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April 18, 2011

Monty Python on the irritations of package tourism

A 1972 Monty Python sketch called “Travel Agent” contains a classic scene where the Eric Idle character goes on an over-the-top rant about package tourism, at the expense of Michael Palin’s travel-agent character. Many of the references are dated now — and the whole scene is drenched in hyperbole — but many of the frustrations of overly structured group-travel still ring true. Here’s the rant in full:

“What’s the point of going abroad if you’re just another tourist carted around in buses surrounded by sweaty mindless oafs from Kettering and Coventry in their cloth caps and their cardigans and their transistor radios and their Sunday Mirrors, complaining about the tea — “Oh they don’t make it properly here, do they, not like at home” — and stopping at Majorcan bodegas selling fish and chips and Watney’s Red Barrel and calamares and two-veg and sitting in their cotton frocks squirting Timothy White’s suncream all over their puffy raw swollen purulent flesh ‘cos they “overdid it on the first day.” And being herded into endless Hotel Miramars and Bellvueses and Continentals with their modern international luxury roomettes and draught Red Barrel and swimming pools full of fat German businessmen pretending they’re acrobats forming pyramids and frightening the children and barging into queues and if you’re not at your table spot on seven you miss the bowl of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, the first item on the menu of International Cuisine, and every Thursday night the hotel has a bloody cabaret in the bar, featuring a tiny emaciated dago with nine-inch hips and some bloated fat tart with her hair brylcreemed down and a big arse presenting “Flamenco for Foreigners.” And adenoidal typists from Birmingham with flabby white legs and diarrhea trying to pick up hairy bandy-legged wop waiters called Manuel and once a week there’s an excursion to the local Roman remains to buy cherryade and melted ice cream and bleeding Watney’s Red Barrel and one evening you visit the so called typical restaurant with local color and atmosphere and you sit next to a party from Rhyl who keep singing “Torremolinos, torremolinos” and complaining about the food — “It’s so greasy isn’t it?” — and you get cornered by some drunken greengrocer from Luton with an Instamatic camera and Dr. Scholl sandals and last Tuesday’s Daily Express and he drones on and on about how Mr. Smith should be running this country and how many languages Enoch Powell can speak and then he throws up over the Cuba Libres. And sending tinted postcards, of places they don’t realize they haven’t even visited, to: “All at number 22, weather wonderful, our room is marked with an ‘X’. Food very greasy but we’ve found a charming little local place hidden away in the back streets where they serve Watney’s Red Barrel and cheese and onion crisps and the accordionist plays ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner’.” And spending four days on the tarmac at Luton airport on a five-day package tour with nothing to eat but dried BEA-type sandwiches and you can’t even get a drink of Watney’s Red Barrel because you’re still in England and the bloody bar closes every time you’re thirsty and there’s nowhere to sleep and the kids are crying and vomiting and breaking the plastic ash-trays and they keep telling you it’ll only be another hour although your plane is still in Iceland and has to take some Swedes to Yugoslavia before it can load you up at 3 a.m. in the bloody morning and you sit on the tarmac till six because of “unforeseen difficulties”, i.e. the permanent strike of Air Traffic Control in Paris — and nobody can go to the lavatory until you take off at 8, and when you get to Malaga airport everybody’s swallowing “enterovioform” and queuing for the toilets and queuing for the armed customs officers, and queuing for the bloody bus that isn’t there to take you to the hotel that hasn’t yet been finished. And when you finally get to the half-built Algerian ruin called the Hotel del Sol by paying half your holiday money to a licensed bandit in a taxi you find there’s no water in the pool, there’s no water in the taps, there’s no water in the bog and there’s only a bleeding lizard in the bidet. And half the rooms are double booked and you can’t sleep anyway because of the permanent twenty-four-hour drilling of the foundations of the hotel next door — and you’re plagued by appalling apprentice chemists from Ealing pretending to be hippies, and middle-class stockbrokers’ wives busily buying identical holiday villas in suburban development plots just like Esher, in case the Labour government gets in again, and fat American matrons with sloppy-buttocks and Hawaiian-patterned ski pants looking for any mulatto male who can keep it up long enough when they finally let it all flop out. And the Spanish Tourist Board promises you that the raging cholera epidemic is merely a case of mild Spanish tummy, like the previous outbreak of Spanish tummy in 1660 which killed half London and decimated Europe — and meanwhile the bloody Guardia are busy arresting sixteen-year-olds for kissing in the streets and shooting anyone under nineteen who doesn’t like Franco. And then on the last day in the airport lounge everyone’s comparing sunburns, drinking Nasty Spumante, buying cartons of duty free “cigarillos” and using up their last pesetas on horrid dolls in Spanish National costume and awful straw donkeys and bullfight posters with your name on “Ordoney, El Cordobes and Brian Pules of Norwich” and 3-D pictures of the Pope and Kennedy and Franco, and everybody’s talking about coming again next year and you swear you never will although there you are tumbling bleary-eyed out of a tourist-tight antique Iberian airplane…”

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Category: Europe, Hostels/Hotels, Travel Quote of the Day, Travel Video


One Response to “Monty Python on the irritations of package tourism”

  1. Monty Python on the irritations of package tourism | Travel Guide And Holiday Says:

    [...] Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog Related Posts:Words to live by: travel quotes10 small strategies that will improve your journeyWomen of the world, according to Sunday TribuneFind the balance between work and lifeThe Amazing Adventures of Baby Cole [...]

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