I don’t think we’ve met a bad tour guide so far in Ireland.
When I think of a tour guide, I think of somebody knowledgeable. I think of somebody who understands the history of the area in which they live and work, and what forces were in motion to change the country into what they are today, as well as what will be the driving forces for the future. The guide needs to be aware of cultural differences between his or her native country and the country where the tourists come from. In addition to knowledge, the guide should have a soothing voice that would make you want to listen. Above all else, a tour guide should make the tourists feel like this is a special tour and not just rattle off a memorized script with planned inflections and pause points.
Larry, our guide on the Wicklow tour, has been my favorite so far because he encompassed all of these traits. Dressed in nice pants, a collared blue shirt and a navy sweater, the silver-haired sage talked almost nonstop the entire trip. He left no detail behind, from what buildings and areas we were passing to how much certain houses cost. Some, he said, cost up to €25,000 per month and included servants.
Even though a majority of the people on the bus were still hoping for some sleep after what I can only guess had been a late night, Larry continued to talk. I wondered why he would even bother. If I were giving a tour and people started to nod off, I would just stop talking. He was on the clock, right? Why should he have continued when he was, through no fault of his own, being disrespected? I shamefully admit trying to sleep, but I admired Larry’s commitment to his job. It clicked later that Larry was probably sitting facing the front of the bus with his microphone, likely not even paying attention to the lethargic bodies behind him. It’s quite possible Larry had no idea any of us were asleep.
When we arrived at the monastic cemetery, I expected Larry and his driver to hang out either in the bus or somewhere else while we students walked around. Instead, Larry happily led us into the gates and gave a history of buildings, such as the tower and an old church. Even when all but a few of the students walked completely past a Celtic cross he wanted the entire group of around 40 to hear about, Larry presented it to the five or six of us who stayed.
To me, Larry was our ultimate tour guide. He showed us around Ireland’s countryside for the better part of eight hours and even struck up conversations with faculty and students. While I was talking to the bus driver, whose name I forget, Larry came over and asked me how to spell Peoria. I happily obliged and tried to pass along a mental map of where the city is situated in between Chicago and Springfield, since he knew about them.
Larry probably gives that tour every single day, or at least a few times a week since I’m thinking he’s probably retired from a previous job; he made a reference to working in business. While I often get bored at any of my jobs, Larry gave a real genuine impression that he loved doing the tour for anybody willing to listen and that he loved his country.