Browse and bookmark: Helpful for travel?

Definitely yes. For too many reasons. But I had my doubts at some points while travelling in Europe. First, I feel, impromptu travel is more fun. When you see and inspect a place beforehand it somehow loses its charm. setting out for unknown destinations when we used to be kids was so thrilling, I still feel butterflies in my tummy whenever I think about our childhood summer trips. We used to set out without any hotel booking or fixed itinerary. Just traveler cheques and we were good to go. But that wasn’t always fun for I remember spending an entire night in Bombay looking for a hotel. Now when everything is up on internet for people to explore and inspect, nobody dares to venture out without obtaining prior information. But is that really helpful? Isn’t it confusing at times?

For example, prior to my trip to Barcelona, Paris and Berlin, I googled things up to such an extent that I had an overload of information and, at the end, I mixed things up on the spot. Between, Brandenburg Tor in Berlin and La Defence Arch in Paris I mixed up a few facts. Again, in Barcelona, I was disappointed to see Parc Guell, Gaudi’s famous tile architectural achievement (can’t really call it an achievement as it was unfinished), which was nothing but an overrated park. I was disappointed because I didn’t like what I saw inside what they call the monumental zone¬† and the rest of the park was pretty plain too. Obviously the reviews on various travel sites had immensely upped my expectations. That’s what the internet can do to you.

Again, I had googled our routes so much so that, a few minutes off the internet and we were at a loss. But coming back to the first statement, internet is definitely helpful and it has changed the face of travel like never before. When I was looking for tips on visiting Paris for the first time, I had read about thugs and con-artists and even muggers walking loose on Paris streets. So I was obviously cautious. Bags close to the bosom and no cell phone in pocket! But imagine my shock, when I experienced a different kind of conman in one of Paris metro stations. But thanks to all the research I had done, I survived this one.

It was our first day in Paris and we had just reached Porte Maillot (the point where buses from the airport arrive). The next step was to take the metro and go straight to our hotel as our hotel was just four stops away. But in front of the ticket machine, we met a man who somewhat looked Indian (may be someone from Pakistan or Bangladesh) but you can’t exactly tell. The man was standing by the ticket vending machine and when we approached the machine he flashed us a ‘may I help you smile’ and we thought he was someone from the metro authority. He looked friendly and most importantly he looked someone from my country. Such a shame! And when I told him we wanted a carnet of ten tickets he smiled and said, ‘Yes, 35 Euro for one person.’ I was kind of shocked as I had already done my research and the travel sites said a carnet of ten tickets in Paris costs about 14 Euro and this is the cheapest option to roam around the city as these tickets can be used by any number of people. for example five people can travel twice with ten tickets. When I told the man that I had read otherwise, he said it was wrong information. Still shocked but not convinced, I asked him ‘What about a ticket from one station to the next?’ The answer he gave me confirmed my doubts. 22 Euro for a single ticket is just insane and probably no place in the world charges that amount of money for public transport. Looking at my shocked face, he said, ‘Crazy right? These French people are crazy.’ Then I asked him what about buses? He said no bus service from that spot whereas I could clearly see the bus sign above his head. Whatever was his intention or the style of conning tourists in Paris, I hurried away and headed straight to another machine where a lady in Paris Metro uniform helped me to buy the carnet of tickets I was looking for. That for the exact amount I was told by the travel sites on the internet. For the first time I realized that it’s not too bad to look up for things before embarking on a trip to an entirely new place. Things can go wrong and people can misguide you. Hence, it’s better to do your own research and go about it. The best lesson learnt.

Again, at times when we didn’t have an internet connection, friendly Parisians stopped to help and let us use their phones to look up the places we were looking for even when we didn’t ask for it. The same thing happened in Berlin. A friendly guy went one step ahead. He took the navigation job very seriously and didn’t leave our side until he dropped us at our hotel. So in the end, internet is definitely a positive aspect of travel. But sometimes, it’s good to go offline and trust your instincts too. May be we will try that sometime soon.

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