Job Insights: An Interview with Emma Parker of Coutours

December 26, 2013 3:07 pm

coutours londonWith such a rich, intriguing and occasionally very bizarre history, London is rife with iconic landmarks, charismatic old buildings and hidden secrets – but whether a resident or a tourist, there is so much to explore, it can be a little overwhelming when deciding on what to see or do…

As owner of Coutours, Emma Parker uses her extensive passion and knowledge of the capital to run a selection of fun and interestingly themed tours of London, from ‘Secrets of the Shocking East End’ right through to ‘Chelsea: From Tudors to Punk’ – and boasting a ‘Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence’, it’s fair to say that her business is blooming.

To gain an insight into this most interesting of jobs, I caught up with Emma to find out a little more about the woman behind Coutours…

Coutours is a very striking name; can you shed some light on where it came from?

When I came up with the idea of Coutours, I wanted them to be specially created tours to suit individual tastes and requirements. Couture tours and hence over a glass of wine with some friends, we got Coutours!

This may be a bit of cliché question, but what inspired you to start your walking tour business?

Primarily the impetus for starting Coutours was my love of London and how it never ceased to amaze me even though I lived and worked in it every day. The catalyst however was a trip to Petra in Jordan where we enjoyed two tours. While one was excellent and informative, the other had us in stitches because of his incompetence. It got me thinking seriously about how I could show London at its best and in an interesting way. After 2 years of doing tours alongside my PR job, I took the plunge and Coutours was born.

Has studying historical landmarks, periods and events always been a passion of yours?

I did a degree in History and to be honest, it wasn’t a passion at the time! I love fascinating facts and details and with this degree as a background, I have become completely fascinated with the architecture, social history and evolution of London.

What is it like to run your own business based in the capital?

I have always worked in London and know no different. I love working here; it’s like a work in progress. I am constantly out and about visiting exhibitions and researching new tours  as well as unveiling my favourite sights to clients and I find it inspiring.

You hold a variety of interesting, intriguing and alternative excursions of London; do you have a particular favourite?

My favourite tours change on a weekly basis. Today my favourite tour is ‘The Secret History of Street Food’. It involves two foodie street markets: Borough and Maltby Street. It is a wonderful way of hearing about and tasting some of the foods that we used to eat before we all had kitchens. Piemen, street hawkers and costermongers filled the streets with curious smells tastes and their familiar sales patter would create a constant cacophony that would be unbearable to us today.

When you are not taking people on adventures, what is your ideal day out?

coutoursIf I wasn’t in London, it would be a day of skiing and walking in the Alps. Followed by a fondue and a drink in front of a log fire.

In London, my day would start with a bagel from Brick Lane and a good coffee. I would then head for a park; St James or Regents Park are two of my favourites. St James’ is best for its hilarious birds and squirrels. After a wander and a look at the best view in London from St James’ blue bridge, I would then have a big lunch somewhere either very historic and atmospheric or somewhere with a great view. Failing that, I would have scones and tea at The National Portrait Gallery cafe on the top floor with its wonderful views across Trafalgar Square.

Last but certainly not least, what does the future hold for Coutours? Do you think you might take your tours further afield one day?

It has always been my dream to take Coutours out of London and expand to other cities/ areas around the country and abroad. However, before I contemplate world domination, I really want to get my London model perfect. I would then be very happy to work with fellow tour guides who hold the same level of passion and with a similar approach as me.

Thank you for your time Emma, it has been very interesting talking to you.

If you would like to delve deeper into Emma’s London tours, feel free to take a look at the official Coutours website.

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