Check­list

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

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.

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