I’m A Terrible Tourist

All things being equal, I’m a bad tourist. If there is genetic material that compels people to see historic monuments,  I simple don’t have it. The gene for loud comic book shirts? Got it. The gene for being awestruck by the Tower of London? Missed me with that one.

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So here is a quick update. I arrived in Dublin and checked into the hostel. Toured around Dublin, discovered the heart destroying deliciousness of the Irish Breakfast and went off in search of real Dublin.

Couldn’t find it. Honestly, the city feels like Irish Disneyland. Good on them for embracing tourism and getting those dollars. One thing that struck me as odd was the abundance of rickshaws. Not what one imagines as the traditional form of transportation in Ireland but I guess if you give an American enough beer he’ll jump at any chance to exploit a local.

I managed to book a stand up set at Battle of the Axe in Temple Bar. It was the most international audience I’ve ever performed in front of. Americans, Canadians, Brits, Greeks, Portuguese and of course the Irish. I think they were waiting for me to drop the facade of actually hitchhiking around the world but once they were on board with the concept they warmed up to me.  And of course, they preferred the dirty jokes. International rule of dick jokes…they translate easily.

My initial plan was to take a ferry across from Dublin to Holyhead and hitch from there to Cardiff. After checking the departure times, I took a city bus to the Dublin port only to find out letter to giving ferry services that run between Dublin and the UK. The ferry that I planned to take over does not allow foot passengers. Everyone travelling must arrive on a vehicle. The next ferry to allow foot passengers did not leave until 7:30 p.m. which would have put me on the mainland of the United Kingdom well after dark. A quick check of the Internet found me a €61 flight direct to Heathrow so I high-tailed it to the airport and was in London within three hours. It is always a funny feeling when my plans change drastically at the last minute but London was a planned stop…but I only anticipated stopping there once. More on that later…

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After check-in to the hostel, I decided that I would pick the most touristy place I can think of are the top of my head and I took a famous, London double decker bus to Trafalgar Square. As I have said before, I really like surprises. I enjoy showing up somewhere and not seeing what I figure could be there. Trafalgar Square didn’t disappoint. I arrived slightly after noon only to find out that the entire square had been dedicated to an event called West End LIVE, a free afternoon of live performances from the best of the musicals currently appearing in London’s West End . Not only was I treated to performances from The Lion King, West End Kids, Jersey Boys, West End Gospel Choir, Legally Blonde and Madam Butterfly but there was also a small car show presented by the London Film Museum featuring several famous automobiles including The Flintstones car, James Bonds Austin Martin but also the Batmobile from Tim Burton’s original outing with Michael Keaton. Comic book nerd to one side and Heterosexual Broadway Fag to the other, all in the shadow of the Canadian Embassy which also happens to take up one entire side of Trafalgar Square.

The following day I just decided to hop on the underground in let the chips fall where they may. I ended up popping off at the Tower of London. As expected, the castle and grounds was  crawling with tourists. Don’t get me wrong. I am completely aware in that situation I am also one of the tourists. The overwhelming feeling I am  left with whenever visiting a tourist attraction is a lack of impact. Yes, the tower is beautiful and rich with history. I snapped a few pictures but at  the end of the day I walked away completely unchanged. The tower has stood for a thousand years and will probably stand for 1000 more. My seeing it doesn’t make it any more or less historic. It remains as unchanged as I am.

So what do I travel for? For the people. People change me. They impact me. My teenage driver in nowhere,  Saskatchewan. My long hauler lifeguard (who is now happily settled in Halifax). My mathematician poet in Winnipeg. My Muslim mother of three who picked me up and sheltered me in a rain storm. My new friend here in London, originally from Australia, who is training to be a tailor with a world famous designer that refuses to accept the purchase of a meal even though he’s lost his bank card. My teacher from Toronto I ate fish and chips with on the steps of Dublin castle when everything else was closed.

Thank you to you all. I’ll cross oceans for you. The Tower of London? It looks just as good in books.

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