THE BLOG

Why Tourists and Technology Aren't Always the Perfect Harmony

05/01/2015 15:25 GMT | Updated 07/03/2015 10:59 GMT

On my recent lovely trip to Barcelona with my boyfriend, we decided to visit the mountain monastery of Monserrat.

Now, I would not really say I am religious so I must admit there was an element of disconnection between me and the queuing up for a one-on-one and pretty awkward hand rub with the Virgin Throne statue. But I would say I am respectful which seemed to be where me and many of the other tourists differed.

There was a large, polite sign just before the monastery entrance telling visitors it was okay to take photographs inside so long as there was no flash photography; a simple request and also a valid one, since no-one wants to see a religious building turn into a paparazzi-style film premiere, do they?

I'm not so sure some people care, or are even aware. While some individuals were subtly snapping away and creating their own personal digital reminders of the unquestionably ornate beauty of the building, a frustrating amount of others were releasing huge bursts of distracting light and taking inappropriate pictures, both successfully ruining the peaceful atmosphere.

There were families taking pictures of their children clambering on statues, there was a selfie stick - which in themselves should be banned altogether - being used by a group of friends sat on one of the pews.

There was also a man who kept trying to take an arty photograph of the sunlight coming through the multicoloured stained glass windows, each time looking down confused at his camera screen presumably wondering why the image focus was on the brick wall background instead. Maybe try TURNING OFF YOUR FLASH, perhaps?

Up in the Virgin Throne room, which looks down over the altar, a girl was clearly visible filming, with flash of course, each of her friends posing with the statue. When I was up there, it was a quick look and move on so as not to disrupt the flow and allow more time for the people who really wanted it.

A couple, who I do hope knew someone sat below, began waving ridiculously out over the banister like they'd just realised they were in the background of a news report. I watched them a little while longer, expecting them to produce a 'Hello Mum!' banner any minute.

Things got even worse, though, when the all-boys choir appeared at the altar to perform. As they opened their mouths, up came the rotated mobile phone screens and massive DSLRs all emanating either a repeating or constant light.

The girl in the throne room span around, projecting her light kindly down on us in the crowd before moving it down on the choir, then back on us, then back on the choir.

One man sat a few pews in front decided to begin filming the crowd singing along, turning around and slowly panning his phone and its stupid frigging light across all the audiences' faces. I hope he caught my disgusted glare when he watched it back later.

I closed my eyes and spent a moment trying to just listen to the soothing sound of the choir and block out all the clicking and flashing, but it was genuinely difficult and it made me quite sad.

And this wasn't actually the first time during my Spanish city break that I'd slightly despaired at the combination of technology and tourists. In amongst the more traditional tour options of a human guide or an audio guide, Casa Batlló, one of Gaudi's most well-known and wonderful creations, now offers a tablet video guide.

This involves hiring a tablet and walking round the entire house with it held up in front of you looking at the virtual images of the rooms through it, rather than actually looking at the rooms themselves. Like using 'street view' when being on the actual street. And effectively seeing the exact same thing as anyone could see by image searching on their computer anywhere in the world.

All in all, these events got me thinking there really are some moments that should be seen, snapped and shared, and some that should not. Similarly, there are many advantages to living in a technologically-saturated environment, but many things remain best experienced using the good ol' fashioned five senses.

Prime examples, I found, being red wine and churros.