Tuesday, January 19, 2021

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Journeys have great travel expectations
February 2008 827

Great Expectations is the title of a masterpiece written by the English world-famous author Charles Dickens - and this is also what we all have, when we set off on a journey, especially when we are on vacation.

Initially we expect the travel agent to persuade us that the destination we have chosen is the tops. Remember, most people when buying a new car have already decided that is the one they really want the salesman’s job is really one of reassurance.
Sometimes that is also the case, when it comes to travel. The glossy brochures, the recommendations of friends, the clicks and ticks of the Internet, all are reassurances that the holiday we have chosen is the perfect one.
So, when we set off for New York, for example, we expect the city to be the world’s most exciting metropolis. When we fly to Australia, we expect the Australians to be laid back and friendly. We are well aware that many traditional and historic amenities and will no doubt offer us a cup of tea. In India we expect to be totally surprised by all the new buildings springing up.
Then, who do we blame, when the Great Expectations do not live up to their erstwhile reputations?
Occasionally a holiday planned meticulously for you by your travel agent and your partner can go wrong by the inefficiency of just one person.
Like for instance the travel agent representative, who let us down by not bringing our train tickets, which we had booked months in advance to the railway station in Luxor. We missed the train and had to take a taxi all the way back to Cairo.
Or the check-out clerk at a hotel in Bangkok, who claimed, that we owed the cost of a coca cola despite our insisting that the bottle was already on top of the TV set, when we arrived and ... due to the pathetic housecleaning personnel, was still there when we departed a week later.
How about the hotel in South Africa, where I picked up a virulent form of food poisoning? The doctor, who examined me, admitted there were other guests, who had also contracted this “virus”. Seasoned travellers like us certainly recognise the difference between food poisoning and a virus!
Then there is the five star hotel in London, which is on our black list, because we are always left standing for ages at check-in, as if we were waiting at Heathrow Airport, with never an apology when we are eventually served.
My husband fell in love with the USA on his first visit to New York, because the first person he met, the passport control officer, asked him: “Do you know anybody in the USA, Mr Simon?” “I’m afraid not”, he answered. Stretching out his hand, the officer said “You do now, my name is Nigel Doughty, welcome to America”!
Individual acts of carelessness can wipe out millions of dollars spent on advertising trying to persuade travellers to visit a destination.
We were having a terrible first day at our first visit to Sri Lanka many years ago, because we had been booked into a small third rate hotel by mistake in a rundown part of Colombo’s suburbs. My husband then went exploring and found the Mount Lavinia Hotel on the beach, where the staff welcomed us like family and turned a nightmare visit into a never-to-be-forgotten holiday.
How about the car rental company in Larnaca, which provided us with a 4-wheel drive vehicle, which we had not ordered much to our consternation? Immediately we were told: “If you do not like this car, by the time you have driven to Paphos, we will have a replacement vehicle delivered to you at your address this evening.” In fact by the time we reached Paphos, we had fallen in love with the car and cancelled the replacement.
On the negative side, the outstretched hands of beggars and so-called helpers at the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort in Delhi threatened to ruin our day, but not our memories of India, for we realised these people were trying to make a living under harsh conditions.
Not forgetting the so-called agent running safari excursions from the lobby of one of Nairobi’s best hotels, who tried to charge us twice for the tour, stopping the minibus, when we were halfway to the destination to demand an additional payment. Needless to say, we absolutely refused and urged the other passengers on the minibus to do likewise. I am pleased to say that the hotel banned the safari company from its premises, when we reported the incident.
Great expectations can also sometimes be spoiled by the reaction of an individual to a city. Johannesburg was scary, because the taxi driver kept telling us, he did not want to drive to such and such an area because of violence. Cape Town on the other hand was great, because we ignored all the “advice” and went shopping in the local markets, where everybody was friendly and helpful.
I personally like travelling on the London Underground, but my husband never does, preferring to use taxis, as he considers them to be “safer” and he is English!
“Paris is too expensive,” I was told, but for me the hotel prices seemed quite competitive with other European capitals and how can you put a price on seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum and having your picture drawn by an artist in Montmartre?
“Brussels is quite boring”, we were advised, but we found the Tintin Museum quite unusual and interesting and gorged ourselves on the world’s best chocolates, as we enjoyed our coffees on the pavement cafeterias.
“Venice is knee deep in water. Well, of course, at certain times during the winter, when the rains are pouring down on the Adriatic, it is certainly true, that St Mark’s Square is covered in water. But Venice is probably the most beautiful city in the world and should be on everyone’s must see list alongside Machu Pichu in Peru and Egypt’s Pyramids.
You can, of course, never discover such destinations, unless you have Great Expectations!
Speaking Out by Jonna Simon




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