Category Archives: guidebook

Best resources for planning our Portugal trip

Hard to believe that in my youth, I rarely planned trips and never used guidebooks. In middle-age, with limited time to travel, a slightly bigger budget and advanced pickiness, I’ve taken to booking lodging and sometimes meals in advance using an array of guidebooks and travel articles. Here’s what’s come in handy for Portugal:

Lonely Planet guide – Got this from the public library and have used primarily to find lodging and bone up on cultural activities.

Rick Steves’ guide – It’s not as detailed as the Lonely Planet guide but Rick was helpful in narrowing down where to go during a two-week period. His guide is not as encyclopedic as Lonely Planet – with info on far fewer locations and for the locations it does list, offering fewer options. I didn’t use his lodging suggestions much – Lonely Planet had a wider range, more interesting off-the-beaten-track places and good subtitles like “rural inn” to help narrow things down. I don’t like big hotels or resorts. I prefer smaller family-run places where you can sort of get a feel for what real life is like and connect a little with locals/local life. But I think Rick’s guide will be helpful for actual sight seeing, with some good walking tours in places like Lisbon and Porto…

Newspaper travel stories – The NYTimes has a few including a story on The Other Algarve (which I found a bit late, after I’d spent considerably time trying on my own to figure out the least touristy places to visit) and a 36 Hours Lisbon; But I also found some really helpful stories from the Travel Channel (Anthony Bourdain’s show), the British press including some stories from  the Telegraph and the Guardian, plus Afar magazine.

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Filed under guidebook, Portugal

now for a little self-promotion…hot off the press: The New York Times, 36 Hours: 150 Weekends

A New Yorker cartoon recently summed up the typical contents of a blog that it’s: 1/3 how to sew, knit, cook, whatever, 1/3 kvetching of one variety or another and 1/3 self-promotion. Or some such.

With this blog, I’ve tried not to do much of any of that. But hey, what’s wrong with a little self- promotion – especially when, sadly, I won’t earn anything else  from the re-publication of two of my stories for the NYTimes  in an upcoming 774- page coffee table travel book.

So be on the look out for  The New York Times, 36 hours: 150 weekends in the USA and Canada which should be available in November I’m told and includes my stories on Oak Park (Illinois) and on Iowa’s Coast (yes, coast – along the Mississippi).  They’ve been updated since they ran several years ago – but not entirely by me.

Here’s some promo material:

The 740-page book includes the Times’ top 150 travel destinations, from cities and towns to natural wonders across America. Practical recommendations for the over 600 restaurants and 450 hotels is inside with color-coded tabs and ribbons to bookmark favorite cities in each region. Nearly 1,000 photos, most of them from The New York Times archive made it in, making it small enough to throw in your suitcase but big enough to enjoy from your favorite reading chair. The new illustrations by Times illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli of Milan, Italy look fantastic, and includes easy-to-reference indexes and detailed city-by-city maps,.  This will be TASCHEN America’s top title of the year.

The New York Times, 36 Hours: 150 Weekends in the USA & Canada
Hardcover, 16.8 x 24 cm (6.6 x 9.4 in.), 744 pages
EUR 29.99 | USD 39.99 | GBP 24.99 | JPY 5900.00

The best of the USA & Canada: The highly acclaimed New York Times travel feature finally available in one updated volume

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Filed under DESTINATIONS - Iowa, guidebook, Illinois

Where to stay on Hawaii’s Big Island: can the mags/books/websites be trusted?

So I’m elbow deep in thick guidebooks trying to figure out the best (my “”best” definition: the most interesting/authentic, least expensive/resort/chain-like) place to stay on Hawaii’s Big Island and fine myself torn about two B&Bs in Volcano, Hawaii (right by the National Volcano Park).

I’ve gone to the websites for each and watched the videos and slide shows and scanned the maps and read the testimonials. I’ve looked at one room after another, even one B&B’ s  floor plans. Does it really make a difference if the proprietor was born and raised in Volcano – or a relatively recent transplant from Oklahoma?  Do I care that one serves a hot breakfast, the other a cold; one serves organic fruit, the other fruit not billed as organic? And to think I used to just travel without booking a place to stay – let alone the absolutely perfect place to stay, whose every crevice I am familiar with in advance.

This researching also raises the question of whether to trust the opinion of various travel magazines and guidebooks.  Having written for both, I sometimes wonder what their criteria is for choosing “the 25 best” or “the 10 places we love” etc.  (A recent example – Forbes Magazine recently selected the Des Moines neighborhood I live in as one of America’s 12 prettiest. It’s nice enough but one of the top 12? Looking closer, I saw that a Des Moines magazine editor helped do the picking.)

Back to Hawaii: B&B#1  appears to be the darling of the travel mags (two have given it a major thumbs up) and it is the cheapest. But judging from the websites of each, it  looks rather drab compared to B&B #2 which is more cheerfully decorated, gets respectful reviews in two guidebooks (as does B&B #1) ,  has its share of local “Best of” awards, and was selected as a stopover by a respected walking tour company. True it’s $70 more a night, which one guidebook says is a “con” because it’s overpriced for the area.  But I may just have to go with my gut on this one.

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Filed under guidebook, Hawaii, LODGING

London guidebook: takemewithyou

A good friend in London weighed in on London guidebooks and she recommends one written by a friend:  The London Mapguide by Michael Middleditch – which she reports is “slim but full of facts and beautifully illustrated.” I found it on Amazon:

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Filed under guidebook, London