Why talking to tourists is ALWAYS worth it

I am an unashamed tourist lover.

After my stint in France, I seem to have attuned myself to the continental aura: that definitely-not-British spirit that emanates from more ‘exotic’ individuals. I’m lucky that my workplace welcomes the occasional ‘foreigner’, whether brought there by their Scottish friends or just travelling the west coast. I literally fall over myself to talk to them. I love discovering their stories.

This has backfired on occasion. Not too long ago, I was at the till and a lady who ‘sounded European’ (that narrows it down – not!) handed me her credit card. Her accent twanged; I jumped channels and borders and asked if she was French.

‘I’m Austrian,’ she replied. I then had to explain about my year abroad to prove that I wasn’t a crazed francophile. Luckily she didn’t seem to mind.

Fields near the tearoom
Fields near the tearoom

Last week though, I had quite an interesting experience. I walked along to work, a few kilometres along a main road and down the country lane towards the shop and tearoom. About a hundred metres from the entrance, two motorcyclists were parked up, looking confusedly across the fields. I had my iPod stuck in my ears and shouted, ‘Morning!’ As I kept walking, I heard the hum of voices through my music and turned around, dislodging my earphones.

One of them looked at me through rounded lenses. ‘Do you know where there is a place we can get coffee near here?’

I turned comically and pointed towards where I was walking, a few steps away. ‘Um, it’s literally right there!’ I laughed. ‘I work there. It’s a tearoom. So I’ll see you in a second!’

The two guys entered a few minutes later, bikes parked up. My boss, a very friendly lady, wandered towards them and began gesturing at a large map of Scotland on the wall. She called me over. ‘Laura, give these men advice on where to go next! They’re here for five days!’ I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm and grabbed a pen and paper (well, a roll of sticky address labels).

The two bikers, from the Netherlands, had stayed south of Glasgow for a night and were heading to the Highlands. They told me they’d planned to see Aberdeen and Inverness, before getting the ferry home again from Newcastle. I started scribbling on the labels. North to Crianlarich, then Tyndrum, turn right and head through the mountains of Glen Coe, go up to Arisaig to see some amazing beaches and the ‘Harry Potter’ Glenfinnan Viaduct…  I made a huge deal of Eilean Donan Castle. ‘You have to go here,’ I said. ‘It’s a must. Otherwise…’ I made a beheading movement with my hand. They nodded. We Googled it. It seemed a set deal.

A few days later, I received an email from them. The panorama below was attached (and what an amazing photo it is!)

Photo credit: MVDB 2014
Photo credit: MVDB 2014

I think that’s proof that being able to talk for Britain isn’t all bad…

 

Where’s your favourite spot in Scotland? What place would you recommend to visitors?

6 thoughts on “Why talking to tourists is ALWAYS worth it

  1. Hi Laura
    Totally having a nosey through your blog this evening and the title of this post (and a few others – more comments to come, I fear) caught, my eye!
    I guess it’s from my obsession with travel but I LOVE meeting tourists! Nine times out of ten they have really interesting stories, and, yes, it’s also a chance to tell them a few of mine!
    I meet a load of tourists through my work and they’re always giving me tips on what to do if I ever make it to their hometown. Quite a few of the things on our Paris itinerary were gleaned from unexpected conversations with French people in Edinburgh.
    On our flight home from Paris, Julie got talking to a couple from Nicaragua and sent them off with a list of things to do. We now have their address and instructions to call them if we ever find ourselves in Managua!
    If you enjoy meeting tourists then you will love the Festival this summer. So many Edinburghers (and those of us that just live here) hate the Festival because of the tourists, but I love it. There is such a buzz around the place, the atmosphere in town is electric and you meet the most amazing people!
    Stalking your blog wasn’t entirely without a purpose – I was looking to see if you’d ever written anything about Arran as we’ve just booked a weekend there next month. Have you been? Any tips?
    Thanks
    Allan

    1. Hello again! Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, was at home visiting family and now back to work, bleh! How are you? I love how you’ve done a wee stalk on my blog haha, sorry there was nothing on Arran for you and Julie’s trip next month!

      I am a total tourist lover too, I just can’t help myself from finding out where they are from! Even people that have moved to Scotland from elsewhere are intriguing; I always wonder what their stories are and what has brought them here. (Maybe I am too nosy?)

      It’s good to hear another view about the Festival, I’ve heard that some people avoid the city centre completely in August! Have you booked anything yet? We are saving pennies at the moment but we will definitely go and experience the atmosphere. PS what do you work as? I would be ALL over the tourists if I didn’t work in an office haha. Take care (until my next reply!)

      1. Actually, we didn’t actually see anything last year!

        But most years we do try to see a couple of acts / shows (whatever they’re called!) and as an obsessed photographer I always spend at least a few evenings on Calton Hill to photograph the Tattoo fireworks over Edinburgh Castle.

        To be honest, the performances can be a bit hit or miss and I’ve sat through several truly awful “comedies” in the past (including one where a guy got up and walked out and I spent the rest of the performance wishing I had the guts to do the same).

        There’s such a mixture, one year we saw Sarah Millican and she was hilarious. We also ended up at a performance of Fascinating Aida and were humming their songs for weeks after. The same summer we went (on recommendation from a friend) to a performance by a youth theatre group from London about the life of Adolf Hitler which (while necessarily tongue-in-cheek) was really very good.

        I’d definitely recommend a wander up (or down) the Royal Mile during August, and there are lots of free shows too.

        Allan

  2. Hi Laura,
    I enjoyed this story and I’ve read some of your other posts. I’m from the Netherlands as well, just like the biker boys, and I’m thinking about a roadtrip all by my self to Scotland, but Cornwall is also in my mind. But if it’s going to be Scotland, I know where to find the good tips. So thanks a lot!
    Corina

    1. Thank you so much, Carina! The Scots would welcome you with open arms, we love when people visit our country! I’ve heard great things about Cornwall (and I’d love to go myself) but I am very biased to Scotland. We have a magical country with welcoming people and better food than you’d think 🙂 Let me know if I can give you any advice! Take care, Laura 🙂

      1. Hi Laura,
        Thank you so much for your heartwarming words! You won me over, Scotland it is!
        Because of your words I remembered the Scottish hospitality again. And off course the magic of Caledonia.
        I’ll visit Scotland in September, I think I go to Oban and Fort William again. Last time I didn’t visit Uruquart castle, so that one is on my to see list 😉 Maybe I also visit the east coast (Arbroath), not sure yet. How do you like the east side?
        I hope your offer of giving advice still stands. I have a few (a lot actually) questions 
        And if you ever go to Cornwall, Bretagne, Normandie or the southwest area of the Netherlands, I can give you some advice as well.
        Corina

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