People tend to believe a travel writer spends his life sprawled in a beachside hammock killing time between cocktails and seafood suppers. I wish!
However behind the juicy bits in the magazine spreads are a thousand cuttings on the floor of this writer’s memory; Upset stomachs, tedious meetings with hotel managers, missed buses, missing visas, even a lost passport. Interviews with dull curators/organisers, aching feet, hire cars left in forgotten car parks or other unfamiliar places.
On one memorable occasion not only could I not remember the maker of my mislaid hire car but I honestly had no recollection of its colour and of course I had safely locked my hire agreement in the glove box.
Most assignments only allow a few days stay and often ones imagination comes into play in order to give the editor what he wants. Readers don’t want to hear of a nightmare 14 hour flight on board an old badly maintained plane that had been hired at the last minute from some East African airline as a replacement for the expected late model owned by a national airline and which was now unavailable due to some fairly trifling reason.
14 hours waiting for engine failure or other major malfunction, as without warning and on a regular basis one of the ill fitting overhead locker doors crashed open, giving both passengers and cabin crew near heart failure.
Readers don’t wish to read of the stinking sewage smell emanating from the Venice waterways. My interesting tale of being mugged on the Barcelona Metro was edited out, as was the tale of the ‘lookie-lookie’ hawkers being beaten up with batons by Berlusconi’s pseudo-military police, outside Milan railway station.
I had just published my book ‘Travels with my Camera’ when I was sent to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps and found that I was so badly affected by the horror that I was unable to take a single photograph. I added a few stock photograph compliments of Google and my editor thought I had captured the real atmosphere of the place.
When I got to see the much vaunted ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’ Alexandria it was after the fall of Hosni Mubarak and it had obviously fallen on hard times. The once beautiful waterfront promenade is now tatty, rubbish strewn and badly overdeveloped. Tourists are constantly pestered and bothered by hawkers and other bottom-feeders. I know that I have criticised Berlusconi’s solution to the street hawkers but the lowlife in Alex seems to be about 80% of the population.
My first visit to Alexandria was during and after the Suez crisis. It looked better then than on my last visit. Alexandria appears to have sunk into apathy. Beggars proliferate in its dirty streets and the population looks as though it could do with a good bath. Gone are the perfumes of Arabia, the town had a pervading smell of tear gas after the many street riots in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood – Holiday destination it isn’t. As usual this wasn’t what my editor wanted to hear, so I spoke only of the classical Alexandria which lies just off the coast. Again it wasn’t worth the trip I could have written an article plagiarising Google.
Another long haul flight to experience a three day stay during which I experienced a hurricane followed by near unbreathable humidity and I finally decided that I was too old to be doing this. I will pass on my few pearls of wisdom – Don’t believe everything that you read. “Pass the sand please”; I want to sprinkle it over my food to bring back memories of my travels!