Well I'm super stoked about the U.S. Women's National Team winning the 2015 World Cup, and on Fourth of July weekend at that. MERICA, and whatnot.
Aaaand, that about caps off my patriotism quota for the year so I'm putting away my American flag bikini (haha, as if I'd own one of those) and getting back to that which I like best -- international travel.
I should preface the rest of this post with the disclaimer that we get paid nothing for this blog. Heh. So everything we recommend, we recommend because we truly like it. (That said, we are TOTALLY OPEN TO ENDORSEMENTS OF ANY KIND. Really. Pay us. And while we're on the subject, if Fifty Shades managed to become a bestseller, I really feel like someone should give me and Jen a book deal, amirite?)
Today I am singing the praises of Lonely Planet travel guides. Of course there are a ton of travel guidebooks out there, and they all have their merits. But Lonely Planet books are my favorite for a number of reasons.
1. The food recommendations are on point. Surprised this is my first reason? Then you haven't been coming here often. Trying different foods all over the world is one of my favorite parts of traveling, and I suspect the LP writers have that in common with me, judging by the way they wax poetic for food in cities like Paris and Madrid. The books are broken out by neighborhood, and in each neighborhood, there are sections for sights, drinking and nightlife, entertainment, shopping, sports and activites, and of course -- eating. Plus, the recommendations have yet to steer me wrong. The absolute best meal of my entire life -- at Kyubey in Tokyo's Ginza neighborhood -- was an LP suggestion.
2. The tops lists. Specifically, each book starts with a top X number of things to do and see (16 in Paris, 10 in Dublin, etc.). This is useful to make sure you don't miss something glaringly obvious. Of course, I have Jen to make color-coded Google spreadsheets and plan my trips for me. But even so, once we are wherever we're going, we have found the LP "top itineraries" feature to be very useful. Each book gives you a three- to four-day itinerary complete with activities in the morning, afternoon, and night, with nearby lunch and dinner recommendations as well. For instance, Day 2 of the Paris itinerary starts you at the Champs-Elysees, gets you lunch in view of the Eiffel Tower, then takes you through the Tower and Western Paris, onto a bistro dinner and an evening in Montparnasse and Southern Paris. Maybe had we followed these more closely, we wouldn't have tempted death by museuming. At any rate, these are very helpful for figuring out logical ways of organizing tours through each neighborhood, especially for the geographically stunted, like yours truly.
3. Pullout maps. Speaking of the geographically stunted, LP is full of maps. One in each neighborhood section and a folded pullout full-city map in the back of each book. Granted, these only help if you know how to actually READ them, and I don't think Jen and I figured this out until our last day in Paris (and there was ZERO hope for me in Tokyo, maps or not). They should probably give you a refresher course on this past the age of 8, you know. Especially since we all rely on GPS now, and GPS only takes you as far as your free WiFi goes.
4. Fun quips. Maybe the LP editors do take their writers down a notch, but I've found a few lines here and there that make me think they encourage the writers not to hold back. For instance, looking for a bar in the Temple Bar neighborhood of Dublin? Well, there's always Octagon Bar -- "This swish bar at the Clarence, owned by U2, has an odd atmosphere reminiscent of that time Apple force-fed you Bono by way of your reluctant yet unprotected iTunes account." Just kidding. That's what it would say if I wrote the Dublin book (and that's what it says in my heart of hearts). But the truth is, the actual quote is pretty fucking hilarious as is with a more subtle shot at Bono -- "This swish bar at the Clarence, owned by U2, has an odd atmosphere not helped by the artificial daylight and anodyne music policy. It's probably the only place in Temple Bar, though, where you'll find 30-something Dubliners or the odd resident celebrity having a quiet G&T." Damn..."anodyne." BURN.
5. The odds and ends. LP guides are full of really helpful odds and ends like when to tip and how to tip, what festivals and other fun things are going on in each month of the year, and most helpful -- common phrases you might need in the language of the place where you're traveling, like "Où est pain au chocolat?" I also used a special gem from the Tokyo book to tell waiters that I wanted to order whatever their favorite dishes were. Which is why I have no idea what I consumed in my ramen.
Arigato, Lonely Planet.