Wednesday, October 27, 2004

My kind of holiday

Yesterday, while I was trawling through the travel blogs of strangers (out of idle interest), I came across two that caught my attention - one was by an Indian guy about his holiday in Europe. He seemed to get a lot of pleasure in the fact that he managed to "do" 10 countries in 12 days, or some such ridiculous time-frame - and he emphasised his thrill at having got "maximum travel" (his words) for his money. It made me wonder just what he could have seen or experienced in that whirlwind of a tour... there simply could not have been an occasion to SAVOUR anything because there wouldnt have been any time left for leisurely sight-seeing or exploring. So what's the point of going on one of these whirlwind package tours?

I'm not being uppity here. Intellectually, I CAN see the reasoning behind such trips - if a holiday in the West is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, with not much chance of making another like it again, then I guess the idea would be to get as much value as possible out of the money paid for the trip, and see as many sights as possible, however fleetingly.

It's just that emotionally, a package tour wouldnt satisfy me. In other words, package tours are not my idea of a holiday (thought I'd make that clear, just in case I hadnt belaboured my point enough, haha). Whether it's in India or abroad, I prefer to spend a week or 10 days in one place (depending on how big it is, of course, and what it has to offer), walk around, take the local transport where feasible and generally get to know the place on a more personal basis. (Mind you, this only works if the weather's conducive to being on foot. In hot places, I'm afraid my inner explorer curls up inside the outer tourist, and both prefer to luxuriate in an air-conditioned vehicle!)

And talking of vehicles - hang on while I re-board my original train of thought... Right, the travel blog that actually caught my interest was by young American currently in Paris, who's taken a year off to travel around Europe. Lucky guy, to have the time, enthusiasm and possibly money, to do something like that. Apparently, he's been in Paris for two weeks already and describes a whole lot of interesting things that are totally off the beaten tourist track. To be able to spend that much time in one city - and it's an elegantly beautiful city - and get to know its hidden secrets... that's my idea of travel heaven.

Mind you, Ramya and I did more or less that, two years back. Spent about 5 days in Paris on a shoestring budget, with a list of offbeat places that had free entry (I did say shoestring). It was great fun because the Metro can get you within easy walking distance of almost anywhere in Paris - or so it seemed. Admittedly, we did do the touristy bits as well - braving massive queues to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower (and what a crush it was, sweaty and crowded in peak summer), walking what seemed like miles inside the Louvre (and braving still more crowds) to get to the Mona Lisa (a rather disappointingly small painting and a very disappointingly brief view - a bit like waiting hours to get to the sanctum sanctorum in Tirupati and then being shoved away after two seconds' glimpse), etc. But we saw more of everyday Paris - the less posh areas - because of the student hostels we stayed at. I wouldnt recommend the hostels, but I would and DO recommend getting away from the mainstream tourist interests.

My first-ever self-financed trip abroad was to New Zealand. It was an unforgettable 10 days and someday - hopefully soon - I'll be able to go back there with my husband. He regularly kindles my smouldering envy into a roaring blaze because he's travelled so much and done so much... I dont suppose I can catch up with him (for instance, I dont see myself braving suicidal terrorists, guns and bombs to go to Jerusalem), but I'm certainly going to have a whole lotta fun trying. Besides, he hasnt been to New Zealand, and I have (so there).

But I'm dreaming of a driving holiday next (where I'm not the driver, naturally). Leisurely drives through one country to get to another, and then another, and maybe yet another after that; to be able to see the villages and the countryside, to stop where I like and spend as much time as I wish wherever I want - could there be anything better?


None said...

Yo shyam!

Three cheers for those Parisian days! remember the big goof up about the metro station? that we struggled to find and it turned out to be right behind the jardins or whatever? ha ha!

Ah Paree, Je t'aime!


Shyam said...

Oh yes I do remember that! And how we walked up and down and about in that huge Pere Lachaise cemetery, trying to find the grave of at least ONE famous person! :) Didnt succeed in the end, did we?