Andy Mossack joins Virtualtrips’ live tour of Greenwich Village and finds it the next best thing to being there.
The COVID pandemic has caused devastation across the globe, but it has also inspired innovation and creativity at unprecedented levels.
Perhaps, nowhere is this more evident than in the travel sector where the ‘new normal’ has left airports barren and holiday companies close to the brink inspiring people to create ingenious alternative solutions.
Tourist boards across the world have valiantly tried to quench our thirst for travel by providing virtual experiences of their destinations either through corporate videos or locals offering a first-person perspective of their hometowns.
Now, I’ve had my fair share of guided tours and they are always a delicate balancing act between being bombarded with dates and statistics and absorbing the right information that will stick. The guide is always the key. Particularly if it’s a general tour and not one specifically designed for your own wishes.
While these virtual journeys can never compete with the real thing, it’s nevertheless an opportunity to cherry-pick destinations, planning for a time when we will be able to get there and experience them for real.
Take New York’s Greenwich Village for example. I’ve been there, but I’ve not, yet, had the benefit to be there if you get my drift. I’ve never had the opportunity to take time to lazily stroll the leafy streets and soak it all up. Well, Aaron and Patrick managed to bring it to my home so well it really was almost like being there.
Virtualtrips is a new online tour guide service where, through the miracle of live Zoom streaming, we’re taken on a 45-minute stroll through neighbourhoods around the world by locals who thoroughly rejoice in sharing their little corner of the globe with an armchair audience. it’s currently a free service where you are encouraged to simply tip the guide via a small on-screen box as and when you feel the need.
Aaron and Patrick are a couple of highly entertaining ‘resting’ actors who are clearly skilled in presenting, but here’s the thing. They were engaging, knowledgeable, and so obviously joyous about where they live. Particularly when they recommended eating! I loved that they were like a bickering couple who couldn’t agree on their favourite cupcake bakery or where to go for the best cannoli.
I also liked the comments from the online audience who shared favourites from their own visits too via the interactive chat box, some even shared recipes for heaven’s sake!
That all comes from Aaron and Patrick’s ability to skilfully engage as they navigated their way across Greenwich Village’s nooks and crannies with their iPhone front and centre. From Carrie Bradshaw’s Sex and the City brownstone and the Friends apartment building to the legendary Bitter End club and plenty of bits and pieces in-between, the Village’s back streets were revealed with the beauty of normal daily life going on live all around them. I could also check just where I was through the embedded map tucked away in the corner of the screen.
When we finally arrived back at our starting point (a little late due to a few extras the guys squeezed in) I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to our online community group. Hopes for a reunion of sorts were raised when Aaron and Patrick revealed another tour of Lower Manhattan was available with them a few days later. Gosh, I could almost feel the love.
As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t really been to Greenwich Village but thanks to Aaron and Patrick I guess I have now.
All images (c) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about Virtualtrips
Virtualtrips was set up in May 2020 by avid travellers Liam Garrison and John Tertan and currently offers over 130 tours in 19 destinations and counting, including Moscow, Venice, Melbourne and of course NYC. Remember, as these tours are in real-time, you need to book your slot in advance via the tour calendar on the site.