Friday, March 5, 2010

Touring SF with Jay as your guide

My mother is a high school Spanish teacher and one of many the reasons she began teaching was so she could travel the world for free as the faculty host of senior trips. During my college years I would "volunteer" as a chaperon for her school trips and traveled across most of Europe in this fashion. I experienced many amazing vistas, historical sites, and artistic legends during these years and loved every minute of it. But none of these experiences would have been possible without the tour guide.

The tour guide on a trip always fascinated me. Here was a young twentysomething whose skill was to know the hidden paths and historical facts in every city we visited. He always was prepared for the unknown and even when you thought you had question to stump and pulled a random fact out and blew you away. And, depending on the countries you were visiting, he did it in multiple languages. If you were ever in deep trouble and needed someone to turn to, the tour guide was your man (or woman).

This week I had the opportunity to accept that role and become the tour guide for a group of Arkansas High School students. Among her numerous other roles, my mother is the advisor to the Model UN group at her high school. One of the benefits (which I am sure played into her decision to take on the role) of being in the Model UN group is traveling to various locations around the country to participate in mock sessions. This year that session was in Berkeley. Due to unforeseen medical conditions, my mother had to cancel her flight at the last minute but the students still needed to come to Berkeley (that UN session needed to be mocked!). A substitute stepped in, and suddenly the Arkansas seniors were off to California but without knowledgeable California guide (my mother grew up in the Bay Area). So I stepped up and gave the students a "local's perspective" of the City.

We began by stopping by Pixar for a photo op, then took the bus to the Bart station and rode downtown to Union Square. The afternoon was young and we had time to walk through city, with side stops in China town and down Lombard, before catching a sunset with the Golden Gate from atop Ft Mason. We then walked to Ghirardelli Square and rode the cable car back to Union Square where the students wished to shop (nothing says senior trip like spending a lot of money at overpriced shops!). Finally, we ate at the fabulous Cheesecake Factory from the top of Macy's overlooking the lights of Union Square. And the entire time we did this I was spouting fact after fact about the city and giving them a little history of the area:

Overall, playing the guide role was fun and quite successful. So successful, in fact, they asked me back for the following days adventures (they also visited Pier 39 and Alactraz on their own). I introduced them to the local favorite Chevy's with a view of the bay, then walked them down to the marina to touch the bay (most had never been in the Pacific).

I have now been the guide. Time to check it off of my list...

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