Friday, 13 January 2012

Local knowledge

What a difference it makes to a holiday when you're not just an ignorant tourist but you know one of the locals who can guide you to all the special places you would otherwise have missed.

As a typical tourist you're entirely reliant on travel guides and what you happen to hear from hotel staff, bus drivers or other semi-ignorant tourists. You end up in places that are popular but not very interesting, and in eateries that are adjacent but hardly mouthwatering.

In Melbourne we were very lucky to have our good friend Kath who was endlessly generous with her time and local knowledge and took us to one fabulous place after another. To the wonderful Mornington Peninsula, the Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley, where she led us to a brilliant out-of-the-way art gallery and the Domaine Chandon winery, where we sampled some excellent wines (and I got pleasantly light-headed).

Not only that, but she also introduced us to her family and several friends, who gave us all sorts of insights into Aussie lifestyles and interests that don't make it into the travel guides. Her brother told us all about his work as an immigration officer interviewing new entrants to Australia.

She also took us to all the best local caf├ęs, restaurants, burger joints and ice cream parlours, as well as a superb bookshop (Readings).

What more could we want? At the end of the week I was starting to feel like a native Melbournian rather than a clueless visitor trying to find my way around. I felt completely at home, connected to the city much more strongly and intimately than before.

So thanks for everything, Kath, you added so much to our visit. It was really hard to drag ourselves to the airport and return home.

21 comments:

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

That is indeed a GREAT way to see a city! We had the same experience in Genoa last autumn when we spent three days visiting one of my language partners!

You were luckier than me, though. Firstly, you were there for a week, and secondly, there was no language barrier, so you were able to get far more of an insight into the local lifestyle. And Melbourne sounds wonderful!

Grannymar said...

A family of tour guides! You did well and by the sound of it had a wonderful time.

Baino said...

It's the only way to travel, seek out a local. Especially in Melbourne where so much of it is hidden on third floors and down Flinders Lanes.

nursemyra said...

My mother and sisters live in Mornington. The Peninsula is a lovely little spot, glad you go to go there.

e said...

What a lovely trip you two had! I do hope you'll share more about it. Happy 2012.

Nick said...

Jay - Good that you had a similar experience. I might have been a bit better off as I know quite a lot of Italian!

Grannymar - Well, they didn't all act as guides, though her sister drove us all round the Yarra Valley to allow her (KJ) to do a bit of wine-tasting!

Nick said...

Baino - Funnily enough, she didn't show us any third floors! And disappointingly, the Flinders Lane Gallery seemed to be closed for an extended Xmas vacation. Grrr!

Myra - The peninsula is lovely. We went on a short bushwalk to Bushrangers Bay. Saw a kangaroo and echidna en route....

e - I'll see what else there to share! Happy 2012 to you too.

Rummuser said...

You are so right. It has been my experience too that to have a local guide you around can be a much better way to see new places and savour the local flavour. There have been many KJs in my life too and I shall always be grateful to them for enriching my life so much.

Nick said...

Ramana - Just seeing a place through the eyes of someone who lives there is so fascinating and enlightening.

Liz said...

As an immigration officer in Australia he must be very under-worked!

Nick said...

Liz - You'd be surprised. An awful lot of people see Oz as some sort of paradise. Like all those boat people who keep risking life and limb to get there.

Megan said...

Excellent! You know, I failed a bit (well, more than a bit) on that when I had folks here. We could have done more and better than we did. Although it WAS a much larger group, and hard to herd!

Wisewebwoman said...

The best way to see a place indeed and get to all the secret off the beaten track spots.
I can't believe how prescient I was on where I thought you were when you had the nerve to go missing, lol!
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Megan - Sounds like you were all far too busy chatting and gossiping and drinking to get round to actually seeing stuff!

www - Yes, a very clever guess which I couldn't acknowledge at the time without blowing my cover! I want to go back to Oz! *screams and howls like a spoilt toddler*

blackwatertown said...

Yes - best way - especially guiding you to a decent bookshop.

Nick said...

Blackwater - It's a fabulous bookshop. The range of stock on umpteen subjects is staggering. And on a Saturday morning it was heaving with people.

kylie said...

sorry nick, not talking to you, MEGAN you were the bestest hostess with the mostest!

we had a fab time and we did EXACTLY what we were there for!

kylie said...

hehe nick, i just thought of something....i bet i wasnt as unpredictable as i am on blogger?

Nick said...

Kylie - I hope Megan is now totally reassured. No, that's true, you were being very well behaved. Anyway, I like you just as you are, whether it's predictable or unpredictable....

secret agent woman said...

Having a guide is the best. When I visited Tasmania, I stayed with a good friend there and she took me all over. It was a wonderful trip.

Nick said...

Agent - That must have been brilliant. I've been to Tasmania, but only a smallish area around Hobart and down to Port Arthur.