Saturday, May 18, 2013

Like a tourist vs. Like a local

Whenever we travel somewhere new, we like to research the places we are going and whenever possible, we like to talk to people who know the area well.  One common question we have ask is "When we go home and tell people we went to (insert location here), what's the one thing they'll ask if we saw or did?"  After hearing about the "must see" or "icon" of the area, we then follow-up with another question, "What is the one thing YOU think we should see or do?"  The answers to that question usually lead us to fun, interesting, and time-worthy exploration we would not have discovered from our pre-travel research. And when we get home, we make sure to share those ideas and suggestions with others who want to explore beyond the tourist areas of various locations.

Some areas we visit have spent a lot of effort on tourism and revitalization of areas where tourists typically go.  For cruise ports, there is usually a place near the port so that ship passengers can easily walk or take a shuttle bus to do some shopping, dining, spend money on one thing or another. Or there are guided tours available to take them to areas that are not as easily accessible, or maybe they offer a city tour via a bus or "train" tram.  We like to take these to see around the city to get an overview of what they want you to see, but the real treasures are those areas where the tourists might not go on their own. 

When we are in Dubrovnik, we have a local guide who will take us to see some of the touristy things, but he has promised that we will see Dubrovnik through the eyes of a local person and that he will take us to the non-touristy areas so we can get a better sense of what Dubrovnik is like.  When we were in Helsinki a few years ago, my third-cousin met us at the ship and took us on a walking tour of his city including a place for lunch that is a favorite for his family. It was delightful and such an enjoyable day.  Several years ago when I was in San Francisco, a friend picked me and a coworker up for the afternoon and took us to her local haunts; it was better than any tour we could have booked through the local tour companies.

Here's to seeing what the port cities want us to see, and to seeing places as they really are.

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