Would you could you on a…..? Novel ways of seeing a city
So you’ve made it on the plane, through security and customs, then made your way to the city, what now?? This week the GTG explores a number of novel ways that some cities have come up with to distinguish themselves for sight-seers.
On a ww2 ‘duck’
The city of Dublin (Ireland), pays heritage to its viking history with tours that span both land and water. Done your ‘tasteful’ plastic viking hat, and climb aboard a relic land and water ‘duck’ vehicle, left over from world war two. This tour will take you to a majority of Dublin’s central tourist attractions and then some of the lesser-visited waterways. Word to the shy, be prepared to shout out to unsuspecting public with a ‘traditional’ viking roar.
On your feet
The number of cities offering walking tours seems to be rapidly on the increase. The company ‘new Europe’ in particular offers free walking tours with volunteer guides in cities such as Dublin, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam (amongst others). Some walking tours such as the one in Budapest offer added perks like an invitation to join the local guides for a cheap lunch of local food after the tour (I can thank that tour for my love of strudel). Other walking tours may follow a theme such as the Gaudi walking tour in Barcelona, or literary tours in Dublin and Edinburgh. The quality of these may vary considerably and a knowledgeable/charismatic guide will go a long way to helping you enjoy yourself but I strongly urge you all to give one a try, you can also get away with eating more….
On an army tank
Should you feel the need (apologies for the the unabashed subjectivity), I am aware that a number of the larger cities in the USA, like Boston, Baltimore and Chicago, offer visitors the opportunity to take on the city streets in combat style. This may in fact be an accurate way for tourists to view the world from a local perspective…..
Hop on a ‘hop on hop off’ bus
Most commonly coloured red, these buses can be a nice way to orientate yourself with the central city or tourist district, which you may have more time after to explore on foot. Bearing in mind these are often double-decked and open-topped (which of course can be awful or fantastic depending on the weather), some may feature live commentary, and most will feature recorded commentary in a number of world languages. At the same time, these tours may miss the functional parts of a city so for a comprehensive visit, explore further afield.
On a boat
best suited for a romantic outing in most cases, many cities such as Paris, London, and Amsterdam provide visitors with this option. As expected, experiences will vary, some of the London tours feature humourus improvised commentary, where as a traditional singing ‘Gondolier’ is all part of the Gondola experience in Venice, (or so I’ve heard). For those fitness buffs, some cities like Amsterdam offer small paddle boats, which are also a cheaper option than the plush looking canal boats you will see around town. Many boat tours have a dinner cruise option which could be perfect after a busy day’s sight seeing.
On a bicycle
Join the ranks of the Von Trap family and see why they spent so much time singing. Amsterdam in particular is best seen by bike, although many cities offer bicycle hire for a DIY style look around. NB baguette and basket are optional but highly recommended.
On a Harley Davidson
If you make everything groovy then this may be your kind of tour. Tours can be found all over Australia and the USA, but could also be found elsewhere.
On a Helicopter/plane
Moving a little out of the city, some areas that are either remote or physically demanding to get to like Antarctica and Machu Pichu (Peru) offer fly over viewing tours. Be prepared to spend liberally, maybe the kind of tour to save for a significant birthday or something, but these tours seem to be a spectacular viewing opportunity.
On a rickshaw
For some cities, rickshaws are a part of traditional life, many of these now offer guided tours. Rickshaws are a form of human-drawn carriage. With Nara Japan a prime example, these cities are mostly found in the Asian region.
On a horse
Horses are another romantic way to see a city and feel like royalty simultaneously. Most of these will be in the style of a horse and carriage such as in Sevilla, Spain but other areas (usually out of town) like the Hunter valley NSW Australia will offer horseback tours, for the more adventurous.
On a Tuk Tuk
While regularly used as a form of transport in the south-east Asian region, Tuk Tuk’s can be a cheap and flexible way of getting to know your surroundings. The drivers’ interest in explaining things, and their English language ability may vary but simple negotiation beforehand will establish this for you and test your skills in bartering.
The variety in tours can also extend to what you see. Dublin and Edinburgh offer ghost tours, some walking, or in a double decked bus, that will take you to cemeteries and other ghoulish sites. Pub crawls are also a popular was to introduce yourself to the nightlife of a city and a good opportunity to meet people. The only downside is that the people you meet may not be so much of the local variety. For a different spin on this you can always sit yourself down at a bar and see what happens (provided you’re not at high risk of course), which has always proven to be an eventful night for yours truly. The catacombs, or subterranean parts of many European cities are also able to be visited by guided tour. These will be hard to miss in the local tourist brochures.
So there you have some ideas to get you started, of course it isn’t essential that you take a guided tour anywhere, many people prefer to arrive in a city and simply start walking or jump on public transport. For those DIY fanatics amongst you, many guide books also offer a self guided tour of places, or you can simply pick up a map from the tourist information centre, featuring the same. What I will say is that guided tours can be many things, and can offer a comparison on how you would see a city yourself, worth trying at least once for a different experience.