The Associated Press, June 15, 2012
The Associated Press sent reporters out on a tourist's itinerary for one day in five cities to compare experiences. Here are some of their impressions:
Adam Schreck on wandering in the alleyways of the old souq or marketplace: "Like other souks in the Arab world, it is divided according to items sold. The grandest section is filled with glittering gold shops. Other areas sell more humble items like bulk spices, incense, carpets, textiles and pots and pans. It is easy to get lost and lose your bearings in the souq's winding alleys, and that's all part of the fun. Ditch the map. Follow a main route long enough and you're likely to eventually make your way back to the creekside. The souq is safe, and there are police around. When I was there late in the afternoon, it wasn't too crowded. It was, however, hot and very humid so I worked up a good sweat, even with several of the walkways covered. Better to come early in the morning or around sunset. The main hassle comes from overzealous merchants, who all seem to be selling an endless supply of 'Copy watches. Rolex, Omega ...' I was also greeted a few times with 'Hello, my friend. Come, come' and one more creative 'Welcome, Mr. John!' Good try. That said, it's fairly low-key compared to markets in, say, Cairo or New Delhi."
Roger Dwarika on visiting the Recoleta church and cemetery: "Recoleta is the part of Buenos Aires most modeled on Europe. You'd be mistaken for thinking you were in Paris, as you gaze at myriad apartments neatly positioned above elegant shops. This is where the elite live, but it's also relatively quiet and calm. No traffic here. I find the Cemeterio de Recoleta, looking for the famous tomb of Eva Peron. There's no entry fee. I speak to a guide at the gates of this grand cemetery, and he explains where her mausoleum is located. Inside, there are hundreds of tombs and monuments. It's beautiful in a very elegant way. But after 15 minutes of walking, I can't find Peron. There seem to be no signs pointing to where this legendary first lady was laid to rest in the cemetery of presidents. Eventually I give up and go next door to the Recoleta church, another famous tourist attraction. I spend 10 minutes here, gazing at the ornate statues of Catholic figures inside, before heading out into the surrounding park to get a bite to eat. I purchase a choripan — a classic Argentine sausage with lettuce and tomato in a freshly baked baguette."
Thomas Adamson at the Eiffel Tower: "After about 20 minutes of waiting I was told by the person in front that, to my horror, one of the two operational elevators was broken due to a technical problem. I went to inquire to the security guard, who confirmed the bad news, laughing that it normally takes 20 minutes but I might have to wait two hours. There were several armed guards patrolling, and one beggar asking for money. I could hear French, German, Italian, Arabic and English being spoken. In front of me an American couple were arguing about the construction date of the Eiffel Tower. The woman said it was built 100 years ago, the man mistakenly corrected her saying, 'It was built for the French Revolution in 1887!' Losing the will to live, I ended up waiting two hours and 30 minutes to get in. But the wait was not yet over: the lift only took us to the second level (of three), after which I had to queue for 20 minutes for a second lift to take me to the top level. I was so exhausted after three hours of waiting that when I reached the top — like all the other fatigued tourists — I cheered myself up with a coupe of champagne for 10 euros ($13)."
Mari Yamaguchi on using the subway: "Trains come every few minutes, on time, which saves time from getting caught in the traffic while riding on a bus or a taxi. Tokyo has a network of 15 subway lines, several other private train lines covering the entire city. First timers may find it a little hard to get around because of sometimes poorly located signs for transits and exits. It's very efficient (trains come every few minutes, operate from around 5:30 a.m. to around 1 a.m.), punctual, clean and safe, but could be extremely crowded during morning and evening rush hours from around 7:30 a.m.-9 a.m. and 7 p.m.-9 p.m., and even worse on the last few trains of the day. Rush hour trains in Tokyo are probably beyond comparison with any others in the world — passengers completely pressed against each other and sometimes even hard to breathe. Not recommended for those traveling with small children or injuries during these hours. Suits-clad, mostly male, passengers who are drunk are often spotted late at night."
Beth Harpaz at the Metropolitan Museum: "The museum is so vast, it's difficult to decide what to see, so I ask two women at the information desk, 'What part of the museum do people ask for directions to most often?' They both say, 'The bathroom.' I try again: 'At the Louvre, the Mona Lisa is IT. In Florence, the statue of David is IT. What's IT here?' Answer: 'There is no IT here.' Sighing, I ask, 'What do you think the best thing in the museum is?' Answer: 'The paintings.' One last try: 'What's the most popular part of the museum?' Finally, a real answer: 'We're known for the Egyptian collection, and everybody also always wants to see whatever exhibit is at the Costume Institute.' I head off to see the spooky mummies with their painted masks and the Costume Institute's fascinating "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations" about those two very different fashion designers. For fun, I say hi to my personal favorite: John Singer Sargent's 'Madame X' in the American Wing."