Arriving in Spain has brought me back into the world of the massive tour group, following their leader’s flag, hat or aloft umbrella like ambling cattle, looking at the sights through their viewfinders. At least some groups don’t inflict a belowing guide on everyone else – the up to date ones now have earpieces attached to receivers slung round then tourists’ necks whilst the guide mutters into a tiny microphone.
I tend to look at things quite slowly, taking my time to soak in the feel of a place and study the detail of the architecture and decoration, so I can usually wait it out until they move on and peace decends again. This gives me time to observe the tourists themselves as well.
So far, my naturalist self has noted the startling size of the sun visors worn by middle aged Japanese ladies (some of whom also wear gloves) and the fact that a group of older Spaniards is even shoutier than a class of children. I was also surprised both by the behaviour of the jostle of groups in front of the main altar in Cordoba cathedral and by my reaction to it. I may be an atheist who regards religion as dangerous superstition, but when I’m in someone’s place of worship I try to behave quietly and respectfully, as indeed the signs at the entrance to the cathedral requested. Here I found myself in the odd position of disapproving of the behaviour of Catholics (as many of them must have been) on their own turf.