How many stupid questions can tourists ask?

Written by admin on August 18, 2009 – 5:00 pm -

English Heritage, a group that exists to protect and promote England’s historic environment and ensure that its past is researched and understood, recently released a list of the most embarrassing questions asked by visitors to the country’s historic sites. The worst is an unwitting insult to one of Britain’s most somber monarchs Queen Victoria.

A young visitor to Queen Victoria’s summer palace, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, was told that she had nine children and asked: if they all have the same dad? Come to think of it, in this day and age, it seems as if it’s a perfectly valid question.

Another visitor seemed disappointed when he learned the lavishly decorated building was once home to a Queen and not the current residence of rock star Ozzy Osbourne and his television presenter wife Sharon.

When visiting Siem Reap and touring the incredible temples at Angkor Wat, I was horrified to hear an American teenager asking if there had ever been a war there and was the U.S. involved? Where has our education system gone wrong and why didn’t he study up before traveling from Cleveland to Cambodia? My only hope was the visit inspired him to study that era of history.

But it’s not only students or young people who ask incredibly dumb questions. My mailbox is flooded with questions from people asking if Paris hotel rooms have their own bathrooms or is the food safe to eat in the countryside? Skip the questions about whether or not the water is safe to drink in France. That’s a valid question when it comes to developing countries as well as parts of the U.S.

One friend reported that when she was taking a tour of Rome’s Coliseum, one of the members of the group asked if it were the stage set for Ben-Hur? Duh? And no, Italians don’t eat only spaghetti.

Traveling is and should be educational and some people learn as they go. But reading this article made me wonder what are the craziest questions you’ve heard, how have you reacted and have you made any faux pas?

And no, Abe Lincoln was not that large when he was alive. The memorial on Washington’s National Mall wasn’t built to scale.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

Photo Kevin Burkett, Flickr Creative Commons

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