People often ask me “what makes a good tour?”, but this is inevitably from the perspective of the participant. Recently I was asked the question “what makes a good tour for a guide?” And that is a bloody good question.
There are numerous aspects, but the one that has played most on my mind is a very straightforward one; the people on the tour. – Just as a guide can be fundamental to a tour’s impact, so too can the participants.
Before I go into detail, I must stress we at DC Tours love and value our guests and participants individually and collectively. Without them there is no us. 99.9% of them are attentive, engaged, frequently well-informed or have attempted to do some primary research. We have an introductory section that stresses the value of questions from them. Always the potential for tangents or disorder in that process you might think, but it lubricates the tour and gives participants a sense of ownership.
However…..people are people and that always leaves a little (but potentially significant) scope for a sprinkling of madness cum hilarity. Again I stress I relay these tales with nothing but the utmost affection. Quite simply some people are nuts.
Firstly, our weather is crap. Accordingly there are guests who arrive on a mid-January morning dressed for a mid-summer’s stroll around an Iberian coastal resort. You can legislate for our climate by stressing the importance of appropriate clothing in your literature but you can’t go to their Airbnb hours in advance and dress them as they get out of bed.
There are regularly people who don’t turn up and you never find out why, but then there are those who turn up and you wonder how did they make it? And fair play to those who still appear despite being chronically hungover, usually on Sunday mornings. You quickly spot them, often in groups. Dark glasses, bottles of water. Frequently as you navigate the Cathedral Quarter they will show vague recognition, sometimes saying “I think we might have been here last night, or Friday, Or both.” These people are stalwarts and we salute them.
One of my colleagues took a lone guest around many years ago. He felt his Maygar guest was slightly detached but soldiered on professionally. Tour officially over, he was accompanying our friend back to the city hall from Oxford Street. Passing through the (now pedestrianised and accessible) law courts area he mentioned the security apparatus that once particularly dominated the zone. Our guest asked why was that? Our guide said because the court zone was an obvious target for paramilitary attack. To which your man asks, “was there much of that went on? Shootings and bombings and that?” The slow realisation dawned on our beleaguered guide that their guest was actually blind drunk and hadn’t taken in a single thing from the previous two hours plus.
You get some odd questions. A north American guest asked me did an event actually happen after I’d described it in some detail. Well yes I said. I repeated – three hundred people had been evacuated, a device exploded, people were injured, the police killed a man and paralysed a woman involved, a guy went to jail, the IRA named a social club after the dead man, there was media coverage and a coroner’s inquest. “Sounds like fake news to me” he replied.
An antipodean woman wanted me to start a tour well before the start time because she was there and ready, and the others could simply catch up. Later, on Hill Street she suddenly handed me her headset and earpiece saying she had to go. I asked if something was wrong. “No but it’s going to rain soon and I hate the rain!” Odd choice of holiday destination I suggested whilst beaming at her. Her husband utterly ignored her, completed the (rain-free) tour only to corner me after to talk about how an absence of Maoist influences had probably exacerbated the conflict. Dinner parties at their gaff must be some crack I thought.
I’ve had school groups where hormone levels were raging and there was dry-humping occurring. Nobody batted an eyelid except me. Our school were dead against dry humping on trips and its obviously stayed with me.
Another colleague displayed a genuine 1970s rubber bullet for impact to an impressed group. None more so than the (again antipodean) lady who proclaimed “phwoooar, it’s like a big black dildo!”
Then there are Trip Advisor reviews. At the time of writing we have 1,687. Usually around 97 percent rate us as five star/excellent. Some of them really make all the effort and weather trauma worth it. They are wonderful.
Of course the occasional one perplexes or even slightly irks. One chap gave me a four star review, explaining he was tired when he did the tour. Go figure. A fellow from the European country that is shaped like a boot warned other potential guests that I spoke with a Belfast accent. Shocker.
By a country mile though my all-time favourite was from an obviously lovely woman who waxed lyrical about our delightful lawns and the beautiful cream buns and high tea we served afterwards. Madam, it was a pleasure and thanks so much for the 5 stars, but I think you were on a different tour.
Honestly, this is a snowflake in an avalanche of tales and nuggets but genuinely, hand on heart, pinky-swears and promises, our guests and participants are wonderful and we thank you.
Photo courtesy of John J Baucher.