A Cast of Character: What Makes a Perfect Guide

Experts + Insiders | Around The World | By Dave Bowden

Palpable is a funny word. If you plug it into Google right now you’ll see it defined, in part at least, as “so intense as to be almost touched or felt.” It’s usually used to describe an otherwise intangible feeling, but in my attempt to put into words the flurry of activity that was B&R’s 2013 Guide Kick Off, it’s the first one that came to mind. The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how fitting it was; while B&R guides are a diverse group, gathering so many of them together in one place results in a kinetic energy that makes so many of their shared traits seem palpable.


The guides did everything with gusto, including skits!
The guides did everything with gusto; it’s practically Martha Butterfield’s middle name!

The first thing I noticed about our assembled recruits, from the greenest new guides to the savviest veterans, was their enthusiasm. While new guides conveyed a slightly nervous energy, anxious with an excitement they could barely contain, returning veterans simply beamed as they reunited with old friends and welcomed new ones. (In both cases the process involved a smile, a kiss and a hug.)

Whether scouring Beaune in search of items for a scavenger hunt, racing to change bike tires during their mechanical training, heading out together for a morning ride or performing (extremely important) skits, the guides did everything with gusto.


The theme permeating the kick off was service, and while we only occasionally discussed it explicitly, it was everywhere on display. What became obvious through the guides’ many acts of kindness was how intimately service stems from generosity of spirit.

It’s the motivating root that compels a person to offer the perfect word of encouragement when you face a challenging uphill climb, fill a dining companion’s glass before their own and share a delicacy with their neighbour.

Gather together a team of generous hostesses and hosts, and marvel at how seamlessly things happen—never have so many needs been so immediately anticipated. Nary a glass went empty, a (delicious) meal unshared or a moment of silence unfilled with laughter and conversation.

Get More Guides!

Click here to check out a slideshow of our 2013 Guide Kick Off.


Spend some time with one B&R guide, and you’ll quickly come to believe that anything is possible. Spend some time surrounded by B&R guides, and you’ll see why your belief is justified.

Enthusiasm_OscarRide a challenging 60 kilometres then head out for a (late) night of revelry? Bien sur. Dine at the most exclusive restaurant in town—without a reservation? Let them make a call. Find that rare bottle of wine you’ve been searching for forever? They’re on it.

A lowly editor, I was at first taken aback by the audacity of their optimism. But the more time I spent among the guides, the more sense it seemed to make. Expert cyclists, linguistic masters and exemplary hosts, this is a group of people who hold multiple degrees, count some of the world’s best vintners, chefs and hoteliers among their friends and have lived, worked and played in all corners of the globe. I can honestly say they’re the most capable, warm and all-out fun group of people I’ve had the pleasure of spending a week alongside—they’d be crazy not to think they can do anything.


If I had to choose just one word to describe a B&R guide (and thank God I don’t), I would have to choose character. It’s the net result of a person possessed of enthusiasm, generosity and optimism.

Alex_CharacterCharacter means our guides have the work ethic to load up the van before each trip and the intuition that tells them a bottle of wine (or two) is as necessary as the bike equipment. Character means guides have the foresight to call ahead and make sure the restaurant is aware of any dietary restrictions, and have enough life experience to tell a great yarn over dinner. Character, in short, is as essential to B&R experiences as an amazing locale and a delicious meal.

And with the worldly, enthusiastic, generous and optimistic cast of characters we’ve assembled for 2013, there’s little doubt B&R experiences will abound this year.

For those of us at the kick off, the feeling was palpable.