Stephen Bayley: Stimulated by travel? Try simulation instead

Disneyfication

It is my proud boast that, with cunning and determination, I denied my children access to the Magic Kingdom. Some would call this cruel. I call it inspired. They were very small when Disneyland Paris opened 20 years ago last week, on 12 April 1992. Both philosophically and actually, I manoeuvred them past it. Aged five, they were eating oysters and steak tartare at La Coupole. If you are going to go to Paris, best, I think, to experience the real thing.

Of course, I admit there are elements of fakery in the La Coupole experience: it's a parody of a brasserie, but a good one. Instead, Disney suggests that nothing is ever real, that all of life is a simulacrum of something else: reflections, echoes and interpretations, none of a very high order. Or what you might call kitsch.

This troublesome word is easily defined: kitsch is faked experiences, one material masquerading as another, conceptual dishonesty, bogus pleasure, zero intellectual content and a prevailing low estimate of public intelligence. I told my children this as I swirled a kir and they thoughtfully munched their frites.

Alas, despite my best efforts, the Disney effect is spreading. From the deep well of Marne-la-Vallée, kitsch has leaked south to stain Tuscany. It is one thing to restore a deserted hilltop village, but it is an entirely different thing to build a whole new borgo when you have run out of the original ruins. This is what the German holiday business TUI – Thomson's parent company – plans at Castelfalfi between Siena and Lucca.

Our own National Trust is busy creating synthetic experiences. Chairman Simon Jenkins is keen to "bring buildings to life". But buildings are living things without the addition of bouncy castles. The trust has a programme of dressing historic interiors so that visitors may better understand that "real" people once lived in them. This is a strategy that will delight only the extremely foolish. And nor is it carried out with Disney-like thoroughness: at Lindisfarne Castle the other day, I saw a piece of cheap, stamped steel cutlery bringing a Lutyens kitchen "to life".

Once you have started on a journey of simulation there is really no knowing where you might, conceptually speaking, stop. I recently spent four thrilling and exhausting hours on a British Airways 747-400 simulator. The experience is so technically accurate, not to mention psychologically convincing, that real pilots can train without leaving the ground. Put it this way: I flew to Rio while in a shed in Hounslow.

And this started me thinking. If you can simulate the dynamics of flight with such astonishing accuracy – the instructor asked me if I would prefer mild or severe turbulence mid-Atlantic – why not simulate the destination as well? Passengers on a simulated flight could deplane into another shed near Heathrow and enjoy all the pleasures of travel without the nuisance of going through security and border control. Straight to the pool and a cocktail with minimal time-wasting. Perhaps a massage? And you'd enjoy the moral advantage of not having burnt jet fuel on the way.

There's surely some future in this idea. And we could get Disney to manage it.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits