Untourists of the Week: Tom & Pat Low

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Tom and Pat Low, our Untourist of the week, have been on 15 Untours!  The latest was Quebec in 2011.

1. Tell us a little bit about your most recent Untour.

We just loved staying on the Rue de St. Jean.  It’s the main shopping street and so lively.  We loved going to the park (“Plains of Abraham”) and were so impressed with how deeply the history is felt here and how well cared for it is.  The park, for instance is just beautifully maintained.  Rue de Petit Champlain, in Lower Town is another example.  So beautifully restored, and it is perhaps the oldest street in North America.  That’s impressive!

2. What is your favorite Untours memory?

We have two:

  • In Quebec, our favorite memory, oddly enough, considering that we loved the historic nature of Quebec, was in the modern part.  One day, we just set off for a walk in the modern part of Upper Town.  We came upon a staircase and an elevator on which you could descend to Lower Town.  At the bottom of the elevator (or stairs if you weren’t as lazy as we were) was a regular modern-seeming part of the city, and a park.  But when you went inside the park, the noise of the city just vanished.  I think that they have made the landscaping of this park especially so that it is a quiet spot among the noise of the city.  The park (Jardin St Roch) even has a waterfall!  It was so unexpected to find it, as we did, just wandering around. [Editor’s note: After talking with Pat, we did some research.  It turns out that Jardin St. Roch is a fascinating story of a successful renovation of a historic district, once thriving, and then very much struggling in the suburban exodus of the 1Elizabethkillough0’s.  Recently this area was a scene of urban decay.  Now it is a showpiece of civic and private collaboration to bring prosperity to the center of a city.  Read more here]

  • Our other memory is a bit more serious.  We came to Untours many, many years ago – more than 25 years ago – when Tom’s father, Walter, took us and our then 11 year old on a trip to Switzerland.  Tom’s father dearly loved Switzerland and we don’t even know how many trips they took with Untours to Switzerland over the years.  They almost always went back to the same family in Meiringen.  It was like a second home to them.  And Walter often hiked above Meiringen, in the Planplatten area.  From there, he could see an old tower near Meiringen, and he often speculated what a great view one might get from that tower, if it would ever be renovated.  When Walter passed away, we wanted to do something in his memory.  We called Hal Taussig and asked him to recommend something that would relate to Walter’s love of Switzerland.  Lo and behold, we found that that old tower WAS finally being renovated, and they needed funds to finish the job.  That is why, today, you’ll see Walter Low’s name on a plaque on that tower.  We donated some funds so that others could come and see the view that Walter wished for them, in a place he loved so dearly.  On our next Swiss Untour, we sprinkled some of Walter’s ashes in this alpine valley he loved so well.   And each time we go back, we think of him. 

3. How is taking an Untour different from other ways of travelling?

It’s the difference between the cattle car and first class.  And I don’t mean fanciness.  I mean that the people you meet are what makes it first class.  They’re not afraid to have an adventure.  They enjoy getting lost.  They like discovering things!  We think of that as truly first class travel, when you get to meet that kind of person.  And you don’t have to get back on the bus, and pack your bags every day, like all those poor tourists we feel sorry for.

4. If you could describe an Untour in just three words, what would they be?

Heaven on earth?  (or is that going too far?)  Well, we love every one we’ve been on!

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