Certain times in your life it’s quite natural to be really disappointed.. Be it watching a Dockers game, cooking a soufflé or realising you need to pee just as you get into bed.. but when it happens overseas in a foreign country that you have paid thousands of dollars to get to and after elbowing your way through 16 cattle sized, Hawaiian shirt wearing families of tourists, it sort of compounds any bad feelings you may have when the grand reward for your time, money and sanity turns out to be so incredibly lame that in comparison Justin Bieber seems totally awesome …
Many of these sites involve large crowds, extortionate costs, boredom, anger, fire, brimstone and biblical plague style annoyance (when you realise that you have paid, waited and pushed to see something thoroughly ordinary). On the plus side, once you get the initial experience out of the way there are some absolutely fantastic moments to be had watching the faces of eager tourists as they stand there lost in confusion staring down some of the world’s worst tourist attractions. It’s only hilarious because you were in the exact same position yesterday..
1) Buckingham Palace, London: There’s a big ornate gate, a large boring building that you’d be forgiven for mistaking for a bank and let’s not forget the poor guys who have to stand around all day wearing stupid hats… and… well… actually that’s pretty much all there is to it. Honestly, the best part of Buckingham Palace is probably the beautiful fence.
2) Royal Palace of Madrid: Sorry I’m picking on Palaces a little but the appeal of looking at an overly large and often hideously decorated house is just lost on me. While more ornately presented (and less financial looking) than its English counterpart (Madrid 1 – London 0) Madrid’s royal palace is just as effective at making you go.. “ummm, cool, is that it?” There is another rather nice fence to stand behind, a big pompous building and swarms of confused tourists which is fun, but unfortunately, no silly hats to be seen at all.. (London 1 – Madrid 1).
3) Astronomical Clock, Prague: This one’s hilarious; the clock itself is beautiful and well worth a look but what draws the MASSIVE crowd of tourists every hour is the world famous ‘performance’. Tourists gather with bated breath, cameras at the ready, (pickpockets have a field day with the distracted tourists) and when the so eagerly anticipated moment actually occurs it’s about as exciting as being a tax accountant. A few tiny metal men shake their heads from side to side, some revolving doors open and close, there are a few shaky symbol crashes and… yep actually.. that’s pretty much it.. But here’s the good part: watching people’s faces when the show’s over.. Priceless… Anger, laughter and grunts of annoyance all smothered in a thick coat of confusion.. I actually saw a guy who was so angry that he shook his fist at the clock!! How angry do you have to be to shake your fist at something, especially an inanimate object like a clock.. Anyway, the attraction is awful but the reactions are definitely worth waiting for.
4) Jet D’Eau, Geneva (The big water spout): It’s a giant spout of water… umm yeh, that’s pretty much it. Sadly you can’t get close enough to it to throw a tennis ball or something else in to see exactly how high up it goes.. my guess would be ‘Whitney Houston high’ ( and that’s pretty high!).
5) The Botanical Timekeeper, Geneva: The second of Geneva’s snore-inducing sites is a clock that’s made of flowers… does it do anything useful apart from photosynthesis or the blindingly obvious (given that it’s a giant clock)? Nope. Yet it’s apparently one of Switzerland’s most photographed sites.
6) The Mona Lisa, Paris: This more or less sums up the Mona Lisa Experience – Firstly you have to live long enough to get to the front of the Louvre’s entrance line (the old people you see in the museum were all young when they started lining up).* Once you’ve fought your way into the Louvre building, spent 30 minutes deciphering the cryptic visitor map and elbowed your way through packs of slavering tourists, you finally stumble into the pumping throng of people in the room housing the Mona Lisa who at first glance are all standing around looking at a blank wall… on closer inspection, you can see a painting.. just.. if you squint.
*There are other entrances that for some reason most people just don’t use.. instead they line up in the hot sun for HOURS.
The Mona Lisa/Louvre Museum Essential Item Check List
– Full protective riot gear, including Perspex shield and Kevlar vest
– Magnifying glass – So you can see the painting
– Camera with telescopic lens – So you can photograph the painting
– Ball of string, so you can find your way out of the Louvre before your next birthday
– Egyptologist to help with deciphering the hieroglyphics on the visitors’ map
– Sense of humour.
7) Leaning Tower of Pisa: The tower does lean, a little. You really need to get side-on to see it properly (it only leans about 4 degrees) Once you’ve taken a few photo’s you might notice that EVERYONE around you is trying to take those ‘hilarious’ pose photos where it looks like they’re trying to push the tower back up. Here’s what you do; ignore the tower completely and take photos of people posing from an angle that has no tower in it at all. It’s hilarious; people look like they are trying to do some demented form of awful Tai Chi. It’s brilliant!
8) Manneken Pis, Brussels: Ever seen that famous fountain of the little boy peeing into the water? Well, it’s in the middle of Brussels tucked away around a corner, down a lane from the Grand Place (one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Europe). It’s surrounded by tour groups, tourist traps and more waffles than I ever knew existed and attracts large crowds all day. Occasionally the boy gets dressed up in kids’ clothes overnight, which does add a little humour to the thing, yet it is generally quite the underwhelming fountain experience. Hilariously it’s not uncommon for visitors to leave disappointed or even a little… ‘pissed off’… (oh god.. sorry, I had to).
9) Grand Bazaar, Istanbul: “I swear to god if one more person asks me if I want to buy another bloody carpet.. Sh%t is going to go down!!” – Anonymous English Tourist, 2013
While shopping in Istanbul is certainly an interesting experience in itself, the Grand Bazaar is about the worst place for good prices in the whole city… despite the shop keepers each insisting that they’ll give you “special price” or “for you my friend, only best price”. You can buy the exact same products outside the bazaar for about half the prices you’ll get inside and while the fully covered roof is nice on a hot day the shops and stalls in the surrounding areas of the city offer a far better atmosphere and genuine Turkish shopping experience.
10) Spanish Steps, Rome: Generally the only time I get excited about a flight of stairs is when I get to the top.. you see it’s just not that easy to get excited about a bunch of stairs. The last stairway that I thoroughly enjoyed was the one Led Zeppelin came up with in 1971. As a general rule, stairs are just not that interesting to sane, rational people. The Spanish steps also happen to be the best way to get down the hill when you’re at the top, that’s probably about the best part about them… oh yeh and they get ridiculously slippery in the wet so be careful if it rains as falling down 135 steps would be somewhat unpleasant and ironically also probably the most memorable part of the entire Spanish Steps experience…