I had no idea there were this many organized tours of Houston.
FRENCH travelers with one-day layovers in Houston typically have low expectations of the city, noted Lucette Rieger, an independent tour guide.
"They've heard there's not much here," she said.
But after she shows them the cavernous downtown view from the 60th floor of Chase Tower, the Theater District, Rice University's campus, the Menil Museum, the oak-lined North and South boulevards, the Water Wall and the Beer Can House, she says that they'll kiss her on the cheek and say "It's a wonderful city: Clean, green and lots to do."
Houston is not considered a tourist mecca but does have a lot to offer, enough to allow scores of independent tour guides to carve out their own niche of treasures.
For instance, guide Gary White has a specialty in Civil War battlefields and cemeteries, while Melissa Dixon focuses on Fort Bend County history. Richard Cook knows oil-field history, and Mike Kees is an expert on sports venues. Rieger speaks French and Turkish.
And outside the city limits, Leslie Tate of Adventures 2000 Plus offers swamp and river tours.
Most of them also give standardized tours of local attractions.
There are no city licensing requirements to be a tour guide.
The nonprofit Professional Tour Guide Association of Houston, with more than 30 members, gives local guides an opportunity to network and provides educational and certification programs.