Beware sightseeing

View from Giralda

If I can offer one word of  caution to new travellers it would be this – beware sightseeing.  Don’t get me wrong – I will visit sights with the best of them, often with jaw dropped in true #hicksfromthesticks mode (liked that so much I’m hashtagging it!).  HOWEVER,  I will now only do so because the site has a personal meaning and interest for me.   I won’t go to a place just because it’s on the “must see” lists of travel forums.

For example, the photograph above was taken from the top of the Giralda bell tower at Seville Cathedral, looking down into the cathedral courtyard.  To be honest churches don’t do much for me apart from the history and architecture.  As centres of spirituality they leave me  stone cold.  Especially medieval ones, which were more about power and monarchy than the glory of God.  One visit to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris got that straight in my head.  Yes it’s staggeringly beautiful, but if there was ever a place to make one feel small that’s it.  But I digress …. back to Seville.  Christopher Columbus is buried inside the cathedral here in a tomb that can only be described as awe inspiring.  Here is his coffin, carried on the shoulders of Kings.

Obviously while I’m not in Columbus’ league, I do like to think of myself as an explorer of sorts, which was my reason for visiting the cathedral and to pay a bit of homage to the man.    As an added bonus nearby was the site where the remains of the Magellan crew came to pray and give thanks after they finally returned home.  All eighteen of them out of the two hundred plus who set out.   So another totally unexpected link to exploration and the new world.  Whilst I admire their courage, their drive and their spirit unfortunately their actions did not bode well for the indigenous peoples of the lands they explored.  Half of South America’s gold resources  appear to be adorning the back wall of the altar!

In a round about way I’m getting to the point of this entry.  DON’T whatever you do blindly follow lists on forums or in guidebooks of suggested places to visit.  BEWARE of multi day museum passes which would have you whizzing from antiquity to antiquity for the whole of your stay in a city.  Paris anyone???  Only go to places which have meaning for YOU.  Do your homework, make a list, and then halve it because there will be inevitable snafus over timing – surely they can’t be closed NOW?? Over transport – you really mean it takes three buses and a train to get there???  Over money – HOW much did you say the admission was??????   Or you’ll be side tracked by beautiful and alluring markets and bookstores (ahem….) And despite the wonderful deals on museum passes, in reality my brain can only process one museum a day and a maximum time at any one museum of three hours.  Any more and my eyes start to glaze over and roll back in my head.  There’s always another day (and a good excuse to revisit whatever city you are in).  You’ll never see everything so why bother running yourself ragged trying.  Personally I’d rather mooch and explore a new place on foot, and have an excuse to stop at sidewalk cafes, try out the food and get talking to some locals.

In doing this you leave yourself open to the unexpected encounter, whether it be people, place or event.  And therein for me lies the joy of travel.

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