Using the touristy on-and-off bus in Madrid, Seville and Barcelona is a great way to tie a city up in a big red bow in two hours flat, or less. A citywide sweep of historic sites appeals to my American mentality. Give me the big picture right now, and then I’ll decide where I will lollygag for half an hour. While Europeans luxuriate in their six-week “holidays,” I, a California-to Massachusetts transplant, expect a full-immersion, five-city Spanish experience in 14 days, and yet many at home would say, “Wow, you were gone a really long time.”
Comparatively speaking, Americans are in and out in a flash and I wonder if that’s the reason foreign audio guides do not feature U.S. narrators. Listen to most recorded guides through palaces, museums, or historic sites and you won’t hear it in an American accent. Frankly, I don’t think we have one but my British-born husband says, “Oh, yes you do.” I first noticed it on the tour buses. Gosh, I love them. You hop off whenever you feel like it, say, at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and then hop back on in search of a likely tapas eatery.
Tour bus riders get an audio earpiece, through which one learns about sites in a native tongue. Well, sort of. Each language is indicated by its country’s flag, and what a variety! French, German, Chinese, Spanish, and Italian. To hear English, hit the British flag. A clipped British voice explains El Palacio Real (The Royal Palace) in Madrid.
That plummy and proper accent shouldn’t be an issue. After all, English is English. Or is it? At a lookout point in Barcelona, the voice said, “This spot allows for splendid photographs we assure you.” Americans don’t talk like that. In Seville the Casa de Pilatos, a 14th century palace, is designed to look like the ancient home of Pontius Pilate.
The clipped British voice uses phrases like “during his transitory peregrinations.” I need American-speak, as in “during his short journeys on foot.” I asked my husband, “Why do you guys have to talk like that?” David said, “To sound more intelligent?” Well, it does lend more “atmosphere” to our peregrinations. An English accent flavors the travel experience with a hint of romance, something rather upper crust and foreign. We’re riding a bus, but somehow it’s all so Downton Abbey. After all, only a British accent could make this sound so dashing, “Here you can make the most of your book of discount vouchers.” Would you like some American accent training? Or do you think a British accent elevates everything?