Scratch That One

From the Daily Mail:

In the United Arab Emirates, if you are caught swearing, you could face a fine, jail or deportation.  The country’s penal code states that ‘swearing disgraces the honour or the modesty of a person’.  The law does not just include a spoken word, it extends to text messages and social media, including ‘indecent’ emojis.

I wouldn’t just be fucked, I’d be FUBAR.

And unlike the Florida law (banning farting in public after 6pm) which, I would guess, is never enforced, the Muzzies would definitely go after you just for calling someone a dumb motherfucker.

Not that the UAE (nor any of the Arab/Muzzy states) would be on my travel list anyway.

All the other laws in the article are just good examples of government overreach, except this one:

In Norway, Sunday is a day of rest and by law, you are not allowed to carry out any activity that makes a lot of noise – and that includes mowing your lawn.  If your neighbours do call the police after they catch you mowing your lawn on a Sunday, officers could tell you stop. And if you don’t they could visit your home and hand out a fine.

Having lived in a house where one neighbor thought it was just peachy to mow his lawn at 6.30am (“to avoid the heat”), I could support this law — but instead of getting the fuzz involved, I’d be happy to apply a little corrective action on my own behalf, with a defense to prosecution requirement.

And no, I wouldn’t shoot the inconsiderate asshole (I’m not a complete barbarian);  but he would need to get a new lawnmower afterwards.

Not-So-Subtle Differences

From Loyal Reader Wyseguy in Comments to last week’s post on the topic:

So our gracious host made a distinction I found rather interesting that I’d like him to expand up on if possible. I recently started working for a travel company and we get some interesting international travel benefits as part of our compensation package so international travel is likely in my future.

What do you define as the difference between being a tourist and being a traveler? More importantly, how does one actually be a traveler rather than a tourist?

I’ve alluded to this often, but perhaps it’s time I gave it the full treatment.

Tourists often travel in groups and only go to the “recommended” places (e.g. the Louvre in Paris, Madame Tussaud’s in London, Sistine Chapel in Rome, and so on).
They will not be adventurous at all, whether exploring off-the-beaten-track places or trying the local cuisine — especially if it’s quite different to what they get at home.  (Eating spaghetti or pizza in Naples is pretty much the same as eating it in New York or Des Moines, for example.)
They’ll go to England, visit London and maybe Bath — but in Bath, they’ll visit the Roman baths museum and not eat at the Pump Room, for instance, or try any of the delicious local pies.
British tourists will go to Spain or the Algarve and complain when they can’t find Egg & Chips on the menu.  Ditto Americans who will eat at the local Burger King, don’t get me started.
Tourists will always try to convert the local currency to their own before making a purchase, just to make sure they’re not getting ripped off.  If you start with the premise that everywhere is more expensive than the U.S. (except in the Third World), you’ll be a lot more relaxed about it.
Lastly, tourists will wear the same clothes overseas as they do at home, rather than trying to blend into the place they’re visiting.  Americans are absolutely the worst in this regard.
All tourists — American, German, British, Japanese or African, whatever — are loud and awful, and a good indicator of where not to go is if the place is full of them.  A bar full of drunken Brits singing football songs in any country except the U.K. will get me out of there quickly.

Now for the good stuff.

Travelers want to visit foreign places and take in the way of life there, whether the architecture, the customs, the food and drink, how people dress (and will dress as close to the locals as possible), and how the locals live, in general.  (When I was in London once, I was asked by some Brit friends whether I’d want to have dinner at some “Texas BBQ” restaurant.  Feel free to imagine my response.)
Yes, they will go to the “sights”, but generally out of season (when the locals go), but will shun long lines and queues regardless.
In fact, “out of season” is generally the best time to travel (unless the weather means that everything’s closed, e.g. New England or the French Riviera in January).  And bad weather is not necessarily a deterrent, by the way — it was only when I experienced London in January, for example, that I appreciated why the locals flee Britishland for warmer climes.
Travelers can be found in restaurants where they are the only patrons not speaking the local language.  And speaking of languages:  travelers will make an attempt to speak the local lingo rather than insisting on everyone speaking English, even if just a few sentences learned prior to the trip.  And they’ll speak quietly, the same as the locals do, and not bray in loud tones so that everyone can hear their opinions or stories.
Oh, and you’ll never find travelers standing in the street with a phone, guidebook or map in hand, trying to figure out where they are;  they’ll step inside a shop or pub first before looking, but most of the time they’ll have figured out where to go before leaving the hotel, gasthaus or b&b.
As for clothing:  you’ll want to be mistaken for a local and not a tourist — this as much for safety as good travel etiquette.  If you can, take the bare minimum of clothing with you, and buy local stuff on Day 2.  (Pro tip:  in western Europe, H&M is the place to go for inexpensive clothing — their merchandise is completely different from U.S. H&M —  and of course Marks & Spencer in Britishland — Primark for less expensive stuff). Oh, and work out the sizing nomenclature before you go — keep a cheat sheet on hand if necessary.  As a rule of thumb:  most Euro clothing is sized smaller than their U.S. counterparts, so beware.  Generally speaking, I decide on a color palette (navy blue/black or dark brown/dark green) before I go, and then buy accordingly.
Finally:  wear good walking shoes, and not sneakers / trainers.  The Euros understand this because they walk all over the place.  (I’ve found Mephisto Arthis or Davy walking shoes to be the best option — I have a black and brown pair of Arthis —  but YMMV.)

I hope this helps, and gives everyone at least a direction in which to go if you want to visit foreign lands and appreciate / enjoy them.

In order: Rome, Vienna, Bath and Edinburgh (eating parrutch):

Stranger In A Strange Land

Well I walked all around this crowded planet
But I walked all alone;
Though the places change, the faces stay the same.
Spending my money thinking up funny stories that you tell
In a noisy bar where no one knows your name.
Running out of places still worth running to,
Taking pictures no one’s home to see;
Making deals with small-town tourists traveling alone:
“I’ll take one of you in Rome
If you’ll take one of me.”

— Paul Williams, Look What I’ve Found

The above memory was prompted by this article, wherein a list of 40 reasons is cited as to why it’s better to travel alone.

I hate that.  For me, solo travel is not worth the effort, and unshared memories are completely pointless.  But:  sitting alone in a Paris bistro?  drinking coffee and eating pastries in a Viennese coffee bar, by yourself?  looking into shop windows inside London’s Burlington Arcade, just for your own curiosity?

I get it, by the way;  having complete control of your own itinerary is great, because you get to do only what you want to do.  But honestly, often someone else’s “wannado” can open your mind to something fine you might otherwise have missed.

I remember taking New Wife to see the wonderful Green & Stone artists’ supply shop in Chelsea, and after browsing around and being captivated, she said:  “It makes you want to take up art, just so that you can use all these lovely things.”

I’d visited Green & Stone several times in the past, but I’d never been able to put into words what she (my traveling companion) did so effortlessly:  and it made the whole experience better.

Worst of all, of course, is at the end of the day you, the solo traveler, have to go to bed without someone to lie next to, to cuddle and recap the day’s wonders;  and you don’t get to fall asleep next to the warm body of someone you love.

Travel alone?  Pah.

I’ve traveled all over the United States with my friend Trevor, both as foreign tourists and later as domestic tourists.  I can truthfully say that in all that time, there is not a single day we spent together that would have been better spent alone.  Even when we were freezing our nuts off:

Or keeping warm, so to speak:

Don’t ask.

Here’s another take.  On one of our trips (can’t remember where, but somewhere on the East Coast), we went to a noisy bar where no one knew our names, but a group of people was having a huge party — except that the two guys who’d brought guitars for a sing-along couldn’t play for shit, and only knew a couple of songs.

Ordinarily, I’d just have shrugged the thing off and left when I got bored;  but NO! my friend Trevor pointed to me and shouted out:  “Hey!  My buddy here can play guitar!  And he knows quite a few songs!”

I didn’t kill him, but took the guitar and started to play, just for the hell of it — which I’d never have done by myself.

The party lasted till 1am.  (Okay, a wee bit longer than that, as I recall.)

Travel alone?  That’s for other people.  Give me my wife, my kids or a close buddy like Trevor, and I’ll take that accompanied trip all the way over being on my own.  Seven days a week.


According to some guys on the Internet, the ten most overrated tourist destinations in the world are:

Of the ones I’ve been to (all but three), I’d agree with the inclusion of NYFC, Los Angeles and Rome, all of which are the dregs.

However, when you look at the reasons for said reactions, “long queues to get into museums” ranks really high — so, not of much interest to me then, because I’m a traveler, not a tourist, and other than a very few exceptions*, museums are not high on my list of things to do.

I have little of no interest in visiting Istanbul or Anatolia, unless the current crop of Muslim assholes in Turkey’s government moderates their stance towards Westerners.

I desperately want to see Milan at some point, but not for the usual “tourist” reasons;  I wanna eat the food, drink the wine and imagine what it would be like to actually live there (which is the main reason I travel at all).

Then there’s this, about Paris:

The city has even coined its own syndrome, Paris Syndrome. The condition is described as a sense of extreme disappointment experienced visiting Paris if the city doesn’t live up to expectations.

I went to Paris expecting to hate it, and came away completely in love with it.  (NB:  that was well over a decade ago;  what Paris may have become since all the North Africans have arrived may change my opinion.)

I’ve been to London so many times that I’ve become tired of life, because as Johnson added, “…for there is in London all that life can afford.”  The key word here is “afford”, because London is spendy, Bubba.  The only reason I’d go to London anymore is to hang out with the dreaded Mr. Free Market (when he’s there and not away in the West Country, flogging the staff at Free Market Towers), with visits to such places as John Rigby and Wm. Purdey & Son as well as the usual places where one may destroy one’s liver (of which Mr. FM has a seemingly-endless list).

Putting my beloved Vienna on the “overrated” list makes me want to have another breakfast gin lest I be tempted towards violence.

And Rome sucks green donkey dicks.  The food is mediocre, the place overrun with tourists and African criminals (and I was there in winter), and were it not for the excellent Vatican tour, I cannot think of any reason to go there.

One last note:  I asked New Wife where in Europe, if we won the lottery, she would like to visit (either for the first time, or a return trip).

“Amsterdam” (she’s been there before) “…Barcelona, and the French Riviera.”

No argument from me on any of them.

*Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Kunsthistorischesmuseum in Vienna, both of which I’ve already visited anyway.

Good Return

As I get older, more cynical and less fearful of this Game we call Life, stories like this have a strange appeal — and not necessarily from good intentions, as you will see.  Here’s the executive summary:

Guy gets hired by a company, and over a period of nine years swindles enough money to fund a “fantasy lifestyle of Las Vegas and New York trips, stays in The Ritz and Savoy and Harrods shopping sprees”.

Thinking about it in the Murkin idiom, that would mean trips to London and Monaco, staying at the Ritz and Fairmont, and of course Harrods shopping sprees.   (The story also mentions that the man paid for house improvements, but never mind that nonsense.)

Which brings me to the point.  Eventually, the gravy train came to an end when Freddie The Fraudster was caught (ironically, through invoices for his house improvements), and he’s just been sentenced to five years in jail.

So let’s see.  If I somehow stumbled onto a scheme like this, I’d live the life of Reilly for nine years (taking me to age 77), and then get to spend my dotage (assuming I even got that far) in government-subsidized accommodation with free food and healthcare until I snuffed it.

Five years of boarding school in return for nine years of utter hedonism?

Granted, there are parts of this story that are truly reprehensible — such as the fact that this mope was hired by a good man who wanted to give him a second chance at life, and he repaid the kindness by stealing the company blind for nearly a decade.  That’s about as bad as it gets, and under those circumstances I would never countenance doing the same as the prisoner in the dock.

But if I could do the same while being employed by a wealthy stranger (or even better, Global MegaCorp Inc.)…

Not to mention:

Don’t even talk about it.

Unfortunately, I have a conscience, and her name is New Wife.  So none of that’s gonna happen.