Do you ever think back on a place, and the face of your tour-guide pops up? I’ve taken my fair share of guided tours; some resembled boring lectures filled with too many uninteresting facts, some found me walking backwards hoping to sneak out unnoticed, and then there were the ones that were simply enthralling!
So what sets the good tours aside from the rest? Ahh, well I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the guide that makes the tour! Let me reminisce on some of my favourites:
1) Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France
It was my first time in Paris. I walked up to the Notre Dame cathedral, snapped my tourist shot to prove I’d been there, and then roamed the dark candle-lit interior. The whole process took less than 15 minutes. Could that really be it? Was there nothing more to this world-renowned structure?! That’s when I heard that a free English tour was about to begin. Free? I’m in!
A group of tourists gathered outside the main doors, and then a young guy from Cambridge introduced himself as our tour guide. He was a postgraduate student volunteering in Paris for the summer, and it was his job to teach people about the meaning behind architecture. Cambridge-guy proceeded to give the most captivating explanation of the cathedral’s features I have ever heard. He explained why the arches pointed upwards leading the congregations eyes towards the heavens, that the three gates symbolized the Trinity, that the gargoyle-like creatures depicted scenes from Hell, and that the architect had included himself among the saints! Every detail on the cathedral had a biblical reference and I listened intently for the whole 30 minutes. I left that tour with a new appreciation for architecture.
2) Manhattan Bus Tour, New York City, USA
I can’t say I remember the street names or buildings the tour guided pointed out, but I do remember laughing the whole time. He had a grand welcome for every new passenger that boarded the bus, and his jokes had everyone in an uproar. As we approached Greenwich Village, the once bohemian but now exclusive part of town, he said, “My cousin went to Harvard and now she lives in the Village. I didn’t, so I live in Queens…” More laughter! A guide like that makes a trip to New York City memorable.
3) Wine Tasting in Salta, Cafayate, Argentina
Mona was a cheeky little thing! She told funny stories of previous tourists while whisking us from one vineyard to the next. She had once worked as a cigar roller, so when she saw tobacco leaves drying under the sun by the side of the road, she excitedly yelled at our bus driver to pull over. “Para, para, para!” She snatched a few leaves and jumped back on the bus with a smirk on her face, “Vamos! We’ll smoke these later!” And we did.
Guided tours have the potential to be long and dull, however, when you have a guide who is excited about their work and the destination, it completely changes the experience.
Do you have a memorable guide? What makes them stand out from the rest?