I am in love … with a walking tour company: Sandemans New Europe Tours. Yes, it’s true, I have two copies of their brochure on me at all times. Yes, it’s true, I have recommended them to anyone I have ever met in a hostel/hotel/street corner. Yes, it’s true, I actually want a t-shirt, so I can be an official walking ad.
Gina mocks me, because whenever we get to go on a Sandeman tour, I get all excited and squealy … and I sing “The Sandeman Can” to the tune of “The Candy Man Can” from Willy Wonka.
Which has been frequent, since we’ve gone on Sandeman tours in Dublin, Edinburgh, Berlin, Prague and Paris.
Here’s how they work: You show up at a designated time (normally at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m.) and get a number. You are then assigned a tour guide, and you are taken on a three and a half hour FREE walking tour. FREE. Let me just say that again: FREE. (And don’t worry, half way through you get a pee/coffee/snack break.)
Because the tour guides work on a tips-only basis, they are crazy enthusiastic and passionate about what they do. If they don’t do well, they don’t receive the tips to sustain themselves–simple.
This tour company also offers separate tours through specific areas in each city or night tours, but usually have a cost. For example, in Edinburgh, we went on a ghost tour for 8 pounds. (They also took us all to a pub after and we each got a free drink.) And as for specific area tours, in Paris, they offer tours of Montemarte and Versailles. The company also hosts pub crawls in every city.
Are you seeing why I love them so much? I do have to concede that some tour guides are less interesting than others, but this I can guarantee: You will learn more about the city you are visiting in that 3.5 hours than you ever thought you could (and better than you ever learned it in AP European History, because you are actually there in all of these places).
Some cool facts I’ve learned:
–The name Dublin came from the Gaelic words for Black Lake, since one such lake used to be in the city center.
–In Edinburgh, everyone celebrates a dog that went to its owner’s grave every day after the owner died. I should just point out now that I dislike dogs, so I thought this was dumb.
–The architect of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin didn’t tell people what the memorial represented, so everyone could interpret it as they pleased.
–In Prague, this evil Nazi general that was in charge of Germany’s occupation of the city died, because he demanded German blood when he was attacked and the blood didn’t reach him in time.
–In Paris, there were over 650 dog poop related accidents reported last year. Oo la la, Paris.
See how the facts and stories run the gamut from actually informative to just plain silly? That’s why I love it. You never know what you are going to get, but you are always intrigued.
Plus, if you go on the tour, they will take you to a cool restaurant for lunch afterwards, and they can recommend quality hostels. What can’t the Sandeman do?!
With love from Sandeman Tours in Paris.