|Cities and Places of the World|
For years, I'd heard about a San Francisco tour operator's incredibly inexpensive journeys. Online discussion groups applauded them, columns in this newspaper spoke highly of China focus. Gut how could it possibly be that one could go on an 11-day tour of China for such a ridiculous price?
Then came the day when I thought, "I'll do it," choosing Historic China from a list of 16 itineraries of varying lengths. Billed as the company's signature tour, it was described as "superb for first-time visitors to China." That was me.
Fearing that the $999 price tag, flight included, meant I'd be embarking on an off-to-China nightmare - one of a herd getting on and off a gigantic bus .........
"Cheap tour packs in the value, sights"
Nothingness stretched seemingly forever as viewed from my window seat aboard Ethiopian Airlines Fokker 500 turboprop en-route to Bahir Dar out of the country's capital city of Addis Ababa. Nothingness, that is, if one discounts the ferocious landscape of deep canyons and jagged tumbled mountains unfolding below and the now-and-then glimpsed handful of tiny communities of circular dwellings, tuklus, perched precariously on barren plateaus. No roads, only sometimes barely discernible trails as thin as pencil marks indicated the comings and goings of humanity through this harsh convulsion of spectacularly beautiful ruggedness ........
I should not have been surprised to find that Barcelona,
which has plenty of moving parts and, like any big city,
a potential for unpleasant surprises, should come with
a user's manual.
The manual appeared as a section in the city "style" guide in my room at the Hotel Montecarlo. At first leaf through, the guide appeared no different from those stamped "Room Copy. Do Not Remove" in hotel rooms from San Francisco to Singapore - where to shop, where to eat, what's chic, advertisements thinly disguised as editorial copy. Then, with a flip of the page, I came across "Instruction Manual for Spending the Day" by Barcelona journalist Joan Barril.
Expecting a guidebook equivalent to "secure part 1 by tightening bolt C, " I was surprised to read: "It is one thing to visit a city and quite another thing to use it." That struck a chord. I tend to chafe within the parameters of "visitor": the host serves tea, shows his garden and announces when one should appear for dinner; the visitor cheerfully adheres to the schedule and expresses appropriate phrases of appreciation......
"A User's Guide to Barcelona"
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