Be A Tourist In Your Own Town!

You Can Go On Holiday Without Leaving Home

A couple of weeks ago I was dining with friends in a cosy Italian restaurant in the centre of my hometown. It was a lovely, balmy summer evening and, as we looked out of the window in between courses, we were struck with how pretty the scene looked. The huge Tudor tower of the Cathedral looked down on the elegant and ancient street beneath.

Take your own hometown tourist photos 

 Buildings that had witnessed the arrival, and almost immediate retreat, of Bonnie Prince Charlie's men, in December 1745 nestle alongside houses that had played host to some of the most eminent luminaries of the Enlightenment, American statesman Benjamin Franklin among them. And old independent department store, hair salons occupying restored medieval buildings and an ancient timber framed inn offer much to the people who live in the city. But on this night, new visitors were discovering our assets. Because, just across the way, on the other side of a bridge crossing the deep canyon through which part of the city's inner ring road runs, there stands a new hotel. Another, just around the corner, in one of the city's most gorgeous 

streets, is proving highly popular too as are two more, both built over the new bus station at the other end of town. And the guests at those hotels were out exploring. And it was clear from their faces, and from the chatter that drifted in through the open window, that these visitors, tourists, were enjoying themselves. In my hometown. Now I rarely need encouragement to promote the history of my hometown Derby. I've written books and features about it and, hopefully, encouraged locals to appreciate it. And I've been known to enter into 'lively debate' with non-Derbeians about the elegance of our Cathedral, the beauty of our parks and the friendliness of our folk.

Grabbing a lovely  breakfast in a cafe with a view is a simple way to be a tourist

Be a tourist – take afternoon tea in a local tea room. 

 But I know that we're not what you'd call a tourist hotspot. Although Derby is near to the Peak District, and isn't really far from anywhere. And depsite it having many lovely buildings, a wide range of restaurants and bars and a terrific and modern shopping centre it doesn't have a tourist 'anchor' that draws visitors in from far and wide. There is no national museum, or theme park, or stately home on the doorstep. And because Derby is never going to be a York or a Chester, even I have to admit, as passionate as I am in broadcasting Derby's assets, it can, sometimes, be a hard sell. And it wasn't until that moment that I thought much about how the town might appear to a visiting tourist. But now, from this unusual vantage, I could and I was impressed. So impressed that I wondered whether even I had overlooked some of my hometown's greatest assets.Because on the other side of the window were tourists. They were strolling. They were looking all around them. And they were taking photographs. And that's normal. It's something we do when we're away from home. But not when we're at home. 

When was the last time you took a photograph of a lovely building in your hometown? Or snapped yourself in front of a statue of a local luminary? I mentioned it to my friends and we all agreed – it was mighty satisfying to see visitors to our city enjoying it so much that they just had to have their photos taken outside our cathedral. 

Now, the free-flowing wine might have had something to do with it, but when we left the restaurant we took some photos of our own. In effect, we pretended to be tourist in our own city. And why not? We all tend to take for granted the things that are on our doorsteps. And, as we too, strolled down the ancient street of Irongate, I came over all philosophical and wondered whether it mightn't be a good idea to keep being a tourist. After all, that way I could go on holiday without leaving home. And, if I counted the rest of the county, I could spend all summer long exploring. So since that evening I've set about doing just that. A long stroll around the inside of the Cathedral, an evening spent in the pretty Regency suburb of Darley Abbey – part of one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, don't you know? This week I'm taking afternoon tea in Bennetts – a lovely and very classy independent department store. There's plenty more to do, and I'm determined to fill my summer with fascinating journeys of discovery around the city of my birth.

And it's surely something everyone can do? Unless you grew up in the tiniest hamlet, there's sure to be something tourist-worthy near your home. It might only be feeding the ducks in the local pond, looking at the architectural gems of the high street, or walking around your local church but you'll probably learn something. And most towns, even the smallest, have at least one town trail you can follow. Whether it's an official guided tour, or a one-page leaflet, it will take you around  the important, the fascinating and the historic. But you can just wander - along streets you've never seen before, into parks you've previously overlooked. And, to really give yourself an authentic tourist treat, why not use public transport to get around? Most bus companies offer a day-long ticket at a discount so it might well work out cheaper than paying for all those car parks. You'll get to mingle with your fellow 'travellers' and enjoy a stress-free way of getting around. You could try a new cafe, pub or restaurant - there are bound to be ones you've never tried before. Or perhaps re-explore your local museum. If it's years since you last went, chances are things have changed. And if you really are short of inspiration and have a local tourist information centre why not see what suggestions they have?

At the very least, you'll probably learn to appreciate your surroundings with new eyes.