I wrote this blog entry on the long train ride from Riomaggiore to Rome. It was pouring rain again, and there was really nothing to see. I found myself pondering all the tourists I’ve seen over the past week and how they could be classified.
Cruisers are the most fun. They tend to be happy-go-lucky social animals who will strike up a conversation with anyone they see. On land for only 1 day, they are focused on seeing as much as they can before they have to head back to the boat. We met two that were a real hoot. Waiting for the bus to Corniglia, a couple with very identifiable Brooklyn accents asked us a question – I don’t remember what, but we started talking. The gentleman, a retiree of New York’s Finest, told us they came on this cruise because he wanted to see Naples, where his grandfather was from. They spent one day in Naples and were so disgusted he told us he’s going to figure out someplace better to be from. You have to love that kind of attitude, and I’m not sure he didn’t have the right idea.
Kiddie Tours are great fun to watch. There are usually 30 or 40 youngsters in something matching with lots of giggles and enthusiasm. Here they use matching baseball caps – very useful when it comes time to count heads. They’re herded around by usually 2 or 3 very harassed-looking teachers who are obviously NOT paid enough for what they do. These kids tend to be pretty well-mannered, and they’re just so cute you can’t help but smile when you see them.
Scouting groups are a great example of organized chaos. We had a whole pack on the train back from our hospital experience in La Spezia, and every one of them was soaked to the skin and had a big grin as a result. Yeah – I forget that at that age nothing’s better than to be wet and squelching when you walk. It’s also fun to see what they’re carrying on their backpacks. One young man had a collander strapped to his pack. I guess in Italy, it’s all a part of the “Be Prepared” motto. You never know when you’re going to need to cook some pasta.
Pack Animals are tourists who spread out to take up whatever space there happens to be so no one can dare to pass them or break up the Perfection of The Pack. Teenagers traveling together tend to Pack, and they’re the rudest tourists in the world – bar none. Blocking entrances, tunnels and train carriages are part of their stock-in-trade. The ones here have been more out of control than we’ve seen in other countries, with loud voices, inappropriate PDA, making fun of other tourists, and generally behaving like cigarette-throwing thugs. They’re lucky they weren’t my kids – they’d have grounded for the next 7 or 8 years.
Teen Tours are a variant of the Pack Animals, but with chaperones. As a result, they have to at least give the appearance of being decent. They don’t spread out in Pack Formation, but they really do have the bored-to-death body expressions perfected. Slouching, eye rolling, and whining are brought to a fine art form. In Florence at the Pitti Palace we saw the best example of the Teen Tour. It was spring break and it was obvious that these teens were all put on this tour because their parents didn’t want them at home getting into trouble. So they dejectedly followed the guide and tried to ditch her at every corner. It didn’t work, I’m happy to say. That woman was amazing. She knew where these kids were at all times and called them to order on a regular basis. It was a relief to all when she realized that she either had to get them out of the museum fast, or something was going to break.
Unruly Tour Group is an older variant of the Teen Tour, including a tour guide who can be depended on to speak in the loudest voice possible and go into a lengthy explanation of every exhibit she sees. The Tour Groupies tend to spread out and jostle anyone out of the way in Pack Formation, and then take one glance at the exhibit and walk away. Seeing the angry and disgusted looks sent their way by the other tourists unfortunate enough to get in their way is most amusing.
Blending Tourists are the reason I like to travel. They’re the ones who quietly go about their business, politely waiting to see something popular, and talking in hushed voices amongst themselves. Oh, and the obligatory wink or smile at others in the know when a Pack or a Tour approach and act like total idiots makes putting up with it all such fun.
God bless them all!