Advised – ‘Fools’ Tripping Around Europe

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt – Mark Twain.

This is more of an appeal than a post. It is an appeal to those who are totally and utterly stupid that they please heed the excellent advice of Mr Twain above. Therefore it is of course not, I hasten to add, aimed at my readers. However, for those for whom this is too much to take in and they are chatterboxes, at least resist from using the World Wide Web by proving it in writing.

Ah Yes...

Ah Yes…

I get that we all say daft things. Sometimes, as a girlfriend of mine used to say, my switch between thought and speech can be firmly off. However when enough time passes from the formulation of the initial thought, the thinking ‘I might post that online’, going to a device that enables one to do so and then watching ones fingers (I am making the assumption that none of the characters with whom I am about to acquaint you can touch-type) type the words onto a forum with more than 100 million users, something ought to say, ‘hang on, is this sensible?’ and then ‘stop’.

Before I proceed let me assure you everything you are about to read is genuine and what’s more some of these tidbits, these gems, these snippets of tourist advice have incredibly been rewarded with the label ‘helpful’. As a Tour Guide, I make my living from suggesting, educating and helping tourists make the most of their vacations. With characters such as these about, my job, despite the tough times we’re in, might be safe for a while longer. The forum? TripAdvisor of course, what else?

Hmm... Are We Sure?

Hmm… Are We Sure?

Now I have a lot of issues with TA as a site and I don’t want this to turn into a rant. However, for the purposes of this exercise I am going to take you on a whirlwind tour of some of Europe’s most famous monuments and attractions through the critical eyes of some of TA’s reviewers. What I hope to prove is that when you read a negative review of a hotel or a restaurant that you don’t know and decide to make (or unmake) plans accordingly, be aware that particular review could well have been written by one of these phenomenons commenting on something you do know. Therefore…

Ready? Strapped in? Here goes…

We start in Rome Italy, where South_Aussie63 has decided to visit the Colosseum. Good choice no? Apparently not. Scoring it the lowest possible; one star (terrible) this is qualified by the comment; ‘the monument is in a poor state of repair’. It was built in 80AD. GRJ11, from Newcastle is, also awarding it one star, equally disappointed; ‘it was much smaller than I thought it would have been’. If only he (or she) had been around to advise Vespasian and Titus; ‘like what you’re doing creating somewhere for 50.000 of us to watch gladiators for free, but it is just a little tiny don’t you think?’.

Smaller Than You Thought?

Smaller Than You Thought?

Finally, my favourite is that of GermanicusBerlin, who despite his chosen name turns out not to be much of an Ancient Rome enthusiast; ‘we were in and out in minutes’ – well who told him he had to leave? I can think of a few gladiators who might have shared his sentiments though as they were dragged feet first out of the arena. He goes on to conclude; ‘look at it on the internet instead’, for which he duly receives 12 helpful votes.

To France and Paris next where, admittedly not my favourite monument in Europe, but nonetheless the reasonably ‘must see’ Eiffel Tower surely merits a visit?. Three would-be guides take a different view, each rating it the famous one star for ‘terrible’. pauljohn, Liverpool, New York who visited this famous attraction as recently as Nov 1st 2013 tells us; ‘so terrible, it was a waste of my time, when I got to the top it was cold’. It was flipping November pauljohn, what did you expect? And is the fact that Paris has a European climate with seasons where the temperatures drop in the Autumn a fact you clearly chose to ignore as you dressed that morning, really sufficient reason for a ‘terrible’ rating? Ok, I’m calm now. However, reading on, Sam M from – of all places Wagga Wagga – pulls no punches when he (or she) states; ‘the ugliest attraction in Europe’. He should know, he’s ‘reviewed’ 166 attractions. Also, he (or she) is from Wagga Wagga. Here is a photo from Wagga Wagga…

Yes, Well Who Needs The Eiffel Tower?

Yes, Well Who Needs The Eiffel Tower?

Finally, before we leave Paris, this one from LoveScotlandForever proves that sometimes reviews are just bizarre. Built for the great exhibition of Paris in 1889 and having not collapsed once since, this genius has the following to say about the Tower; ‘it is a dangerous attraction… I was there (sorry, but isn’t that the point?), but it wobbles’. Incroyable!

Nothing seems to please these tourists, so let’s board our virtual flight and head off to where it all began, Greece, Athens; the magnificent Acropolis. Surely here we will discover universal love and enthusiasm for this wonderful hill? Nope, of course not. And anyway, you are getting the idea… Let’s start easy. Sarah B from Australia in fairness gives what might qualify as useful tips, in saying it is hot and crowded (she visited in July- hmm) and that it closes early. Now I’ll give her that one. However she then somewhat shoots herself in the foot as a potential Michael Palin (or the Aussie equivalent) by summing it all up; ’12 euros to walk around some old ruins’. Oh well. OpusTheCat from California laments, rather repetitively, that when visiting as part of a cruise; ‘we were on a cruise and had just toured Ephesus. We were on a cruise (yes you mentioned that) and there were absolutely tons of people. Too busy for my taste’. YOU WERE ON A CRUISE! Therein, dear Opus lies the problem. Anyway, lets leave these ‘old ruins’ for as MashkaNYC from Brooklyn, New York says; ‘it’s such a waste of money, there’s nothing to see there’.

Really You Were On A Cruise And It Was Crowded?

Really You Were On A Cruise And It Was Crowded?

We could carry on this Internet tour of European attractions, indeed our friend GermanicusBerlin, might urge us to, rather than visit in person, but I can’t cope any longer. Now it must be said that admittedly all these attractions receive for the most part very very high scores. Indeed to an extent one wonders why bother being reviewer number 17774 (at the time of checking) for the Colosseum? In fact in this case ‘only’ 62 people found it ‘terrible’. But this is not the point. On a serious note, as a guide I hear time and time again people despairing over reviews they’ve received as hotel owners, chefs in restaurants or directors of attractions. The above examples we all know and can laugh at. Hopefully the ‘reviews’ of these tourists will not sway our inclination to visit. But in less obvious cases, anonymous, totally unqualified reviewers can do real damage. This is where TA and I fall out.

Take for example my favourite hotel of the 2012 season; the excellent As Janelas Verdes in Lisbon. They don’t have thousands of reviews. And one of these states; ‘I’ll take a Courtyard Marriott 10 times over this place’. My goodness I wish you would trout444, but in silence, as with this boutique, character filled 18th century, 29 room hotel, you are not comparing like for like. Another case is that of Kwaici, I think from London who wrote about Locanda Agli Angeli by Lake Garda in Italy, which has to qualify as maybe the best place I ate in 2011. Clearly demonstrating his profound ignorance of Italian food and how it should be cooked, he berates the fish for having bones (lake fish do), the suckling pig for not being crispy (you are not in Hong Kong) and the gnocchi for being soft (goodness knows how to his mind they should have been?) Patrizia the poor owner, who takes the time to respond to all criticism – a delightful lady – only has 115 review, so this idiot makes up close to one percent. This matters.

Now I do of course believe in free speech and we are all free to chose whether to follow the advice TripAdvisor provides us with. I am also convinced the power of this site has helped weed out some places that deserved it. But it is a fact that as tourists we are 3 times more likely to write after a negative experience rather than after a positive one. All I am saying is READ carefully.

Everyone Should Have The Right To Be Stupid On-line

Everyone Should Have The Right To Be Stupid On-line

We all do it. We all go to the negative reviews first. But read them. Don’t just look at the stars. If someone says a hotel ran out of hot water in 2009 and it is now 2013, that bad review remains. Does it apply to you today? If someone says the pasta was undercooked in an Italian restaurant, should that really worry you, when you have actually heard of al dente? In the UK TA was forced to remove the phrase ‘reviews you can trust’ from its website. Why? Because you can’t. They are unsubstantiated (TA claims otherwise of course) and they are certainly anonymous…

After taking my TA tour of the attractions of Europe, I had a thought. ‘Why not set up a page as a Tour Guide on the site and see what happens?’. It was not immediately obvious how to do so and indeed whether as a Tour Guide I am entitled to. However there was a listings email address to which I was encouraged to write. I did so and here was their reply…

‘mail delivery failure’…

~ by 2ndcupoftea on November 22, 2013.

5 Responses to “Advised – ‘Fools’ Tripping Around Europe”

  1. What a great, funny read. To quote “Forest Gump”……”stupid is and stupid does”. Love reading your blogs, Thomas.

    • Ha Ha, should have put that one in… Thanks for the read and the very kind comment. The only thing that matters to a ‘writer’ is that people read – so thanks again. Many hugs from Italy..

  2. Wonderful reading Thomas – and I admit to using TA, but try to get an over view rather than looking at one bad one. As you say it must be very difficult for small hotels. Just been to a hotel near Chester and asked for a change of room. They couldn’t have been more helpful and we had a lovely few days and I am so glad we gave the hotel a chance to put things right rather than moan about it later. I loved the comment about being cold up the Eiffel Tower – one of my best memories is drinking an amazing hot chocolate looking out at Paris on a freezing November day.

    • Thanks for the read and your nice comment. There is nothing wrong with using TA as you do I agree. It is just the sort of thing people need to do responsibly as it’s real people and their lives on the other side. Glad the hotel fixed things for you – did you TA them? 😉 And, could not agree more re the Eiffel Tower. What a muppet that ‘reviewer’is. Hugs from Venice.

  3. Read this before and still amused on the second read. Great insights into our sometimes silly brains and mouths. I especially loved the’12 euros to walk around some old ruins’.
    I am so grateful just to be able to travel. Your great recs on our trip in2010 with ACIS are still appreciated Thomas. Enjoy your year and hope to see you again down the road!

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