Kate Simon: You can delve a bit deeper with a guide by your side

Travel View

Before I started the job (as they call it) of Travel Editor, I would never have dreamed of employing the services of a guide on my travels.

Far too touristy and restrictive a proposition. Now, I'm rarely without one by my side, admittedly because I tend to have precisely 48 hours to immerse myself in a destination and get enough information to write an article about it, but also because I've become a bit of a fan of these mines of information.

Over the years, I've discovered that they can turn you on or, indeed, right off a place in the space of an hour. Fortunately, most of the ones I've met have been engaging and knowledgeable.

You never forget good guides, like Rosalynd Pio, a woman in her later years with a formidable brain and an acute sense of humour, who showed me and fellow journalists around Florence. Not only did she hold an amazing amount of information in her head, but she also knew how to keep it entertaining and to judge just when we'd reached the point of overload.

Arthur Lamy, the Blue Badge Guide who took me for a walk along part of the new Channel Islands Way in Jersey earlier this spring, was a delightful companion on the cliff paths. As much as he provided an entertaining narrative to the trail, and, indeed, the island, he was also happy to fess up when he didn't know the answer and offer to try to find out – an option too often ditched by tour guides who'd rather make it up than look stupid.

And in Florida, at Ybor City, Tampa's cigar-making quarter, Manny Leto revealed knowledge that didn't just stick to the mainstream history but delved deeper to give a social and cultural understanding of the place, then and now.

There are, of course, the bad, too. In Rio a few years back, I met the grumpiest of guides, who became positively abusive and had to be removed from the job by his company. While in Oman, our driver/guide refused to engage at all and showed what he thought of our group by choosing a bus stop with an overflowing bin as a suitable spot for our picnic lunch. And on a recent trip to New York, I came across a local guide who had the most irritating habit of clapping his hands together every 20 seconds or so. He'd lost the group's attention within five minutes to anticipating the next thunderous smash of his palms.

Guiding is an art, and when you get yourself a good one, you appreciate there are few better ways of getting under the skin of a place.

***

If you plan to head to New York this year, make time to dine at Rouge Tomate (rougetomate.com) at 10 East 60th Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenue. I've promised myself that I'll eat there when I'm in the city because it's one of New York's top culinary experiences.

Chefs and nutritionists work together at this unusual Michelin-starred restaurant based on a philosophy of "Health Through Food". If that sounds a little tough on the taste buds, the truth is executive chef Jeremy Bearman and his team compose the most extraordinary flavour combinations for their modern American menu.

If you can't get to New York any time soon, there's a sister restaurant in Brussels. Surely it can't be long until Rouge Tomate comes to the UK. I hope not.

Do you have a travel issue?

Email sundaytravel@independent.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea