As part of my new focus on mature travellers, I asked David and Helen about their experience of leading walking tours in France.
Why did you choose to move to France?
. . . We were looking for a different way to earn a living, and the space, and the climate appealed to us too.
What are the challenges of leading walking tours in France?
. . .This is not a third world country, obviously, and Americans especially donâ€™t appreciate that. . .If you want luggage moved, picnics provided etc. you have to do it yourselves or you have a very expensive tour.
Do you lead walks for mixed nationalities?
. . . We didnâ€™t lead many walks, just one tour for groups of Americans, most of our walks were self-guided.
Â How do you manage cultural differences?
. . . Walkers are mostly a self-reliant lot, we had a few Australians who thought the soup was too watery ( it didnâ€™t have stock-cubes added ), and a few Americans who moaned, but mostly it wasnâ€™t an issue.
Â Did you speak French before you went there to live? How did you learn the language?
. . . Yes, up to a point. Then we learnt as we went along
How many tours a year do you lead?
. . . We are retired now, we did lead up to 5 a year.
Â Do you do your own marketing, or pay an agency? If so, why?
. . . After the first few years we decided we couldnâ€™t both be the people on the ground and do the selling, so from then on we either sold via Tour Operators, or managed T Oâ€™s walks for them.
Â What have been your biggest successes?
. . . Self-guided Â walks in Correze / Lot and Guided Walking in the Dordogne for Country Walkers
Â And what breakdowns have you experienced?
. . . If something went wrong, once it was a car accident a couple had as they drove to the first hotel, Â . . . . .then the whole trip would go wrong thereafter.
Â How do you get the supplies you need for your campsite?
. . . We didnâ€™t operate walks from a campsite but between hotels.
. . .We operated rafting from campsites, and bought our equipment beforehand, and shopped in the local town.
Â What safety equipment do you advise your guests to bring?
. . .Serious walking shoes, suncream, sunglasses, hats, long-sleeved shirts, raingear.
Do you lead only groups? Or singles/couples/families?
. . . Occasionally, not often.
Â How do you advertise and market your walking tours?
. . . After the first few years, we let the Tour Operators we worked with do the advertising.
Â What is your favourite walk?
. . . the GR480 in Correze and Lot.
Â What was your best travel experience?
. . . Meeting 2 teenagers on a Greek island, we gave them a lift and they showed us proudly round their village, it was Greek National Day, by chance, too.
Where do you go on holiday?
. . . Once we retired we went in a campervan, through Europe and North Africa. We mostly holiday in winter as we live in France.
Â Have you ever had emergencies to deal with? How did you cope with them?
. . . Not too many. The local French are great, helpful if you need something. Â The most traumatic was the group of Americans we had at the time of the 9/11 attack on the twin towers. Â One lady had her office in one of the towers so was very distressed. Â Flights were suspended for some days following so they were delayed getting home. Â However, all adults and they coped although we did need to supply quite a bit of extra back-up.
Â What happens when the weather turns nasty?
. . Â . It varies. The Dutch, Scots and Northern Irish get out packs of cards. Some people find fault with everything though.
Â Has anyone ever gone off on their own and got into trouble? What would you do if so?
. . . No. You just cope as best you can. Donâ€™t flap. Â The occasional Australian who got lost as the sun was in the wrong place!
Â What advice would you give to a tour guide coming to work in your area?
. . . A sense of humour is the best thing to bring.
Do you ever employ a tour guide? If so, how would you advise an aspiring guide to make contact with you?
. . . No, We are retired now anyway.
Please add any other comments you think a tour guide would be interested in.
. . . It must be a great way to see the world ! You need to be young, enthusiastic, self-reliant, but you know all that !