VENICE: walksinsidevenice.com LONDON: guidelondon.org.uk and annemariefahy.com ROME: seeromewithme.com FLORIDA: universalorlando.com the East End that would deliver us to Ottolenghi in Spitalfields in time for lunch. Art-lover Anne-Marie’s storytelling tour took us around the district’s remarkable street art (Banksy, Stik, Dale Grimshaw), added a smattering of Jack the Ripper history and, per our fashionista daughter’s request, included a stop at a cool indie fashion co-operative, The Laden Showroom in Brick Lane.
We paid Anne-Marie £160 for taking us around the East End, Marta €200 for showing us the heart of ancient Rome and Davide €260 for the Venetian exploration. Each of them gave us fabulous insider tips for their city and our tours, generally about three hours long, morphed to focus on what we were finding fascinating, as that became apparent to the guides.
With a heartwarming faith in humanity, many guides trust that you will show up on the day and pay the agreed sum at the end (the company with whom we booked Davide took a €100 deposit, which covered the water taxi hire).
Some private-guide tours require advance payment, such as those booked via Historic Royal Palaces, which runs a bunch of regal destinations. It’s still quite personalised, asking on the booking form for your desired themes and topics. We booked to go to Hampton Court and asked our guide, Stella, to go heavy on Henry VIII, a current obsession of our teenager. Stella had plenty to tell us about the king’s antics as we explored his old stomping ground, and took us to several areas which, without a guide, are off-limits.
And if modern fun is your game, years before we cruised like Clooney in Venice, we rode around two Florida theme parks with Richard Gere’s favourite private guide. You can book various levels of VIP experiences with Universal Orlando for $US189 and up per person, on top of your entrance ticket. We did this when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter had just opened and, while it’s more expensive than any of our other jaunts, when confronted with the prospect of an eight-hour queue, it’s a bargain. Your guide skips you to the front of every line, so you squeeze in many more rides, along with behind-thescenes forays and some surprisingly interesting history of the evolution of the parks and their rides.
Yes, you’ll have to dig a little deeper to engage a private guide, but think like a movie star: you’re worth it.