Tag Archives: Lonely Planet

Belgium & Luxembourg

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Belgium & Luxembourg
By Helena Smith, Andy Symington & Donna Wheeler
Lonely Planet – £14.99

This sixth edition of Lonely Planet’s Belgium & Luxembourg is every quintessential, literary expectation one has come to expect of said publisher’s assimilation of the most informative of travel guides. At 310 pages (excluding Glossary, Behind the Scenes and Index), it both informs and inspires the reader in equal measure.

For instance, even before reaching the fully explained, full-colour ‘Top 15’ (which, in chronological order consists of Bruges, Brussels, Grand Palace, Carnival Capers, Flemish Primitives, Luxembourg City, Chocolate, Castles, Belfries & Begijnhoven, Belgian Beer, Flanders Fields, Art Nouveau, Antwerp Art & Fashion, Museum of Remembrance, Art Cities and Caves of the Ardennes); one of the book’s three authors writes: ”My childhood bedroom in Sydney was decorated with postcards of Van Eyck Madonnas, but it wasn’t until a couple of decades later, during a couple of Europe’s coldest winters, that infatuation turned to love. My first impression of Antwerp was one of sheer wonder, the guildhalls of Grote Markt glinting as snow fell at the Christmas market, and the dimmed, richly cosy interiors of the Rubenshuis and the Museum Plantin-Moretus. This sense of quiet magic has accompanied each subsequent visit, whether it’s to galleries or gigs in Ghent, or for family time in a 17th-century farmhouse” (‘Why I Love Belgium & Luxembourg’).

In so doing, she has already inadvertently – or perhaps not so inadvertently – bequeathed the reader with a sense of anticipation – if not beguiling wonder. And in a round-a-bout kind of way, this already confirms that the book has done its job.

Before getting into the actual body of the book itself (which invariably kicks off with the country’s capital, Brussels), there are assorted sections entitled ‘Need to Know,’ ‘First Time Belgium & Luxembourg,’ ‘If You Like…,’ ‘Month by Month,’ ‘Itineraries’ and ‘Travel with Children,’ which, for all intents and the most helpful of personal purposes, is self explanatory.

Following an abundance of information on the various regions, the travel guide concludes with ‘History,’ ‘The Belgian People,’ ‘Creative Cuisine,’ ‘Arts & Architecture’ and naturally, a rather hefty section on ‘Belgian Beer.’

So in all, Belgium & Luxembourg makes for a rather fascinating read in its own right. That it just happens to include an assortment of maps and tips, makes it all the more so.

David Marx

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South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland

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South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland
Lonely Planet – £17.99

Lions at waterholes, township art, clouds pouring over Table Mountain, Kalahari dunes, Drakensberg peaks, Swazi and Zulu ceremonies: Southern Africa’s famous trio is rich with adventures and experiences, culture and scenery.

                                                                     James Bainbridge
                                                                     Lonely Planet Writer

When compared to other travel guides, it does need to be said that Lonely Planet do go some way in coaxing that extra mile out of their publications. Perhaps there’s something in the layout, overall design or content, that makes this part-time traveller at least, always want to invariably reach out for their manifestation of travel writing, over others.

South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland being no exception to this thinking.

Replete with an array of maps (many of which are generally overall country maps, although several do home-in on a number of city centres such as Cape Town and Durban, Knysna and Pietermaritzburg), and the sort of colour photography that traverses everything which comes to mind when thinking of Africa’s famous trio: from the lions, zebras, buffalo and rhino that constitute its spectacular wildlife, to whales swimming in Walker Bay, not to mention Cape Dutch architecture, the Cederberg Wildnerness, vast urban areas, Knysna oyters and of course, a menagerie of cats (which, along with lions, also include wildcats, leopards, caracals and of course, cheetahs).

Indeed, like the Rainbow Nation itself, these 628 pages (excluding Index) cover most of the things that could possibly be expected from a visit to this extraordinary part of the world: ”With people from Afrikaners to Zulu living side by side and speaking 11 official languages, South Africa is undoubtedly one of the world’s most diverse countries. Pastel rondavels (round hats with a conical roof) dot the green ridges of the Drakensberg and Wild Coast, Nelson Mandela’s birthplace; Basotho shepherds clad in distinctive hats and blankets lead their sturdy ponies through Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains; and at the traditional reed dances in Swaziland and Zululand, debutantes dance with swaying reeds for local royalty. Meeting these people and experiencing their diverse cultures, all coexisting thanks to Mandela’s legacy of tolerance, will leave you with indelible memories.”

Memories indeed!

Compartmentalised into twelve different sections (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Free State, Johannesburg & Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Kruger National Park, Limpopo, North West Province, Northern Cape, Lesotho, Swaziland) and simply packed with an abundance of all the important information you’ll ever need – from best places to eat and stay, sights and activities, phone numbers, websites, a handy section on the various languages, and a (most worthwhile) section called a Survival Guide that lends itself to everything you need to know – Lonely Planet do give good value for money.

Before I forget, also included is a wildlife guide, and in the back of the book, a pull-out map of Cape Town.

So, if you intend heading to either South Africa, Lesotho or Swaziland, be sure to investigate this most crucial of travel guides. It’ll enable you to do so much forward planning before you’ve even landed; which, when you think about it, can only be a good thing.

Or, like South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland itself, an essential thing.

David Marx

Lonely Planet Denmark

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Lonely Planet Denmark
(Seventh Edition)
Written by Carolyn Bain & Cristian Bonetto
£15.99

Denmark may be well renowned for having to pay some of the highest taxes anywhere – on average, around 45 percent – but along with said taxes, comes one of the finest qualities of life in the world. On average, full-time workers report devoting 66% of their days to ”personal care.”

Indeed, currently ranked third in the world (nearby Norway is first), the country appears to have cemented it’s position at or near the top of the global tree of fine living; which, in the ultimately B-I-G scheme of life, really is no mean feat. Or, to quote one of the editors of this overtly friendly travel guide, Carolyn Bain: ”Chart-topping contentment and quality of life, blockbuster dining and design, and a cheerful emphasis on hygge (cosiness) – explore (and envy) what makes Denmark tick.”

With Lonely Planet Denmark, it really couldn’t be easier to ascertain just what does make Denmark tick. Reason being, this book is cool and edgy, well designed, simple to navigate throughout and is written in such a way that you can’t help but want to travel to the country’s capital, Copenhagen, nigh immediately: ”Copenhagen is the coolest kid on the Nordic block. Edgier than Stockholm and worldlier than Oslo, the Danish capital gives Scandinavia the X factor. Just ask style bibles Monocle and Wallpaper magazines, which fawn over its industrial-chic bar, design and fashion scenes, and culinary revolution. This is where you’ll find New Nordic pioneer Noma, (once again) voted the world’s best restaurant in 2014, and one of 15 Michelin-starred restaurants in town – not bad for a city of 1.2 million.

Yet Copenhagen is more than just seasoned cocktails and geometric threads. A royal capital with almost nine centuries under its svelte belt, its equally well versed when it comes to world-class museums and storybook streetscapes. Its cobbled, bike-friendly streets are a hyggelig (cosy) concoction of sherbet-hued town houses, craft studios and candlelit cafes. Add to this its compact size, and you have what is possibly Europe’s most seamless urban experience.”

Sound like something of a cultural, dog’s under-carriage?

Like The Netherlands, another small nation in north-western Europe – who too, place a rather large emphasis on gezelligheid (cosiness) – Denmark does indeed drip with simply inviting sexy chic, along with a chilled vibration that needs to be exceedingly regularly embraced.

Hence, the equal abundance of Danish outdoor activities, as explained on page thirty: ”Although small (and very flat), Denmark has a great diversity for activities, from island-hopping cycling adventures to Lake District canoeing. The sea, never far away, offers fishing, sailing, windsurfing and beach-going, while the national parks and hiking trails offer walkers a chance to stretch their legs. And everywhere, the cycling opportunities are outstanding.”

Covering all the main regions of the country from obviously Copenhagen (a pull-out map is included) to Zealand to Bornholm to both Southern and Northern Jutland, these 309 pages – excluding Behind the Scenes, Index and Map Legend – is unquestionably up there with all helpful, concise and important travel guides. Along with sections on History, Food & Drink, Literature, Film & TV as well as Denmark Today and The Danish Lifestyle, Lonely Planet Denmark absolutely has to be packed alongside one’s toothbrush and credit card.

Especially if travelling to Denmark.

David Marx