Tim Roxborogh on the joys of moaning about your holiday.
Doing "the tour" at tourist attractions
"Would you like to do the tour, sir?"
Caught unguarded, this question is enough to make a grown man seize up, apoplectic with fear and a hearty dash of clamminess. Or perhaps that's just me. Nevertheless, if there's one thing I don't want to do when I'm going through a museum it's to do "the tour".
My most recent offering of "the tour" was at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. This is a gold-leaf bedazzled, domed, pillared and arch-windowed masterpiece of a building, completed in 1798. Inside it's even more spectacular with marble columns, sweeping staircases, giant murals and one of the most significant historic art collections in the country. It's also the home of other Insta-worthy sites like the State Library and the Massachusetts House Of Representatives.
In other words, it's not just a museum and an art gallery, but also a still-in-use government building that the public and tourists have the pleasure of being able to visit. It was one of the absolute highlights of my time in Boston.
So why – just as I was putting my metal belt back on having passed through security – did I get that brief shot of panic at the offering of a guided tour?
I love history and I love architecture and more than that, I love taking photos, so you'd think a tour of a building like this would be right up my alley. And maybe it would. But more often than not, I like to do things in my own time. Sometimes I can race through an attraction – even a museum I really like – in half an hour. Maybe even 20 minutes*.
It's not that tours can't be great, it's just that you're only fractionally less likely to win Lotto than you are to land on a tour that goes at the pace you want. I've been on city walking tours where the "walking" needed inverted commas. A three-hour "walking" tour where you stand in cold and wind for 20 minutes at each notable spot before moving several metres to the next one is not exactly how I want to spend my holiday time.
And yet the same tour done in half an hour? Sign me up!
*For the record, I was in and out of the Massachusetts State House in 34 minutes.
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Asking for "Wah-der" in the USA
Staying with America, I have a little secret. Every time I'm there and I'm ordering water, I put on an American accent for that word alone: "wah-der". It's just easier than having to explain what to American ears sounds like "war-dah". Request a "war-dah" and you get blank looks, but ask for a "wah-der" and you're away laughing.
The only issue is – and this is where this becomes a travel bug for me – is when you're travelling in the States with other Kiwis. I was recently with three Kiwi friends and the sniggers of laughter you get from your fellow countrymen when you're at an American restaurant asking for "wah-der" are enough to put you off your "wah-der" and just get a Coke.
• Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com