London, before and now.

Tower Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge, October 2018

I haven’t been in London since 1993. And it has changed just like everywhere else. Seems more claustrophobic then I remember.  The skyline is a chessboard of old and new buildings.  A host more glass and steel structures that I like and not.

Maybe those old memories are now regulated to the depths of my subconscious.  Transformed into veiled illusions.  Snippets to be recalled for comparisons.

Last month, September marked module two in our study abroad program.  I facilitated the learning of our introduction to tourism class.  There we learned the breadth and depth of tourism, some of the most important concepts and theories.  Stressing how important it is that we in the industry craft a memorable experience.

Only a few memories stand out from my first visit to London.  A nice chap that did our

The White Tower
The White Tower

tour of the Tower.  He wasn’t one of the Beef Eaters, but a tour guide with a black bowler and black coat.  That is all I remember, except the crows and some of the tower itself.  I know I saw the crown jewels, but can’t recall individual pieces. Sparkle, nothing more.

Returning this past fall, it is like a bright shiny penny.  All new and glistening, beckoning to be claimed.  I set out for traitor’s gate, then the medieval apartments, and finally the White Tower to see the armor and examples of weaponry.  All for research and references for my writing.  And it struck me how tourist have changed.  How behavior has changed.

Everyone jockeying for that perfect position for a selfie.  Navigating through the apartments with several tour groups, wall to wall people.  I don’t remember it being this crowded last time.  Definitely not the technology.  Back then it was analog, or SLRs, no cell phones or DLSR.

This time it was about movement.  Moving quickly through the landscape, gain as much information as possible before moving on to the next.  I was caught up when I wanted to spend hours.  Hours to examine and study, both cultural assets and the people who populated the attraction.  But I couldn’t.  I couldn’t enjoy the Tower as I wanted, caught up in the flurry.  Move, move, move and move again.

Tourism has changed in the last twenty-five years.

Inside the Medieval Apartments in the Tower
Inside the Medieval Apartments in the Tower

Do tourist really see what they are looking at?  Do they know their history or the meaning behind the attraction?  Do they take the time in the place to understand and talk to the guides?  Do they appreciate what they are viewing?  How important the structure is to our cultural heritage, our past, our present and our future?  Or has these attractions come to mean something else?

That is what I cover in module 3–tourism, culture and place.  Tourism’s effect/affect on destination, the host-guest relationship and their impact on place.  Cultural tourism is one of the reasons people travel to places.  It pulls and tugs at you to make a choice, and move.  It may be the only reason.  For instance, ancestral tourism.  The want and need to find those places associated with our ancestors, our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents.  Answers the age-old question–Where do we come from?  Who are we?  What were they like?

Concepts discussed include authenticity, culture, identity, place, place attachment, place dependency, sense of self, sense of belonging, etc.  A lot to cover in just three and half weeks.  I traveled to London for two reasons, well three.  I wanted to see the city again and what it looked like now.  I wanted to visit key heritage sites for my writing research, and finally, I wanted to see the places associated with my genealogy research.  The Tower is just one because I have may or may not have a link back to William the Conqueror (apparently my 27th Great Grandfather).

So, London holds this place of interest for me now.  Or maybe it is the type of place.  Not just the destination.  Maybe my choices, my needs and wants have shifted to something more.  It happens throughout our lifetime.  I see London in a different light.  Every trip will be different because of the variety of choices.  But the mainstay for me at least is the history in one form or another.  The cultural heritage of the place.

 

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