Bookworm sound ready to come home

I think I’m getting done with Europe, since I’m less charmed with every passing port, explaining TODAY’S POST:

We spent the morning in Portofino, which is a seaside resort town.  It’s charming, hot and humid. Nothing there piqued my interest, which allowed me to think about other things.

One thought is that, although Europeans smoke less than when I came to Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, they still smoke a whole heck of a lot compared to Americans. As a very libertarian person, I believe that if smokers want to throw away their money destroying their health, they should be allowed to do so. As someone who hates the smell, though, I cannot figure out why I should be made to suffer so greatly for their pleasure. This is one of those things where two individual freedoms come crashing into each other.

Another thought is that, while I was once charmed by Europe’s static quality, I now find it dull. Tradition is one thing; stultification another. Europeans seem particularly adept at progressing swiftly and stylishly in small things (awesome bathroom sink designs or small, high tech grocery stores, for example), but they also seem to have such a small field in which to play around when it comes to innovation and experimentation.

In cities where law, custom and tourist dollars dictate that buildings look now more or less as they did one hundred or two hundred years ago, you don’t get a sense of forward societal momentum. I understand, of course, they tourist money comes in if Europe looks like Europe, but that cash cow seems to have trapped the Europeans in an unending time warp.

Too much Europe, rather than charming me,  apparently leaves me jaded — or maybe it’s just the heat cooking my brains.

My last thought is that ugly Americans aren’t just a cliche. Last night at dinner we found ourselves sitting next to the most boorish people I’ve ever seen on a cruise. I’ve met people before who lack refinement, but these people were like a bad stereotype. They were loud, obscene (with children right next to them), and rude. The irony was that one of the party looked just like Lord Byron, who was himself “mad, bad and dangerous to know” (although I’ll bet his manners were better than this obnoxious young man’s).

Fortunately, these people are the exception, not the rule. Most of the people whom we’ve met have varied from nice to delightful, whether American, Canadian, German, Dutch, or whatever other point of origin.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Ymarsakar

    Japan might have been more interesting. Less bombs going off too.

  • Ymarsakar

    I’d like to know where that couple in question came from. It would be so interesting to trace their demographics back to a specific place and venue…

  • jj

    I often don ‘t understand the cruise lines.  Portofino is gorgeous (as are the nearby villages of the Cinque Tierre), but they aren’t places to visit for an afternoon.  They’re places to sink in to, put your feet up, and spend some time – long enough to recognize some of the locals, and be recognized, too.  Portofino’s a small place, and there isn’t a lot to do there.  It’s a place people live, it’s not Disneyland.  You have to spend a few weeks if you really want to “get” it, and of course no one can, so I wonder what the cruise line planners were thinking.  I wonder the same thing about many of the cruise lines.  They’re desperate, I guess, for destinations.  Alaska’s beautiful, and different – but the little towns along the Inside Passage are not; they’re standard brand, isolated, island small towns that are really pretty crappy, they’re just in Alaska.  Well, a dump in Alaska is pretty much the same as a dump anywhere else.  There is not a thing in the world to do there, and places like Ketchikan and Wrangell are no more picturesque then Elizabeth, New Jersey.  And though they like the money they’re small places, and when three ships pull up and disgorge 6,000 people – they don’t need that.  I’ve noticed that Ketchikan, and even Juneau have constructed entire faux versions of themselves off in a corner to keep the tourists the hell away from downtown, which they’d swamp.  Juneau has expanded onto the mud-flats south of town, where they’ve built “Juneau-land” for the cruisers, even going to the length of physically picking up the old landmark watering hole, the Red Dog Saloon, and moving it from where it stood for a hundred years to the middle of “Juneau-land.”  People who think they’ve visited Juneau on a cruise ship haven’t really gotten within a half-mile of it.
    Places like Portfino can’t do that, they’re too restricted, but they’re places to live, not shoot in and out of in a day.  There isn’t a damn thing to do there – except live.  Cruisers, by definition, don’t have time for that.  And so you come away wondering why you came.  And it’s a good question.  I don’t know why a cruise line would think these little towns offer their passengers much of anything.  Physical beauty – sure.  You can get that a lot of places, though.  I’m not sure I get it.