Isabelle Cossart Celebrating 39 Years Of Excellence In The Tour Business!
New Orleans has a way to seduce you and hold you here! I came to this country as a French teacher when I was 21 to learn English and teach French at the elementary level in a public school in a New Orleans central city neighborhood. It was 1974 and I had a one year visa. I am still here… It has been a long year!
I replaced a French girlfriend of mine on a few tour guide assignments for groups of tourists from France several times that year and, realizing I needed to know much more about it, started to learn about New Orleans’ incredibly rich history and culture at the public library. I soon found that teaching love and lore of Louisiana to tourists was much more rewarding than teaching French.
Being a ‘step-on Guide’ on large buses in the late 70’s showed me back then how much better it would be to give tours in smaller vehicles to groups no larger than a dozen people. I also worked as a French interpreter and tour guide for several limousine companies and saw that the dark windows and seating arrangements on limos were not conducive to good visibility for sightseeing. I started to free-lance and gave tours in my 8 passenger family Suburban, then later rented a 15 passenger Dodge van and went to the Airport early in the morning to pick it up, did the tour, returned it late at night…
In the meantime I had gotten married and had started a family (4 kids in 5 years) and the concierges at various New Orleans hotels were encouraging me to also give tours in English as my English had finally gotten better…Finally in 1979 I convinced a banker to loan me enough money to buy my first 15 passenger van. It was a used, tan colored van, and I called it my golden goose! No one in New Orleans had ever given per capita tours (for individuals) in a van before. I produced and brought to all downtown hotels a brochure selling a 3 hour city tour of New Orleans, a swamp/bayou boat tour to a wonderful Cajun alligator hunter in Bayou Boeuf (we still go there today!) and an all day plantation tour to Oak Alley Plantation, Nottoway Plantation and Houmas House Plantation. We would cross over the Mississippi River on the White Castle ferry boat and people just loved it.
My business has persisted and grown over these last 38 years or so but the idea of “smaller is better” and “quality not quantity” as far as the size of our tour groups has really stayed with me as well as putting together great itineraries for our customers, giving them truly fascinating tours, and delivering real Louisiana history with passion and attention to detail as we drive them around in our small and comfortable vans.