Top 5 Monday: Cliches that are worth the trip

Oh, hey there.  Remember us?  We wish we had a great excuse for the lack in posts lately – like maybe an anonymous billionaire gave us a grant to travel all over the world for some random reason, rendering us without internet access for months at a time.  But sadly we have no such excuse.  CCC apologizes for any inconvenience or mental anguish caused by our absence.  As a partial amends we offer this week’s Top 5 list dedicated to those sights that are so cliche no one wants to go there anymore (but you probably should).  These are all those travel experiences that are worth the sometimes disproportional cost of admission or tourist traps that surround them.

1. Eiffel Tower – Paris, France (Kelly)

Thanks to marketing gods, a simple symbol can signify a brand, a country, or even a way of life.  When you see a red and white bulls-eye, you think of Target.  When you spot the golden arches from the highway, you know you are near a McDonalds.  And when you see the Eiffel Tower, you immediately think of France.  A sad truth is that I’m willing to bet more people would recognize France by the Eiffel Tower, than they would by the country’s flag.  So then, if it is such a tourist attraction, what is the draw?  

Well, if you have seen the Eiffel Tower, you understand why its special.  Yes, it’s a tourist trap,  and yes there are merchants who would relentlessly try to sell you something, or those boys that fly those mechanical birds and you think, “when are they going to swarm around and pick pocket me”….but the Eiffel Tower is truly a beautiful sight to behold.  It’s just as pretty from a distance as it is up close.  Have you ever stood right under it and stared up?  And the best view of the city is to take the elevator up at sunset.  You can see the city take on a whole new life at night from the Eiffel Tower.   I’ve never eaten at either of the restaurants in the Eiffel Tower, but hear they are both great.  Did you know that the tower gets painted every 7 years?  I definitely understand why the Eiffel Tower is the most-visited paid monument in the World.

La Tour Eiffel at sunset

2. Sydney Opera House – Sydney, Australia (Scott)

The iconic Sydney Opera House is the first thing that many visualize when they think of Australia.  Although you have certainly seen it thousands of times in photographs and on TV, it is truly captivating in person.  The best time of day to visit is at sunset, when the purples and oranges of the day-end skies are reflected off the white sails of the Opera House.

After sunset, buy a ticket to one of the many performances (over 1,500 a year!) that take place in one of the 7 theaters of the complex.  The two major venues are the Concert Hall and the Opera Theatre.  Even if you’re on a budget, cheap seats can be purchased from the box office.  Be sure to enjoy a drink during intermission at the lounge overlooking Sydney Harbour.

Architecture fans, theatre buffs, or others looking for an in-depth experience can also take one of the many guided tours of the building.

3. Bullfight – Madrid, Spain (Lexie)

I have to say my most cliched outings while traveling was going to a bull fight and watching flamenco dancers in Spain. I personally thought the bull fighting was one of the most eventful and entertaining events I had ever seen. Sorry PETA. I was even a vegetarian at the time but I still loved the whole presentation and tradition of the event! (I guess this had some effect on me eating meat again soon afterward) The matador comes out and shows off his moves, flailing his cape around and sharp pointy spears. Then the bull enters the arena, and the epic battle begins!  To say it gets intense is an understatement. After a few close calls the matador eventually beats the bull which is hauled out of the arena and the matador takes a final bow to the audience.

After the bullfight it was off to the flamenco dancers. We enter a cramped bar with a non-existent stage. Upon seeing this it seemed like it wouldn’t be much of a show, but the band started playing and the dancers where really working the room. It was incredible and so much fun.

4. Taj Mahal – Agra, India (Leslie)

 I was actually of a different mind on this choice after my first trip to India.  As a student we had the choice to stay in Chennai or make the trip to the north to check out the Taj.  I chose to stay and never regretted it because there was so much to see and experience outside of the touristy Mughal palace.  After I finally made the trip in 2009, though, I have to admit that it is definitely worth braving the throngs of tourists.

The palace is simply breathtaking in person, and the experience of laying your hands on the marble, which is decorated with intricate inlaid designs, and feeling the cool tile beneath your bare feet is incomparable.  To be sure, there are pick-pocketers and entrepreneurial “guides” a-plenty, but with a little effort they can be tuned out.  Plus, haven’t you ever wondered what’s behind the Taj Mahal?  Maybe that’s just me, but they don’t show that on the postcards.

The Taj in all its glory and a close-up of the marble

5. Irish Pub Crawl – Dublin, Ireland (Leslie)

Maybe one of the most cliche on our list, a pub crawl in Ireland is about as original as wearing green on St. Patty’s Day, but that doesn’t make it any less fun!  Countless books, travel blogs, and horribly cliched romantic comedies (I’m looking at you, Leap Year) have given us the basic image of a night in an Irish pub, complete with lively music, plentiful Guinness on tap, wizened old locals telling stories on their usual stool, and (if you believe the romcoms) a dashing stranger behind the bar.  While some of these images may be fiction, the warm and fun-filled atmosphere of a traditional Irish pub is not make believe.

My Irish experience (apart from heritage) is limited to Dublin, but I was sure to spend one evening roaming the pubs.  No matter how many times an intoxicated American college student requested “Irish Rover”, or a female tourist asked if the pub served “anything lighter than Guinness”, it was still a grand old time and a great taste of culture.

This entry was posted in Australia, France, India, Ireland, Sights To See, Spain, Top Five and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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