I’ve written often about places I’ve visited and enjoyed, but I don’t believe I’ve ever pointed out the most important underlying fact: I never try to see all there is to see in a particular place. I’m a very lazy tourist.
That’s true for cities and it’s also true for countries as a whole. For instance, I was in France 6 times before I saw Paris and Italy 10 times before I saw Rome. The reason for what might seem like an incredible oversight is that I was on bike trips, and by their very nature, they tend to stay away from congested urban areas. Still….I’m betting there were a lot of my fellow bikers who managed to make time to see the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum.
On my first trip to Rome I had my friend Lou as my guide, and he had wayyyyyyy too much energy for my liking, meaning I was forced to see wayyyyyyy too many things at one time. True – I loved them all, but if it had been up to me, I would have spread them out over 5 or 6 trips rather than 2 days.
If I do 1 or 2 things in a day, I consider that just perfect, unless they’re really time-consuming – such as the Louvre, which I feel should be done over the course of perhaps 7 days, and not all in one visit. I did the much smaller Musee’ D’Orsay in one day, and the effort pretty much finished me for the balance of my stay.
Alan and I have been to Rome countless times and he’s yet to see the Vatican. I did drag him into my favorite church (Santa Maria Sopra Minerva: I consider it the most beautiful interior I’ve ever seen), but that’s only because it’s near one of our favorite places to have an aperitivo before dinner.
So – what do we do while we’re not visiting museums and cathedrals and triumphal arches? We walk. We stroll in neighborhoods. We look in windows. And if they’re interesting enough, we enter. We stop for un caffe’ and people watch. We’re always on the lookout for an interesting restaurant. Though we hardly ever cook at home, food stores are our museums. We seldom pass by without stopping in to see their meats and vegetables, which condiments they sell, which wines and coffees they offer.
This brings me to a point that you might have noticed: food and wine play a very big role in how much I like a place. In fact, my rule of thumb for visiting a country is based upon their vineyards. England is the exception, because they think they once “owned” a wine-intensive chunk of France and therefore they have a long-standing wine culture…. AND they’ve recently imported more than their fair share of French chefs. Of course, with the rapidly changing global weather patterns we’re experiencing, in my lifetime I’ll probably get to see those precious Bordeaux varietals grown in the outskirts of Manchester, and as for Italy, our omnipresent Sangiovese grapes will be given a German name once they start thriving in Austria. (Norway will get the Rieslings.) Vineyards almost always equal beautiful countryside and delicious food, and I’m a sucker for both.
Using vineyards as my litmus test for visiting a country means that if I wanted to stray far from Italy, I could go to several countries in South America, but none in the Middle East…..not that I’m looking to stray that far.
Every person who tells you about a place they’ve visited has their own set of criteria for what makes that place special, and since I’ve told you about a number of places and plan to do the same in the future, I thought it only fair to let you know exactly what my particular criteria are. If you like an on-the-go vacation and don’t want to miss a thing, you might want to take my thoughts and bundle them together with other friends’ ideas so you’ll have full days of activities, rather than just an hour or two here and there. I know I should have given you this caveat two years ago when I started this blog (anniversary time!!!), but in all fairness to me, while I failed to point out that I’m a lazy tourist, I believe I’ve given you more than ample warning that I am a world-class professional procrastinator.