street were guest houses and there were chalets on the beach. As a child, I used to walk along looking at the B&Bs and play the game of deciding which one I would stay in if I was there on holiday. Most of them had brass ornaments in the their front windows - the bigger the brass, the better the accommodation seemed to be the implication with houses competing with each other with ever more outlandish window displays.

In retrospect, I don't think we had that many tourists. I remember a couple of families staying in the next door house whose children became my friends for their brief stay, but really most of the guests would have been long distance lorry drivers and seamen. The Council tries its hardest to promote it as a tourist destination - its beautiful beaches (where its always bitterly cold), the Roman Fort(!), and of course the famous local author. She has her own museum (complete with a recreation of the kitchen in the house she grew up in) and each carriage of the steam train in the park is named after one of her books. You wonder why anyone would choose to go to Spain or Florida.

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Now I live in one of the busiest capital cities in the world and it still surprises me that people want to come here on holiday. Perhaps because I've never visited London as a tourist (I had only been here a couple of times - once shopping, once on a protest march) and there are still lots of the sights I've never 'done' despite being here nearly 10 years. I just don't see the attraction.

Leicester Square tube station has a souvenir shop - bears dressed as beefeaters, union jack t-shirts, the usual shit. It seems preposterous to me as I go through the station everyday on my way to and from work that someone is holidaying here and might want to buy a reminder of it. Not that a bear in fancy dress would remind me of London.

Sometimes, as I walk around Covent Garden, I want to shout at the tourists 'What are you doing here? There is nothing here that you can't buy somewhere else for half the price'. And then those living statue things - 'Stop looking at them. You are only encouraging them'. So far, I haven't actually done this, I've just thought it, but one day I will surely snap.

I feel in the need of another holiday, but not in either of these places, which is looking like my only options.


northern monkey said...

Oh I so know what you mean and I absolutely HATE those living statues - what is the point? One of the funniest things I have ever seen was a gold robot living statue being surounded by a crowd of German football fans in Cologne chanting 'what are you doing, you arse!'...he bravely faced them for a bit not moving, then gradually crumbled, packed his stuff up and fled...

Suz said...

I know what you mean. Edinburgh is much worse for this than Glasgow. All the tourist tat is appaling - tartan and rock and bears with kilts on. I do often wonder why people buy that stuff. I mean, why not buy a piece of art, or take lots of photos? How does a small bear in a tartan kilt help remind you of a place?