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HAVE YOU SEEN YOUR HOMETOWN AS A TOURIST WOULD?

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Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:39 AM
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HAVE YOU SEEN YOUR HOMETOWN AS A TOURIST WOULD?

SEE YOUR TOWN AS A TOURIST MIGHT.

I walked across 14th Street in Manhattan and went into a Whole Food Market for a cup of coffee; with it I sat on a high stool at wide windows facing Union Square.

Sipping the coffee. Boed, I stared at Union Square and had an epiphany. Understand, Iíve lived here for some forty plus years and worked near Union Square, but now I saw it as if I had never seen it before.

I thought how delightful, Iím seeing it with the joy of a tourist. I think it happned since I have been travelling a lot lately.

Union square is a block or two long green swath, the canopied entrance to the subway is reminisce of the Metro, and like many European large squares there were a small protest group. This small group silently protesting the war in Iraq.

In the distant the tops of the Empire State Building, the Prudential building and another with golden ornate tops glistening in the sun, and other buildings whose style reminded me of those in Amsterdam.

Of course traffic looped slowly around the square, taxis, trucks and huge buses with large adverts, which looked like passing art exhibits. Luckily I could not hear the noise.

The pedestrians which I usually ignored took on a diffeent life. A woman with two large dogs pulling her like sled dogs, and scattered throughout the park were tourists, groups studying maps and pointing in different directions.

Then the New York crazies, the homeless and, shades of Paris, a couple kissing ignoring the crowd.

And at one end of the square I could see the white tents of local farmers selling only New York produce, apples, tomatoes and the like. I forget them when I extol over the European farm stands.

So, look upon some place in your hometown and see it like a tourist. Itís not just NYC. I was born in Norristown, PA, population roughly 35,000 and I plan to go there an see it with a touristís eye. Have any body had a similar experience?
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:51 AM
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Very good question. I think we do tend to take where we live for granted. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. For one thing, our next door neighbors just did a house exchange with two couples from Florence, Italy. My first reaction was - why would they want to come HERE? Since we love Italy and had just returned from Sicily, we tried to be as helpful as possible, giving them suggestions as to where to go,having them for dinner, etc. When they left a couple of days ago they came over to thank us, told us we were the only "real" Americans they had met and gave us their email addresses and told us to come visit them the next time we are in Italy. Great experience, and it did help me think about my area as a tourist would.

Second thing that happened was that on the thread about having your travel photos as your desktop, someone said their desk top was a picture of a bridge that is 20 minutes from my house. I like the bridge and all, but would not have considered it in the same league as most of the European destinations that I have photos of on my desktop/screne saver. Now I'll go look at it again, perhaps with new appreciation.

And Art, as you mention NYC, I was born and raised there, but quite eager to move away once I grew up. Now years later, I've learned to appreciate it in ways I never did when I was living there. I visit it frequently (I live about 3 hours away), and have been photographing it for a few years which really makes me feel like a tourist when I'm there.

Can't wait to read other peoples thoughts on this subject.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:57 AM
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Good question. It's since I've become a regular poster here on Fodor's that I look at my hometown of Seattle thru the eyes of visitors to the city. It's a special world-view that I believe comes from or is enhanced by spending time on this board.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:05 AM
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Hi Art,

I can't speak for sure if I did earlier in my years, but I know with great certainty that since I have been coming to Fodor's I view everything much more as I would if I were a tourist.

I think it's because I feel responsible to give as accurate information here as possible. I feel I am a much more observant person, even as your original question asks, in the city that I reside.

We enjoy a great many things about our Minneapolis/St. Paul area. We have wonderful museums, many delicious restaurants, lovely churches, fun sporting events, and I find that every time I am at one fo them, or even driving down the street to them, I ask myself at the stoplight, "Is this a place I would want to visit if I were a tourist, and what would I want to see?"

Yes, I believe I have seen my hometown as a tourist, with all that it has to offer, good and bad.

Since Fodor's, I know I see everything, as if I am writing my next trip report, in vivid detail.

Great question, thanks, Tiff
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:09 AM
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Yes indeed. My hometown is Manchester UK which I remember as a depressing northern industrial city in the 50s. Recently it has undergone total transformation and become vibrant, edgy, architecturally innovative, all the other superlative adjectives you can think of. Suddenly it's very cool to come from there. Just goes to show how things change.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:10 AM
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Hee, Suze, we were posting at the same time, great minds.

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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:19 AM
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About 10 years ago my husband and I stayed in a hotel in Chicago. We pretended that we were tourists and it gave me a totally different perspective. What a great city to visit. I can now highly recommend it to everyone. We are also having friends from Italy come visit so we are trying to look at everything from there eyes. It is really interesting and you begin to realize all the things we really do well in the States (and not so well).
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:30 AM
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Several years ago I took my mom on a double-decker bus tour around our own city just for something to do on a Sunday afternoon and it was great to see the city the way visitors see it. I made a mental note to do that periodically but I guess that mental note got misplaced because I haven't done it again.

Also, when we have friends and family visiting from the US and Europe, I tend to see the city more through their eyes.

One set of friends are wonderful guests who enjoy our city, appreciate everything we do and seem happy to be here (and believe me, they don't lack any of the amenities in their hometown). The other couple never compliment anything and spend every visit telling us about how much cheaper they can get everything at home. Grrrrrr.

I used to read travel forum posts about my own city but I stopped doing it because it was so frustrating. People would complain about the stupidest things, be timid about exploring the city, and overly worry about safety (one elderly couple, for example, said they stayed on the fringes of the gay area but it was alright and they 'had no incidents'. I can't imagine what incidents they were concerned about). Reading those posts, I think, has made me a better traveller and certainly a better guest when I visit other people's cities.

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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:33 AM
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I mean their eyes.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:38 AM
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I am a fourth generation New Yorker.
When people visit us in New York City I do look at NYC as a tourist would. It is a good exercise.

In addition, I try to imagine what would please the particular visitor--restaurants, museums; "Circle Line" tour, etc. I recently did the latter and it is an eye-opener. For example, I learned that the word "Manhattan" is from an Indian word meaning "rolling hills". And, as you walk north/south on Manhattan island, it is amazing how undulating the terrain is.

This is an interesting question. The Oracle of Delphi had standard advice for aristocrats and commoners alike--"Know Thyself". It kind of pertains here as well.

Anthony
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:38 AM
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Strangely enough, I had this experience last month on the day of the London bombings. Because all public transport had been halted, I was forced to walk (yes walk, all 8 soddin' miles of it) across the centre of London from London Bridge to my home in Kilburn (NW London).

You know what, it was great. When you live here, it's a constant rush from place to place, Tube, bus, taxi. You never just stroll around and look at things, as a tourist would do. The sun shone, hundreds (1000s) of people stood outside pubs trying to delay the walk home, I was in no great hurry, it felt like a summer holiday.

A glimmer of light on a tragic day.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:44 AM
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About once a year or so, we play "tourists" in San Francisco - North Beach, Ghiradelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Ferry Plaza (my husband is native San Franciscan).

Recently, he walked Market Street from Civic Center to Embarcadero and was none too happy about Market Street from Civic Center to Powell - very depressing.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:46 AM
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I was born in Los Angeles, and until I moved here when I was 7 years old, I spent most of my vacations visiting relatives in San Francisco. Of course I rode the cable cars, ate at Fisherman's Wharf. I now live in the first city that I ever saw as a 'little' tourist.

Those memories are still with me, many, many years later, and I react to some of the sights as I did when I first visited them.

When relatives or friends visited us here, my mother always took them to Sausalito for dinner and the fabulous view of SF. Years later I was priviledged to live there for five years - again remembering visiting it as a child and as a young adult. Fortunately I worked 4:00PM - Midnight, so when I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge everyday to SF, I avoided the rush hour traffic and as I got my first glimpse of the city scape, it never failed to put me in awe.

I was in Sausalito a few weeks ago for the first time in years, on a weekday, and didn't recognize it - the new buildings, the traffic, what a heartbreaker.

I've been very lucky being able to remain a tourist and a resident at the same time.

We love showing guests our City and finding new places to visit ourselves.

Whenever I get a new camera, I head for the Marina District, by the Bay to test it with shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay and the boats. I just did that last week with my new digital.

Of course the City has changed drastically over the years, and I can't overlook that. The cable car fares have gone way up, parking is impossible, drivers are nuts, (especially the #$$$##@#^$ double parkers), but the familiar treasured sights remain in my little girl's heart and I love to share them with visitors.

Nina
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:47 AM
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Kate,

How right you are!

I was working in the financial district of Manhattan on 9/11. After two agonizing hours I learned that my daughter had barely escaped the WTC.

Walking the three miles home on that physically gorgeous, sunny day it was easy to sort out what is important and what is not.

Many people offered help. Among them were Muslims in front of a mosque near the Bowery.

Obviously, we can not be philosophers all the time. But on that day I was reminded of things eternal and it was a lesson I never forgot.

Anthony

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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:51 AM
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I am now engaged. (Life's timing is peculiar...) My fiance is from Munich. When his daughter came to meet the evil-stepmother to be, I had the opportunity to take them around as guests...Winterthur, Longwood Gardens, Hagley Museum, Chadds Ford Winery, Brandywine River Museum; they went to the Chesepeake on their own one day...
I had forgotten all this...and the great concerts, fireworks, fountains at Longwood. A little wine, picnic, blanket nighttime with my Old Boy? MMMm...
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:57 AM
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It's funny that you posted this because I became somewhat of a "tourist" in my own city last weekend! My husband and I went to the art museum here in St. Louis to see a special exhibit. After we left the museum we decided to wander around Forest Park (where the museum is located) for awhile and I was ashamed that I hadn't been there since they remodeled much of it. It really is a great park, and the work that the put into it is truly wonderful.

We decided that we are going to the arch next weekend to view the museum and the views from the top...something neither of us have done in ages!

Tracy
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:44 PM
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I've now lived in Denver for 4 years and I still feel like a tourist on paid vacation. Funny, I read "visitor's" magazines and seek out new niches within the city and beyond. Scan the travel section of the Sunday paper and plan off road treks. Just last week bought new hiking footwear to enjoy hidden trails. I go to sporting events with the same anticipation as I would the first time in San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle etc. Carry my camera all the time and I'm always in awe looking to the west and seeing the mountains. I can truly say that Denver and The Rockies are a perpetual tourist experience for me and my family. Can't wait for next weekend.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 08:36 PM
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Oh yeah! Everytime we go down to downtown Huntington Beach we feel like we're on vacation - it's a very fun place!
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 09:22 PM
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Hi Famousuncleart, your post is interesting to me as just today I was in a restaurant in my city of Vacaville, CA (southern end of the Sacramento Valley) having a early lunch with my grandson. We were sitting in a booth by the window and I started noticing OBVIOUS TOURIST! I thought "what are they doing here?". Well what they were doing were walking around checking out the old town part of Vacaville. They were enjoying themselves and looking at the older buildings, checking out the stores and they ended up in the great restaurant I was in. They all looked so happy and relaxed. It was a pleasure to see them. The group consisted of the grandparents, the parents and the grandchildren. Or at least that was my impression of this happy and relaxed family.

It got me thinking. We all run around taking care of day to day business and errands. But we don't stop and pay attention to where we live.

On leaving the restaurant, while walking to our car I did start mentally playing tourist. An old building built in 1898 for example. Walk by it all the time but never noticed it etc. and etc.

Thanks for your post. And what a coincidence that it was posted on the day I had the same thoughts. Best wishes to you.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 10:22 PM
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Very interesting thread. Years ago, I belonged to the Society of Government Meeting Planners. The Society would often have "Fam Trips"; famiarization tours of varioius cities they would like us planners to choose for meetings. We had to pay our own air fare, due to restrictions on us accepting gratuities, but many of the events, dinners, and tours could be legally comped.

Anyway, I got to see a number of American cities from the viewpoint of folks that loved the towns, and wanted to brag about the unique and wonderful things they had to offer. Boise, Idaho? Who would want to go to Boise? It is one of the most wonderous small towns I have ever been in. Chicago? That grotty city! Nope -- an exciting and vital town!

If we would approach visiting our own towns, even on dull business trips, with the same excitement, anticipation, openess, and wonder that we use when planning a trip to a European capitol, I truly believe we will always endup being surprized and delighted.
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