Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rick Steves is Always Right

I've written several posts about reading fiction for travel destinations, whether your poison is best sellers, mysteries, or even romance novels. Of course actual guidebooks for travelers are great sources of information too. I've found many series travel guides, as well as location-specific guide books, of help in trip planning. Different books have different strengths, but nobody bests Rick Steves for good advice on what to see and where to stay. I've learned from experience that I should never imagine I know better about what's worth spending time on as following his recommendations has never steered me wrong.

For example, Rick Steves' guide to Paris includes a walking tour of the complex of Les Invalides -- a former veterens' hospital that now houses Napoleon's Tomb as well as the extensive French Army Museum. His sight-seeing tips are clear:

With limited time, visit only Napoleon's Tomb and the excellent World War I and World War II wings. Most other displays consist of dummies in uniforms and endless glass cases full of muskets without historical context.
Silly me, I thought that since I've seen many World War exhibits in the UK, I'd focus on the medieval and Napoleonic periods. He was, of course, exactly correct in describing these exhibits as collections without historical context. And he was correct again in praising the extensive and informative exhibits on World Wars I and II -- including background on the conflicts leading up to the First World War, and the years between the wars.

Enigma machine
Enigma machine, Army Museum, Paris France

Seeing events from the French, rather than British or American perspective, was particularly interesting. One stand-out exhibit is a projection map showing the movements of French and German armies as they scrambled across a 200-mile front during WWI's Battle of the Marne. Parisian taxis shuttled 6,000 reinforcements to the front in a desperate (and successful) attempt to keep the city from falling.

I wish we had been able to spend more time absorbing that exhibit, but because I hadn't followed Rick's advice, we ended up rushing to see what we could before closing time.

After last year's experience in Paris, I learned to regard Rick's recommendations with careful attention. So this year in planning for Scotland, I obeyed his advice for finding accommodations in Edinburgh -- a lovely, but expensive city. Don't bother with large hotels next to the Royal Mile, Rick advises in his guide to Great Britain. Instead, book a B&B with access to the convenient bus routes along the Dalkeith Road.

B&B, Edinburgh, Scotland
Ard-Na-Said B&B, Edinburgh, Scotland

Following this advice is how I found the elegant and comfortable Ard-Na-Said B&B, which served as our home base for several delightful days in Edinburgh.

Guidebooks on Scotland
Guidebooks for Kindle Fire

Another thing I like about Rick Steves' guidebooks: they're all available in the Kindle format, making them easy to carry around with you for reading on your device or using the Kindle app on your phone.


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