Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Tour Guide

This weekend, a couple of my friends from the States are visiting. They're travelling around Europe on their honeymoon--Athens, Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Leeds and then we're going with them to Dublin. It's a bit of a whirlwind trip, but if you're going to fly all the way from Seattle, I suppose there's a sense of pressure to do it all in one go.
In planning a tour of Leeds, I've really had my work cut out for me. This is the first time Matt's ever been to the UK. Carly went to London once briefly and got a terrible impression (long story short, there was a very rude anti-American guy at a bookshop). So they're bypassing London and getting their entire impression of the UK from 2 nights in Leeds. It's also a bit of an exciting challenge for me, too, because this is the first time I've had American friends visiting (it's not that they don't want to--they'd love to, but it's so expensive). I've had to think long & hard about what to show them, where to take them for a true "English" or "Yorkshire" experience...

And this is where my research comes in. When showing foreigners around, do you show them the England that they're expecting, or the England that you actually experience on a daily basis? Take pubs for example--my friends are expecting an old man pub with pints of real ale and heavy, traditional food (giant Yorkshire puddings filled with sausages, potatoes, veg & gravy...very intimidating even to those of us from the land of the Supersize). Leeds definitely has places like that, but it's also got its fair share of wine bars, cocktail lounges, student watering holes, sports bars, and trendy yuppie places. Do I take them to a less-popular old man pub for an 'authentic' experience, even though all of those places are actually authentic, too? Do I take them to a chippy when curry has actually become Britain's national cuisine? Basically, do I reinforce the stereotype and give them an unrealistic impression, or do I try to be creative and risk disappointing my guests? (This choice is actually fairly easy for me, because on a typical Friday night we usually do go to a traditional pub for real ale & a burger. We're taking them to our favourite place, and what could be more authentic than that?)

To get some ideas for sightseeing around Leeds, I went back to my first entry after arriving here in Sept 2008.
It's so strange to read it now--these places feel like home, and I'd never bother to take a picture of the Town Hall anymore (even though it's still just as beautiful).
Obviously a must-see--also, the art gallery is quite good & free.
Designer boutiques in the gorgeous Victoria Quarter. Carly is an architect/artist, so she'll be into it for multiple reasons. We'll have to combine this with a trip to Leeds City Markets across the street, too--must show both posh and 'real' sides of Leeds.

I'm not expecting to wow them--they've just been to amazing places on the continent where English people go on holiday, so obviously we can't compete with that. I just want to give them a good impression of England, show them the things I love about Yorkshire, and give them a glimpse of the nice little life we've got here. It's not Florence or Paris, but it's home.

No comments:

Post a Comment