What Do Tourists Represent to a City?

Travel Blog 3: Revengeance

Thinking about tourism, when your perspective seems so limited, when you’re encountering brief sights and clipped conversations in a language you barely understand, you wonder what you represent to a place.

When I arrived in France yesterday it was 6 a.m. Paris time. We spent the flight in a rattling soup can trying to outrun one burning horizon and ended up flying straight into another. I didn’t get much sleep, so I was probably in a state of variable exhaustion by the time I got through customs. The check-in for my hostel wasn’t until I still had my pack on, a great orange beast size and shape of a small child carrying the weight of all man’s troubles, and as I get off the subway in front of the Notre Dame de Paris, two women evidently pretending to be deaf came up to me and shoved a clipboard towards me. I was reading it when another man strode by, speaking in English (better than I could ever approximate French) “You don’t have to do that.” He continued saying that these people are always here and they target tourists. Yes it is a scam, and you can read about it online.

I was jet-lagged, reeling from far too little sleep, but I was close to believing them until that man came along. I deserve a slap on the head, but still, thanks to whoever that dude was, because I’ll likely never see that again. A little later, a guy standing just outside a ticket stall asked if I needed help ordering train tickets. This is another scam, as they’ll use their own money to purchase tickets but then ask for your money in return. They can buy bulk tickets but only offer you two, or they’ll buy children’s tickets and pocket the extra cash. Luckily, this time I simply refused. There’s plenty of other scams, but if you ever want to travel just go ahead and Google them. 

Walking around with a large backpack in a city like Paris paints a target on you. Dispensing with it at my hostel means I haven’t encountered anybody like that since. I’m not saying this is a dig on Paris. It’s just like any other place, and just like anybody who lives in and about NYC I’m relatively good at guessing when somebody’s trying to f— with you. That’s in New York, but it’s different when they know you’re not from there. 

That’s also not to say I don’t have privilege, knowing likely nobody wants to F– with me physically because I’m a relatively big white dude. I’m pretty good at brushing people off. Like I said, I’m a New Yorker. What I’m trying to say, is that I’ve never really thought of myself as a tourist. I’ve never really felt like a stranger, even when I was abroad in places like Korea or Ireland. It might have been different being in a group. Alone, one feels more eyes on them and more distanced from everyone around you.

So when I went to somewhere like the Louvre, I went with a hardened heart. I ended up spending five hours there, and coming out here on the edge of the country’s reopening has paid dividends. I could walk freely through relatively thin crowds. My personal favorite period of art, that being the area around European neoclassicism through romanticism (yaknow, I’m real basic), really jump-started my heart. 

I wonder how people view art. What do they see, all those who, like me, aren’t trained with an artist’s eye or have a art history diploma. I remember back in Suffolk County Community College, a fellow student wanted to do a capstone project for her journalism class identifying how laypeople identify with art. The professor shut her down, but I always thought it was an interesting topic. I like understanding the history of it all, and I can point to many paintings from all over that have grabbed me, but there are some things I wonder if I’m missing. Everything that goes into a painting, from the brushstrokes to the contrast to the blending, all those things that a non-artist does not comprehend, are they something integral to the appreciation of art? Can art really be for everyone, if there are some aspects that will never be appreciated by the vast majority of audiences?

Perhaps I’m just looking for a connection myself. Travelling alone has its perks, namely I’m not bound by anyone’s whims but mine. But I think I desire some long-winded conversation that talks about their perspective of their home country, and what might be my perspective on mine. Hopefully I can make that happen.

Check out below the post on my website for some more pics I took of the Louvre and the Jardin de Tuileries

Until next time.

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