04 November 2013

The Comfort Tour

So due to visa restrictions in Russia when we traveled there earlier this year, we had to sign up for a tour. We were coming off of a busy season of life and didn't want a high speed pressure filled event, so we signed up for "comfort class" tour.

The group was small and consisted of those who'd past 70  -- and us! I don't know what I expected but not the senior citizen tour.

An old trucker and his wife from Texas. He was rambunctious and couldn't hear and she repeated things for him. He had his wallet stolen at the Peter and Paul Fortress in the line for the turnstile, but other than pride and a few choice words, no damage done. He only brought cash in his wallet from the boat since he was worried about pickpockets. I had to wonder if you didn't bring your credit card on land to buy foreign things, why did you have it with you at all? It was a strategy that paid off for him though. 
Two delightful Vietnamese sisters retired and living in California had an amazing sense of humor and traveled without their significant others. One of them spilled her water bottle as we were getting on the mini-bus and was very adamant that everyone would know she didn't pee.
A retired Canadian couple born in the UK but living in Ottawa had very British accents and almost felt like a comic sketch of a British couple. He thought everywhere was unsafe but had had to travel with a "government office" during his working days. He fancied himself an expert on everything and liked waxing eloquent on it. He was a major pro-picture taker.
A quiet tall older couple from Minnesota or the Dakotas were a matched set of tallness.  She was friendly; he didn't talk. I found myself standing by him on the 5 minute escalator ride to the bottom of the St. Petersburg metro station. It was dramatically long. He was so overcome he spoke, "You'd have to leave for work early." Then at the bottom of the long escalator was a booth with a guard sitting in it. "That'd be easy work." I guess he thought about work.

There was one other couple and they were an exact match to this northern pair where one was friendly and one didn't talk. For the life of me I couldn't keep them straight. Except one fella wore a fishing cap.
While my mother has told me that I'm middle aged, I am not even beginning to be able to imagine the word retirement, so this was not my normal social set. It was almost like any group of quirky people but the quirks seem to be on steroids. Maybe our oddities increase as we get older? Is it harder to hold in our natural instincts of telling all you know or announcing loudly how bad the food or prices might be? I just don't know, not yet anyway.

 One thing that was unexpected for my husband and myself was that we felt responsible for all these people. I'm not sure if it is that we are used to living overseas and often are taking others around to see sites. We perhaps are in the habit of watching over folks. On this day, of course, we'd all paid dearly for a tour guide. She was a nice English teacher and probably around our age.

Nevertheless, my husband and I were tech support for the earphone technology, along with the tour guide, checking channels and volume buttons. We would hang back if we noticed one of the pack falling behind. We were cautioning them about pickpockets when we went into the metro station. We were definitely in mother hen mode even though it wasn't our job.

The cute thing is when we arrived late the first day (see earlier post) they were all worried if we were okay especially those from the north that must have skipped breakfast knowing the passport lines were long. It was our first time, how were we to know?

We compared notes with some younger people on the normal-non-comfort tours. It sounded miserable. They were road marched past a few more sites than us but never allowed to stop or ask questions. It sounded like a race to run past famous monuments, plus that tour was made up of three full sized bus loads of people and we were only 12. We could chat with our tour guide and ask for random potty stops while the big tour people did not have these luxuries. I was thrilled we had taken the comfort tour and had been able to enjoy the sites. To tell the truth, the comfort tour managed to wear me out anyway.


  1. How fun for you guys! I've always wanted to visit Russia. Thanks for the run down :-)

  2. The comfort tour certainly sounds better than the other tours.

    I think people become more exaggerated versions of themselves as they age because they care less and less what other people think (or they don't pick up on feedback as readily). It sounds like everyone in your group would have been a blast to just observe.