A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be sitting down to dinner in Lisbon with a general manager of a hotel in Portugal, and a local tourism official. Both had never been to the US, and so they asked me a question—what is your favorite destination in your big old US of A?
This is a daunting question, but a good one. I thought back about the people from overseas I have met who told me about their experiences traveling to the US. They inevitably went to New York City, and of course, they went to Las Vegas, and many of them went to San Francisco. But few of these travelers ever extolled the virtues of my little part of the country, New England, nor did any of them at all talk about seeing the Dakotas, or the Deep South, or other out of the way unheralded places like Montana, or Arkansas.
It’s a shame that only the big names get brought up when people from other countries talk about the US. They are indeed fascinated by our large country but as I sat with the young and upwardly mobile pair of gentlemen in Portugal, I knew that neither of them would see these less ‘sexy’ destinations. They would instead fly over here, perhaps for a big business meeting, and see Times Square in NYC.
They’d see the Empire State Building, and then they’d go out to LaGuardia and fly to Las Vegas or Los Angeles. Their travels would thus include some of the world’s largest and most imposing hotels, like the Venetian, with its impressive 8400 rooms, and maybe along the way they’d see the imposing MGM Grand, with more than 5500 rooms. They would fly over the majority of our country in search of the top sites, like Vegas.
“That’s more rooms than in all of Coimbra and Lisbon!” they exclaimed when I told them about the size of the Venetian. But would they ever get to know the beauty of an October afternoon in the Berkshires? Would they hear the sweet sounds that come from the music of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at its summer home in Lenox, Tanglewood?
Would they get that incredible rush unlike anything else in sports you get when you walk up the ramp and see Fenway Park and the Green Monster in all its summer glory? Or how about that delicious seafood blast you get when you suck down a little neck clam watching the boats go by in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard Massachusetts?
No. More likely, they’d get to know the fake Venice, Paris, New York City, and Egypt that is Las Vegas. Maybe they would also enjoy traveling to Los Angeles and riding on the 405, when it’s not filled with cars in a traffic jam. They’d see New York, but they would miss a lot of this great land too.
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