The first time it happened, I took it in stride. After all, if there are 16 twenty something- college going girls in a room and you announce to them that you are going away for a snow covered weekend to the Scottish highlands, it is but natural that they scream, “How Romantic,” but when normal adult people (men and women both) go gaga over holiday destinations and tell you how incredibly romantic that particular place is, you just look at them in wonder (at least I do) and think if they have lost all their marbles (or if they had any marbles to begin with)?
I remember the first time I went to Paris. I went there on a longish bank holiday weekend (those who live in UK or have lived in UK in the past know how very often you have bank holidays) and was looking forward to doing all touristy things like taking a cruise on River Seine, a walk across Avenue des Champs- Élysées and visiting Louvré Museum and Notré Dam Cathedral. Before I went there, I called my sister who was living in a shit hole called Swindon at that point in time and the minute she heard the word Paris she went into a state unadulterated glee and shrieked, “PARIS!” and went on and on about how romantic the place is and how wonderful it will be for me and maybe I will find someone to fall in love with. A friend back home literally broke down in tears and said that I have to do all things romantic on her account in Paris. I was flabbergasted at that request but I decided not to question that statement at that point. Don’t get me wrong, Paris is ok, in fact it is better than ok. It’s just not what everyone has painted it to be. But then what place turns out like its post card version with a promised dash of romance on the side?
Those of us who grew up on the staple diet of Hindi cinema in the 1990s do harbor similar romantic thoughts about the whole country of Switzerland. I mean Switzerland is a fine country if you appreciate good cheese, good chocolate, sheep, cows and United Nations, but romantic is not a word I would ever use in connection with Switzerland. In any case, if you are a student traveling on a shoestring budget, all romance will fly out of the proverbial window while you are trying to manage expenses in a city like Geneva.
Venice, perhaps, was the biggest let down of all the supposedly romantic cities. I mean everyone I know went bonkers the minute I said the word Venice. It was neither magical nor romantic. It turned out to be smelly, over priced and over crowded, in short, totally oversold to the tourists.
How in the heaven’s name can a place be romantic? A place can be beautiful, aesthetically magical and stupendously out of this world but romantic? Are people supposed to go to these romantic destinations with their loved ones only? What if they are eternally single like me? Are people supposed to fall in love with random strangers in these ‘romantic’ destinations? According to the film industries across the globe, strangers do meet and fall in love in such places, but how many people actually get to live their version of ‘Before Sunrise’ where they seek and find self-fulfillment and self-discovery through a significant other? There is nothing wrong with the idea of finding romance at unexpected places and with unexpected people but why limit that idea to a particular city only? In my opinion, it’s not the place but the people and circumstances that are romantic.
In any case, I want all my readers to answer me honestly if they have fallen in love with someone while traveling/vacationing/holidaying. It does not have to be a so called romantic place, but I would love to know if it happens outside celluloid.