“Look. I have a strategy. Why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you don’t get disappointed.”
― Patricia McCormick, Cut
Easier said than done, right? Especially when it comes to traveling. You spend weeks, months, even years, collecting pictures of exotic locales and resplendent monuments, only to realize when you get there that the pictures, while beautiful, were in no way the reality you are now faced with. All that you had dreamed about while you were supposed to be answering that email from your boss was lost behind the new dark tint of your no longer rose-colored glasses.
While we spend our time pinning, filtering photographs, and sharing travel stories (I say “we” because, hey, I’m totally guilty of this as well), we may let other, possibly more relevant information, get lost in translation. My travel boards on Pinterest certainly don’t reveal graffiti-laden monuments and overflowing trash bins, nor do they properly convey the smell of a crowded city on a stiflingly hot summer day, or the elbow to the ribs you get while trying to view the same 5′ x 5′ framed masterpiece as 3,500 other people.
And, while it may seem like I’m Debbie Downer-ing all over this post, I promise I’m just trying to give myself a pep-talk and I thought, hey, others may need this smack on the back of the head too! You see, I had *gasp* my first very disappointing travel experience recently, and at the end of the day I was angry, irritable, and resentful that I had wasted the time and money to get there.
While rocking in the corner and repeating to myself “I am not alone,” I ran across a fantastic post from the husband and wife duo of Adam and Hannah over at über-popular travel blog Getting Stamped. Asking a large handful of their travel-blogger friends for their most disappointing travel experiences, Adam and Hannah were able to put together a list of helpfully honest and relevant mini-reviews for the realistic traveler (read the full post here – it’s awesome!). If this roundtable taught me anything (and it did – never going to Brussels), it’s that I not only need to research the places I want to see, but also pay attention to the things about them that I need to see in order to effectively counter-attack any potential discouraging situations.
If only I had that sage wisdom before I went to Lugano, Switzerland, a place surprisingly not on Getting Stamped’s list (probably because I’m the only person ever who was like, “hey, guys, let’s go to Lugano, it looks awesome”).
I suppose Lugano could be a lovely place to retreat for the summer if you have a lot of money and time to spend. The hotels on the lake are grand, the restaurants expensive, and the water sparkling. But for the average tourist who will spend only a day in the small lakeside city, it offers very little. The majority of the food that is affordable, is mediocre and unfortunately, as with any new place, you may very well choose wrong. One could say that the biggest attraction besides the lake and its promenade is the shopping. Luxury stores abound here, and while the Swiss Franc exchange rate between either the U.S. Dollar or the Euro is not astronomically high right now, Switzerland has historically been an expensive country (the most expensive in all of Europe according to one 2014 report). The casino, particularly for those who are familiar with U.S. casinos, is more than a little disappointing and the sidewalk cafes with lake views either cater directly to you with a tourist menu (pictures included – RUN!), or don’t have what you want at all. You would think a fully stocked bar in a luxury lakeside resort city would be able to make a Champagne cocktail.
Lunch in Lugano ‖ Cold, bland pasta with congealed sauce ‖ 22 Euro
I can’t very well speak for the whole of Lugano, or the other small towns and mountain-top retreats surrounding Lake Lugano, but I can say that my overall impression was further solidified by my experience there (or lack thereof).
There were a couple of things I did enjoy in Lugano, however, including visiting the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli. The church, which began construction in 1499, has one of the most stunning frescoes I have ever seen, and the most famous of the Renaissance frescoes in all of Switzerland: Passion and Crucifixion by, Bernardino Luini, 1529.
Another beautiful church, Chiesa di San Rocco, is at the opposite end of the small center part of the city, so you can enjoy a nice walk from one side to the other and visit both. Walk along the lakeside promenade as it is in shade during the hottest part of the day and offers beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
It’s hard not to be disappointed when the reality doesn’t live up to the expectation…in any situation. But, it is a chance to learn something. Wisdom in knowing, and more importantly (and just a tad harder) accepting, that the water isn’t always clear and warm, you may have a less than mediocre meal, and your favorite painting in person may be underwhelming, will give your travel glasses back their bold rose-colored hue.
And if all else fails…there’s always wine.
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