Get to Know New Orleans Guide Glenn de Villier

When asked what it takes to be a good tour guide, Glenn de Villier says, “A deep understanding of your subject, and a marvelous personality,” so it’s a jolly good thing he embodies both, as rave reviews of his tours attest. We caught up with de Villier, a historian, writer, and tour guide who knows New Orleans, to learn more about his past and current style of guiding. Bonus: de Villier shares his favorite places to eat traditional southern comfort food, and since he was born and bred in the same area, you can bet he knows what he’s talking about.

It’s an honor to be able to speak with you, Glenn. Tell us, how did you discover your love for guiding?

It’s always been fun! I was raised to appreciate diversity and kindness. There really is no better way to display graciousness than as a host. So, when I was at university and was invited by a prominent hotelier to be the guide for Earl Spencer, his wife, and their entourage, I was, naturally, very flattered. Our subsequent adventure proved satisfying, and it wasn’t too long before I received a call from other fine properties. My next tour was with Bono and U2.

Is guiding in New Orleans your destiny, or do you think you’ll ever guide elsewhere?

It is essential, I believe, to do what one knows best. For me, that’s New Orleans and Louisiana. I like that our tours are never scripted, and our service is personal. We truly like our guests to be a part of the city, and this sort of community spirit makes me want to stay put.

Since you were born and raised in Louisiana, you must know it inside and out. What’s your favorite thing about the area?

Being born and bred in Louisiana was the easy part! The joy comes from being a part of it. My favorite thing is the rich culture, and the sharing thereof. Nothing can replace heritage or serious studies into a region. My family has been in Louisiana for about 300 years. My academic background includes several classes in Louisiana history and culture throughout primary and secondary school, all of which is supplemented by a deep understanding of European and North American history, as well as literature provided to me by outstanding scholars such as T. Harry Williams and Cleanth Brooks.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My first, great hope is that my dog, Spencer, will allow me to sleep until 7:30. If not, we play a little game of hide and seek with the covers before he gets his walk around our neighborhood, the charming Vieux Carre. We visit with the neighbors along the way, and, sometimes, have a cafe au lait and a baguette at Croissant d’Or. After that, we return home and I get ready for my tour group. When the tour is done and everyone is happy, I take lunch at Antoine’s or Little Vic’s. Then, it’s time for a swim and a catch-up with friends at the New Orleans Athletic Club. I do, sometimes, have a private evening tour, or a tour for one of the big companies. After that, I check on Spencer and freshen-up for dinner with guests or friends (when they’ll have me!) at the Pelican Club. I do enjoy reading, the movies, and the opera. New Orleans was the first city in what is now the United States to have opera.

What do you like to do in New Orleans on days when you’re not leading your humorous and info-packed trips?

I love talking the talk and walking the walk in my hometown. In New Orleans, we talk to strangers, walk everywhere we can, and work very hard at building a community. My company is a community-based one, and I always tell visitors that if a company asks you to meet them on the street or in a public park, that’s a pretty sure sign they have no relationship at all with the city they are about to try to tell you about. It’s also a good idea to ask where your guide is from.

What is the best tour you have ever lead, and why?

I love kids (even the big ones!), and especially the smart ones. I like having them laugh along with me, and I love it when they ask questions.

Have you ever had a bad guided trip?

This question reminds me of one asked of Zsa-Zsa Gabor. The interviewer asked Miss Gabor how many husbands she had had. She replied coolly, “Other than my own?”. Yes, when I was planning to open my own tour company, I went on a number of bad tours. I learned a lot from the experience. One of our policies is if a guest has a bad tour with another company, they can come along on one of ours for free. We can’t give anyone back their misspent two hours, but we can help make up for a bad guided tour.

What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve ever had on a guided tour? Ever had any odd requests from clients?

No comment; this is New Orleans, after all.

Since we all know that no job is perfect, would you mind sharing some of the downfalls of guiding in New Orleans? The heat get to you much?

Drink lots of water, stay in the shade, and go for a swim. A good guide will account for, and accommodate for, the weather conditions.

As an experienced guide, can you think of any tips people should know before going on a guided tour?

Find out about your guide before finding yourself on a cheap tour of New Orleans done by someone from Perth.

What does it take to be a good tour guide?

A deep understanding of your subject, and a marvelous personality.

One of your many rave reviewers says you are “great for recommending the best places to eat and drink,” and now I’m curious as to your favorite New Orleans dish. Care to share your most prized comfort food, and where we can find it?

If you really mean “comfort food”, then that would be anything from Antoine’s. Having grown-up eating there, being friendly with the family, and having worked in the wine cellar one summer as a school job, it’s easily my home away from home. They are commemorating their 175th year in business! If you mean where’s my favorite place to dine, it’s the bar at the Pelican Club. I love their scallops.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would like to go to Nepal.

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