Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Twenty-Four
We're still doing Sightseeing in September and being armchair tourists. Last week, we took a relaxing trip to Venus (or did we???); but today, I think we're going to stick closer to home. Today I feature a place that I feel bad calling a tourist trap . . . though not as bad as anyone who made it a tourist trap should feel.
The Moon by Night
by Madeleine L'Engle
. . . The only trouble with Grand Canyon was that we were already saturated with beauty that we looked at it and said, "Oh. Pretty." Which is hardly the word for Grand Canyon. But it just didn't mean to us what it would have meant if we'd come straight to it from Thornhill [Connecticut] without all the other things in between.
Also, Grand Canyon was crowded and commercial, and it's a place you should see without any people at all.
. . . We were there over Sunday, so we went to the Church service, and I'm sorry to say it was the dullest of all the ones we went to, held in a hall instead of outdoors at lots of other parks. If there was ever a place to have church outdoors, Grand Canyon was it.
The Moon by Night was the first book I thought of when I decided on this month's theme. In it, the Austin family's road trip across North America and back gets to parallel teenage Vicky Austin's journey of faith. They visit different national and state parks, and meet lots of colourful fellow Americans, including the much maligned (but here defended) Zachary Grey. I probably should have featured one of the places that was more memorable to them, but it was Grand Canyon that got me thinking.
Isn't it sad when places don't live up to their hype? Especially when the hype is arguably deserved. In the case of Grand Canyon, all that publicity comes with a second stinger in its tail--for hype is meant to bring the big crowds, but big crowds are the last thing you want to see in a place that is supposed to be about majestic nature. (For more on the paradoxical problem of tourists in Locus Focus #121. For a more positive view of tourist mobs you can also jump back to Rob Sheffield's thoughts on Madonna and Lourdes, France.)
I suppose that most visitors to Grand Canyon don't drive all the way there from their homes in another state. If the only other big destination of your vacation were, say, Las Vegas, then Grand Canyon would probably blow you away, aye? Of course, having said that, I wish we could survey a decent sample of families for whom it was one of several entries on a road trip itinerary, and preferably one in the middle. Should enough of them echo the Austins' experience, my question would be: are they proof that Grand Canyon, for all its greatness, actually isn't that great . . . or are they an argument for keeping truly great places like Grand Canyon from being just one of many tourist spots of "equal" standing?
And now I should say that although the Austins don't feel properly impressed by Grand Canyon, they do have a lot of fun during their two days there. They take part in hikes, campfire lectures, and pickup baseball games with the children of other campers. And it is the baseball games that are most interesting to me: I mean, we expect the educational and other enriching stuff from the organisers; but the fun that the visitors can make for themselves is always an unanticipated bonus . . . and well, something that can't really be hyped.
Question of the Week: Have you ever been to a place that didn't live up to its hype?
By the way, if you've ever wanted to take part in Locus Focus, you should do so soon. Like, really soon. And that's all I'm going to say about that for now! =P
Image Source: The Moon by Night by Madeleine L'Engle