Travel writers and you

LONDON – have you ever read a travel article and felt inspired to go and see for yourself what they’re talking about? This just happened to me. A few weeks ago I purchased this book called London Style Guide by Saska Graville. It’s so nicely written and presented. I partly bought it because the photographs made everything she talks about look beautiful. I’m a sucker for packing! (Note: I bought the  book at a shop called JOY for £16 but you can get it at amazon.com for £10).

I’ve been using this book as a reference for exploring London and it’s been pretty good, until this weekend when I followed her advice and headed to Notting Hill, an area made famous by Hugh Grant in the film with the same title.

Saska says “Londoners tend to avoid Portobello Market  – too full of tourists buying overpriced antiques and trying to find the bookshop run by Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. Little do the visiting crowds realise that they’re missing the area’s real treasure, Golborne Road.”

When I read extracts like this, you’ve got my attention because I love to find London’s hidden gems. But, dear reader, as your London correspondent I can promise you that Golborne Road, is neither ‘hidden’ nor a ‘gem’. It’s at the end of Portobello Road (took me a good hour to get there) and as far as I’m concerned is best described as lacklustre.

I went to all the shops she suggested: Ollie & Bow, Les Couilles du Chien, Rellik, and Bazar Antiques. None of them were noteworthy, with the exception of Phoenix on Golborne which in my opinion sells overpriced antiques (contrary to what she says) and some have been restored in a hasty fashion, but perhaps these fall into the shabby chic category.

Anyway, the point of my rant is that, it’s important to be honest as a travel writer. I don’t know what Saska saw in these shops she suggested. Perhaps it just comes down to personal taste. But if you do have the chance to go to Golborne Road, please skip it. However, if you do end up in this part of London, make a trip to Lisboa Patisserie. The queue outside this shop was long which tells you something. They sell some tasty pastries. I actually bought three!

Ever felt jipped by a travel writer?

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7 thoughts on “Travel writers and you

  1. Yes! More often by what they omit, rather then what they suggest. We were in a small town in Germany, and a huge monastery loomed over it from a nearby hillside. It was amazing, from the statuary to the incredible paintings on the ceilings of the main cathedral. Strangely, no mention of it in the guidebook that recommended a visit to the town. Sometimes I wonder if these guides have actually been everywhere they say they have.

    • Good point. I used to read this magazine in South Africa called ‘Country Life’ that wrote about obscure towns and they would always talk it up. My family and I visited some of the towns that they wrote about and we realised that the writers just took a few photos of some nice buildings or picturesque sites and made it seem like it was more than it really was. We stopped buying the magazine altogether.

  2. I have authored two travel guides. It’s very difficult work, very time consuming and it’s impossible to see everything. And you only get like a month to work on the thing.

    The publication I work for chooses writers who live in the city they write about so what’s described above is unlikely. The person who wrote it before me picked some lousy restaurants and I got very angry when I looked up reviews. I hate the thought of people spending money or going to see something that’s not worth it.

    • Where are you based?
      I think when reviewing and writing for travel it’s always great when you get an honest and hands on perspective. People do take a lot of these reviews seriously. I had no idea that time was tight when you wrote for travel, but it does make sense as journalism is so deadline driven. Thanks for sharing your perspective. Would love to know what you’ve written too.

  3. It’s interesting to hear from readers of these things! I am so concerned with getting things right. Most of the times, guidebooks (the well-known ones) are updated. So you’re not starting out from scratch, you’re replacing old properties with new ones. I always think if I’d recommend it to a friend. I go to the place first, write down my thoughts, then see if they coincide with tripadvisor. That’s the fun part. The rest is fact-checking to make sure everything is still open, ticket prices, etc.

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