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Returning to a favorite place after 30 years--has the magic disappeared? Montserrat had changed; will Venice have?

Returning to a favorite place after 30 years--has the magic disappeared? Montserrat had changed; will Venice have?

Apr 1st, 2007, 08:18 AM
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Returning to a favorite place after 30 years--has the magic disappeared? Montserrat had changed; will Venice have?

I'm asking this question because of an experience I had, and something similar also happened to friends. 30 some years ago I was so intrigued with Montserrat. I remember walking up a long, long winding pathway from a village. Then, there was the absolutely fascinating candle-iluminated, cave-like shrine room where the walls were absolutely packed with mementos that the faithful had left when they came to pray to the Madonna for a miracle or assistance. When we returned a couple years ago everything was paved, there were parking lots, and the cave had disappeared. We searched high and low and finally came upon a sterile, sheetrock walled room where some of these mementos had been hung on display. While we enjoyed our stay, primarily because we spent the night and did the hiking, it certainly wasn't what I'd remembered. Barcelona too was totally different from what I had remembered, and I didn't like it as well.

Friends had a similar experience when they returned after 30 years to the quaint little hotel in the Swiss Alps where they'd spent their honeymoon. They'd originally been enchanted by the place, and now it was a 5* place with a room for $700. They couldn't believe they were in the same place.

When we visited Athens in 1970, tourists could walk all around the Acropolis and through the ruins. That possibility is gone now as I understand.

Now, I am thinking about returning to Venice, which I adored 30 some years ago. While I enjoyed San Marco and its treasury and the doge's palace, what I most remember was loving the idea of just walking around and getting lost in the colorful neighborhoods. I've read so many things about how Venice has changed and is now overrun by tourists, with very few locals actually living there. And, we had friends who were on their first trip to Europe visit; they were sorely disappointed and thought it was totally overrated. Am I better off with my memories? Or, is the magic still there?

Florence was another absolute favorite. In fact, I twice spent 10 days there in order to see and do everything. Now I hear it is a large, bustling place, overrun with traffic and tourists and is not particularly appealing to many. I'm an art lover and thus spent all the time there when I was just out of college walking the entire city to see everything. My husband isn't such a big fan of museums and galleries. This is another place I am wondering if I should just let live in my memories.

What have been your experiences when you went back to a place that you had fond memories of?
julies is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 08:28 AM
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I fell in love with Venice in 1968. I have returned 3 time, most recently in 1998. I have never been disappointed. Will return in 2008. We do, however, go in the fall or spring, when Venice is not quite as crowded. I would certainly go and find out-surely there have been changes, but I still find it magical.
DDA is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 08:35 AM
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"Time change...and we must change with them."

Unfortunately, things always seem to change.

I suspect the first time you went to Montserrat somebody was there who hadn't been back for 20-30 years and was also decrying the changes.

It is hard to know what you might be disappointed with but the notion that Venice has not changed might be unrealistic.

Dukey is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 08:48 AM
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Places are built up over the years as money and population forces them to change. Venice is only a small area which cannot expand as it uses all land available and it's charm is it's quaintness. If it was modernised, it would be just another city with lots of bridges and rivers. By all means visit Venice again.
kaneda is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 09:02 AM
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Hi J,

I anything, Venice has gotten better. It was cleaned up in 2000 and many of the old colors have been restored.

ira is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 09:09 AM
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What an interesting topic and yes there are several ways to look at it.
I know that our few nights in the Cique Terre were wonderful -- some 9 years ago. Yet all I read and hear tell me that while it still might be nice, a trip to duplicate what we did then would end in total disappointment for us. It may still be wonderful, but it won't be the deserted and magical place we remember.

The most magical day I've ever spend in Europe was a bicycle ride we did starting in the morning mist along the Damme Canal north of Bruges. The whole day we rode off into villages, had a spectacular lunch at the great roadhouse (Siphon?), and returned in a daze in the later afternoon. A few years later we tried to duplicate it. I really don't think in this case anything had changed, but perhaps I had built the memory up so much in my mind, there's no way the reality could compete with that memory.
Sometimes memories are best remaining just that -- memories.

NeoPatrick is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 09:16 AM
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hi, julies,

beware returning to Florence. DH and i went about 25 years ago, and loved every minute of our 3 days there. Last year we decided to share our italian experiences with our kids, 18 & 15, and went back. Oh dear. it was MUCH busier that we remembered, and grubbier, and seedier.

on the other hand, I was lucky enough to spend 4 days in venice also last year, having been there to with my DH on the same italian trip we took so long ago. apart from the fact that it was undoubtedly busier, it remained as lovely as before - as I tactfully informed DH on the phone home. I soon got away from the teeming hoards by wandering around off the beaten track, and had many funny conversations with shopkeepers etc, in my terrible itaian.

so Venice yes, Florence no.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 09:29 AM
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Can't do a comparison with Venice, but am pleased to report that the French city of Angers has remained as wonderful as I had remembered it from my first visit 30 years ago--even better, in fact. It was the very first place we went to on my first trip to France (a school trip). Nearly three decades later, I went back with husband and cocker in tow and enjoyed it even more.

I suspect if a city has always been a major tourist mecca (like Venice), it will have suffered from the onset of cheap flights, open borders (visitors from FSU countries etc) and ever growing numbers of visitors. But other places have vastly improved (like Dresden), so I guess it all balances out in the end.
BTilke is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 01:40 PM
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Agree with everyone...I think sometimes it was a special moment in time--who you were with, the time of day, definitely can be the time of year, etc that makes a moment magical -- and unrepeatable.

That being said, after 25 years between visits (raising children/making a living interrupted Euopean travel) Paris was as wonderful as ever and the majority of "re-visits" to favorite regions/towns have been as great or better. Have yet to go again to Carnac, where apparently you can no longer wander aimlessly among the menhirs, or Florence, which sounds very different now, with reservations needed everywhere.

And then maybe some moments just aren't meant to be re-created; they were once-in-a-lifetime moments, and I was lucky to have them when I did.

klondike is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 04:39 AM
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Thoughtful replies from all of you. I don't think that my special memories were because I was with a particular person but because I was truly entranced with the places.

Klondike--I had to chuckle when I read your response. Your life sounds quite similar to mine. There was no European travel in our lives all those years of raising kids and paying for colleget tuitions. That's why there was such a large gap in our European visits. Now we can do what we want as far as travelling.
julies is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 08:44 AM
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We went back to Venice after 30 years and were not disappointed. Venice is a special case because it is very constrained in terms of development, so the look will not change tremendously, although the prime tourist areas are more crowded than ever.
Michael is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 09:24 AM
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julies, I think the best idea for your return journey would be to go off season. As you know this is when the locals are predominate and tourists at a minimum. This may make the place more like how you remember.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 06:52 PM
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There was twenty-five years between my first and second visits to Venice, Florence and Rome. I've returned three times since then to Venice. Because of so much damage to buildings from flooding, many people can't use their first floors, so the population is dwindling. It makes me sad. There was a big difference even between my second and fifth visits. However, it is still magical. Just thinking about how it was built is amazing.
Venice and Florence have always been busy places with lots of travelers and traders. Just look at Canneletto's painting of Venice in 1730.Now
Sassafrass is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 07:01 PM
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Something happened and my comments were posted accidently before I finished. Anyway, Both Florence and Venice have always been pretty busy and hectic. Now it is tourists more than traders. Even if it has changed, walking where Michelangelo and Brunelleschi and Donatello once walked is like touching greatness. I think I love these places more now because I appreciate how fragile even stone is. I hope you go again and, even with the changes, find the beauty.
Sassafrass is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 04:45 AM
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Ira raises a good point, that sometimes changes are for the better.

Eastern Europe is now readily accessible to the independent traveler. Who mourns the 'loss' of the Berlin wall, even if it was an 'historic site' ? To say nothing of the war in Bosnia, Croatia and related regions - a 'change' in those places' circumstances couldn't come fast enough.

London is now not as congested as it was before, thanks to the congestion charge. Many other cities have also expanded their pedestrian-only areas, and/or improved their public transit systems. The magic of these places is now more evident, not less.

Rome's Vatican museum (and others) now offers audioguide tours on CD that are easy to use and which offer freedom from formal guided tours for those who so wish. Meanwhile, many tour groups in those museums are starting to use those headset affairs that allow the guide to speak and not shout, and the group the ability to hear the guide without clustering in traffic-jamming knots. Advance ticket sales and museum pass programs mean less time spent in line.

Oh, and to help one research a place so as to best enjoy it, there is now something called the Internet ....

That said, I agree with NeoPatrick's insight that in some ways, you can't go 'home' again. There's never quite the repeat of the first look at something.
Sue_xx_yy is online now  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 06:52 AM
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We wemt to Venice on our honeymoon, 39 years ago, and found it to be fairly dirty. We returned with friends 4 years ago, and liked it so much, we returned again last September, and fell totally in love with it. During the day, it is packed with tourists from the cruise ships, but at night, it becomes less crowded and magical. You won't be disappointed, it truly is one of a kind.
MaggieT is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 07:30 AM
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Driving in Florence has been greatly reduced thanks to heavy fees and fines. We visited last summer and were pleasantly surprised that it was less congested than on our previous trips. I'm sure it is busier than 30 years ago, but it is certainly worth visiting. Even a non-museum lover has to see Michaelangelo's David once in his lifetime!
KTtravel is online now  
Oct 31st, 2007, 04:22 PM
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My wife and I started our European adventures in 1970 while I was stationed in the Army in Germany.

We traveled all over the continent in my 18 months there. We have been going back again in earnest since 1988. Probably made about 25 trips back in the last 20 years.

We always enjoy visiting some of the same spots and then adding new spots.

We have seen a lot of changes in the last 37 years but we still enjoy the visits and the adventure.

We do not think any place is ever as nice as the first time you see it.

Our time in 1970 was very special as we were 21 and 22, had zero money but had all the time in the world. It is special now as we head into our 60s, have the money but find the selections and our time to travel growing shorter. I think we enjoyed the budget travel of our youth more than the 4 star travel of today. Trouble is, we did not know that at the time.

Bottom line: Just go travel and enjoy!
traveldawg is offline  
Oct 31st, 2007, 04:54 PM
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Yes, it was in the early 60s I first visited Provence and came upon Gordes(we didn't read a guide book but seemed to arrive at all the places) It was a lazy village and there were two grocery shops were we bought wine and food for a picnic. Those shops no longer exist and the village is now a popular tourist destination. The Pont de Gard seemed to appear like a vision as we drove along and seemed spooky as there was no one around.
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 31st, 2007, 05:06 PM
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I find that I do better exploring new places than repeat visits to places I've loved. Things do change, and not always for the better, and sometimes a real "high", for whatever reason, just can't be duplicated. I visited Venice last May with my daughter. We had perfect weather, a wonderful time doing just what we wanted to do. I can still picture the city in my mind so clearly in all its beauty. I think I'll probably just let that be my memory of Venice and try my luck elsewhere. So many places to see ... so little time/money
gruezi is offline  

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