A company called Cities Talking have launched a series of apps guides to different cities. There are differences between other apps available but one is that they use celebrity voices to guide you. See London with Christopher Biggins could be the promotional line.
But would Biggins be a competent guide? Or would Gordon Kelly who guides you around Edinburgh? Would they be tempted to just take you to places that they would like? The answer is no because they haven’t written the guides merely spoken words penned by that well-known Australian writer, Kathy Lette.
So the question is whether Kathy Lette can be a good guide as she has written all of them?
Cities Talking claim “to offer a solution to expensive, uninformative city tours, with the help of some famous voices.” It’s inexpensive because its free to download; it’s inexpensive because all the walks are free too. So how informative are they? As an Australian – albeit one who has lived in the UK for many years – Lette sees things in a slightly different light to us natives. That’s a benefit so things are included like how Pall Mall got its name. Apparently it derives it from Pallie Mallie, which was Charles II’s favourite game. It was a bit like a giant version of croquet, and he had this path built specifically so that he could play it!As a married man I was intrigued to find out about a pub called the Coal Hole in which was founded by Edmund Kean, the actor, a Wolf Club for husbands whose wives wouldn’t let them sing in the bath. How hen-pecked was that? One wonders what Mary Chambers, his actress, wife thought of that. I have no problems, preferring a shower and the sound of water would drown any wifely complaints! That Lette wrote a “novel” called “How to kill your husband” might cause me to sing a little softer in future since I have just found that book in my wife’s bookcase.
So Lette’s approach is different to that taken by many guides. What would you expect though when she introduces herself on her website with “Welcome to my deranged world!”
The app uses an interactive GPS which targets your location and provides “compelling facts designed to inspire, educate, amuse and entertain.” You can start and re-start it so that you aren’t forced to visit anything at speed. Two separate functions also allow you to tailor your walks to your personal tastes; the Inspire function lets you select points of interest, such as churches, museums, restaurants or places to visit on a rainy day, for example; the Plan function then takes it one step further, allowing you to pick your favourite locations, which are then mapped out for you to enjoy. Walks are currently available for 10 European Cities, including: London, Edinburgh, Berlin, Amsterdam, Budapest, Florence, Paris, Venice, Bruges and Prague.
And as for the importance of Biggins? Lette is the key; its her guide regardless of which voice you here.
By the way, don’t be put off by their web site. It says the app is £2.99 but that’s recently changed. The website hasn’t.
You can download the apps here.