Why I’ve Become a Tour Guide

London Tour Bus

London Tour Bus. Flickr photo by travellingtamas

My first attempt at being tour guide was not an unqualified success. Aged 21, I was in put in charge of 50 French kids who had just arrived in London at the start of a three-week stay to learn English.

One of my duties, aside from stopping Xavier the 14-year sex pest reading the contents of every top shelf in every newsagents we walked past, was to give them the guided tour of my capital’s sights. I was told that this would simply consist of sitting at the front of the Barry’s of Weymouth bus with a microphone, reading from an information pack the language school had provided for me.

So, the merry travellers and I boarded our bus ready to take in the sights of London Town. Except there was one small problem. As I turned to the section of the folder where the tour information was supposed to be, it wasn’t. It went straight from Section 2 “Week 1 Itinerary” to Section 4 “Making Pronouns Interesting”. I flicked furiously through the entire folder, Section 3 was nowhere to be found.

By this point we were had already gone past the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace and the kids could tell that these places were of Places of Interest and some information about them would be well, interesting. I began to panic, I’d only been to London twice up until that point and had no idea where we were or what was coming next.

As we drove across a large park, I quietly asked the bus driver if he could tell me where we were. He told me and I stood up and faced my audience. 100 French eyes turned towards me expectantly. I cleared my throat, “Um, well this is um, Green Park” I stammered into the microphone. “And, um, as you can see it’s um, well, green.”

The bus driver stared at me, the kids stared at me uncomprehendingly. I sat down and said nothing else the entire journey.

Caminito, Buenos Aires

Caminito, Buenos Aires

So why, 18 years later am I dedicating myself to showing people the sights of Buenos Aires? For a start I know Buenos Aires a lot better than I do London. Since my first attempt at tourism, I have got to know London a lot better, having lived there for a couple of years and visited many many times. However, the time I’ve spent visiting and living in Buenos Aires has been as a tourist, which means I look at things in a different way here than I do in London.

I got to know Buenos Aires through the pages of Lonely Planet and Time Out and have kept exploring. I’m blessed with a pretty good sense of direction and love figuring out where I am and how I got there. Now, 2 years after first arriving I’ve shown friends round the major (and minor) sights, figured out the best way to get around on buses and corrected taxi drivers when they try to take the long way round.

Link this internal GPS to an annoying tendency to remember every small fact I ever hear or read and tour guide starts to make much more sense as a profession and I love what I do. I meet some very interesting people and am able to share my knowledge and love for this city with them.

The route of the tour takes us to some of my favourite, and most interesting parts of Buenos Aires, and by catching buses to get around we get to see the city truly as the residents do. I look forward to showing you round!

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