It might surprise you to hear that, even in this day and age, and even with me being pretty attached to my iPhone and iPad, I am still a huge travel guidebook reader. It’s true! It might come from my very early travel days when, as a 11 year-old, I sat in the back of a lime green rental car (a Fiat if I remember correctly!) travelling around Europe for 6 weeks. On that trip, our bible was a book similar to “Europe on 10 Dollars a Day” or “El Cheapo” as we dubbed it – and my sister and I spent HOURS poring over the book (when we were not playing with Disco Ken and Roller Barbie, ahem!) and helped choose hotels, activities and restaurants for our family on an epic 6 week journey from Italy to Holland. That book contained notes and observations from an 11 and 13 year-old which I imagine would be priceless to read today.
Cut to some 20 years later when I’m living in Canada. Neil has a huge amount of guide books from past trips (so do I and, in fact, so does my sister to this day!) and we both love nothing more than to plan a trip, noses buried deep in guide books with the giant atlas closeby, mapping out a trip or a route or even just daydreaming… I love reading guidebooks as my bedtime reads – what better way to fall asleep than to be dreaming about faraway destinations?
Lately though, we’ve travelled mostly in smaller towns in France where we don’t really use guidebooks, per se. Discovering little bitty corners of France means you have to go off the guidebook route and head to a tourism office when you get there or do a little research online. But for me, it’s not the same of the wonderful promise a new guidebook holds. And still, when planning a big trip to a destination that’s unknown, before I hit the internet, I’ll hit the library, then Amazon 😉
And yes, I read “real” guidebooks. I’ve tried Kindle versions but I just don’t like them. Sure, they are convenient and you can carry a whole range of them without adding to your luggage allowance, but I like to make notes, fold the pages over, stick in colour-coded sticky notes etc… And along the way on a trip, a guidebook becomes a place to keep those museum entry tickets safe. Or to flatten and preserve those beer and wine labels. You know. A place to store your keepsakes, your mementos. Which make it all the more fun to look back in a few years later. My Morocco guidebook from 1999 (the trip I met Neil) still has party streamers from New Years’ Eve (1999-2000) inside the pages 🙂
So when DK Canada offered to send me a selection of their Eyewitness Travel guidebooks for France, I jumped at the chance. After all, there are still many corners of the country we have not been to and I liked the idea of perhaps planning our next few trips by starting out with a guide book. Over the past few years, we’ve gone with choosing areas we’ve always wanted to visit – Burgundy, Bordeaux, Languedoc-Roussillon, Brittany, Alsace-Lorraine, Champagne – but you can bet there are a lot of places we don’t even know we want to visit yet!
There are four categories of Eyewitness Travel guides – the Eyewitness (country and city) Guides, the Family Travel guides, the Top 10 guides and the Backroads guides – so a lot of choice depending on the type of trip you are planning. The Eyewitness guide series are beautiful to look at – so many pictures (1455 in the France guide alone!) and a series of detailed maps in each guide. The Top 10 guides also include handy pull-out maps and guides. I’m very visual so I really appreciate the aesthetics of these guide books – and their presentation is so enticing that you will have no trouble setting aside your bedside table novel and swapping it out for one of these. They do work well as “reading books” – so much information, interspersed with great photography and illustrations and I love that you can just take a section at a time and read (although you’ll have a hard time stopping at just one chapter or section).
Because it’s a different type of layout than most guide books with so many more illustrations and diagrams/ photos, there’s a handy guide at the front of both the Eyewitness and Backroad guides showing you how to find what you need in each book. There’s a lot of historical and cultural information included as well as all the practical information you need. I like that there are web addresses included where appropriate so that you can go off and do your own research too. The suggested itineraries are a great starting place for trip planning. If I kinda-sorta know that I want to visit region X, someone else’s suggested route might just be the way for me to figure out my own. Particularly so with the Backroads book which includes 24 driving tours or various lengths through different regions of France.
I’ve been a fan of the Top 10 guides for a while now – they are the guide I suggest to people who only have a short amount of time in a city. The Paris guide is particularly useful for me because it includes all sorts of “must see” places that, as someone who has lived there and who travels there a lot, I often forget about! My Paris itinerary might be different from a first-timer’s but the Top 10 guide is a handy resource to cover the basics! If you’re short on time (and don’t want to carry a giant guide book around!), you will love the Top 10 guides.
What I particularly like about these guides is that, while a lot of guidebook information can quickly become out of date (places closing down, opening hours changing etc…) there is enough information in each book to make them timeless. If you are the sort of traveler who is happy to do a little research on your own (even as someone who is in Paris at least once a year, I will double check opening hours etc… before I head out anywhere. You just never know!), then these guides are an excellent investment. The historical and cultural sections are a mine of information – all in one place (unlike the Internet!) so if you are happy to look up a few websites prior to leaving or while on the road to make sure your information is up to date, then these guides are for you. I even find myself reading them when I’m not planning any sort of vacation!
An Eyewitness Travel Guide giveaway!
That’s right, thanks to DK Canada I have two Eyewitness Travel Guides give away – to two lucky Canadian readers.
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling me which one of the Eyewitness Guides you’d like and why (check out the selection here, the continents are listed on the left-hand side of the page).
For a bonus entry, tweet the following message: Win an Eyewitness Travel Guide from @DKCanada + @eatlivtravwrite ! Details: http://bit.ly/DKCanadaGiveaway
then come back to leave me a comment on this post telling me you did.
Eligibility and contest rules
- Open to to readers with a Canadian mailing address.
- No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
- Two winners will be chosen using Random.org from all qualified entries on November 12th 2014 after 6pm EST.
- Winners will be contacted via email on Thursday November 13th 2014 and will have 48 hours to respond.
Disclosure: I was provided with a selection of DK Eyewitness travel guides for review purposes. I was not asked to write about the books, nor am I being compensated for doing do. All opinions 100% my own.