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Friday, February 6, 2009

Sightseeing: taking time to take in the sights - or not. How do you 'see' the sights when you travel?

When you're visiting an attraction, how long do you spend at a sight? I'm talking about a specific museum exhibit, an individual painting, a natural phenomenon and so on, at scenic attractions, ancient ruins, historic churches, city museums, art galleries and the like. Are you a stroller? That's to say, do you stay in motion, wandering around the place taking in the scenery as a whole, glancing here and there, but all the time you keep moving? Or are you a stop-and-starter? You stop, look, think, perhaps have a read of an interpretive sign on the wall or the description in your guidebook or a pamphlet, take another look, then you start all over again, stop at the next sight, look, think, etc? You get the picture. It's something I find endlessly fascinating. Sometimes I spend more time taking in the way people experience attractions than I do taking in the place myself. I've always wanted to sit with a stopwatch and see what the average length of time is that someone spends in front of a painting. And compare a highlight with a standard sight, say, the Mona Lisa with a painting by an unknown artist. I enjoyed seeing these people, pictured, taking it easy and enjoying the rugged beauty of their surroundings at The Twelve Apostles earlier this week on the Great Ocean Road (in stark contrast to the young tourists I wrote about here). I also found amusement in a family who were taking photographs... the father snapped a pic of the mother and one of the children in front of a rock formation, while the teenage son was looking in awe at the size of the waves. The youngest daughter had obviously had enough, however, and started skipping back up the path to the car. "It's not time to go back yet, Ruby. We're not done here yet," her mother shouted out to her with a bemused smile. Well, Ruby was certainly done. How long does it take you on average to do a sight? And how do you prefer to do it?


previously.bitten said...

I hate to say it, but I think I see more sights through a camera lens. I'd love to spend time just experiencing them, but then the memory fades. Where as when I take a picture, the memory ultimately grows - even though it was lessened at the time.

Girl from HK said...

I agree with the person above...I am often caught between wanting to photograph the moment and feeling the moment. It's nice to not have the constant anxiety of "Ohmygosh this is amazing I have to take a picture, and another one and another one".....but I usually find that afterwards I regret not having some kind of record of it.

Of course, the best scenario is when you have a friend who is a photo junkie and then just facebook tags you....

Lara Dunston said...

Hi previously.bitten - I'm a bit like you... I guess I'm fond of experiencing them first, but if I can capture that experience, that place, the people in images, then those definitely help me remember what it was that I experienced. Thank god. I certainly feel that the moments and places I haven't photographed are the ones that are the haziest.

Hello Girl from HK - yep, I can relate to that. It's a constant struggle! Unfortunately I can't carry my friends around in my suitcase with me everywhere!

Anonymous said...

You know, I think about this often, especially if, for example, I'm in a museum where I'm most interested in one section, and have spent quite a bit of time there, seeing the things that interest me, and then have to breeze through the other rooms that interest me in order to exit.

I'm often self-conscious, thinking of what the room guards must be thinking of me: "What a philistine!! She hasn't even stopped to appreciate Painting X!" And in some sense, it IS true -- I'm just not as interested in 16th-century Italian art, for example, as in Art Nouveau furniture. But in another sense, if I lingered as long as every little thing, I'd go batty (this is why it's tough for me to go museum-ing with my parents -- they feel an obligation to give the same weight -- in terms of observation time -- to every single piece in the museum, and that just seems impossible to me).

Interesting question!