Guidebooks featured previously by European Traveler:
Memories of Times Past
Rome & Paris, Then & Now
Scotland and Its Whiskies
Burgundy and Its Wines
Rosetta Stone: German
Switzerland without a Car
Globetrotter's Map of Vienna
Clean Breaks: 500 New Ways to See the World
Rick Steves Europe: Complete DVDs and
Europe through the Back Door
Pilgrimages of Europe and Journeys of the Sun King, Charles Dickens, Celtic Legends and to the Gods
The Scotland Visitor's Guide
Ultimate Adventures: A Rough Guide to Adventure Travel
The Rough Guide to Austria
Ask Arthur Frommer
Rome and the Vatican, Florence and Tuscany
Take Your Kids to Europe
Alistair Sawdays' Special Places to Stay
Food Guides for Travelers
2009 European Timetable
European Food Cultures
Switzerland: Quest for the Sublime
Travel Companion Guide and Journal
The Travel Book
The Europe Book: A Journey Through Every Country on the Continent
Walking the Bible
The 125 Best Italian Recipes
Spain: A Culinary Road Trip
Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work
Greek Island Hopping
The French Chef
Three books by David MaCauley
Quest for Kaitiakitanga
Adventures with a Purpose
1,000 Smart Travel Tips
Best of Provence, Best of Spain
Europe By Rail
Sacred Places Europe
Rick Steves' Eastern Europe
Rick Steves' Europe 101
Czech & Slovak Republics
Karen Brown's Switzerland
Italian Phrase Book
Teach Me German
100 Greatest Trips
Venice Pocket Map & Guide
100 Places Every Woman Should Go
MEMORIES OF TIMES PAST: PARIS, ROME
PARIS AND ROME, THEN AND NOW. Thunder Bay Press, 5880 Oberlin Dr., San Diego, CA 92121-4794.
These four large format hardbound books, all published by Thunder Bay, bring excitement to history. Together, they capture the past and bring it into the present for the reader to hold and behold. It's an interesting concept and done well.
In Paris, Memories of Times Past by Solnage Hando, we're presented with 176 wide-screen pages of color, inspired by the pioneering 1909 color book entitled Paris. Each painting from Mortimer Menpes's original book has been reproduced and enlarged and each is placed with contemporary verbage with additional period maps, postcards and newspapers, and even railroad tickets. There's also informative narrative about Paris in the 20th century.
Menpes, born in Australia in 1856, was influenced by James McNeill Whistler, and his impressionist paintings present interesting studies of people and places. A man of many talents, Menpes was an artist, engraver, printer, traveler, raconteur and even a farmer.
In this work, some of his paintings include A Kiosk on the Boulevard, one of our favorite; Curiosity, showing a crowd gathering to see a rare “something” at a sidewalk stall; and Peeling Potatoes, a street scene of women preparing potatoes which they would sell to wealthier people.
This is a wonderful book; it will keep the reader looking and reading for quite a while. An introduction of Paris and a biographical sketch of Menpes begins the work.
Richard Bosworth in Rome: Memories of Times Past, follows the outline of Hando's Paris book, with works of Alberto Pisa's collection, a painter who exhibited in Venice, Bologna, Rome, Florence and Paris.
Pisa's style was of the Macchiaioli movement, sort of a forerunner of the French Impressionists. Pisa painted the outdoors to capture the natural light, shade and color. As in the Rome volume, there are dozens and dozens of fine paintings reproduced here, along with a wide variety of literature such as postcards, pictures, colorful maps, drawing that accompany the paintings.
Some of the paintings include St. Peter's, called by Mark Twain the “Monster Church,”; the Theater of Marcellus, which is still there today and has a good story to tell if it could talk; and the Arch of Constantine, originally built in 315.
In Paris Then and Now, by Peter and Oriel Gaine, the reader is shown a number of vintage Parisian scenes, some of them very early (not all early photos are identified by year), and on the following page is a recent color photo of the same building, bridge, monument or area. It's a clever idea and well-executed: a 1898 photo of Place Saint Medard is shown with its present-day counterpart, and the accompanying text aptly describes the current “useage” of the same area. It's done well and is just the kind of comparison that will grab the reader.
This 144-page 11 x 10” hortizontal format will keep you captivated for hours.
In Rome Then and Now by Federica D'Orazio, we go on another journey—this time to ancient Rome—comparing old photos to present-day photography. I especially liked the Tiber Island photo, the 1865 photo of the square of Bocca dell Verita, the markets of Trajan and the Arch of Constantine, now complete with paving bricks instead of grass.
Good photography, interesting captions and good enameled paper which makes the photos “pop,” are a hallmark of this book. The reader realizes the slow transitions that change a city over time, but with this volume, they are magnified and explained. Sit back and relax as you see Rome's history in the making.
SCOTLAND AND ITS WHISKIES, BURGUNDY AND ITS WINES
By Michael Jackson, photography by Harry Cory Wright; and Nicholas Faith, photography by Andy Katz. Both books published by Duncan Baird Publishers, distributed in the U.S. by Sterling Publishing Co., 387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-8810. www.sterlingpublishing.com
Here are two wonderful 9 1/2” x 8 3/4” softbound all-color books that together form a penetrating duo in your liquor library.
Scotland and Its Whiskies is 144 pages of delightful prose, punctuated with colorful scenes largely of rural Scotland that instill in the reader this thought: “what you taste when you raise the glass is the extraordinary landscape of that nation,” says Jackson.
Thus, when you're drinking a Scotch, you may not know that it's actually a type of whisky, but of course the Scots themselves know. This land has more distilleries than any other country, and the spirit's flavors are shaped by the landscape, says the author.
A first-class color map illustration locates Scottish distilleries and a brief but interesting half page of the book is devoted to a treatise entitled “How to Make Fine Malt Whisky.” The chapters describe the various Scottish landscapes, the people who live in them, and offer bits of “whisky heritage” such as “each distillation of a malt, and each cask, is slightly different in aroma and palate. Their proportions must be adjusted to ensure that the blend retains its character.”
The book describes distilleries: “At the foot of the road, the distillery itself is tucked into the hillside. It has great charm.” The photos of the scenery, as well as pictures like those on page 105 of the different casks at the Macallan Distillery, add a nice flavor to the book.
At the back of the book is a directory of distilleries, a description of the flavors in their whiskies, their address and even their telephone numbers. Sit down with a tall one as you savor the pages of this engrossing book.
In Burgundy and Its Wines, the reader is rewarded with descriptions of wines, the wine country, French culture, French history and stunning photography, like the photo that opens Chapter Three.
There is a map of the Burgundy area of eastern France, that encompasses five distinct regions. In this section we learn of the limestone shelves that make up the landscape, and we hear of the region's history and how nuns and religious orders controlled much of the wine-making areas years ago.
Soil variations, climates and people are featured in this 144-page dictionary of French wines. The pages even explain how vineyard owners seek out additional space: “...families tend not to be content with cultivating their original plots, but itch to have a few rows of vines in every possible appellation, so an individual's holding may be split between a serious hectare or so and an ouvree miles away.”
In Chapter Two, we learn “the slopes between Dijon and Beaune produce most of the truly great red wines of Burgundy.” Here the vineyards have names such as Close De Vougeot, Chevaliers Du Tastevin and Hill of Corton.
Pictures of peaceful villages similar to Monthelie, Volnay and Pommard dot the pages, and at the rear of the book the vineyards are all disected by owners, dates and the types of wines they produce. But not all vineyards are listed: that would take many more pages.
Pour your favorite burgundy, sit back and read this book.
ROSETTA STONE - GERMAN.
Harrisonburg, VA. RosettaStone.com.
I've always been told that even if you know a few words of another language, it is benefical when traveling abroad. It helps because you have made some effort to learn another person's language; this creates a bond with them, and they know you're trying.
If you go abroad more than a few times, you'll really want to study the language more because you'll need it to get by; purchasing food, ordering a cab, hotel room or just getting directions can be trying if you can't speak the language. It helps to also want to learn the language, and finding an "easy" way to learn it will allow you to learn it quicker.
I had heard about Rosetta Stone (the name refers to the 196 B.C. creation of an ancient Egyptian stone called a stele which advanced Egyptian hieroglyphics; it was found by the French at Rosetta in 1799), and their ads indicated this was a quicker, more productive way to learn languages.
The German Rosetta Stone version comes in several CD's which can be inserted into your computer; instructions are pretty straightforward, and I set up my account and had the program running after about 25 minutes. The Home screen features an Introductory video, a Preferences section and a Get Help section. Part of the setup is a microphone that you speak into when pronouncing words and phrases--your words or phrases are "judged" on the spot and you continue you say them until you have them mastered; when mastered, you may continue with the lesson. At the end of each lesson you are graded on how you performed. The software also includes an Audio Companion you can use when you're away from your computer; you can use it on a CD player or download it on an MP3 player.
The lessons are broken into four segments: Language Basics, Greetings and Introductions, Work and School, and Shopping. Further, each segment is divided into four lessons which include pronunciation, vocabulary, phrases, speaking and conversation. Thus, in Unit 1, Lesson 3, under Vocabulary, you learn the difference between the German words blau (blue), weis (white), rot (red) schwarz (black) and other colors. As the lesson progresses, and you are comfortable with what these words mean, you are then shown these words in sentences: each step of the way is built from the previous steps you have studied. There are multiple answer questions, native speakers who you'll try to emulate and screens that ask you to produce phrases without help of a native speaker.
As an example of one of the lessons, you might be given a sentence such as "Das Auto ist weis" (the car is white), or "Der Apfel ist grun" (the apple is green). Then, you are shown pictures of the words you are learning; sometimes you have to match the words with the pictures, sometimes you must perform other matchups that stretch your mind. While you must study the lessons and be aware of how the lesson builds upon itself, I did not find the lessons boring, or too hard. I also didn't get 100% correct answers for all the lessons on the first go around. It did help that I had been to Germany a number of times and had some knowledge of the language, but I have never taken a German language course.
At the end of the lesson, you are given a percentage grade, just like in school, with the number of correct answers, the number of incorrect answers and how many questions you skipped. I found these grades to be a "reward" for my listening carefully and remembering what I was learning from lesson to lesson. At the end of each Unit, there is a Milestone test with a series of exercises to see how you're doing. I believe after a few times through the lesson, you could and should master these for a perfect or near-perfect score. With the microphone, you get to repeat words and phrases that will help you learn the correct pronunciations quicker. A complete guide which explains all the lessons and options that are included comes with the package, and taking some time to read this at the beginning will answer a lot of questions.
I found Rosetta Stone fun, helpful and challenging, all at the same time, and I'm anxious to keep at it until I can say more than the simple "excuse me" or "where is the toilet?" I want to be able to have enough command of the language to go to that "second level." With Rosetta Stone, I believe I've found a tool that will get me there.
GLOBETROTTER TRAVEL MAP OF VIENNA.
New Holland Publishers, www.newhollandpublishers.com. Price: $9.85 U.S.
This 39" x 27" "wide-screen" map offers an excellent overview of Vienna, that classy Austrian city of note. One side of the map shows the various old and new parts of the city, with yellow for the large thoroughfares. Of note is the Ringstrasse, which envelopes the old city and is the center of attention for most visitors. Also on this side of the map is a Calendar of Events, a legend and a list of streets. The other side of the map shows the Palace grounds at Schonbrunn, also gives a legend and offers an expanded view of a larger ring around the city.
SWITZERLAND WITHOUT A CAR.
By Anthony Lambert, published by Bradt Travel Guides, www.bradtguides.com. Price: $22.95 U.S.
I've been told that 97.5% of the Swiss people are within about a mile of public transportation. It's actually government-mandated, and having been in Switzerland a few times, I'd vouch for this statistic being fairly accurate. You could just about live at 8,000 feet up on a mountainside somewhere on a dairy farm and find that you can walk to a cable car that will take you down into the nearest village where an Intercity train will whisk you to anywhere you want to go. Or a steam-powered paddlewheel boat makes its daily rounds on a hard-to-reach lake, but once at the boat dock, you can catch a bus to the nearest town where a regional train will carry you to, say, Zurich.
This 356-page softcover volume was written by Anthony Lambert who has been visiting Switzerland since childhood and has written 14 books about railways and travel. "My love of Switzerland stems from childhood holidays," he says. "...I was captivated by the sheer scale of the mountain landscapes and ...enthralled by the character and number of mountain railways, cablecars and chairlifts."
Lambert begins by offering practical information such as when to visit, maps, health issues, information on disabled travelers, arts and entertainment. In the second chapter he gives a general overview of the Swiss travel system, indicating that Switzerland has the densest network of public transport in the world. There are 3,125 miles of state- and privately-owned railways--and 600 funiculars, cablecars, rack railways and chairlifts! Only Japanese railroads are used more frequently than Swiss railways.
Most of the rail equipment is operated by the Swiss Federal Railways--SBB,CFF or FFS, letters used for the railroad name in the three swiss languages. There are 65 private railway lines, all working together as a combined transport network.
Lambert tells about the special trains in Switzerland such as the William tell Express, Centovalli, Golden Pass, Glacier express, Bernina express and the Palm Express. He also devotes a chapter to walking and cycling. After that he breaks down the country region by region, although Zurich gets its own chapter; he chapter describes the region, highlights certain areas of each region and gives important facts about the transportation available in that region, with railways taking the front seat. he also offers overnight accommodation suggestions.
This volume is a work of love on Lambert's part; it'll come in handy for anyone wishing to break down and understand the Swiss rail network.
By Rebecca Ford, published by Footprint, 6 Riverside Court, Lower Bristol Road, Bath, England BA2 3DZ. www.footprintbooks.com. Price: $21.95 U.S.
Tuscany is one of Italy's best-loved regions, and author Ford has traveled extensively in this area, writing a 320-page softbound book on the subject.
She first introduces the region, offers a very quick overview of the area, gives a brief description of areas within the region, offers 20 things to do in Tuscany, breaks down the months and what happens in Tuscany during those periods, and talks about films and books on the region. Following that, she gives the history of Tuscany, tells about art and architecture, nature and the environment, tells about the festivals and events, entertainment and shopping.
In the Tuscany Today section, she says, "Tuscany still exerts a pull on the imagination that can make you throw caution to the winds." (Sounds like the author herself might move there?) In the book she includes such subjects as getting married in Tuscany, living with the past (Tuscany is "famously" conservative), and describes the various landscapes, animals and plants to be found there.
The 5-3/4" x 7" softcover book is well designed, contains numerous full-color pictures of the region, features many lists of useful websites and explains the many attractions and sights, transportation options, activities and tours, and eating and lodging accommodations. If I were heading out to Tuscany, this is the book I'd want to read first.
Published by Rough Guides, www.RoughGuides.com. Price: $29.99 (Canada $34.99)
This book is subtitled, "500 new ways to see the world," and it presents almost 400 pages of unusual travel adventures and alternative vacation trips that are aimed at making a difference to the local people and the planet. Even if you are a seasoned traveler with many trips under your belt, you will find news ways to discover even the most well-trammeled areas of Europe, and the book goes far beyond the ordinary to suggest many exciting adventures across the globe. The book combines cultural sensitivity with practical advice, but it also serves as an excellent source of inspiration for travelers looking for a new way to explore their world.
www.footprintbooks.com Price: $19.95
Croatia is a country of spectacular natural beauty and cultural treasures. This Footprint guide provides thorough coverage of Zagrreb and inland Croatia, Istria, Kvarner as well as Dalmatia. There is practical information on where to stay, from hotel to pensions to adventurous "Robin Crusoe"-type accommodations on uninhabited islands and restored lighthouses. There is advice on sailing the beautiful, rugged coast, and descriptions of the best beaches. The book is illustrated with plenty of maps and photographs for help in planning an itinerary.
Doesn't this book title even sound neat?
Who wouldn't want to stay overnight at a winery---I can just imagine a beautiful French chateaux with high wood beam ceilings, comfortable beds, gracious dining, and of course, excellent wines for dinner.
As Alastair Sawday says in the opening pages of the book, "We often find ourselves unable to admire whatever it is that lies beyond the great gate at the edge of the village. This is especially so in France, where many villages and towns have at their edge a mighty, or even a mini, chateau standing guard protectively over its precious hectares of vineyard. You can only get a tantalizing hint of what is there."
And so this book, which is divided into areas of France--Alsace, Burgundy and Beaujolais, the Loire, Bordeaux and Southwest, Languedoc-Roussillon and the Rhone Valley and Provence. Under each heading the editors list the places they chose to recommend: "There are no rules, no boxes to tick. We choose paces that we like and are fiercely subjective in our choices."
Each vineyard accommodation is pictured in color, even to the individual sleeping rooms and the common rooms, plus a listing of the varieties of wine produced at the winery and their cost, on average, per bottle. An example of a review: "Bedrooms here are on the south wing's ground floor and the three restrained chambers au chateau look out onto a tidy potager, a giant umbrella pine and the vineyards. Antiques add a stylish gravitas, and large comfortable beds are cozy with quilted, patterned spreads."
It continues, "Thirty-four hectares of vines surround the house--walk to the edge and you find a vast forest within are hidden chapels, ruined windmills and Romanesque churches." Each entry also shows, in color, a sample of the vineyard's label. This is a wonderful book, full of information and enchantment.
This is a handsome 128-page all-color 7 3/4" x 10" hardbound describing the bridges of London that cross the Thames River--there are a total of 33 bridges that span the river over a 23 mile distance between Hampton Court Bridge to the west of London and the Tower Bridge in the east.
Twenty of the bridges are for road traffic, 10 are for railway traffic and three carry pedestrians only.
Each bridge has its own story to tell, from the time to was built to the present day, and authors Ian Pay, Sampson Lloyd and Keith Waldegrave have done an excellent job deciphering the intricate background of these structures.
Likely the most famous of these Thames bridges--the Tower Bridge and the London Bridge--are dutifully given their due in these pages. The Tower Bridge, with construction starting in 1886, employed five major contractors employing 423 workers, 57 of which lost their lives while building the bridge. Today you can take a tour of the bridge, which is even more stunning at night. The London Bridge, which was the first bridge over the Thames in London, was actually sold to a U.S. company and moved piece by piece to Arizona. The first stone London Bridge was built in 1176 and took 33 years to build. It was sold for 1 million pounds in 1968.
Excellent text and graphics accompanies each bridge entry in this book. It's a wonderful tribute to the bridges of London.
RICK STEVES' EUROPE—DVDS, and EUROPE THROUGH THE BACK DOOR. www.ricksteves.com
I first started watching Rick Steves 10 years ago when I happened across one of his television programs featuring Germany. I was fascinated by his thorough knowledge of the country and the particular section of Germany he was talking about. I've been a fan of Rick every since, and try to watch his many shows.
He has released a new set of travel DVDs that include 80 different shows with 40 hours of programming. The set contains 13 DVDs, including a 3 ½ hour bonus DVD with a 45-minute infomercial as Rick takes a tour with two dozen travelers, making their travel dreams come true. The DVD also includes a travel skills segment in which Rick gives tips on how to travel smart and safe, but on a budget, through Europe. It's here where Rick explains his view of “Europe through the Back Door,” as he likes to say. That means he'll show you how to experience Europe in a way that will not cost you a fortune, but will bring you a lifetime of vivid rememberances in spots not usually visited. Last, Rick enters the political arena, telling viewers how his European travels have helped shape his views of Europe, America and the world.
In the travel DVDs, Rick presents his 2000-2009 travel shows that were seen on television; I've seen many of them as well on the tube, but to have them accessible when you want them is a big plus. Let's say you've decided to go to Italy and you need to narrow your travel choices where to spend your time there. Rick presents 13 episodes of Italy—seven on Italy's cities, and six on Italy's countryside. Those tapes present 6 ½ hours of Italian programming you can view to help make your decision. With any European trip fairly costly, Rick's DVD travel tips are an economical way to make your travel decisions right from home.
In his half hour shows, Rick travels to a variety of locations, with emphasis on food, art, people, hotels, transportation possibilities, costs and safety. He's a laid-back type of guy who is easy to like: sometimes he can be quite funny, and at all times he's informative and easy to listen to. Short clips of him during the programs show him eating in a cozy European restaurant, talking to the owners of a hotel where he's staying for the night, chatting with a guide who adds more specific information about a location, or maybe riding a bicycle through Holland. When Rick wants to broaden an aspect of a place or attraction, he'll interview the owner, or he'll spend more time at a location, allowing his audience to soak in the ambiance of a place.
Rick keeps his comments brief, but to the point, so that by the end of the 30-minute program, you feel like you have a general knowledge of an area or a country. That takes a lot of groundwork ahead of time by him and his crew.
Besides the great photography and camera angles his film crew finds, slow or faster background music (as needed) keeps pace and enlivens the script, adding to the overall experience. When he takes his viewers to see the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, he and his camera give viewers a thorough tour of the chapel and feature its important chambers and levels, including its beautiful 13th century frescos. The combination of script, music and photography give viewers a lasting impression of this most-visited pilgrimage place.
At the end of each DVD, humorous outtakes leave the viewer laughing. “Thanks for joining us...I'm Rick Steves...until next time” is his last line in each program, which invites his viewers to come with him on his next journey. I know I'll be there.
(Rick's 80 shows include Germany, Austria, Holland, Amsterdam, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Greece and Turkey, England and Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Eastern Europe, Spain and Portugal.)
“Europe is a bubbling multicultural fondue,” says Rick Steves. He should know; he's one of America's foremost European travel experts.
His accompanying 744-page 5 ½ x 8 1/2” softcover Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door 2009 ($21.95, published by Avalon Books, www.avalontravelbooks.com) is a Travel Skills Handbook, as he likes to call it, bringing together an astonishing mix of information and knowledge—so you don't have a long learning curve yourself. Rick is your teacher and guide.
The book starts off with a section entitled Travel Skills, which talks about gathering trip information, about itinerary skills, transportation, money, eating and sleeping overseas, a section called Travel Savvy (featuring ideas on staying healthy and outsmarting thieves), and special concerns (woman, people of color, seniors) and something called Perspectives, which suggests an “attitude adjustment” may be in order before you leave on your trip. In Part Two, Rick breaks down the different countries and what you can expect from each area of Europe and major cities, and what you might see there.
A nice color map opens the book, as does Rick's Travel Philosophy, which boils down to this: you don't need to spend a lot of money on a trip to Europe and you can still have fun, and you'll learn a lot by going there, so do it. Thus, Rick's “back door” philosophy—learn where to have fun in Europe and avoid the crowds.
The book's text, some of it in the first person (Rick), is written in easy-to-read language, with lots of accompanying charts, pictures and additional subhead stories that cover a multitude of travel areas. The “low-down” on cafes, hotels, such helpful tips as how to find a cab, what to see in Paris, how to get where you're going, highlights of museums and attractions, where to go for fun, descriptions of streets and back alleys, and historical perspectives of buildings, statues and art objects, are all covered.
This is a “must-have book” whether you've never been to Europe or you've been there 15 times. Rick's rich history with Europe has gone before you to take the kinks out of your journey.
PILGRIMAGES OF EUROPE AND JOURNEYS OF THE SUN KING, CHARLES DICKENS, CELTIC LEGENDS AND TO THE GODS. www.janson.com.
Pilgrimages of Europe is a series of 60-minute DVDs that explore the journeys that pilgrims make to sacred places throughout Europe, and the reasons behind these journeys. Europe is known for hundreds of thousands of people making long and arduous trips to visit various churches, cathedrals and sacred locations once or even several times a year.
In the first DVD, we visit Kevelare, Germany and Medjugorje, Bosnia. As many as 1,000 people each year visit Kevelare, where a wayside chapel stands that is said to be holy. Hendrik Busman, a merchant, heard mysterious voices in 1642 asking him to build this chapel, and the same day it was completed, the first pilgrims arrived to worship there. In Bosnia, pilgrims from every corner of the globe visit this small village because it is said the Virgin Mary appeared before two young girls in 1981. Later six youngsters also saw the vision.
In Croagh Patrick, Ireland, and in Iona, Scotland, pilgrims come to see the Croagh Patrick Mountain where it's said that in the 4th century A.D., the monk Patrick won a dispute with the druids whether he could fast on the mountaintop for 40 days and nights. He did, and lived, and today Saint Patrick remains Ireland's patron saint. In Iona, a quiet island off the western coast of Scotland, pilgrimages are made to study Christianity amidst the peace of this small island.
Other DVDs in this series show pilgrimages to Fatima in Portugal, Amsterdam in Holland, Santiago de Compostela in Spain and El Rocio also in Spain. The pilgrims are filmed as they march or ride toward their sacred locations, and many are interviewed about why they are there. These are interesting insights into this phenomenon.
LAROUSSE SPANISH AND ITALIAN POCKET DICTIONARIES. Distributed by Houghton Mifflin, Boston. Price: $6.95 each.
These handy, 4 1/8” x 7” softcover books will be appreciated by anyone just learning Spanish or Italian. I recently traveled to Spain, and didn't think to purchase a dictionary— fortunately a friend dropped a used one off to me two days before I boarded the plane: I was able to learn a few essential phrases before I left, such as “Where is the bathroom?” So these pocket guides can come in mighty handy!
Both books are small enough to fit in your hand easily, and thus they are great for flipping through the 392 (for the Italian) and 394 plus pages (for the Spanish). Both guides point out that they are designed for the two languages as they are spoken today; this means it's better to use these up-to-date guides than rely on one 15 years old. Languages change, and its a good idea to stay in tune with modern word useage.
The Italian guide defines 55,000 words and phrases and offers 80,000 translations of Italian words. The book is divided into English-to-Italian and Italian-to-English phrases; the same is true of the Spanish pocket guide.
The guides include many proper names and abbreviations, as well as a selection of the most common terms from computing, business and current affairs. I find these books useful, and their price point is extraordinary, or as they say in Spain, ”extraordinario.”
As with any language you're trying to learn, you'll want to travel to the country of that language to get the correct pronunciation. When you go, take along these pocket guides and use them often.
The Scotland Visitor Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Scotland's Attractions 4th Ed.
Globe Pequot Press, www.GlobePequot.com. Price: $21.95 (Canada $24.95)
This 7 x 9" full-color volume truly lives up to its title's assertion of being the "ultimate guide" to Scotland, and any traveler considering a hop across the pond to the United Kingdom would be well-advised to organize an itinerary with this book's suggestions in mind. The book offers a comprehensive look into Scotland's 14 regions, as distinguished by Scotland's Tourist Board, and illustrated in the guide's first pages. In addition to the listings of popular sights and destinations, it provides a brief, yet thorough, introduction to the cosmopolitan centers and countrysides of Scotland, which are enhanced by numerous photos and maps sprinkled throughout the volume.
It is well-organized, colorful and easy to read, with each destination's entry comprised of a few sentences about the site, its hours of operation, price for admission and a panoply of visual markers categorizing the destination (e.g. "Castle or Historic House" or "Ancient Monument," as well as the facilities, such as washrooms and gift shops). The entries also offer a reference number corresponding with the site's location on the book's accompanying maps for easier planning. The book also includes information on some of the region's most popular events for travelers, including the Highland Games and the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival.
Travelers who choose to use this volume for a trip, however, should make sure to pick up a separate guide for hotel and restaurant recommendations, as The Scotland Visitor Guide's emphasis is only on the timeless features of the country and does not offer tips on hotels or dining. Margaret Luther
Ultimate Adventures: A Rough Guide to Adventure Travel
By Greg Witt, published by Rough Guides, www.RoughGuides.com, price: $24.99 (Canada $27.50)
Don't let yourself be intimidated by the daunting title: this travel guide offers adventure for all travelers. The 7 1/2 x 9 1/2" book covers adventures on every continent, and anyone who needs a little nudge to, say, trek England from coast to coast, dive the Great Barrier Reef, or take an expedition to the North Pole (seriously, it's in here) can find that inspiration in any of the picturesque photos splashed across its bright pages.
To help adventurers gauge the difficulty of the suggested routes, the author offers a five-star rating category measuring the skill level, physical and psychological difficulties of the trip (e.g., climbing the Matterhorn in the Alps carries four stars for physical difficulty with "grueling sustained climbing," whereas horseback riding in Andalucia, Spain only carries two in that same category), as well ranking the intangible "Wow!" factor (surfing Oahu's North Shore garners four out of five stars for the "exhilarating experience," and paddling the Atohafalaya Basin in Louisiana earns two for "scenery and exploration").
The book's suggestions lean towards hiking and walking tours, which can lend themselves to a casual adventure experience, and most of the skills required for hiking, boating, etc. can be learned on site. Each destination has around three full-color pages covering the history of the site, tips on conquering its challenge, and details on local guides, travel information and suggestions for further reading. The book also offers an easy to read chart of the months that lend themselves to adventure in each destination. Margaret Luther
The Rough Guide to Austria
by Jonathan Bousfield, Rob Humphreys, Neville Walker and Christian Williams; published by Rough Guides, www.RoughGuides.com. Price: $24.99 (Canada $27.50)
This 600+ page book shows, among much else, that there is much more to Austria than the von Trapp family. This 5 x 8" volume is an all-encompassing guide to Austria, from its Baroque city centers to the snow-laden Alps. It offers information for all aspects of travel, from hotel rooms to restaurants, museums to ski resorts, as well as a handy index of history of the region and German phrases (for the strictly English-language traveler, its text also offers sporadic advice, such as how to find the BBC radio station in Vienna).
The book is organized by city, and the text-heavy pages feature black and white photography of some iconic images of Austria. Each chapter provides a number of maps in varying levels of detail, and numerous sidebars of history or sites of special interest. Within those city-by-city chapters, its descriptions are organized by neighborhoods, with separate sections for accommodations and eating. Some travelers might find the hotel section confusing, as its entries are organized alphabetically, rather than by price range or neighborhood, and the hotel's price range is expressed by a number system that is found in the introduction to the book but is not found near the listings themselves.
Nonetheless, its coverage of the cities is absolutely meticulous, including information on dance clubs, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, bike rentals, and the uniquely Austrian "Kaffeehaus," or coffeehouse, an remnant from the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683.
It also offers a "29 Things Not to Miss," to give travelers a jumping off point for their Austrian travels. Margaret Luther
ASK ARTHUR FROMMER
By Arthur Frommer, published by Wiley Publishing, www.frommers.com. Price: $19.99
The name Arthur Frommer has been synonymous with travel for decades; this latest book from the original guru of European budget travel is a compilation of travel advice, distilled into one frank and interesting volume. The book covers just about every topic a traveler might think of, and several that they probably won't! Not a guidebook to any particular country, this 5 x 8" softbound book is more of an encyclopedia of travel information, peppered with tips and opinions from Frommer himself.
Ask Frommer starts with discussions of air travel, accommodations and how to book them, and contains chapters on adventure travel, specialty travel, learning vacations and other "special interest" vacations, a lengthy chapter on "My Favorite Places," and much more, including some lively tirades against corporate jets, overpriced tours, and "user generated" web sites.
The book is an interesting read even if you aren't planning a specific trip, and budget travelers especially should check out Frommer's travel advice.
ROME AND THE VATICAN
FLORENCE AND TUSCANY
Globetrotter Travel Guides, www.newhollandpublishers.com/catalogue/. Price: $14.95 each.
Sometimes there are such a wide range of travel guides to popular destinations, like Italy for example, that the traveler is hard-pressed to decide which one is best for them. These Globetrotter guides are small in size but packed with valuable information in an easy-to-take-along 5 x 7-1/4" format, conveniently tucking into a pocket or purse. They are also an excellent value as they come with a detailed separate fold-out map tucked right into the book. A large amount of practical information for the traveler, including four color maps and photos of the main attractions, along with places to stay, eat and shop; detailed regional profiles and essential area and transportation maps.
TAKE YOUR KIDS TO EUROPE
By Cynthia W. Harriman, published by Globe Pequot Press, www.globepequot.com. Price: $16.95.
A vacation in Europe with the children in tow can be a daunting thought, given the expense and distance that such a trip entails. The author of this helpful guide bases her tips and advice on personal experience and doesn't assume that people traveling with children are millionaires.
This 6 x 9" softbound book is divided into sections that start with planning an itinerary (including expenses), then moves on to practicalities such as finding kid-friendly restaurants, hotels, sightseeing, and literally dozens of tips and ideas that those who haven't traveled with kids would just never think of! The book is realistic, friendly and peppered throughout with quotes from other parents on their experiences of traveling with their kids (from toddlers to teenagers) in Europe. The book is primarily aimed at families planning an extended visit; however, anyone planning a trip overseas with kids will find this book full of helpful advice.
ALASTAIR SAWDAY'S SPECIAL PLACES TO STAY: FRENCH HOLIDAY HOMES
Alastair Sawday Publishing. www.sawdays.co.uk. Price: $23.95
More and more, savvy European travelers are catching on to the benefits of renting their own house or apartment while abroad. Not only does it offer the experience of "living" in your chosen country, but having your own kitchen and place to relax can be a cost-saving way to visit a locale, especially for families.
If France is your destination, "French Holiday Homes" is a good place to start when choosing your accommodations. This 5 x 8-1/2" softcover guidebook is arranged according to region, with comprehensive listings of self-catering chateaux, apartments and cottages. Each listing features a couple of color photos and a description of the accommodation, including number of guests it sleeps and bed arrangements. Surrounding countryside and nearby amenities are also described. Sawday seems to find places long on charm and in a range of prices, in the kind of atmospheric locations that make a vacation special.
By Andrew Evans, published by Bradt Guides, www.bradtguides.com. Price: $25.99.
Bradt guides are especially suited for adventurous travelers who aren't afraid to go off the beaten path, which once upon a time certainly described Iceland. Reykjavik was merely a stopover for student travelers on their way to Europe via the low-budget Icelandic Air. Few travelers would have considered it a destination in itself; however, Iceland is no longer an after-thought among European travelers in the know. This gorgeous land of fjords, glaciers and hot springs is now attracting more visitors than members of the native population. This guide to the country is extremely comprehensive and contains more than just the basics; there are sections devoted to the geography, weather, government, politics and an extensive history of the country. There is a beautiful four-color map of the country in the front of the book, as well as dozens of detailed maps of various areas and towns. Reykjavik and a dozen other towns receive detailed attention, including transportation, dining and accommodation suggestions. This 5-1/4 x 8-3/8" book contains all the information a traveler to Iceland needs.
FOOD GUIDES FOR TRAVELERS
by Sharon Hudgins
When you're traveling abroad, a good guidebook can often make the difference between a great trip and a mediocre (or even bad) experience. And since you have to eat every day, accurate and informative guides to the foods of the foreign countries you're visiting should be on the top of your list. Who wants to end up eating nondescript fast food near the train station when right around the corner is a really good mom-and-pop restaurant that serves up tasty local cuisine at reasonable prices?
POLAND AND SICILY
Joan Peterson's award-winning series of Eat Smart culinary travel guidebooks definitely tops my own list. Each book in the series is chock full of useful, authoritative, and well written information, all packaged in a book that's still small enough to carry with you.
Eat Smart in Poland and Eat Smart in Sicily are the two European countries in this nine-book series, which focuses on several of the world's cuisines. (The others are Turkey, Morocco, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru and Brazil.)
Each book follows the same useful format: a historical survey of that country's (or region's) cuisine; local ingredients and regional specialties; an extensive menu guide (alphabetically arranged, with useful notations such as "classic dish," "local favorite," "excellent choice"); a comprehensive alphabetical glossary of ingredients, kitchen utensils and cooking methods; tips on shopping in local food markets; and even a couple dozen authentic recipes.
The author's knowledge of—and enthusiasm for—the cuisines that she writes about makes you want to book a flight on the next plane to that country. (Peterson also offers culinary tours to some of her favorite places abroad.) I wouldn't go to Poland or Sicily without those Eat Smart guidebooks in my luggage. I just hope that Peterson is planning to write even more books about some of Europe's other interesting cuisines.
Eat Smart culinary travel guidebooks and tours, www.eatsmartguides.com.
Italy has been seducing travelers for more than 2,000 years. In our own era, Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Americans, who flock there for its art and architecture, its vibrant urban life, its rural villages and pastoral scenery. And of course the food! Some people go to Italy just to eat. That's a good enough reason for me!
Among the deluge of Italian cookbooks and guidebooks published in the United States, the following recent guides are recommended for people who want to delve more deeply into the food culture, restaurants, and food producers of contemporary Italy:
- The Food Lover's Guide to Florence: With Culinary Excursions to Tuscany, by Emily Wise Miller (Ten Speed Press, 2nd edition, 2007).
- The Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania, by Carla Capalbo (Pallas Athene Ltd, 2005).
- Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, by Fred Plotkin (Kyle Books, revised edition, 2007).
All of these books are available on www.amazon.com.
HUNGRY IN HUNGARY
Don't go to Budapest without carrying along a copy of Carolyn Banfalvi's Food Wine Budapest, the best culinary companion you can have (except someone else to pick up the check). Banfalvi's book is the most comprehensive and authoritative English-language guide for people who want to discover the delights of this capital city's excellent cuisine.
This nicely-illustrated guidebook includes chapters on the basics of Hungarian cuisine, specific Hungarian ingredients, and local culinary specialties; wines and other alcoholic beverages; restaurants, coffeehouses, and pastry shops; indoor and open-air markets; and specialty food and wine shops. Banfalvi also conducts food-and-wine tours of Hungary (for more information, see http://www.carolynbanfalvi.com/)
Food Wine Budapest is available at www.littlebookroom.com/foodwinebudapest.html
I know of no other better publication for finding out the exact and specific information you might need to know when traveling by train in Europe than this 544-page softcover bible. It bills itself as "the only up-to-the-minute guide to European rail and ferry services," and I believe it.
This edition is an enlarged edition of the 135-year-old European Rail Timetable. This book is packed with travel tips, explanations of the European Rail Pass system, ideas on where to purchase rail passes arranged country-by-country. Since there is an annual mid-December timetable change in nearly all European countries and another one in mid-June, it's necessary to keep up with these changes if you are traveling frequently by rail.
One very helpful section of the timetable is on page 5 where it shows you how to read the timetable, since these can be a bit daunting, even for a railfan. An index in the front of the book lists the various European major train stations which is helpful when you're looking for a particular town/station. There is even a city map showing where the train stations are in some of the major European cities.
The bulk of the book is timetables, fairly dry stuff unless you want to know that, for instance, an international Eurostar train leaves London's St. Pancras Station for Brussels at 7:57 a.m. and at 8:34 a.m. Or that the distance between Ghent, Belgium and Ronse is 39 kilometers and a train leaves Ghent for Ronse about every hour and sometimes on the half hour.
Traveling by train, a handy and easy way to travel through Europe, is enhanced with this guide. There is also a Thomas Cook Rail Map of Europe which folds out to 39" x 27" printed both sides that clearly outlines the various rail routes, categorizing high-speed lines, main lines, secondary routes, scenic routes and even routes still under construction. One side of the map is an enlarged view of the central European countries. The large map is nicely printed with different colors used for different boundaries, cities and bodies of water. In all, its a very nicely-done rail map when you want to see "the big picture." It evens shows Scandinavia and parts of Russia. Price: $16.95 U.S.
EUROPEAN FOOD CULTURES
Greenwood Press is publishing a series of books on Food Cultures around the World, focusing on the culinary history and contemporary foodways of many countries and regions on the globe.
The European countries and regions already published in this "Food Culture in..." series are Scandinavia, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Russia and Great Britain.
Written by academic specialists, but for general readers, each book includes a historical overview followed by chapters on major foods and ingredients, typical meals, eating out, special occasions, diet and health, recipes and a glossary of food terms.
These relatively expensive hardback books aren't what you'd carry along on your next trip to Europe. But if you're really interested in learning more about the foods of the countries you'll be visiting, Greenwood's books are certainly worth reading before you go.
For more information, go to www.greenwood.com, then type "Food Culture of the World" into the search field on that website.
SWITZERLAND: QUEST FOR THE SUBLIME
Book published by Menasha Ridge Press, www.menasharidge.com, $16.95; DVD from Small World Productions, PO Box 28369, Seattle, WA 98118, www.AdventuresWithPurpose.TV, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Bangs is a travel writer, but he adds a lot of “extras” when he travels and writes. Yes, he goes places and does things and reports about it like other travel writers, but he is, if you will, more cerebral about his journeys and how he researches them.
Bangs is not about the best hotel in Europe, or the most attractions on a mountain or the highest-rated restaurant in Brussels. He is about how travel makes Man appreciate the wonders of the earth, and thus will support keeping “pure” landscapes free of global warming, pollution and other man-made disasters that threaten the environment.
In his latest quest, he travels to beautiful Switzerland in search of the sublime, ending up in places like Lucerne and St. Moritz. What he finds is a travel playground at such exquisite places as Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Rigi and Lake Lucerne, and helps the reader and viewer appreciate not only what they see and hear, but the nature of the land, the people and the...sublime. He even subtitles his book, “Finding Nature’s Secret in Switzerland.”
He mixes history with natural beauty and current events and creates a travelogue with a conscience. He calls it “adventures with a purpose.”
He asks questions such as, “How do we safeguard and maintain the diversity of plants and animals and keep the ecology in a healthy equilibrium?”
On a train trip riding the Glacier Express, Bangs says, “The route misses no excuse to shoot through a tunnel, negotiating 91 in all. It crosses 291 bridges and wanders through screens of illusion, making many detours off the path of reason.” And, he says Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1775 wrote:” ...the odd thing about my liking of precipitous places is that they make me giddy, and I enjoy this giddiness greatly, provided that I am safely placed.”
From interviewing weather sniffers to gliding over the crystal clear waters of Lake Lucerne, Bangs is for and about Nature. His writing is crisp and magical, and the accompanying all-color one-hour DVD that was a public television special and thus well photographed and edited will make you want to order tickets for this heaven called Switzerland right away.
TRAVEL COMPANION GUIDE & JOURNAL
Hearst Books, Sterling Publishing, New York, www.sterlingpublishing.com, $14.95
This is a very nicely done, quality book of small dimensions (5 1/4 x 7 3/8”) and thus easy to pack, that is described as a “fill-in-the blank journal” containing prompts for everything from new friends you meet along the way to first impressions. The booklet contains a list of travel books to pack along with you, suggestions on how to take good pictures, various sightseeing highlights in various places such as Paris and San Francscio, blanks for filling in the names and addresses of hotels you can recommend to your friends, travel quotes, and even an article on how to survive a long flight (drink lots of liquids and use a good moisturizer on your skin). At the rear of the book are conversion charts, time zone map and a mini translation guide.
This firm publishes a number of foreign recipe books, as well as books that have to do with European countries. We enjoyed the 5-1/2” x 3-1/2 horizontal spiral-bound booklets such as the Scandinavian Sweet Treats, Scandinavian Style Fish and Seafood Recipes, Czech & Slovak Kolaches & Sweet Treats and Great German Recipes. Each title begins with some background of the country, or the food, or the traditions of the country. In one there’s a humorous Cook’s Prayer, in another a German table blessing, and in one “kolache memories.”
From Holiday Bread Fruit to Bohemian Coffee Cake, Norwegian Spritz and Curry Herring to Heidelberg Rye Bread and Fried Potato Bread, these books give ingredients and mixing/baking instructions, one recipe per page. We can’t wait to try the Bavarian Sweet Rolls or the Icelandic Christmas Cake. These are easy to use, informative and sturdy books, with "easy to swallow" prices. Check their website for a complete list of recipe books.
One other book we like is German Proverbs, with quotes such as, “He who wants to warm himself in old age must build a fireplace in his youth,” and, “Every mother’s child is handsome.”
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THE TRAVEL BOOK. A Journey Through Every Country in the World
Lonely Planet, $30, softcover.
First of all, I don’t see how they can sell a heavy 444-page all-color book for only three $10 bills, unless it is because it's softbound. Nevertheless, this beautifully-illustrated 9 x 12” travel book is chock full of information and temptations to travel. In alphabetical order, this book revels in each country’s best, including a brief description of the country, suggested best time to visit, essential experiences to have there, what to see, eat, drink and what books to read before you go. The book also suggests a “surprise” in every country. Where else could you travel all the countries easily for only $30?
This 258-page 9 x 12” all-color book will start you dreaming about travel to Europe. Each country is afforded a landscape description, country history in a nutshell, information about the people, something about the economy and notable things about each country. In Spain it’s “fiery flamenco” and sipping sangria, while in Switzerland it’s chocolates, watches and cows. Slovenia is remarkable for its splendid scenery, the hair-raising Vrsic Pass and the unique Karst region. In Romania there are a dozen national parks spread throughout the country. Every country has important cultural and scenic possibilities to explore--and this volume helps you sum it all up. So what are you waiting for?
WALKING THE BIBLE
www. wgbh.org, Boston. Price: $19.95
So you’d like to walk where significant Bible events took place. Now you don’t even have to leave home for this: Bruce Feiler has done it for you, taking a number of journeys, these accounting for the five books of Moses.
In his quest, Feiler visits--by foot, rowboat, jeep and camel--the places where the Bible tells us significant events occurred. Included are Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark was to have ended up; to the place in the desert where Abraham first heard God speak; and to the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
Does he stumble onto anything truly new and revealing? Well, not really, but you can take the trip with him and picture for yourself where these events took place. Check out this DVD.
125 BEST ITALIAN RECIPES.
Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh, published by Firefly Books, 66 Leek Crescent, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada L4B 1H1. Price: $19.95.
Here’s a beautiful little 192-page book that offers up 125 great Italian recipes from the haute cities in the north to the rural farm villages of the south and from one coast to the other.
Italian food is really taking off, and this book, with its beautiful photography (not every recipe rates a photo) and easy-to-read recipes, will please readers. Chapters relate to how Italian food is served, a portion tells you how to stock an Italian pantry and the recipes utilize everyday ingredients from your local supermarket.
Try the ricotta gnocchi, quail roasted with pancetta, Tuscan vegetable soup and the peaches with mascarpone! As they say in Italy, “Eat little, well and often!”
SPAIN, A CULINARY ROAD TRIP
By Mario Batali, with actress Gwyneth Paltrow, published by Harper-Collins. Price: $34.95.
This handsome 384-page 8 1/2 x 10 1/2” all-color book is fun reading--as well as cooking and eating the many foods shown therein. The art director did a super job on
design of the book.
It starts with a colorful map of where the authors traveled to dish up the special recipes; they went to such places as Madrid, Toledo, Barcelona. Salamanca, Valencia and San Sebastian. The book is told in a story format, where superchef Mario tells you where his group is going and what they’re eating, and the recipes are included.
I loved the photo of the fried eggplant on page 193: ...”when you fry it, fry it properly--eggplant becomes really crispy on the outside and very creamy on the inside.”
In Asturias, the group makes fabada, a bean and pork stew, which looks great. There’s also a recipe for pineapple with lime and molasses that is an “end of the meal” type of dish, a little sweet, a little acidic.
An example of the text: “Later we set up a grill in the vineyards and prepare baby lamb for dinner. We burn grapevines for fire and squeeze grapes over the meat. Then we eat it with Valdubon wine; a totally integrated, inclusive meal.”
I enjoyed the read and the photos; I think you will as well.
Perhaps you're a "Royal Watcher" or just have become interested when you see something about royalty on television or in the newspaper. Whatever category you fit into, this series of six DVD's is what you want for your library.
Included are The State Visit, Part 1 and 2; Headquarters; Head of State; The Queen and Us; and Inside the Firm. Each DVD covers the various aspects of the Queen's "job." For example, in The State Visit, the episode follows the elaborate preparations that go into scheduling a visit from the queen. Included are visits to President and Laura Bush. In Headquarters, we take a look at the 650 rooms of Buckingham Palace and how the Queen directs the royal family, entertains heads of state, and conducts her private life. One of the highlights shows her preparing for her annual move to Balmoral in Scotland.
In The Queen and Us, we follow four invited guests of the Queen and watch as they ponder what they will say and do when the Queen greets them.This episode also follows the schedule of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. Inside the Firm centers on handling the some 4,000 state visits, balls, dedications and charity events that take place every year that the royal family attends. The queen talks about the role the family plays and the challenges of royal life.
In a year-long sequence, filmmakers were allowed exclusive access for a behind-the-scenes look at all that goes on in and around London's Buckingham Palace and the queen. Many intimate interviews were filmed, and little-known areas of the palace were shot, such as the wine cellar and royal kitchens. Yeomen, ladies in waiting and the crown jeweler were filmed, going about their duties as well.
It's all very good material, professionally filmed and brilliantly edited. From beginning to end, this series will keep you entertained and amazed at the multitude of preparations that go into the life of the queen and the royal family. These "modern monarchs" come alive in this fascinating series.
THE FRENCH CHEF
For years, Julia Childs made people laugh while she was cooking. She made me chuckle a few times while I reviewed this 3-disk DVD set (18 episodes) of some of her shows as seen on public television.
As The French Chef of public television, she would exclaim, “If I can do it, you can do it...and here’s how it’s done.”
In the series, which is quite old now (begun in 1962), Julia demonstrates her special style and her wit. The series includes such recipes as boeuf bourguignon, salade Nicoise, bouillabaisse a la Marseillaise, mousseline au chocolat and others.
As part of the series, you can download printable recipes and learn about Julia’s background
GREEK ISLAND HOPPING
Thomas Cook Publishing, www.greekislandhopping.com. Price: $26.95.
Here's a dream vacation for many European travelers: hopping from island to island in the blue Aegean Sea—after all, Greece has some 1,425 of them and 166 are inhabited. Fortunately it's possible to make this trip a reality without chartering your own sailboat, because Greece has an excellent ferry system connecting many of its islands to Athens and each other. An adventurous traveler can easily use these ferries to "island hop."
That's where this comprehensive guidebook comes in. Dubbing itself "The Island Hopper's Bible," it offers everything a traveler needs to know about traveling the Greek Islands, based on the national system of ferries. Beginning with an explanation of how the ferry system works and helpful tips on planning an itinerary, the 720-page 5 x 7-1/4" book combines complete information about mainland Greece and Athens with the necessary information on each island in the various chains, including ports, lodging, beaches, land transport, and the all-important ferry schedule. Color sections highlight the gorgeous sights of selected islands.
An important added feature for buyers of the book is the constantly-updated web site, which allows for up-to-the-minute changes in ferry schedules and other pertinent travel information.
These large 9-1/2 x 12-1/4” hardbound books are black and white volumes that tell you how the Romans planned and developed their cities, how the clever Egyptians slaved to build the Pyramids and how cities are supported from underground with water, gas, sewer, electricity installations, telephone wires and subways.
All three use simple text and easily-understood hand drawings to illustrate the themes. In Pyramid, for example, MaCaulay tells you the step-by-step construction process of building these giant pharaoh tombs, as well as explains how and why they came to be built.
These are fascinating books, and much of the reason is because they are so simply stated. MaCaulay also has one called Cathedral, which looks at an imaginary 13th century Gothic cathedral. Before you travel to Europe, you’ll want to read this one!
QUEST FOR KAITIAKITANGA and
ADVENTURES WITH PURPOSE
Menasha Ridge Press, 2204 First Avenue South, Suite 102, Birmingham, AL 35233. 888-604-4573, www.menasharidgepress.com
Kaitiakitanga, $16.95; Adventures, $16.95
"Imagine a ravaged land, devoid of forests, animals and clean water," says travel writer/adventurer/author Richard Bangs, auother of Quest for Kaitiakitanga.
Bangs moves through the world, catching Nature, sizing it up, weighing it against itself, and finding good in all creation. Then he makes sure people are aware of the beauty and usefulness of the mountains, streams, rivers and lakes, forests and all natural resources. He seeks a onesmanship with the Earth so he understands it, and then shares that relationship with others so they, too, understand it.
Beneath the surface of travel--romance, adventure and promise--are quieter things of import. Bangs is right on top of this quest for what nature means to the world. This 5 x 7 1/4" 262-page hardbound book is all about finding peace with nature, and preserving it. A good read.
In Adventures With Purpose, Bangs again is awed by the beauty of the earth, but alarmed by its mindless destruction. He is honestly concerned about our environment and how to preserve it. From the Eiger of the Swiss Alps to the Nile in Egypt and the quest for the source of the Zambezi, Bangs is a terrific guide. He has written numerous articles, 16 books and is a founding partner in America's oldest and largest adventure travel firm. This 6 x 9" softbound 352-page book is your invitation to adventures from the front lines of the earth.
Fodor's Travel Publications, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, www.fodors.com. Price: $9.95
Want to travel like a pro? This 4 1/4" x 7 1/2" softbound packs a wallop of useful information such as how to save money on hotels, flights and car rentals; how to resolve travel issues with various firms; avoiding local scams; obtaining passports; avoiding cultural faux pas; packing checklists; timing your trip; train travel tips; kids and hotels; booking cruises; and much more. A compact book with a lot of information.
Open Road, distributed by Simon & Schuster, 800-223-2336. Price of each, $14.95
Spain: This 5 1/2 x 8 1/2" softbound guide book includes ideas for one-day, weekend, one-week and two-week trips to Spain. The book is divided into what to do, see and eat in Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, the south of Spain, north of Spain; trips in 1-3 days, 4-6 days, etc; and then the best sleeps and eats; the best activities; practical matters and a series of maps--39 of them. Great color pictures, glossy paper.
Provence: Another 5 1/2 x 8 1/2" book that offers insights on northern Provence, Avignon, the Luberon, Arles, Marseille and the coast of Provence, western French Riviera, Nice, eastern French Riviera and the best sleeps and eats, activities and practical matters. This book offers tips such as, "The quaint medieval village of Sequret clings to the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirail, a series of limestone rocks stretching skyward. You can climb its car-free and steep cobblestone streets lined with vine-covered stone homes." The book also lists festivals, events, and even best department stores.
Europe on a Budget-Germany-Britian-Vienna-Edinburgh-London-Scottish Highlands & Island-Prague-Dublin-Brussels
Distributed by Penguin Group, www.roughguides.com. Prices: vary from $11.99 to $24.99.
These handy guidebooks are published for about every European country, and are supplemented by the smaller, pocket-friendly Directions series. They're crammed full of facts, tips, detailed maps and suggestions on what attractions to see, how to get there (either the country or city), where to stay, where to eat, general pricing, what's hip and what's not, neighborhoods, culture, nightlife, essential telephone numbers, distances between points, historical facts and "practicalities." A typical reading (this one from the Rough Guide to Germany): "S-Bahn #5 links Frankfurt with Bad Homburg, which is situated in the southern foothills of the Taunus, a hilly forest area bordered on three sides by the rivers Rhine, Main and Lahn. Following nearly two centuries as capital of the tiny state of Hesse-Homburg, it was annexed by Prussia in 1866 and quickly established itself as the favorite summer retreat of the Kaisers." The guides typically begin with a color map of the city or country, give the reader basics on getting there, costs, money, accommodations, eating, drinking, public hours of stores, restaurants, a listing of festivals, consulates and police information, and then launch into detailed information specific locations, towns and areas. The book offers language aids and legends to help the reader even more. Well researched and very thorough. A good price, too, for what you get.
Distributed by Globe Pequot Press, www.GlobePequot.com. Price: $18.95
This 6 x 9" 544-page softbound is the railfan's and traveler's dream to riding the rails in Europe. Packed with essential rail information, this hefty book is divided into chapters by country: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, and others. The author says this book "reflects the new Europe and the energy and exuberance of its rail system. It's dynamic, it's futuristic, and it's on the move--accelerating with the high-tech boldness and immense speed of the world's finest transportation system." That statement is true---nowhere else except perhaps Japan and a few scattered rail corridors in the U.S. will you find such an efficient and developing rail system. This book is all about planning your rail trip---sit down with a bowl of popcorn and dream about your rail vacation in Europe. Rail is the way to go, because most train stations are at the heart of European cities where the historic attractions are located. You can hop from city center to city center by rail for weeks! The book explains all about rail passes, how to use them and what to expect. The book offers rail schedules and gives suggested rail tours. Example: a day excursion to the Austrian Alps via Villach and Salzburg departs from Vienna South station (Sudbahnhof) and passes through three different Alps mountain ranges. Besides long-distance travel, the book offers a guide to city/metro trams, undergrounds and buses, as well. This book is two pounds of good information.
CCC Publishing Co., distributed by Independent Publishers Group, 800-888-4741, Price: $19.95
This book is a compilation of 108 "spiritual" destinations as composed by author Brad Olsen. Olsen, in 320 pages--16 of them in color--takes the reader to sacred mountains, prehistoric megaliths, Christian shrines and pilgrimage destinations. In the Germany section, the small village of Altotting is described, a spot in Bavaria first mentioned in documents dating to 748, when the first Christian missionaries built a baptistery there. It's called the Chapel of the Miraculous Image, based on an incident in 1489 where a drowned three-year-old girl is said to have come back to life after her mother placed her in front of a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary--pilgrims have traveled to the village now for 500 years. The book is divided into England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and the Low Countries, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Germany and the Alps, Italy and Malta, Spain and Portugal, and Greece. Olson suggests you take a parallel journey through the mythology, history and folkfore of these holy sites as you visit them. if you're looking for other reasons to visit Europe than just tourist attractions, this book might do the trick.
Avalon Travel, 1400 65th St., Suite 250, Emeryville, CA 94608, 510-595-3664, www.travelmatters.com. Price: Europe 101, $24.95; Eastern Europe, $22.95
"Who but Rick Steve tells you what you really need to know when traveling in Eastern Europe?" is a question on the dustjacket of his 988-page 4 1/2 x 8" softcover book. Well, Rick does, in fact, give lots of valuable information and tips that can save a traveler money and time. And he does "tell it like it is." Traveling to Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bosnia, Austria, or Croatia? This 1"-thick tomb is your answer to those many questions you may have about traveling in these countries, which can be a bit intimidating. This book will tell you the history of a country, population, geography, language spoke, the currency, politics of the land, and even what the national flag looks like. Divided into countries and then into cities, this guide says about Prague,"No other place in Europe has become so popular so quickly." This book will help you plan your trip, give you an orientation, tourist information, give tips on how to get around the city, "rip-offs," helpful hints (medical, internet access, bookstores, car rentals, best views, laundry facilities, etc). Where to find tours, what the major sites are, entertainment, where to shop, where to eat, where to sleep (including hostels), how much to tip and many more bits and pieces of information are central to this work.
In Rick Steves Europe 101, the reader is saturated with Steves' humor, which makes the reading fun and enjoyable.
"Relax. There will be no test," is how he starts the "conversation" with his readers. "After stripping history naked, this book dresses it up with just the personalities, stories and sights that will be a part of your travels," he says.The book is divided into time periods such as Prehistoric Europe, 3000-1000 B.C., A.D. 500-1000 and 1650-1815 and so on, reaching to the final chapter entitled "Europe Today." An overall timeline is also presented for those who are word-challenged. Numerous photos, sidebars and more timelines help the reader soak in the history. A sample reading: "The "Low Countries"--today's Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg--are just that: flat, soggy and easily overrrun by invaders. But out of this poor, feudal landscape emerged three powerful cities that thrived on trade. Each had a prime location. Amsterdam and Bruges sat where rivers flowed into the North Sea, while Brussels hugged a main trading highway. In their day, these cities were as rich as entire nations." And thus this 5 1/2 x 8 1/2" 526-page book is a great way to learn Europe's complex history--and enjoy learning it at the same time.
This 5 x 7 1/2” 496-page softcover book is well organized to give the reader a quick—or exhausting—look at these two adjacent republics which lie north and east of Vienna, and are squarely located in the middle of Europe. Both countries joined the European Union in 2004.
Family is the center for almost everyone in these two countries: Czech Republic has 10.2 million people and Slovakia has 5.35 million. Big cities the average person would recognize in these countries include Prague and Bratislava. “If you envisage the mystical Gothic buildings of Prague’s historic center, you’re not alone,” the introduction reads. “In two compact countries you can climb eerie sandstone rock formations, hike alpine slopes, enjoy what some argue to be the world’s best beer, soak in a hot spring spa, watch swordplay by firelight at a medieval castle, and down a shot of slivovitz (plum brandy) with the locals.”
The book offers information on itineraries, history, culture, environment issues, outdoor activities, food and drink, as well as numerous sections on the larger cities and areas of each country, There are also sections on transportation, health concerns and language. In fact, there are sections for subjects that you probably didn’t realize you needed, but that is the sign of a good guidebook.
“Spectacular landscapes dotted with the ruins of audaciously located castles make this maze of sandstone ‘rock towns’ and basalt volcanic fingers a rugged contrast to the prettified backdrops found elsewhere in Bohemia,” reads a paragraph in the East Bohemia section. To point out the extensive detail the guidebook provides, it goes on to say, “The sandstone formations at Prachovske skaly are renowned through Europe for rock climbing. Your best source of local information is Hudy Sport in Jicin which hires all necessary gear including harnesses, karabiners, ropes and helmets.
There are maps to show the railways of the countries, driving distance chart, helpful language phrases to learn, information about postal rates, shopping, legal matters, a list of embassies and consulates--even a section on mountain huts for the adventurous. There is also a nice selection of city maps to guide you and a tip for Bratislava: while away the hours at one of the many street cafes in the ‘rabbit warren’ old town.
For the larger cities, a list of attractions is given along with a number which locates that attraction for you on the accompanying map. Festivals are also listed with the months they are held, and suggested walking tours are offered.
In all, a handy and helpful guidebook for these two not-yet-mobbed-with-tourist countries.
Karen Brown has a clever way of writing about the
special places she’s visited and stayed at over the
years. In her book Karen Brown’s Switzerland (2007),
she writes about exceptional places to stay and offers
itineraries for this beautiful country.
“From the Blausee, continue to Kanderstag, a small
village tucked at the end of a box canyon where the
only means of further transportation is to put your
car onto one of the trains that tunnel through the
mountains. Although this suggested itinerary goes on
to Zermatt, if you have time to linger, Kanderstag is
an idyllic place to spend a few days...Kanderstag
nestles in a flower-strewn meadow dramatically
embraced by towering Alpine peaks,” she writes.
Makes you want to buy an airline ticket right now and find this
And another review: “The Hotel Edelweiss (Blatten im
Lotschental) is right in the center of town with a
glorious position overlooking the valley and up to
mountains. The exterior of the hotel is very
appealing: a three-story chalet-style house with a
dark wood facade, balconies and window boxes with
cascading red geraniums.”
Between the accommodations and the itineraries listed,
travelers can virtually plan an entire trip with this
one book. For European travelers, Karen has published
a number of travel guides, all similiar, for France;
Italy; Germany; Austria; Ireland; and England, Wales
and Scotland, as well as several more specialized
books for European destinations.
This 278-page 7” x 7” softbound with color covers is
an ideal way to cover a lot of territory when you’re
searching for just the right spot to stay, and the
right places to see, without spending days and weeks
scouting out locations. Brown has done the legwork for
you. The overnight accommodations have been personally
selected, and each is chosen for its ambiance. There
are overnight lodging ideas in categories for
budget-minded travelers as well as for those who enjoy
The book features a color map of Switzerland and six
additional regional maps showing five recommended
travel routes as well as train, boat and bus
The front portion of the book is devoted to describing
general travel information in the regions covered
(everything from making telephone calls to currency
and car rentals to reminding you to bring along an
electric converter). It also describes attractions,
walking tours, museums, boat trips and other things to
do to make your trip fun and exciting.
Besides elongated paragraphs describing the 90 hotels
and pensions in this book, there is a nice pen and ink
sketch of each hotel listed, as well as contact
information, and other operational details of the
Karen wrote her first travel book in 1976, so she’s had
plenty of experience in finding just the right
accommodations that offer a bit more to the traveler.
Penguin Publishing Company (DK), 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
This 4 x 5 1/2” 144-page perfectbound book is divided into chapters with titles such as Everyday Phrases, Colloquialisms, Days/Months/Seasons, Numbers, Time, Eating Out, Stores and Services, Emergencies and Health, among others.
The book begins, “The pronunciation of an Italian word is very similar to the way it is written.” And once you progress beyond “Si” for “yes and “Come sta?” (how are you?), you can start to tackle the 2,000-word English-Italian dictionary located at the back of the book.
Now a book is great, but an additional helpful guide that comes with this book is a 70-minute DVD which guides you through the book, beginning with the easy phrasing. This gives you a good foundation for the later, harder words and phrases. The CD features easy to hear and follow narration, and likely cuts the time by half that it would take to learn Italian.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have to “work” at learning Italian or any language: a daily dose of any foreign language will improve your skills dramatically over time.
I found the book and CD well-thought-out, and the book is easy to hold if you’re taking it along on your trip (which you should).
Now let’s see, prego (please) pass the dolci (dessert) because I need a bit more food after that filetto al cognac (fillet of beef flambe).
By Stephanie Elizondo Griest, published by Travelers’ Tales, Palo Alto, 853 Alma Street, California 94301,
telephone 904-310-6274, www.travelerstales.com.
352 pages, softcover.
“Despite its name, Llanddwyn Island is attached to the mainland in all but the highest tides, so is technically not an island. It is, however, a romantic place with endless coastlines, rolling dunes, sea cliffs, salt marches and mud flats.” And so writes Griest in her new book that “points the way to places of inspiration and enlightenment…”
Some of her European trip tips include champagne tours of France; Lesbos, Greece (Greece’s third largest island); County Mayo, Ireland; Amsterdam; and the Czech Republic, among others.
The book encourages women to see what pleases them: she recounts where to go for ice cream, for the sexiest lingerie, for dancing the tango and even surfing sites, places to swim with sea creatures and famed teahouses: not all of these are in Europe, however. In fact, the list of destinations for these activities are far-ranging.
Why go to Sweden? Well, it is the best place to be a woman, she says, because of the number of women who graduate from college, hold a job, win public office and serve as cabinet members.
Morocco, she says, is a “full throttle assault on the senses and there is no better way to put it.” In Essaouira, Morocco, you should explore its bustling souks “tucked within the whitewashed medina, where surprises await behind every azure door.”
It’s a wide, daunting and thrilling world out there, and we could use a bit of direction, she writes. With a good bit of road dust under her nails, and the years flying by, she says traveling with a reason now seems more important than ever.
After this read, you’ll find out what reasons there are to go to places she describes.
Venice Pocket Map & Guide,
$8.99 USA; $8.99 Canada.
This is a 2 3/4" wide x 6" 80-page
guide with a pull-out map that illustrates Venice's major sights.
The tall, slender guidebook fits in your pocket quite easily. The booklet
is divided into sections such as Introducing Venice, Venice Area
by Area and Practical Information, along with color photographs that
show some of Venice's highlights,
including Basilica San Marco and its details.
In the Castello section, the copy reads, "Castello is the largest sestiere of the city. Its industrial hub was the historic Arsenale, where warships were made," and proceeds to tell about churches, historical buildings, streets, bridges and squares, museums and galleries. It even shows the vaporetto (water boat) boarding points in the sestiere.
There is also an index and Phrase Book section. The all-color pull-out
map measures 14 1/2" x 11 3/4". This handy book is nicely done
and features a laminated cover. Published by Penguin Group USA (DK Publishing).
100 Greatest Trips, $34.95
This 288-page hardbound book is a pleasure to have and to hold.
While divided into U.S. and Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America, Western and Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Asia, and Australia/New Zealand, our readers will want to concentrate on the locations in Europe.
"Europe's Most Livable City," reads one chapter on Zurich. There are two sides to Nice, France, reads another section, and proceeds to tell you about them. This all-color hardbound is a good, easy read and features great photography, as you'd expect from a Travel & Leisure publication.
In Rome, try Cafe de Paris or Harry's bar, two of the featured spots in this book. In Greece, the cosmopolitan Cycladic Island has a history of wild nightlife. Not a guide book, per se, this 8 1/2 x 11" title offers snippets of good reading and "seeing" of locations.
Croatia, Poland's Krakow (Cool Central), and Christmas in St. Petersburg
are also highlighted. At the rear of the book is a section that highlights
hotels, dining experiences and other attractions in the countries mentioned.
Travel & Leisure
This two-pack of softcover 8 1/2 x 11" books--plus a CD with German songs--is one way to get your children involved in the language before you go.
Each book is full of drawings and words to songs that you and your child can look at and read as you play the songs on the CD. Songs featured include Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht; Ringalayoi; Marias suBes kleines Lamm; and Oh! Susanna. Translations of the songs are located at the rear of each book.
The publishing company sells language books for French, Spanish, Italian, and for other languages as well. This is a clever way to get the kids to learn a foreign language! Teach Me Tapes, Inc. (www.teachmetapes.com)
THOMAS COOK EUROPEAN RAIL TIMETABLE. Winter 2009/2010.
Thomas Cook Publishing Company, Unit 9, Thomas Cook Business Park, Coningsby Road, Peterborough, United Kingdom PE3 8SB, www.thomascookpublishing.com. Distributed by Globe Pequot Press, 246 Goose Lane, PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437. Price: $26.95.
Thomas Cook is famous for its rail information guides: the European Rail Timetable is a 544-page, 6 x 9 1/2” softcover book crammed---very crammed---with rail information.
Do you want to know about night trains in Europe, when and where they run?
Do you want to know where the train stations are--specifically--in Madrid, London, Dublin, Hamburg and, say Stockholm or Venice? Do you need to figure out how you get from the middle of Budapest to the Ferihegy Airport (answer: there are two to six trains every hour that run this 18 kilometer stretch)?
What is the difference between InterCity, Intercity Express and Regional Express trains? Is the Italian high-speed line between Torino to Salerno via Milano, Rome and Naples open yet? Will public holidays in European change train schedules? Are InterRail passes good on private railways?
You can find these answers in this book, which has been published now for more than 135 years, and is recognized throughout the world as the place to find out every conceivable piece of information you might need when traveling by train In Europe.
This edition appears in summer and winter, and is invaluable when you really need to plan your trip--whether for leisure or business--well in advance, and need to be extremely accurate about it.
The book even offers general travel tips on hotels (“the quality of cheaper hotel in Eastern Europe may be less than inspiring...”); luggage (don’t carry more than 60 liters for men); and miscellaneous ( “a couple of lightweight towels, small bar of soap, water bottle, travel electric adapter” are all items you may need to take along with you).
There are general notes given for each country that address rail passes, where to purchase tickets, tipping, general hours for stores and commerce, currency information, languages spoken, climate and more.
You’ll find such notes as, “All trains from Praha (Prague) to Brno and beyond now serve the main station,” and “Work to transform Wein Sudbahnhof (Vienna) into a new major through station to be called the Wein Hauptbahnhof has started and will take a number of years to complete,” helpful as well as interesting. If you’ve used these stations even once, you’ll appreciate news such as this, especially should you visit again. Railfans will likely find this type of information even more enlightening.
There is even a special section devoted to Scenic Rail Routes (excluding mountain or tourist railways), all isted by country. I see I have traveled on only two of the scenic routes in Germany--guess I’d better buy some more train tickets!
This tome is filled largely with hundreds of timetables, numerous rail maps, train times, train numbers and station names. Read the legends to understand each timetable and the symbols. The book covers Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
This is an impressive book, laden with detailed information you’ll not find anywhere else. I know I’d not want to be a proofreader for this large undertaking, but readers will like the specific knowledge this important book imparts. All aboard!
MAIN CITIES OF EUROPE. Michelin, The Michelin Guide, Hannay House, 39 Clardendon Rd., Watford, Herts, UK WD17 1JA. www.ViaMichelin.com
This smallish 4-1/2” x 7-1/2” guide is packed with 1,080 pages detailing the best restraurants and hotels in 44 cities located in 20 countries. The listings feature 3,000 of the Michelin-rated establishments, a large task by any stretch of the imagination.
Ratings are made by professionally-trained teams of full-time inspectors who make assessments anonymously to insure impartiality and independence. This year’s guide includes Salzburg, Austria: “Small but perfectly formed, Salzburg is a chocolate-box treasure, gift-wrapped in stunning Alpine surroundings. Salzburg is well known for its excellent regional cuisine. Alongside Vienna, it’s the culinary hotspot of Austria.”
There is a useful color country map in the book’s beginning, followed by detailed maps of the cities listed, followed by lists of hotels and restaurants. Each city listing is also divided into sections for easier reference. For the Ambassador Radisson Blu in Paris, the hotel is called a business hotel, art deco style and classical. It has 294 rooms and costs between 190/550€ a night. “Painted wood panels, crystal chandeliers and antiques adorn this elegant Art Deco hotel dating from the 1920s. The most recently decorated guestrooms are more contemporary in style. Enjoy up-to-date seasonal cuisine at 16 Haussman as you admire the lively boulevard.” (Only someone who had studied this hotel could have written this.)
A useful book to take when you travel. Worth the $28 U.S.