For me, one of the pleasures of tourism is not just seeing the sights, but stepping in the footsteps of those who have come to see them before. I’m the kind of person who gets a kick out of visiting the Parthenon not (just) because it takes me back to the age of Pericles, but because it makes me feel I’m sharing something with Freud, or Virginia Woolf, or Jane Harrison, or whoever.
And part the fun of Mycenae, for me, is the visitors’ book at the old hotel, the Belle Hélène, where Schliemann lodged when he was excavating the site, and where you can still see the signatures of Sartre and de Beauvoir, Debussy and Henry Moore – and wonder if they came with the same expectations as you did, whether it was quite so hot or crowded for them . . . and so on. . .
What I hadn’t realised about California was that tourism had really taken off in the late nineteenth century. After the Gold Rush, the tourist industry seems to have been one way of making a living – turning any curious local feature into a ‘visitor attraction’. Nor had a realised (this is a bit shameful) that Robert Louis Stevenson had actually spent his honeymoon here in 1880 – and wrote it up in The Silverado Squatters.
It turned out that in our trip to the Californian countryside, we were indeed following in his footsteps.