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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Meet the Guide: Barri

I sat down with tour guide Barri this weekend for some sugary latte drinks around the corner from the Foods of New York Tours office. I'm going to start profiling a tour guide every month for your reading pleasure. The people who make up this company are so diverse and so interesting, so come get to know them with me!

Barri outside the MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens apartments,
which are featured on the Central Village/SoHo tour.

So how did you get involved with Foods of New York Tours?

I was working at a restaurant on Cornelia Street, which is a big part of the tour. I was a waitress there, and we used to see these groups coming in. I was working with Curt, who is another tour guide. He got involved doing tours, and he was telling me, "It's great, it's fun, it's a good job," and I became interested.

But first of all, Curt is a comedian. And I thought, "Do I have to be funny?" But Curt said, "No no, you don't have to be funny!" I was interested in giving it a try, and he put me in touch with Todd. I started doing tours one or two days a week.

After about a little less than a year, Todd asked me if I wanted to become involved with the company on a larger scale so I started working full-time behind the scenes because they were developing a new tour for Central Village. And that's how it happened.

I know that many times, once people start working for FNYT they stay.

Todd is passionate about what he does, and I think that rubs off. It's a nice working environment, you get to meet new people all the time, and you're not sitting behind a desk all day long. I discovered a while ago that I'm not a sitting-behind-a-desk type. 

So you developed the Central Village tour?

Yeah, I actually wrote the script for the Central Village / SoHo Tour. Todd and I worked on that together. We visited a lot of the restaurants in the neighborhood -- that was fun, going out to lunch, going out to clubs, getting paid for it, and then getting to write about it and share my experiences with the people taking the tour.

Which tours are you giving now?

I do three tours: the Original Greenwich Village, Central Village / SoHo, and Chelsea Market / Meatpacking District. So it's nice. It's a little more interesting so you're not doing the same thing day after day.

Isn't that a lot to remember? So much information.

It sticks after a while, you get used to it. I learned them all at different times, and then as the tour develops and you gather more information, it becomes a part of you. You don't even have to remember it anymore because it's so natural, it's like you know your name or where you grew up; it becomes part of your memories.

I think I have a little bit of the teacher in me. To me, that's one of the most fun parts of giving a tour is feeling like you're actually educating people. And that good feeling that you get when you're learning something, it's nice to be able to give that to people.

What's your favorite New York City neighborhood?

This is one of them. I love the Village. I spend most of my time in the Village these days. It's small, it's intimate, and you can go up these little streets and discover new things or wander around and end up places you've never been before. There's a lot of charm in lower Manhattan, generally below 14th Street. It's really hard to pick one place.

I also like going up to 5th Avenue and going to Museum Mile, because I'm an art lover. I'm a photographer, so I used to go all the time to galleries and museums and take pictures. I used to walk around New York City constantly with my camera. I wanna get back to that.

What kind of photography do you like to do?

Most of my photos are sort of like found art. I've actually photographed trash because the way it looked, and if you photographed it from a certain angle, it became art. I was using film, you know, and then everything switched over to digital. But that's a real passion of mine that I want to get back to. It's generally creative, artistic people that fall into doing something like this because we're not the traditional 9-5 sorts.

Can you recommend one place (that's not on the tour) that everyone -- New Yorker or tourist -- should check out?

Imperial Woodpecker Sno-balls. It's New Orleans style ices and it's amazing.  The owner pops up in different parts of the village every summer and she's now on MacDougal Street.


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