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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

The Quiet Life, Free from Tourism
Friday, August 18, 2023 @ 9:07 PM

I always wanted to go to visit Machu Picchu.

And just stand on that hill.

The famous picture, rendered for once in black and white, occupied a wall in a Peruvian restaurant in Madrid that I used to go to. Unfortunately, the Pisco Sours were so damn good, that it was hard, after enjoying two or three of them, to remember if one had eaten yet. The crestfallen face of the owner as we asked for the bill just as the chupe de camarones was arriving…  

While I didn’t remember eating much there, I still remember that photo – the one of the bent mountain high in the Andes, with the abandoned Inca settlement tumbled down below.

I travelled a lot as a young ’un in the seventies, at dollar-a-night places in Mexico and Central America, a few bucks more in the USA, and so on, as one could. The Americas, unlike Spain, hadn’t quite caught on to the idea of foreign money (except Yankee-green) in those far-off times and it was hard switching a ten pound note or a thousand pesetas into the local currency.

The thing was, there weren’t many travellers, or tourists, much beyond the crowds heading for Disneyland, Chichen Itza and Key West.

Now, of course, there are.

I missed my chance to visit Machu Picchu and now I'm told that it’s so full of visitors that I couldn’t imagine going there. Like the inspiring Mezquita in Córdoba or the Alhambra in Granada, their time as places to visit has passed. Santiago de Compostela or the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Don’t go. They are done; cooked; crammed; despoiled.

There are too many of us, all wanting to take a picture as we finally, after a long and impatient queue, make it through the doors. We talk, we crowd, we flash, we hold our souvenir pamphlet and we smile at the Japanese tourists with their extendable selfie-sticks.

Next time, try Jaén or Ciudad Real. They may not be much, but they’ll be more enjoyable. By far.

In Mallorca, the locals have put up signs in English saying ‘Don’t bathe here, it’s dangerous’ and underneath, in the local tongue: ‘Don’t worry, we’re just fooling the guiris’.

Well fine, don’t live in a place with lots of tourists, why don’t you?

Forget Florence, or Venice, or Barcelona, or Benidorm, or Marbella or Mojácar – buy a house somewhere quiet, with little or no tourist potential.

Because if there is one, the temptation is high: rack up those rents and open a souvenir shop.

Now my town is on the coast, it’s a suburb of Almería City. It’s ugly and has no tourism whatsoever – frankly, there’s nothing to see and the beaches aren’t worth visiting. Which means that I rarely have to take a picture, except once a year when the local saint, looking a little pale, is hauled along the main  drag on a waggon pulled by a pair of bulls (relieved, no doubt to be spared other more onerous duties).

So, I was lucky. I got my travelling in early. Nowadays, I can see the world for a few pennies, from the comfort of my own armchair and with a pile of second-hand books from the charity store.   

Like 6


PablodeRonda said:
Saturday, August 19, 2023 @ 7:35 AM

What's wrong with Jaen? Ubeda is better, but Jaen is fine.
As for Ciudad Real ..... I used to be a Spanish teacher and the course I used was based on Ciudad Real (the course was published by the Nuffield Foundation and was called "Calatrava"). So I had to go there. It was OK. The only tourists were probably other Spanish teachers like me!

Astronautilus said:
Saturday, August 19, 2023 @ 12:13 PM

I tend to feel like you, that so many places are victims of their own success, but unlike you, I haven’t given up totally. We made the mistake of going to the Mezquita in Cordoba in the morning when it first opened, and any ambiance was spoiled by the noisy crowds, and yeah… idiots with selfie sticks! The Alhambra on the other hand manages to regulate the crowds, so I’ve never seen it bad there.

We’ve had bad experiences at a crowded Grand Canyon South Rim, and great experiences at the much less frequented North Rim.

On holiday in Capri a few years ago, we wanted to see Pompeii, and I had distinct mixed feelings about it because of the crowds. When we got there and saw the coach parking, these feelings seemed to be confirmed. Except my concerns were misplaced because the site is a massive 163 acres so the visitors were spread fairly thin… the whole thing was fantastic.

And Venice in lent a few years ago… I’ve never seen such crowds, but it was one of the best experiences of my life!

So yes, mass tourism is with us, and we’ve often been disappointed when we’ve been to some of these major hotspots, but so far at least… not enough to give up. And a little research and planning sometime goes a long way to improving things.

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