Evocative names, disappointing places Mandalay. Timbuktu. Marseille. Where are the places that turned out to be better in your imagination than in real life? Budget Travel Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 3:18 PM Timbuktu (Courtesy rajarajaraja/Flickr) Budget Travel LLC, 2016

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may 31 2011

Evocative names, disappointing places

Timbuktu (Courtesy rajarajaraja/Flickr)

In his new book The Tao of Travel (which we recently touted), Paul Theroux has a list of places with names that sound better in one's imagination than in real life.

Some of Theroux's examples and his descriptions:

Timbuktu: "dust, hideous hotels, unreliable transport, freeloaders, pestering people, garbage heaps everywhere, poisonous food."

Marseille: "just a short walk from the pretty harbour are sullen neighborhoods of public housing, tenements, refugees and bewildered immigrants, with no one saying, 'Bienvenue'."

Mandalay: "an enormous grid of dusty streets occupied by dispirited and oppressed Burmese, and policed by a military tyranny."

Personally, I found Bethlehem, Pa., and Mystic, Conn., to be disappointing, given the associations in my mind with those evocative names.

What about with you? Where are the places that turned out to be better in your imagination than in real life?


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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.


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