Sightseeing is the Art of Disappointment

Calistoga is one of my favorites places in California because not only is it in the wine country, but it is more laid back and down-to-earth than the towns in the southern part of Napa. I am planning another trip to Calistoga, but this time, I plan to visit the Robert Louis Stevenson museum. In preparation, I read Silverado Squatters. The book chronicles Robert Louis Stevenson's two month stay in the Calistoga area for his honeymoon with Fanny Vendergrift. I enjoyed his descriptions of Napa in 1880, particularly of Calistoga, as many things have not changed. He has several insights, some them humorous. In the chapter on his visit to the Petrified Forest, he says:

Sightseeing is the art of disappointment. “There’s nothing under heaven so blue. That’s fairly worth the travelling to.”

He goes on to explain that all the things around the quest to see a sight is really what sightseeing is all about. I agree with him. On my last visit to the Petrified Forest, I enjoyed the trees. The trees I saw were much more impressive than what RLS would have seen in 1880 because of the extensive digging that's occurred in the past 140 year. But I was also impressed by the parking lot, because on the day of my visit, it was full of old cars from a car club whose members were also visiting the forest. I looked over the cars and got to speak to a few of the owners. An added surprise to the day.

Later, I found an article on the web, The World’s 26 Most Disappointing Tourist Attractions (That Are A Waste Of Time), that expresses the same sentiment as Stevenson's quote. Number 16 is The Hype Is Over The Top: The Eiffel Tower, France, which made me smile, as my experience with Eiffel Tower certainly doesn't match this person's. My experience had everything to do with getting to the tower, and not actually the view. First of all, I was in Paris on a 24-hour layover when traveling from Africa to California. On the spur of the moment, Glen and I hopped a train from the airport to Paris and headed to Notre Dame and then Eiffel Tower. It was winter in France—cold and rainy. We had only clothes for Africa, so we were freezing. We ran from one place to the other. The top of tower was in a cloud so the observation deck was closed. I stood under the tower and looked up to marvel at the structure, which is quite amazing. I snapped a photo of it covered in clouds, which left the impression that it might taller than it actually is. On this fast visit, I had no expectations. For me, putting a famous sight on an itinerary is okay, but it's always best not to think that seeing the sight will be the height of the experience. It really is everything that surrounds it. I can't say that I've ever been disappointed with any place to which I've traveled.




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