All travel writing is artificial. Unless you can spin a Pico Iyer-quality tale, of course. Then we’re hooked irrespective. This depressing thought hit me when I was walking down Barcelona’s throbbing artery of La Rambla.
There were four of us on a fortnight-long trip through Spain and if you asked us to list our favourite takeaway from Spain’s tourist magnet of a city, you would have got four dramatically different responses along the lines of: Barcelona has the most stunning wrought iron balconies; on the ground the Spanish economy doesn’t look like it’s in crisis at all; hrmph who says hake is better than good old Konkani fish curry; and Gaudi you weird man, I love you.
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The “artificialness” of the travel experience you plan to record starts from the itinerary itself. You love art? You can’t go to Spain and not visit Madrid’s Prado museum. And since the Guernica, Picasso’s larger-than-life response to the horrific bombing of a Basque town during the Spanish Civil War, has been moved out of there (clearly by someone under pressure to come up with creative ways to earn more money from tourists), you must hit the Reina Sofia museum too. You swear by the top 5 lists in guidebooks? You can’t skip the Alhambra—it was the Moor’s last sigh! You would rather relax, go easy, meet some interesting people? Rural Spain awaits you.
Then again, a more rounded travel experience is likely if your companion is a different travel type. Take the husband and me, for instance. He hates guidebooks, I swear by them (even though they let me down almost every single time). He eats rabbits and snails, but I’m a conservative nibbler. He’s a wine person, I’m more a beer type. He maintains an easy pace, while I must rush around frenetically.
Made-to-order: Picasso’s Guernica at Madrid’s Reina Sofia is a must for art lovers. Hubert Paul
If you’re vegetarian, like me, then your culinary journey is a restricted one in most parts of the world. I still remember my grand meal of grated carrots and boiled rice in Peru, though the stunning view of Lake Titicaca more than made up for the only vegetarian food on the island. And at least Peruvian beer is better than its Italian counterpart. I must emphasize that I never eat at Indian restaurants when I travel (unless a severe bowel-related crisis is involved).
What you notice is determined by the type of person you are, the number of new experiences you’re willing to pack in (for some of us, trying wine from the Rioja region constitutes a Spanish holiday) and whether or not you actually interact with the people who live in that place.
Suddenly the whimsical plan of quitting my job and travelling the world, recording my stories for interested readers seemed pointless. Why should anyone care about one person’s artificial impressions of a place? Back in the day when nobody had any idea about the size of earth and you could make it to history books for mixing up India and the New World, there were untold stories to tell. But these days, the world’s most exciting destinations are only a plane trip away. And everyone’s been there, and recorded that. Think about it.
Note to Lounge travel editor: No, I am not trying to squirm out of writing my travelogue. I even have a first line: “Catalunyans are the Germans of Spain,” Paddy said as we sipped some Cava.
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