Thursday, September 20, 2012

London Resources

I am often asked to share the resources I use to plan trips, so when a friend recently asked me what I perused for London, I thought I would also share the list here, especially since I want to enthuse about  a terrific series of fold-out map/guides I discovered a few months ago from Herb Lester Associates in the UK:

 In addition to these two pictured just above, there are maps on Writing London, An Uncle's Guide to London, Clandestine London, London; You Are Here, and others on New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Glasgow.  Each is reasonably priced (4 pounds) and each is filled with a number of less obvious things to see and do.  I now have almost all of these and I love them and I think you will, too.

In a similar vein, Indagare has recently introduced its own Mapped Out series -- the editions on London and Paris are for families while Rome, Venice, and Vienna, are just for adults.  These are all in keeping with the high standards members and fans of Indagare have come to expect, and they combine some of the obvious sites with distinctive, lesser-known suggestions.  You can purchase the whole series for $55 or each is available individually for $12.95.   

Moving along,I should mention that for this particular trip, I only consulted one traditional guidebook (Fodor's London) as I've been to London twice before and I didn't feel I was in great need of that kind of a resource; rather, I wanted more specific, focused books, like these:
Both of these are, to my mind, 100% indispensable.  London A to Z (remember, the z is pronounced 'zed') is somewhat the equivalent of the Plan de Paris (if you're unfamiliar with le Plan, read 'According to Plan: Maps of Paris' by Catharine Reynolds in my Paris book, in which she states that "In Paris, map toting is no newcomer's proclamation of ignorance.  The most knowledgeable taxi drivers cannot know each of the city's 6,417 streets offhand; instead they pack copies of Paris par Arrondissement in their glove compartments.")

This is the book that's a compilation of walks offered by the excellent urban walking tour company (the world's oldest), London Walks.  More about the book and the company to follow in an upcoming post!

  Different from London Stories, this National Geographic Traveler guide of walks was also quite helpful and good. 

The Traditional Shops and Restaurants of London is an interesting and wonderful little guide that steered me to some shops and places to eat I would otherwise have missed.  Author Eugenia Bell also revealed lots of new details about places I already knew about.  Really wonderful.  

Again, as with the Traditional Shops and Restaurants book above, I learned about a ton of great places to eat and shop as well as places to stay.  This is really packed with suggestions, not only by author Saska Graville but by a handful of notable Londoners.

 The Luxe guides have attitude, and you have to sign on to this attitude in order to get the most out of these fold-out, pocket-sized, light-as-a-feather guides.  The tone is not only opinionated but witty and occasionally brutal (and sometimes annoying, like when TTFN stands for 'Ta-ta for Now').  But the retail suggestions and places to eat and drink are spot-on, the itineraries provide structure and are worthwhile, and the short-listed art and cultural recommendations are valid.  Full Stop.

The Louis Vuitton European Cities boxed set of books, published annually every Fall, routinely includes London in its assortment, and the 2012 edition was, as always, enlightening, succinct, and wonderful.  I'm not including an image here, sorry, because those I found featured the entire boxed set and not one of the individual book I used.  But I have found this set to be invaluable year after year.  The individual volumes are not sold separately, however -- you have to buy the whole set -- and there seems to be a rather small-ish print run so if you're interested in buying one you have to act quickly. 
 Both of these eating guides are terrific!  The Time Out guide is hugely helpful when you need to search for places by neighborhood.

And for my companion reading, I really enjoyed -- and highly recommend -- the following:

...and this is a typical type of research list for me, no matter where I'm going.  If you've read my books you know that I am a huge proponent of James Pope-Hennessy's book Aspects of Provence, in which he writes, "if one is to get best value out of places visited, some skeletal knowledge of their history if necessary...Sight-seeing is by no means the only object of a journey, but it is as unintelligent as it is lazy not to equip ourselves to understand the sights we see."   More London (and Cotswolds) notes to follow!

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