Segways have developed something of a bad rep. This probably wasn't helped by the British businessman, who acquired the Segway company from its initial inventor, killing himself by accidentally riding off a cliff on one of the self-balancing vehicles.
Images of Paul Blart: Mall Cop come to mind when thinking of the Segway. This is unfortunate when venture capitalists who had initially been asked to help fund the transportation project referenced that the Segway would be an invention more important in the history of the world than the internet. Much like Walt Disney's PeopleMover, the Segway was to do away with cars and revolutionise the way people got from A to B (and sometimes C); again, like the PeopleMover, the reality is that the Segway is a transportation method that is mainly used by tourists. But, oh, what a way to travel!
David and I first experienced a Segway in St. Augustine, Florida, in August 2013. We had travelled to Florida with my family to celebrate my father's 65th birthday and though, as massive Disney fanatics, were enjoying Walt Disney World, we decided to experience a different side of the Sunshine State and picked St. Augustine as we'd read a feature about the 448th anniversary of the town (which is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the continental United States). With a few google searches we found that a tour guide offered historical themed tours of the town via Segway.
Despite never using a Segway before, by the end of our three-hour round town trip, it's fair to say, we were both hooked. Why are you wanting to look like a dork, I can hear you all ask?
Well, firstly: you get to see an awful lot in the two to three hours that a Segway tour usually takes. Much more so than a walking tour can accomplish in the same time. And with much less the effort. Believe me, David and I like to walk on holiday and sightsee, but there is something special about gliding around the city streets my just leaning forwards (to go forwards) and back (to slow, stop and reverse).
Secondly: every single tour we've done has been with some brilliantly knowledgeable locals who give you a different viewpoint of the town or city you happen to be in. Of course, you'll get the main tourist spots, but you're able to ask questions and find out about the real city:
- where the locals go to drink
- where's the best place to get a particular local food
- sights which may not be in travel guides but shouldn't be missed
- which days to do certain galleries or museums
Whilst we were doing a Segway tour in Florence, Italy, our tourguide (who looked remarkably like Jared Leto) told us of the best place in the city to get the renowned Florentine beef. Straight off the tour (this was an evening tour) we visited the place he recommended and we were not disappointed.
Thirdly, well, they're just so damn fun and help create some interesting and memorable travel experiences. For example, on a trip to San Francisco, most people will visit the twisty-turny Lombard Street. But can you say you've Segway-ed down it? We can!
Finally, Segways are very simple to use but have the remarkable feeling of exhilaration. You're zipping around the streets of a foreign city, learning new things and seeing new sights, but in reality, you're not going very fast and they're very easy to learn after the first initial wobbles when you realise you're controlling a vehicle with just your core.
I'm just a few days back from Barcelona at time of writing. This time I visited the city with three friends and we also decided to get a good mental map of the city created by a first-day Segway tour.
Two of my friends had ridden a Segway before, but one had never - but, after a few moments of training in a public space, she had mastered the few skills needed and was zooming around Barcelona with the rest of us.
Another great thing about the trips by Segway is that there's usually lots of themed ones - usually a two or three hour "best of" the town or city you're visiting, but often ones which focus on local parks or the food and drink scene (although drinking and Segwaying is not allowed!) One of the more interesting ones offering in Barcelona toured and shared the history of their 1992 hosting of the Olympic Games.
David and I have also experienced another similar vehicle tour whilst docked for a few hours in Cannes during a cruise. The gryopod is, essentially, an off-brand Segway but offering the same exhilaration of touring a busy city by two wheels (and helping you dodge the exhaustion of hill climbing for spectacular views!)
Have you experienced a Segway tour? What did you think? Where did you take it and what made it so memorable? Let us know in the comments!