There Are Worse Things Than Being A Tourist


The Palace of Versailles, France

“But I was just explaining the subtleties of the brass and tortoise shell…”

“It is forbidden, especially in English. We have paid guides and audioguides for that sort of thing, Mademoiselle. I must ask you and your party to leave.”

The museum guard then called reinforcements and escorted Julia-Sophie Dansen and her American friends out of Sun King’s grand apartments and the Palace of Versailles.

Once outside, the specialist in 18th century French art and curator of one of Amsterdam’s most prestigious art museums whirled back toward the Palace entrance and at the retreating guards. “You arrogant pricks. The French are worse than the American President!”

They could see the guard’s stiffen and momentarily slow their pace but then they re-entered the museum.

“Don’t you think that’s a little harsh, Julia-Sophie?” Henry gently tried to calm his host.

“They can’t do this to me. I’ll burn them alive on twitter!”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google maps street image and location and use it to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to The Palace of Versailles in France. This location has a very rich history making the selection of a specific topic very difficult. Of course I thought of some sort of historical piece, maybe involving time travel, but I’ve done that so many times before.

Then I looked up recent news articles about the location and hit the jackpot.

I decided to base my tale on a news story published on 31 October 2017 titled Versailles Palace accused of throwing out art historian for ‘commenting on works in English’ to friends .

It seems that Marie-Noëlle Grison, a specialist in 18th century French art and junior curator of graphic arts at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum was visiting the Sun King’s grand apartments with three “American friends” and was explaining to them the subtleties of brass and tortoise shell marquetry by André-Charles Boulle, the King’s illustrious furniture maker. A guard stopped her saying it was “forbidden” for her to do so stating that there are “guides and audioguides for that” (Oh, and other museums and similar establishments in France are guilty of similar behavior according to the story).

He then called security and had Grison and her party ejected (I made up the part about her yelling at them afterward).

This whole thing seems pretty unreasonable from my rather limited American perspective but apparently on top of the general admission, the museum charges €7 (£6) per person for a group guide and a private guide costs €15 per person, so perhaps this is a matter of economics and not just whether or not Grison was disturbing other museum patrons.

That seems kind of greedy and certainly arrogant to me, so I thought I’d have a little fun teasing the French along with Donald Trump just a bit. The news article certainly did nothing to improve my perception of the French but then again, the average French person might be quite different from museum guards (I can only hope).

By the way, this did create a small social media storm on twitter and the museum eventually offered an apology, though from my point of view, a rather half-hearted one. Go figure.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to

38 thoughts on “There Are Worse Things Than Being A Tourist

  1. So, worse than being a tourist is being a knowledgeable one who insists on the inalienable human right to speak one’s mind or share one’s knowledge (albeit quietly in consideration of others who must share the space). Of all the nerve!

    However, there exists a technological solution nowadays to bypass even the most arrogant guard. The art specialist could type her explanation into her phone as a twitter or facebook entry that her friends could read on their own phones. No one would know if they were simply reviewing messages, checking the weather or some other internet info, or perhaps even accessing the museum’s own website for information. There are apps that would relay voice to the group just as readily, though the only advantage might be that the communication would be disguised as a recording of personal observations by one person, while her friends would appear to be receiving calls so quietly that they could never be accused of disturbing someone nearby. Even the phones themselves would not be visible if all were using unobtrusive Bluetooth earpiece microphones. But first one must know in advance that such technology will be needed to counter the arrogant denial of a simple human liberty by museum attendants. One used to find that degree of repression only on the eastern side of the “Iron Curtain”. One would not expect to find it in the nation of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”.


    • I suppose they could just text each other as an alternative, but it seems so unreasonable. As long as they weren’t disturbing other patrons, why not let them talk among themselves. After all, the host was an art expert and I seriously doubt that they would be depriving the museum of too much income by not hiring a guide.

      My title is meant to suggest that being an arrogant museum employee is worse than being a tourist, American or otherwise.


    • A note: I wasn’t referring to gag orders meant to allow for fair trials… and complying with proper rules and laws rather than perverse ways out of normal or ethical accountability (which evasion NDAs are are used to obtain). What I mean is the abusive treatment by people who can get away with it of those with less power or money such that the intent is to sidestep trial or consequence for misdeeds (ranging from mild to malevolent and violent) and diminish access to the freedom and respect we see as fitting in our country (the U.S.).

      [Also: I was commenting on a statement as to being, ostensibly, “worse” that was embedded within your story… and was not responding to the title of the story so much (even if your composition of that line was your own imagined connection to the sentiment of the title) — I wasn’t comparing tourists with anything, not saying something about them being bad (like your tongue-in-cheek header, James). Instead, I was making a comparison along the substance of the words from your female main character.]


      • My apology; I have to clarify further.

        This is the main character’s statement: {[The …] curator of one of Amsterdam’s most prestigious art museums whirled back toward the Palace entrance and at the retreating guards.} “You arrogant pricks. The French are worse than the American President!”

        So, I was saying NDAs are worse than what those guards had done.


  2. completely fascinating – nice discovery of the recent news article (which is another reason I love blogging – I find out some random stuff)
    and love the way you used this real life incident to make a story (excellent ending about twitter – even without the connection to the prez…. that would have been a potent ending cos so many people now have a voice thanks to twitter – albeit limited – but still can help with certain issues.
    and I think back int he day this would have warranted a law suit (getting kicked out) are we becoming less litigious?


    • Gee, prior… — Who is the “we” to whom you refer in asking “… are we becoming less litigious?” If I understood correctly, we have a Dutch academic with some American friends evicted from a French museum. To what court would you bring a case, and against whom? Perhaps the Dutch academic might have standing in a French court, as an EU citizen, but I suspect the American tourists would barely be considered witnesses, let alone plaintiffs. Then there are the questions about obtaining a French lawyer, and identifying aspects of French law that could be argued as breached. Regrettably, US standards of free speech do not apply in France. An overzealous guard misjudging a situation to which an existing rule can be applied is not likely to receive even a reprimand. He is more likely to be commended for doing his job and defending French standards of behavior in a cultural landmark. One would really have to have “money to burn” if considering litigating something like this which appeals to French pride in the face of foreigner’s criticism. Generally it is advisable not to “spit into the wind”, to have it blown back into one’s own face, no matter how outraged or litigious one may feel.

      Liked by 2 people

      • hm – I was wondering if we were less litigious because it is so litigious – for example – maybe walking in we have to sign a waver before we get admittance- then signs on the doors say “if you fall we are not liable”
        and maybe there are small little notes on desks that say “our employees have the right to act in any way they deem necessary”
        like recently some airline stewards removed a man and it was rather abrupt- and ahhhh – in the fine print they were allowed to make such on the spot calls of removal.


  3. Museums are places of history. Places of purported beauty (maybe). They are out past, which we are meant to learn from. The irony of human natures extenuated by culture not learning really sines in this story, James. Thanks for posting.


  4. It is the case, PL, that Trump is more likely to call women pigs than cows. So, you can work your way around it that way. He also indicated (as his selected way of diminishment in the moment) that the woman he saw as his Miss Piggy (not the only one he’s referred to as a pig) was in a pornographic movie — when she was not and it turns out he was. He is also proud of or in-your-face about being on the front of Playboy (the magazine), while religious leaders who have pulled people along with the Republican Party for decades have posed for photo shoots with him next to that cover on his wall. For people who have spoken of women and marriage as sacred…

    … yeah, Trump has been among those tearing down those values for a long time; and he continues.

    And this is supposed to be a good thing? In a way, sure. Why not pull off the sharade and be openly all about anyone who appears to be on top, richer, more powerful? Double down on the goals of inequality — both of the sexes and of income and wealth generally. That’s what they’ve really been after all along.

    By the way, I suppose I should have given you a “lesson” on the the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes when you couldn’t abide the reference without ‘splainin’ that the U.S. doesn’t have an emperor.

    Yet… now (as before) you are defending a man who calls free speech into question on a regular basis and endangers almost any connection to reality and facts in the minds of his base.



    Donald Trump[‘s] … face has been synonymous with the entire Miss Universe organization (which owns Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and more) for many, many years.


    However, there was no court date. Just two months later [September of 2015, during the primary season after his saying outrageous things], Trump sold Miss USA to WME/IMG, who had previously helped produce the pageants and now own it outright. And with this change comes another change in network, as the 2016 Miss USA pageant will air on FOX … like the 2015 Miss Universe pageant did.

    CNN reporting on Miss USA:
    …. to the point where it was “the dirtiest I felt in my entire life.”

    Samantha Holvey, the 2006 Miss North Carolina, told CNN that during an event in New York City in the month before the pageant, Trump personally inspected each of the contestants.

    “He would step in front of each girl and look you over from head to toe like we were just meat, we were just sexual objects, that we were not people,” Holvey said. …

    As a 20-year-old attending a private Southern Baptist college, she said she was not prepared for what she experienced before and during the pageant. She recalled private parties where the contestants mingled with “old, rich drunk guys ogling all over us.”

    [Later, he went backstage and, from there, “proceeded to a doorway that led into the dressing room where … contestants were getting ready, she said.” ]

    At the time, she said, she told her mother what was going on. …


    “I thought it was entirely inappropriate,” Holvey said. “… I was disgusted by the entire thing. I had no desire to win when I understood what it was all about.”

    In later years, other contestants also said Trump behaved inappropriately.

    Prior to the preliminary competition in the 2012 pageant, contestants remembered them parading before Trump and then meeting him onstage.

    “A few nights before the preliminary show, they kicked everyone out and they wanted us to do just a runway show for Donald Trump,” said a contestant, who asked not to be identified by name because she continues to volunteer at pageants. “We had to literally parade in front of him.”

    A contestant in the 2013 Miss USA pageant was also critical of Trump’s behavior.

    In a Facebook post earlier this year, Miss Washington Cassandra Searles wrote, “Do y’all remember that one time we had to do our own stage introductions but this one guy treated us like cattle and made us do it again because we didn’t look him in the eyes? Do you also remember when he then proceeded to have us lined up so he could get a closer look at his property?”

    Searles could not be reached for comment.

    CNN reported last week that Trump told radio host Howard Stern in 2005 that he would “go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it.”

    “You know, the dresses. ‘Is everyone OK?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so, I sort of get away with things like that. But no, I’ve been very good,” Trump said. {If you listen to his voice, he’s gross. Apparently that makes him more attractive to “certain” people (as in higher percentages of Evangelicals, etc.).}


  6. Thinking back to Trump posing people [social conservatives, of whom he claims to be] in front of a magazine conservatives have railed against on and on to cynically gain their own credibility and steer the public, while Trump instead participated in the magazine and it’s movies (but of course does also cynically want to steer the public), I also correlated this to Trump making sure a recent ceremony or photo-op with Native American Code Talkers [from WWII, essential to our win against Hitler and so on] took place in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson — a portrait given more prominence since Trump’s inauguration. For some reason, leaders within Trump’s entourage during the 2015-2016 campaign were being very vocal about Trump being like AJ.

    It can’t be because Trump has been a famous military leader (or in the military at all). It can’t be because Trump is anything like a representative of the common man either.
    Andrew Jackson took no action after Georgia claimed millions of acres of land that had been guaranteed to the Cherokee Indians under federal law, and he declined to enforce a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Georgia had no authority over Native American tribal lands. In 1835, the Cherokees signed a treaty giving up their land in exchange for territory west of Arkansas, where in 1838 some 15,000 would head on foot along the so-called Trail of Tears. The relocation resulted in the deaths of thousands.


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