Do you live somewhere interesting? Of course you do, we all do. Have you forgotten what it’s like to look at your home through fresh eyes? Well, then look no further because below you will find my hints on how to reinvigorate your love for your home town through the medium of ‘touristing’.
- Remember, tourists get everywhere!
- Grab an actual tourist. It is far easier to spend time touristing if you have a reason to do so.
- Walk. Everywhere. Just walk. Walk in the morning, at lunch time and in the evening when everything is lit up and beautiful.
- Don’t avoid touristy areas. Walk through them, drink them in and remember why the tourists love them. If you want to, feel slightly superior that you know where not to eat and how to sneak around the back streets to save on effort of pushing through crowds.
- Go to a museum you might otherwise not visit. You know, when you’ve been in a new city for a few days and you’re looking through the guidebook for somewhere else to visit and you pick something you probably wouldn’t normally care about and then you find you’re seeing somewhere completely out of your comfort zone but it’s actually quite cool.
- Actively seek out fun. This might sound tragic to you but I don’t think we have fun in the same way at home as we do when we’re away. On holiday you can try new things, travel across town to see a band or just walk out aimlessly to see what happens to you. At home I never do this because of babysitter costs and, um, life. I have friends to see and a husband to reconnect with if I’m ‘allowed out’.
- Eat sensibly. There’s no giant buffet hotel breakfast to gorge on (or steal bits for lunch), so have a good breakfast at home and then think carefully about what you might do for food over the rest of the day. No point in breaking the bank when you’ve got a kitchen at home. Either take sandwiches for lunch or return home for supper.
- Talk to locals. Yeah, from this tip you can probably tell I live in London if I’m actively advocating talking to people as a change from the norm. Smile, be carefree, pretend you don’t know the social interaction rules and see what happens when you break them…in a good way, don’t do illegal stuff, obviously.
- Go up a tall building. Look at your home town from above. Isn’t it stunning? Isn’t our world stunning? There’s beauty all around us, despite the shit happening everyday.
- Eat a truly local food, Maybe search out the best and actually enjoy snarfing down something really yum.
Last month I followed my own tips…so how did it go for me?
Well, handily I live in London, which is undeniably a city to which tourists flock. I got me a tourist, my friend S from the USA. My disclaimer comes here: I was still the primary carer for my kids most of the time I was busy touristing so it had to fit around school times. And thankfully I have a husband who actively relishes being a sole parent sometimes so he didn’t appear to begrudge me disappearing to play tourist too much.
And yes, we walked, we walked and walked and walked. We saw London at most hours of the day, although not so much on the early but plenty of daytime and evening walking was done. We looked up at beautiful skies, incredible old buildings, monuments and trees. We didn’t avoid touristy areas.
We checked out Westminster, saw a big clock, walked around the South Bank, through Oxford Circus, through Soho and China Town, across Leicester Square, down to Piccadilly Circus, to Trafalgar Square, back down to Westminster and home to South London. We walked in the rain, we walked across big bridges and along the riverside. Seeing London through my tourist’s eyes made me question why things are the way they are (why do we call a shop selling alcohol an ‘off licence’, for example?), let me use fresh eyes to see murals I walk by regularly and gave me a chance to reacquaint myself with different parts of town.
Thanks to my visiting father we went to Apsley House (Wellington’s house), which is a museum I would never have entered in a million years because I generally find stately homes to be stuffy and pretentious. Was it worth it? Surprisingly, yes. I would say it was. We took the audioguides (I turned mine to Spanish because I still wasn’t convinced I wanted to be there and at least I’d enjoy listening to Spanish) and set off around the house…it was fascinating. I learned all sorts of things about Wellington and his obsession with Napoleon. I mean, who knew that Wellington’s favourite ice cream was parmesan flavour? I loved seeing that he had a giant statue of a naked Napoleon in his hall way and realising that he displayed portraits of his mates in the same way we might put photos of friends all over our walls today.
My tourist also requested a trip to the Globe, somewhere I’d been meaning to visit for years. She gave me the push I needed and we duly traipsed off with thousands of other tourists to see the best Shakespeare I’ve ever seen. We were lucky enough that a fun play was being performed (Much Ado About Nothing, Mexican style) and we had an absolute ball (especially because it was funny to see all the people standing get absolutely soaked while we were warm and dry).
My tourist asked me if I wanted to go out dancing on Friday. I absolutely did not but I figured that it wasn’t very nice of me to say no to my tourist so, I roped in the husband, sucked up the babysitter costs (gulp) and agreed to go. We put on our dancing…converse trainers…and headed to Brixton, having no clue what the night would serve us but open to fun. What we got was an amazing open air dance night outside the Ritzy cinema. It felt so special to have opened ourselves up to spontaneous fun at home. We were dancing to great music, massive cocktails in hand whilst surrounded by London doing London. Amazing.
How did we eat? Well, I love a good breakfast so that wasn’t a problem for me. I tried to ensure we only ate one meal out a day. I checked in with Tourist S to see what she was interested in trying: fish and chips came up so off we trotted to Poppy’s in Soho because they’ve been touted as being some of the best in London. They were pretty good, indeed. And we even ate the amazing mushy peas that often foreigners have no desire to try (yum).
Did I talk to locals? Well, I talked to my friends when we were out, does that count? I do try to be friendly all the time generally so I didn’t change much here but my tourist is an extremely gregarious and friendly woman so we did end up chatting to random people all over the place, which was fun.
I admit that we didn’t go up a tall building in London (thanks for being so damned expensive, Shard) but we did use the Singing Lift on the South Bank and we did also have coffee and cheese at the top of Tour de Montparnasse in Paris whilst delighting in the views of that wonderful city.
What a ball we had exploring London together. We found the perfect combination of insider knowledge and newbie enthusiasm to really feel the place. I highly recommend getting yourself a tourist if you want to rediscover your home town. But remember…your very own tourist should be for life, not just for the exploring.
Do you love walking around your own home town? What tips would you give someone visiting for the first time? You could always use my tips.