An occasional look at products the travel industry insists we need.
WHAT: "City Walks" series, a deck of walking-tour cards.
AIMED AT: Independent travelers averse to any tours that involve a guide with a hoisted umbrella, a headset or a map the size of a tablecloth.
HOW MUCH: $14.95 for a box of New York City or Paris walking tours.
BUT DO THEY WORK? Pick a card, any card. Now pick a tour, any tour. Each box contains 50 routes-on-cards, so you can easily select at random and still come up with an illuminating one- to two-mile/hour tour. Both city's tours are organized by neighborhood -- the Louvre, Montmartre, Pere Lachaise, etc., for Paris; Wall Street, Chelsea, Dumbo, etc., for New York. Each card displays a self-contained tour; follow one or stack the deck and do three in a row, or even a royal flush. Taking from the top of the NYC deck, for example, you get Walk No. 4, South Street Seaport, which starts at Fulton Street (all tours begin and end at a subway or metro stop) and highlights -- via brief descriptions, directions and a detailed map on the flip side -- Fulton Fish Market, the Titanic memorial, Pier 17, Schermerhorn Row and more. The cards also include cultural info and refueling options. After completing all 50 tours, you'll no doubt know the city like a local. Indeed, it's in the cards.
-- Andrea Sachs
"City Walks" cards are available at D.C.'s National Building Museum (202-272-7706, www.nbm.org) or through the company at www.chroniclebooks.com.