Ratings on Places You Can't Visit

Overrated or Not:
Travel Sites, Truth and Nonsense

It’s hard to imagine traveling these days, but that doesn’t stop travel sites from doling out advice. Lately they’ve been engaged in a slash-and-burn campaign of telling us of places and sites they think are overrated. Maybe that’s so we won’t lament that we can’t go there anyhow. So, I checked out Escape Here and Far and Wide to see what I’m supposed to miss.

I can’t comment on places I’ve never been, though I can’t for the life of me imagine that I would like Mount Rushmore, the Las Vegas Strip, or Copenhagen’s tiny statue of the Little Mermaid. I would like to go to Denmark someday, but I’m fine with giving South Dakota and Nevada a miss. But I can slap down my two pennies when it comes to places and things I have seen.

Let’s start with a few experiences that I agree are way overrated. Neither site cared for the Hollywood Walk of Fame, not should they. It’s like strolling through one of those cemeteries where all the markers are flush to the surface, except the little inscribed stars are set in granite. Some are smashed or covered with graffiti as the Walk is located in a rather seedy part of the city.

I really like London, but I concur that the London Eye is less than meets one’s ocular units. It’s just an expensive whirl around a Ferris Wheel whose biggest impact is to be photographed at night from a distant bridge. You don’t even get cotton candy.

I guess you can say you saw it
The Four Corners where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah intersect is just one of those kill-four-birds-with-one-screech-of-the-car wheels place for state collectors. It only exists because there’s so much barren land out those parts that surveyors just squared the boundaries. It’s also analogous to Greenwich, England, where you can stand with one foot on either side of the Prime Meridian. Having had a toe in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres as well as the above four states I can tell you that you won’t detect any differences.

Pucker up for a sloppery rock
The Blarney Stone gets no love and doesn’t deserve any. The castle is perfectly fine, but it’s a tip-off when there are competing legends of why it’s lucky to be tipped onto your back, have your head pushed under the walls, and kiss a wet rock. Can you say, “gullible tourists?” I will say, though, that it’s way more interesting than Plymouth Rock, which also gets thumbs down. It’s there because, you know, it has to be authentic, right? I don’t think there are any other big fricking granite boulders anywhere in New England. Funny the Pilgrims failed to mention such a stone.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa deserves to fall out of favor, unless you think the world needs more photos of grinning tourists pretending to hold it up. Spend an hour in Venice and you’ll see lots of sinking towers.

The White House deservedly makes the lists as well. It might feel very patriotic as you wait to get in, but there’s not much to see in the public areas. Besides, who wants to see where sports stars eat McDonald’s burgers with a fat man and his comb over?

Mildly Disagree

There are some places that probably are a bit naff, but I nonetheless liked them. The entire tale you are told about the Alamo in San Antonio is a load of horse exhaust and there’s not much left of the old fort, but it’s nice to visit and bite your tongue because you know the whole damn thing was about the right of illegal immigrants from the South to bring their illegal slaves into a foreign country.

So maybe it does look like 2 am outside a bar
The Mannekin Pis fountain in Brussels is what it sounds like: a statue of a small boy with a jet of water shooting out from his bronze tallywacker. It’s stupid, but in a good way.

Yes, Temple Bar in Dublin is crammed with tourists bellying up to try to convince themselves that Guinness is actually worthy of being called beer. If you’re lucky, though, you might actually find an Irish person with whom you can get a recommendation for a real beer.

Sites routinely list the Sydney Opera House as not worth the effort. Well, it’s hard to beat its exterior visual impact, especially when strolling across Harbor Bridge. The interior is a letdown, though. It opened in 1973 and there just isn’t much to be said for no-frills functionality. It feels like being in a shopworn megachurch.

Are Your Nuts!?

Dreams of Nessie
Now for stuff where I want to cry out, “Getta life, you idiot!” I’ll start with one dear to my heart. Sites tell you to avoid Loch Ness in Scotland. Nessie might or might not be a real lake monster, but the lake is deep and lovely and the ruins of Castle Urquhart add to a dazzling tableau. If you can’t dream here, take up an unimaginative profession such as becoming a member of Congress.

Neither site liked Stonehenge, which suggests their writers have rocks in their heads. You cannot gaze upon Stonehenge or any of a number of comparable megalithic locations without realizing that what we call “ingenuity” is an ever-evolving concept. Besides, the Druids told me this place is cool.

Along the same lines, how can one not be impressed by the Great Wall of China? Smug writers who pooh-pooh it need to be sent to re-education camps.

Or maybe fed to the lions. That fate should be for those who tell you to avoid the Coliseum in Rome. Yes, the stadium floor is missing. It’s coming up on its 2000th birthday. Send me a postcard of what you will look like in another 1,970 years.

Please tell Leonardo to make it bigger
One site said that viewing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre is a disappointment. Okay, so the room is crowded but this painting is considered one of Western art’s greatest masterpieces. The same site complained that is was so small. That individual should retire to his dorm room and gaze lovingly on his life-sized poster of Def Leppard.

I’m not Catholic, but if anyone tells you that the Vatican isn’t worth seeing, convert, and strangle that fool with your rosary beads. The Sistine Chapel is a marvel, and it’s much bigger than the Mona Lisa. You also need to see all the (literal) loot carried by to Rome over the centuries. If you want to draw some lessons about blind faith, who am I to dissuade you?

Anyone who tries to tell you that Venice isn’t worth seeing needs to be lobotomized. The main sites can be overrun by day trippers, but if you venture away in any direction you will find solitude and architectural wonders that restore your faith in humankind. The food also gets better in those quiet plazas. I advocate a stroll across the Bridge of Sighs for those who don’t like Venice.

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