Monday, 10 June 2013

Traveller or tourist?

There are very few times when I don't return home after a holiday (or when we have been over in France, which doesn't always count as a holiday)  without driving down the A23 to Brighton.  There comes a point along the road when we round a bend and there across the skyline dead ahead is the bold, bare line of the South Downs.  Pretty much in unison, the Old Bat and I exhale, "Aah!"  For some reason that seems to me to be inexplicable, we are always glad to see that sight, a sight that means we are getting near to home.

You might infer from the foregoing that my wife and I are home-loving birds, never happier than when we are on the inside of our own front door.  Well, yes, we are very happy living where we do, and I delight in being able to wander across the fields on the South Downs.  But to describe us as "never happier than when we are on the inside of our own front door" would be false.  We both enjoy exploring new parts as well as being thoroughly content to come back home afterwards.

I have always had itchy feet and have yearned to travel.  While I am very happy to do the tourist bit by visiting all the usual sights such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Leaning Tower in Pisa, I have always had a nagging feeling of regret when I have been in those far-flung (or not so far-flung) lands, a feeling that I am missing something.  That missing something, what would be the je ne sais quoi if it wasn't for the fact that I do very well sais quoi, concerns people.  Specifically, the people who live there.  It is all very fine and dandy to see where they live, but I want to see more; I want to see how they live.

We never manage to stay for more than a week at a time in our house in France, but over the years we have managed to feel, at least in a small way, that we are a part of the local scene.  We shop as the French do - or we try to, anyway - using the independent, local shops or the stalls in the market.  We have been lucky enough to have been invited into a neighbours' house on many occasions and have become, for a short while, a wee bit Frenchified.  We have also been lucky enough to stay in private houses in America and have again managed to imbibe a little of the culture of the land, seeing at closer than usual quarters how people live.

Of course, in western Europe - at least, in most of western Europe - as well as America and, no doubt, other places around the world, things are no so very much different from how we live in England when one considers the enormous differences between, say, the Indian or Chinese culture and ours.

But I still want to know how the other half lives even if the other half is only across the Channel.  I want to be a traveller as well as a tourist.

That is one of the benefits of the blogs that go under the umbrella of City Daily Photo.  OK, we don't really get to learn much about how people live in those cities, but they do sometimes show fascinating little bits that throw a gleam on local life.  We are - or rather, I am going off on something of a tangent here, but one of the quirky sites I like features pictures of bollards.  Take a look at Bollards of London and see for yourself.

And while on the subject of travel, here is a picture I took in Hove last week.  The Jaipur Gate stands in the grounds of Hove Museum.  Here's what the Council's web site has to say about it:
The Jaipur Gate formed the central portion of the eastern Exhibition Road entrance to the Indian art-ware court of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition held at South Kensington in 1886.  The exhibition was opened by Queen Victoria on 4 May 1886 and attracted 5.5m visitors.
The gate marked the entry to the Rajputana (now Rajasthan) section of the exhibition. The Maharaja of Jaipur paid for its construction. Although carved and assembled by Indian craftsmen, the gate is a hybrid construction designed by two Englishmen, Colonel Samuel Swinton Jacob and Surgeon-Major Thomas Holbein Hendley.
The inscription on the front, in English, Sanskrit and Latin, is the motto of the Maharajas of Jaipur ‘where virtue is, there is victory’. The gate was donated to Hove Museum in 1926 and erected in the garden.  It formed the backdrop to the visit of the current Maharaja of Jaipur in 1986 when he visited Hove to mark India’s independence celebrations.
This must be a view of the back as the inscription says nothing about virtue or victory.

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