I spent one Friday night earlier this month reading the three guide books I brought to school with me last August and planning my trip to London in March 2010 with my father. The trip, which is a combined 18th birthday, graduation, and 2009 Christmas present, has been a dream of mine since I knew where and what London is. Anytime anyone asked why I wanted to go to London, my response was always “I want to see the place where Anne Boleyn got her head chopped off”. (I was such a precocious child.)
When I think of travel guides, my mind automatically conjures up images of Frommer’s trademark red books with white lettering. I was never able to get my hands on a copy of Frommer’s London 2009 or 2010 from PaperBackSwap or BookMooch, and the problem with guidebooks is that after a couple of years, they start to become out of date. (I learned that the hard way in Paris.) So I’m not willing to pay for what will no longer be wanted after a year and for what I can apparently get online in a condensed version for free.
However, beggars cannot be choosers, and I need something to help me start planning this trip. After all, eight days at the Tower of London (also known as where Anne Boleyn was executed) is a little excessive. I was able too borrow my mom’s copies of Frommer’s Portable London (1999) and Frommer’s Memorable Walks in London (3rd Edition) to give myself a base for my planning. In addition, I requested Lonely Planet’s London Condensed (2002) off of PaperBackSwap because I found it’s size to be a great asset when I was walking the streets of Paris with Lonely Planet’s Paris Condensed (2000). It’s been interesting comparing these three different guidebooks and trying to piece them together to formulate the best trip ever.
Memorable Walks provided a great starting point because each walk it details is localized around specific highlights of London, which gave me my bearings when I was trying to plan out each day. Otherwise, I would have had my father and I visiting Buckingham Palace to King’s Cross Station to the Tower of London to the Imperial War Museum, which are all on different sides of the city, on the same day. But other than that, I found that Memorable Walks wasn’t all that helpful. It wants you to visit obscure statues of American figures that technically stand on American soil when I could do that right here in my hometown and the town of my college. I want to experience London and its history, not the history of the country I’m from.
Portable London is broke up into sections based on the neighborhoods of London. Helpful because it gives restaurant recommendations and insider tips to beating the lines — excuse me, queues — based on where you in London rather than a giant list in the back. It gives more in-depth recommendations than any of the other three guidebooks, but the print is tiny, really tiny. In addition, because it was published in 1999, the hours and prices of some of London’s attractions and restaurants are no longer correct.
I’ve found London Condensed to the best of the three. It’s bright and colorful, which means it completely screams tourist, and contains some beautiful photographs. The skinniest and lightest of the three, London Condensed will be easy to slip into my purse or jacket pocket and carry with me throughout London. It’s front and back covers fold out to provide several in-depth maps of the London area, which are labeled brightly and clearly rather than grey and white like Frommer’s maps. While its recommendations and articles on the attractions aren’t nearly as in-depth as Portable London, it offers even more recommendations than the other two travel guides, and its information is more up-to-date than the others.
- Fallon, Steve. Lonely Planet London Condensed. Minneapolis: Lonely Planet Publications, 2002. Print. 128 pgs. ISBN: 1864503017. Source: PaperBackSwap.
- Jones, Richard. Frommer’s Memorable Walks in London (3rd ed). Boston: MacMillan Company, 1998. Print. 165 pgs. ISBN: 0028621425. Source: Borrowed.
- Porter, Darwin. Frommer’s Portable London ’99. Boston: MacMillan Company, 1999. Print. 186 pgs. ISBN: 0028628586. Source: Borrowed.