In light of a recent visit to Florence, Italy, when the heavens opened up for the full 24 hours I was there, I realised that bad weather can have a detrimental effect on your opinion of the place you’re visiting.
I mean, let’s start with Florence, a city of art and culture and countless museums and galleries. When you add rain into the mix, those beautiful museums and galleries are completely rammed. Which really doesn’t add to the cultural experience.
And that’s if you even get in. The big attractions of Uffizi and Galleria Dell’Accademia (for Michelangelo’s David) have queues to get in no matter what the weather and have been known to be up to 4 hours wait. I mean I don’t think I would do that in glorious sunshine to be fair, but when there’s a helluva storm brewing, ain’t no way I’m sticking it out. Especially in completely impractical ballet flats…
Then there’s the outside attractions. Il Duomo and the like are totally gorgeous but again I didn’t want to queue in the rain to go in. And I feel slightly disappointed that my photos aren’t the gorgeous Instagram-worthy snaps that I wanted. There’s only so much saturation you can add to a photo, am I right?
Add to this the fact that every corner now has a street vendor trying to sell you an umbrella, and you pretty much don’t want to be outside. Especially seeing as the super-annoying tour groups are now armed with umbrellas, making them an impossible obstacle to get around.
This kind of experience will always have an effect on how you view the city. But luckily Florence is still beautiful in the rain and is famous for it’s culinary delights, so I mainly spent my time there sitting in restaurants eating the most delicious food!
Needless to say it was brilliant sunshine as I was leaving Florence…
But this encounter got me thinking about other places I have visited where my opinion has been tainted by a bad weather experience…
Washington DC, USA
I visited Washington, DC in rain so torrential that even though it’s big attraction, the Smithsonian, was indoors, I dreaded running between the museums. And other than the Smithsonian, a whole lot of the attractions are outdoors – the Lincoln memorial, the war memorials, the White House, the Capitol building… A lot of standing in the rain looking at buildings was involved.
And going up to the top of the Washington memorial to see the views of DC was definitely impacted by the bleak sea of grey that met my eyes.
Annoyingly I had also planned to watch the Symphony Orchestra at the Capitol Building, which would have been totally amazing, but after 15 minutes it was just too wet and I had to leave early. Boo.
I feel like this experience wouldn’t have been that bad had I gone back to a warm, dry and cosy hotel room. But alas, I was camping. In the rain. You heard me.
So unfortunately my opinion of Washington DC will forever be tainted by this wet and dreary experience.
I think these one or two day visits, like mine to Florence and Washington DC, are where the weather can really ruin your experience, as there’s no way to get around it. You can’t wait it out, you just have to brave it and see as much of the destination as possible.
If you have longer it isn’t so bad…
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
I visited Koh Phi Phi in Thailand as part of my Southeast Asia backpacking trip, with dreams of white sand beaches, lush tropical jungles and the scene of the iconic backpacker film, The Beach (AKA Maya Bay). I was greeted with rain once again. But this time, being an island and all, I was stranded. Ferries were no longer running in the constant storms so I literally had to wait it out. Luckily this was whilst I was bumming around Thai Islands with no concept of time so it wasn’t such a big deal that I had to spend 8 days on Koh Phi Phi. There are worse islands to be stranded on.
But it did mean that the island’s appeal was lessened by the lack of gorgeous weather. What else can you do when the beach is the main attraction? I’ll tell you what I did…
- Skyped my mum daily
- Streamed new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy in an Internet Cafe
- Uploaded travelling photos onto Facebook
- Moved upcoming flights
- Bought a kids’ scrapbook and painting set out of pure boredom
- Ate at every restaurant on the island
- Even the pirate-themed one
One day it appeared that the weather was clearing up so my travel pal and I hiked through the jungle to Long Beach on the other side of the island. Apparently this beach was kind of a big deal. Unfortunately when we got there the heavens opened once again and we had to get a longtail boat back to base.
I kept pushing back the Maya Bay visit (‘The Beach’ beach) for better weather and on the 8th day finally got to visit. It was gorgeous albeit not as blue-skied as that scene of Leo DiCaprio in the film.
But the point was that because I had plenty of time to kill it didn’t really matter that I was stranded on a desert island in rainy weather. I waited it out, made new friends who were in the same boat (although not literally) and ate a LOT of asparagus risotto in the Cosmos restaurant.
I also think it’s not so bad if you’ve prepped yourself for bad weather…
New York, USA
My first visit to New York City was on my 21st birthday in the first week of January. A great time to visit if you want cheap flights and still want a glimpse of the Christmas lights and the ice-skating at Rockerfeller Centre kind of vibes. Not so great for weather.
And this was a particularly bad winter. I like to walk everywhere when I’m travelling but when you’re Downtown and want to get to Times Square and 4 inches of snow has just fallen in the last 10 minutes… you gotta get a taxi. If you can find one.
Luckily New York is bloody gorgeous in the snow, so it didn’t massively impact my experience.
Especially seeing as I had prepared for the weather. I knew it was the bleak mid-winter and packed accordingly with hats, scarves, knitted garments of all kinds, thermals, thick socks and a variety of layers.
I mean don’t get me wrong, it was still bloody freezing at the top of the Empire State Building, but I knew what I was letting myself in for when I signed up for it.
It also helped that I had 5 days there to slot attractions in according to the weather. I did Central Park and the zoo on a particularly dry day for example and saved the National History Museum for a very cold morning (which happened to be the big ‘2-1’… I’m rock and roll on my birthday.)
Just on a side note – Uggs were very fashionable when this photo was taken… As was having no eyebrows drawn on...
Moral Of The Story
So what do we do to avoid this? Well we know the weather can have a big impact on your trip, so here’s my advice…
- Research the weather in your destination before departure
- Even if sunshine is predicted, pack at least one outfit that will cater for an unexpected shower or cold streak! (Don’t be like me with my poor red flats in Florence…)
- If you only have one day in a destination, research contingency plans accordingly so you have a back-up itinerary should the weather turn.
- If you have a poor opinion of a destination due the bad weather when you visited, try to go back in the sunshine!
The last point there is one I’m going to try to follow. New York was still amazing, and I spent long enough in Koh Phi Phi to love it even in the rain, but Florence and Washington DC are tarnished for me. I’m just going to have to go back aren’t I…. What a shame.
Has bad weather affected your opinion of a destination? Let me know your rainy travel stories!! Leave a comment below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!