In addition to our day trip to Toledo out of Madrid, Jen and I took a day trip to the Sintra mountains outside of Lisbon. We'll tell you more about that another time, but I mention it now because it gave me and Jen the inspiration for this post.
When Jen was planning our 2015 jaunt to within an inch of its life, she was reeeally hesitant to book any tours aside from bike tours (ironically enough for me). You see, she had been scarred by last year's ride on the hairy coo. I wasn't far behind. That day may have been the longest day of my life, and that includes the days when time differences have added on several hours to my day and those several hours are spent aboard an American aircraft.
Unlike our Scottish tour guide Uncle Jamie, our Portuguese tour guide was spectacular. He was punctual, knowledgeable, and mercifully did not breathe heavily into his microphone. However, as is wont to happen, two of our day trip mates were less than delightful. Thus I give you What Not to Do on Group Trips:
1. Don't be late. OK, I get it. This is Europe. And most times our experience on tours in Europe has been that meeting times are simply vague suggestions because the guides are all "You're on holiday!" ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ And I'll admit -- Jen and I were five minutes late to our Madrid food tour, presumably because we are only able to read maps once having consumed coffee. But usually we're hyperpunctual Type A East Coast neurotics.
On this particular tour, our guide picked us up in a van at our hotel (sweet deal). Before us he had picked up two women from Barcelona. Following us, he stopped to pick up a Brazilian couple and then finally a second Brazilian couple. This second couple are the trip mates I speak of. I mean, I just feel like if you're getting door-to-door service, the least you can do is be in the lobby on time. It's not like you got lost getting where you're supposed to be. Yet we waited for them a solid 10 minutes. (And I was not so secretly bitter that they showed up because it meant either Jen or I had to ride bitch in the middle seat in the back row of the van.)
2. Don't steal someone else's seats. Alright, so who knows what happened with this couple and why they were late to start. I didn't really give it much notice other than the riding bitch part. But I did deem them rude after the first stop. We got off the van to get group tickets at some janky castle that wasn't the main attraction yet sold tickets for the other castles (which is kind of funny...it's like staying in a hotel in Jersey to go sightseeing in Manhattan).
As I mentioned, Jen and I were in the back. The first Brazilian couple was up front with the driver. And in the middle row were the two Barcelona chicks. The second Brazilian couple were split up -- one in the second row with Barcelona, and one in the back row with us. Of course, this isn't ideal, and it wasn't their choice since they were last to be picked up. And OK, there aren't assigned seats on vacation-style group tours, but once you're in your seat, it's your seat, OK? Well, these two apparently didn't get the memo and took the Barcelona ladies' seats. Jen and I exchanged glances and glared at the back of their rude heads.
3. Don't try to beat your crippled counterpart onto the bus. You're probably thinking to yourself right now that I'm just being cranky and overreacting, but where they really showed how rude they were was how they tried to get onto the van first EVERY SINGLE TIME WE GOT OFF AND ON (which was several times). This is particularly egregious because for starters, it logistically makes no sense. Jen and I were in the back, so it makes much more sense for us to get in first so that we don't have to climb over anyone to get to the back. But secondly and more importantly, Jen was wearing her stress fracture boot and our tour guide got out a step stool for her every single time. It was for HER, not everyone else. And the tour guide (politely) chastised the lady every single time, reminding her EVERY SINGLE TIME that Jen was going to get on first. You would think one reminder would be enough, but no. HAIL TO THE BOOT.
4. Shut the fuck up unless you're the driver. And if you're Uncle Jamie, you can shut the fuck up too. As I mentioned previously, Jen and I were second on the bus, but we chose the back instead of the front for a reason. The reason is that sleep is at a premium on these trips. When I'm home, my weekdays are mostly sedentary at the office (excluding workouts), I'm in bed by 10, all I'm drinking is water, and the only people I'm talking to are named Beau and Edgar and they don't talk back. When I'm on holiday with Jen, we're running around packing in all the sightseeing, we get to bed late after a drink or three, and we don't fall asleep right away because we're usually too busy laughing like crazy people as we talk about wildly inappropriate TMI-rated shit, drunk on booze, sleep deprivation, and gummy bears (as best friends who live in different cities do).
The types of bus tours we take are not the type where you see everything from the bus. They're the type where the bus is the vehicle that gets you to where you're going. So while I'll listen to any interesting educational info the guide has to offer, once he/she is done, it's nap time (assuming said guide turns off the damn microphone). And if you're a particular Brazilian couple, I wish you'd shut the fuck up so I can sleep.
5. Don't eat smelly food. In the interest of full disclosure, at this point I'll tell you that our Brazilian couple is not guilty of this, nor are they guilty of any of the remaining offenses. But the rest of these rules we've gleaned from other trips, and nothing is worse than being stuck in a small enclosed space with someone eating tuna fish or some other strongly-smelling foodstuff. The girls on our hairy coo trip were guilty of this. Really, the only excuse you have to be eating something smelly in an enclosed space is if you're a vegetarian flying United and you risk arrest if you complain too much about your onion sandwich.
6. Don't ask a bunch of stupid questions that no one cares about. I bitched about this last year on the doomed hairy coo trip. This is along the same lines as Rule #4, and it takes me straight back to NYU with some pretentious-ass classmates asking questions just to sound smart, throwing around SAT words like it's some kind of competition. Fuck, if I never hear the word "dichotomy" again, I won't be sorry. I never understood asking questions like this. If class might end 10 minutes early, why are you prolonging it with your dumb questions?! This is much the same on group trips. Would you rather be asking silly questions on the bus or out exploring and taking silly selfies in the Hall of Mirrors at friggin Versailles? If you don't answer that one right, we can't be friends. Ask your questions on the side. The rest of us DGAF.
7. Don't push your seat back all the way if someone is behind you. This is really not that much of an issue on bus and van tours. It's really a bigger issue on planes, but I don't have anywhere else to rant about it, so here goes. Yes, you can lean your seat back. But does that mean you should? NO. NO IT DOES NOT.
Does it really make you that much more comfortable? My guess is it absolutely fucking doesn't. You know what you're signing up for when you buy a coach class ticket on any given airplane? Discomfort. Poor sleep. And a front-row preview to dystopian society after the world collapses. THAT'S what flying coach is.
Pushing your seat back two inches won't make it better. But it will make the journey of the person behind you much MUCH worse. I suppose it's acceptable to push your seat back for a short flight -- four hours or less. Although I don't really get why you would. But anything longer, and you're just a huge douche. I'm taller than the average girl, but I'm not a fucking amazon (at least not to most secure men), and my legs aren't *that* long, but you push your seat back and you're giving me bruises on my knees and making it difficult for me to use my tray table as a pillow rest.
8. Don't take a bike tour if you don't know how to ride a bike. Oops.
9. Don't pee on your fellow passengers. Jen...I'm looking at you. JK. She didn't actually do that. But she came hella close in Scotland, and threatened to do it again on the way back from Sintra. So that's two out of three. Maybe she had to pee on our Versailles bike trip too and I just didn't know because I was too busy riding my bike into parked buses.
Anything I missed? What pisses you off the most on a group trip?