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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a tour guide? To be paid to wander the cobbled streets, browse the bustling markets and share with people the hidden gems of your favourite French region. Well, Dee from Jackdaw Journeys does just that. We reached out to her on Instagram to learn more about the life of a tour guide.
Dee instantly struck us as everything you hope your tour guide will be, warm, friendly and passionate about travel. She was happy to chat to us about her life and how she became a tour guide in Provence.
It all started with my first cooking school in Tuscany, Italy in 2007. The experience was wonderful. In 2008 I had the privilege of returning to my second school but this time it was at the home of Julia Child in Plascassier, France. That did it. It was love at first sight. I feel in love with everything French and I’ve made it a point to return to Southern France as often as possible ever since.
How I became the tour guide was a leap of faith. After a couple of years of hiring other tour guides, I decided I wanted to do this on my own and launched Jackdaw Journeys Tours. The goal of the tours is to share this extraordinary corner of the world with my guests by exploring France’s sights, sounds, scents and flavors. We are a very small tour group, 10 guests or less. The small size of the tours allows me to truly expose the back roads of Provence like large tours groups can’t. Ours tours are popular with people who want to truly immerse themselves in the Provencal culture and I now offer trips 3-4 times a year.
What is my favorite thing about my job? I absolutely love to share hidden gyms (back roads, antique markets, vineyards etc.) I have found over the years to first time guests. Many times, these guests have never travelled outside of the US let alone to France. In addition, many have no clue where Provence is or what to expect. It’s so much fun to see their faces light up when they see the colour of the Riviera waters or taste their first true baguette with butter or cheese!
There are challenges of course, such as finding reliable vendors abroad. I need English speaking drivers who will show up on time and return the next day. Many times, there are hidden expenses for me since I am dealing in a foreign currency. The trip cost changes yearly according to the exchange rate. Another challenge is social media. There are many companies out there with a lot of money and competition can be brutal. But there are also great perks to being a small tour group. I work with local vendors who are from the areas we explore so they know the regions well. Also, small groups allow me to really get to know and spend time with each guest.
We start early (out the door by 8:00am) whilst on tour because there is so much to see. Because Jackdaw is small, I do have some flex in my schedule if everyone agrees on the changes. If it is raining, we can go inside one of the wonderful museums or even a cookie factory. If we happen to pass a quaint antique store we can make an unexpected stop. Usually guests have the evenings to themselves to go out for dinner or to rest up for next day.
People always want to know what I pack. Well I always have my chargers, phone, laptop and passport. Then I pack scarves, a rain jacket, comfortable shoes and a small bit of cash. To be honest, I pack as little as possible because I am a big shopper and like to bring back many treasures for my house, family and friends.
Tips for someone starting out as tour guide. Know your area well is the best tip I can offer. Also, be prepared for anything. Sickness, accidents, travel issues. I always go over the day before my guests are due to arrive just to make sure the accomodation and goodie bags are ready. It also helps to know some of the language of the country you are in. It isn’t essential but it makes everything so much easier. And finally, a good tour guide is passionate about the area that they are sharing. Show your guests why you love your life as a tour guide.
Here is a snippet of what you can expect on our tours…
Provence, France Tour Highlights
French cooking classes with a Michelin Star-rated Chef in his magnificent garden kitchen…
Open-air market shopping excursions in port cities and inland towns, where you can find everything from antiques and other treasures to regional delicacies…
Leisurely boat rides along the French Riviera—adding value on top of the already rich experience of touring Provence…
Wine tastings, sumptuous dining, spa pampering, back road exploring and more!
We really enjoyed chatting to Dee about her life of a tour guide. And with great reviews, it is clearly a life she is well suited to.
Learn more about Jackdaw Journeys
and don’t forget to quote LITTLEFRENCH.
If you liked this read, then why not check out our post Areas of Provence