Julie Dawn Fox is a British writer, photographer and self-confessed travel addict, who now calls Portugal home. Tapping into her extensive travel experiences, she has created a warm and fascinating audio walking tour through Lisbon’s most gorgeous neighbourhoods.
VoiceMap: Do you see potential for apps and other new technology to engage new audiences in aspects of Portugal’s culture and history?
Julie: Absolutely! I am very excited about this location-aware technology and think it adds a whole new dimension to tours. People who would never take the time to read lengthy descriptions in guide books or brochures can effortlessly learn about the place they are visiting simply by listening to stories in context.
The script for my Lisbon audio tour is almost 3,500 words long, which I wouldn’t expect anyone to read either before or during a walk around the city. Listening to local stories in the places where they happened is a much easier way of learning and appreciating the culture and history of any destination.
Because the audio guide triggers whenever there is something of interest or directions are needed, people are free to look around them as they walk through new places instead of having their heads bent over a screen, map or book.
I also think that being in the company of a virtual guide has advantages over a real-life guide on a private or group tour. The nature of location-aware tours means people retain total flexibility to stop wherever they want for as long as they want without having to worry about other people, except their travel companions of course. The audio tour simply kicks in again when they reach the next location.
VoiceMap: Were you surprised by how starting out with a map influenced the stories you ended up telling?
Julie: A little. When I started putting together my Lisbon tour, I already had in mind the route I wanted to follow, which sights I wanted to include and most of the things I intended to point out. The extra research I did into these places uncovered some stories I hadn’t been aware of.
As I plotted the tour on the map, I also found myself remembering other spots along the way that were also worth mentioning.
VoiceMap: As a storyteller, what do you gain by knowing exactly where your audience is at any given moment?
Julie: The benefit of walking the route virtually with someone is that I know what they are likely to encounter at any particular spot. I can then make helpful comments about what they are seeing at the appropriate time, making it far more meaningful.
By putting myself in the visitor’s shoes and seeing what they would see I can describe things to help them follow the route with ease, such as fountains and trees.
It’s the next best thing to being with them in person.
VoiceMap: What did you enjoy most about creating this audio walk?
Julie: I particularly enjoyed walking the route virtually and seeing Lisbon through fresh eyes. I love this city and the opportunity to share some of my favourite places and the stories behind them gives me great pleasure.
Thanks to the flexibility of the audio guide technology, I was able to ‘take’ people to some fantastic bars, cafés, restaurants and shops and make suggestions. Hint – the chocolate brownies from Corallo’s are to die for and their coffee is outstanding.
I also learned new things: about the origin of Portugal’s ‘espresso’ coffee, and the fact that the tiles which the beer factory is covered in come from a ruined convent. Check out my Lisbon walking tour to learn more.