Have Map, Will Travel
Remember how I mentioned the importance of knowing your starting and end points on your walking map in Five Basic Tips for the Novice International Tourist? Well, here is a little example as to why. You may not be so lucky to find such a helpful tourist as myself so know there are true benefits of a tourist walking map while you tour the city of your dreams. This is a true story – I cannot make this stuff up.
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Benefits of a Tourist Walking Map
On a recent trip to Europe, I spent my first day in Paris at the top of the Eiffel Tower for a fabulous view of the city. At dusk I decided to head back to my hotel via the Paris metro.
On my way to the Paris metro station, I had a family of five adults from a South American country (that will remain nameless) come up to me (probably because I had a city walking map) and ask me in Spanish how to get to get to their hotel. Those four years of high school Spanish sure do keep coming in handy!
I asked in broken Spanish to indicate where on the map their hotel was. They looked at the map, at each other, at the map, then at me, and eventually responded, “No sé”. I went blank. At this point I wondered how I could be of service when they didn’t even know where their hotel was.
After more staring at my map, the family agreed on what they thought was the hotel location and one of them pointed to it on the map. None of us could confirm on our smartphones because we didn’t have Wi-Fi at the base of the Pont de l’Alma bridge. They didn’t want to take a taxi for a reason I can’t recall, but they were happy to follow me to the Paris metro.
Considering they didn’t have a walking map I assumed they didn’t have a Paris metro map either, so I showed them mine, which was on the flip side of my walking map. More blank stares. I couldn’t blame them. Have you ever navigated the Paris metro?
Gwen. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: help a South American family, that speaks no English (or French), to the metro station (you were on your way to anyway); get them through the ticketing booth and turnstiles (you must wait on them because you already have your 5-day Paris metro pass); and explain to them in your broken Spanish they are to get on your metro line but that they will need to get off early to connect to a different metro line – and in which direction it needs to go – so they can get to their final stop.
Never Getting Lost
Mission accomplished? I waved goodbye wishing them luck as they exited the metro car and moved down the platform to their connecting metro line. I trust they made it. I felt nervous for them, but relieved I knew where I was headed. I had circled my hotel location on my walking map! Never underestimate the benefits of a tourist walking map, especially in a foreign country.