Lines? What lines?
We Americans spend a lot of time trying to emulate European fashion and architecture and engage in a futile pursuit of that certain JE NE SAIS QUOI – which translated means: mad scarf tying skills. However, after spring break in Europe, I feel like I owe Walt Disney and Al Gore a hug for their influence on our European neighbors, and I am not talking about Mickey Mouse and global warming.
I am talking about the magic of FastPasses and the Internet that allows tourists to sail past the long lines that blot the facades of Europe’s most popular sights. Thanks to online booking and brilliant discount passes,
Europe has its priorities, or rather “Priorité Passes,” straight. A little research and a lot of Rick Steves made me look like a genius to the Worst Kids in the World as we bypassed breathtakingly long queues throughout England, France and Italy. Online reservations saved us from a windy wait at the Millennium Eye and on a damp Tuesday morning we breezed into the first and only operating elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower despite the “technical incident” and renovations that had closed the other three.
Guilt and empathy caused me to avoid eye contact with the unlucky hordes trapped behind the metal crowd-control fences zigzagging wearily toward the ticket office. I couldn’t believe that so many people were wasting precious vacation time standing in line. I will admit my planning was not perfect, but isn’t travel all about being flexible and open to new experiences?
We learned that when a FastPass is not available, a little fast talk might do the trick. Shortly after arriving in Paris we “popped over” to the Centre Pompidou to see a Matisse Exhibition before we had purchased tourist gold, aka the Paris Museum Pass. Standing in line for hours to purchase a pass that would allow us to skip the lines seemed silly, so with the winked consent of the security guard I boldly rode the dedicated restaurant elevator escaping one floor shy of the Georges Restaurant in order to wind my way back through the museum to the main floor ticket office and back out the front door, much to the relief of six soggy family members who then happily joined the priority line.
Two days later after breezing past the queue at the Louvre, we wandered toward Notre Dame Cathedral during a sunny lunchtime; we stumbled upon a crowd gathered outside La Saint Chapelle, a stunning Gothic chapel ringed with amazing stained glass windows dating back to the 13th century. Already spoiled by our museum pass, I assumed we would have line jumping privileges here, too, so I dragged my reluctant family to the empty and unmarked line parallel to the unmoving line of people waiting. They huddled in a cold, dark tunnel while I used terrible high school French to struggle through a discussion with two uniformed men manning a TSA worthy X-ray machine. I am not 100 percent positive what I said or how I said it, and I definitely have no idea what those nice young men were saying to me, but I can tell you that standing alone inside Sainte Chapelle when it is closed to tourists at lunchtime is a truly religious experience.
By the time we arrived in Venice and Rome, this line skipping thing had become routine, in fact the Worst Kids in the World suffered moral affront at the mere thought of queue. At Rome’s famed Coliseum our Roma Pass took us straight in, and for 8 euros more, an archaeologist took us underground, behind locked gates to walk in the footsteps of ancient gladiators. At the Vatican, we were steadfastly unremorseful about our reservations that took us past long lines and then taking a left at the Sistine Chapel to enter St Peter’s Basilica “through the back door.”
After our visit, we exited the church through the front door where we were awestruck by the massive crowd of people waiting to enter. Of course we paused to bless Rick Steves in our own special way, because he is indeed our travel Saint. Please don’t tell the Pope.
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