Anyone who has ever lived in a touristy town or city knows that incoming tourism is very important for the economy. It is what keeps small business going – but my goodness, we tourists have done a horrible job of behaving ourselves. But then along came COVID. Travel stopped. Cities breathed. Waters cleared. Local residents got to enjoy their villages, towns and cities. Sure money was tight but as travel rebounds many of these spots are saying enough is enough and are taking steps to cut back on over-tourism.
Steps like a day tax for visitors to Venice is a great idea. Not many people stay overnight in Venice. I have and I noticed the difference right away. After 5 pm when the cruise ships load up and sail away and the last tour guide loads up his lollipop sign and his group onto the ferry departing for the mainland, Venice becomes a whole different city.
A weird thing happens to people when they leave home and go somewhere on holiday – sometimes they do things that they would never do in their home town. They dress in ways they wouldn’t be seen dead in at their local supermarket. It’s almost as if we travel to another universe that has a completely different set of rules. No wonder the locals get fed up of us.
Growing up I lived in Cornwall, England. It is one of the popular holiday destinations in the UK and our little village of Mullion with its cliff top walks, historic sites and cute harbour was a magnet. As a local we would talk about when the “holiday-makers” would arrive. They could be spotted a mile away with their big straw sunhats, sunburnt skin and big ice cream cones. Still, seeing as this is England we are talking about the summer didn’t drag on too long! Soon they would depart and we would have our village to ourselves again.
This is why I feel bad for locals sometimes when I am touring and after a while you know some of the places to avoid. Temple Bar in Dublin is one. It is hard to feel any kind of Irish spirit there when the place is over run with stag and stagette parties. Oh my goodness, as my gran used to say “When the drink’s in, the wit’s out”. So true. There are so many lovely parts of Dublin to visit – stay out of Temple Bar if you can.
Amsterdam’s Red Light District is another one. Yes I have been there! Unwittingly I admit. The first time I ever visited Amsterdam my husband (who had been there as a student) said we should go for an early evening walk. The weather was beautiful and I agreed happily. We walked along as the streets got more narrow and the houses closer together until I glanced up at one of the windows and stopped dead. “Oh my god” I said to my husband. “That woman is getting changed and she forgot to close the curtains”. Yeah, he laughed at his clever little trick as I realised where we were and that the lady with the boobies had a neighbour next door who was also taking off her clothes at the window. Shudder. They were all at it!
This seems to be the kind of place for early evening gawking and then the serious business of drunkeness and debauchery starts later in the night. Definitely a place to be avoided.
Miami, South Beach. Famous for its Art Deco hotels – gets really noisy at night. It is not bad up until about 10 pm because typically many of the Latino families eat late and what a joy to see 3 or 4 generations at a table and granny and grandpa getting up for a little salsa style dance. But then the whole thing changes. We were staying in one of the Art Deco hotels right on the beach and although our room was on the side of the hotel we could hear the crowds …. ALL NIGHT LONG. We had not slept well and so got up early in the morning for a jog. I could not believe the trash in the streets – so bad. We humans can be awful.
So as travel slowly opens up let us all vow that we are going to be good tourists – because we like this travel thing and we want to do more of it.