Friday, 26 May 2017

Out of Office: Danish Edition


Today Steve and I are off on a two and a bit week road trip around the gorgeous country of Denmark. The last time I was in Denmark was way back in 2009 when I spent a couple of days in Copenhagen during my inter rail trip. I remember loving the city but I don't really remember doing that much in terms of sightseeing (I was broke). This time around I am armed with a long list of sights, shops and restaurants I want to visit so it will be all stations go.

We will be spending out first five days in Copenhagen, three days in the actual city, one day driving around the island of Zealand visiting castles and galleries, and another day across The Bridge in Malmo, Sweden. My obsession with Scandinavia really kicked off back in 2009 so I am really excited to revisit the country, especially as I've developed a love of Danish design, Nordic Noir TV, New Nordic cuisine and the great outdoors since I was last here.

After Copenhagen we will be driving over to Jutland to stay in Odense for a couple of days. There's a few Viking related sights I want to stop off at en route and once we're there we'll be spending a day on the lovely island of Ærø. Odense is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen so I'd like to visit his home and indulge in a bit of Danish literature.

Our third stop will take us over Jutland as we'll be staying in Ribe, the oldest town in Denmark. I'm excited to wander around the cobbled streets as well as visiting some of the small nearby islands like Fanø and Rømø. It's from here we will be driving down to the German border one day which should make for an interesting diversion.

After Ribe, it's on to the Danish Lake District. We'll be spending a couple of days in Silkeborg as well as visiting Legoland which I am beyond excited about. There's not a ton of stuff to do in this part of the country so it'll be nice to spend a little time relaxing after a busy week of sightseeing.

We'll then be travelling up north to Aalborg for one night. There's quite a bit to do in the city but we'll be shortly heading up to Skagen for beaches and down time. I can't wait to hit the sand dunes and relax in our beach house for a couple of days. 

Are final stop is Aarhus which happens to be one of the European Cities of Culture this year and there's a ton of stuff I'm excited to visit. Nearby Djursland is meant to be a lovely part of the country and I'm sure we will visit some of the beaches around there as well. There's a few museums I want to make time for in Aarhus as well as a plentiful food and shopping scene.

After a couple of days in Aarhus we'll be catching the ferry back to Zealand, visiting Rosklide, a couple of sights in Copenhagen suburbs, and a final Danish dinner before our flight back to London.

As with all of our big holidays I have a rather detailed itinerary but I'm prepared for plans to change. You never know what could happen when you're on the road for two weeks. If you've been to Denmark and have a burning recommendation to tell me about then please do leave them it in the comments as I am always eager to hear tried and tested holiday places.

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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

My Travel Wish List


I am always day dreaming about travel, whether it's my next holiday, a future plan, or a wish list destination, travel is firmly on my mind. As I discover more about the world I am constantly adding new destinations to my ever growing wish list. Some of these are small city breaks, while others are big, grand road trips. However, my top five wish has been the same for quite a few years now. Fortunately I managed to tick one of those places off last year, Japan. But unfortunately for me I think it's going to be a while until I visit the remaining locations.


Antarctica

Antarctica has been the top of my wish list for as long as I can remember. The vivid landscapes, the magnificent wildlife, and the midnight sun appeal to me like no other destination in the world. Seeing penguins, whales, and seals in their natural habitat and visiting part of the world that not many people get the chance to explore is a dream I hope to achieve one day. A Planet cruise, is how I'd want to visit this corner of the globe, as it's pretty inaccessible otherwise. I don't think this is a trip I'll be able to do for a while but it's something I will continue to think about for years to come.


Peru

I've wanted to do the Inca Trail for many years but somehow I'm yet to visit South America, let alone make it to Peru. The trek is a challenge, mentally and physically, but I'm sure it's worth it for the views over Machu Picchu. Plus, I absolutely love Peruvian food and I can't even begin to image how good ceviche tastes in some of the incredible restaurants in Lima. Here's hoping I can plan a trip in the next few years.


India

India is a country that appeals to me more with every passing year. Whilst it may not be the most easy of places to travel around, it's bursting with a rich heritage, full of history and tradition. And that's before we even mention the food. The country is so big I'm not even sure where I'd start but of course I'd want to see the Taj Mahal

Trans-Mongolian Express

I know it's not everyone's dream to spend a week on a train but the journey from Beijing, through Mongolia, and finishing in Moscow is something I am desperate to do. Of course I'd want to stop off en route instead of spending a solid week on the train but the chance to ride through the Gobi Desert and Siberia in a little carriage for two feels beyond romantic to me. I am desperate to visit Russia but I'm saving myself for this once in a life time trip.


Indonesia

Since bumping off Japan, Indonesia has made the final five. I'm planning to visit my little sister in Bali next year but that's only a tiny part of this huge, varied country. There are so many islands I want to visit (hello Komodo) as well as spending a few days in Jakarta. Indonesia is definitely a place that will require multiple visits. I can't wait to visit the rice fields in Ubud next year, and see my little sister of course.

This is a collaborative post

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Monday, 1 May 2017

My Travel Book Collection


I have an addiction, a travel book addition, and it's got to a ridiculous stage.

I've always had a love for travel books as I find the process of planning a holiday as enjoyable as the holiday itself. I love reading as much information about a city as possible, finding out the best places to see, eat and drink. I'm not very good at wondering around without direction on holiday, instead I like to have a list of things I want to see and use the time in between to wonder around different parts of the city. But even with a love of travel books as intense as mine, they aren't my only resource. Blogs play a big role, especially when it comes to food. But it's not all about the most peak Instagram interiors. I like places with history, a reputation for producing the best produce, and places that a local would happily frequent.

I like to use travel books as the initial building blocks when it comes planning a trip. Find out what attractions I need to see, which areas are the best for dinner and drinks, and what sort of prices everything will cost. But to plan the best possible trip I don't think travel guides should be you're only source of reference as there's still so much to find online.

Go back 10 years and city guides didn't really stretched beyond Lonely Planet and Wallpaper. In the last few years more and more independent publishers have been popping up and releasing their own spin on the city guide concept. In turn, I've become addicted to checking out new series, so when it comes to planning a trip I'm inevitably left with a ton of different guides to check out. Fortunately for my bank account, most of these new series only feature guides for big, popular cities which means when I travel to somewhere less popular (like my recent trip to Romania) quite often the Lonely Planet is the only guide available.

My big holiday this year is a 2.5 week road trip around Denmark where we will be spending 5 nights in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is currently having a bit of a moment, which means all the new city guide publishers are bringing out Copenhagen city guides. Most of the city guides I collect feature a Copenhagen guide so I thought it would be best to use this city as an example.

The first thing I do when planning a holiday is pick up a Lonely Planet. I've been a fan of Lonely Planet ever since I went inter railing in 2009. A friend recommend the company so I picked up Europe on a shoestring and have never looked back. I love the way the books are laid out, with detailed descriptions, helpful maps, and a ton of tips about what to see, drink, eat and do. The more you use a guide like Lonely Planet the easier it is to navigate their future books as everything is presented in the same style. 

Lonely Planet publish many different styles of guides but I always pick up the traditional city guide, or in the case of a smaller country, the country guide. If you're going to a large city like NYC, London or Paris you don't need to pick up the country guide as it'll be far too big, but for somewhere smaller like Copenhagen, they only publish a Denmark guide. That's fine for me as I'm travelling around the country but even if I wasn't I'd probably still buy it as the book isn't that big, yet the Copenhagen section is extremely comprehensive. I always bring the Lonely Planet on holiday with me as it's such a great all rounder. The only thing I don't think they excel at is food recommendations. The books are fine for smaller places but for large cities, or those like Copenhagen where the food scene is one of the best in the world, the books fail to cover a lot of really exciting options. Yes, all the big names will be mentioned, but for those new, trendy places, the books are somewhat lacking.

I'm also a big fan of the Lonely Planet pocket guides. These are great for on the go whilst you're away (I'll leave the big one in the hotel if a pocket guide is available) as they're small and compact. While a lot of the information in my Denmark guide is repeated in my Copenhagen Pocket Guide, the sights have a more detailed description and there are lots of interesting facts about local life. Bear in mind that the pocket guides don't include hotel recommendations.

My next port of call is a Wallpaper city guide. I've been collecting these for over 10 years and thanks to the beautifully colour coded spines, they make quite the impression on my bookshelf. The first thing I will say about these guides is that they shouldn't be used as a stand alone city guide. They tackle cities from a design perspective so expect lots of unique looking buildings, fancy hotels, design concious shops, and the most exclusive bars and restaurants. This is especially useful for Copenhagen which is positively bursting with cool design. I love these books for their beautiful photography and unique take on a city. You'll find lots of unusual suggestions that'll take you far beyond the usual tourist sights. For the budget concious traveller, you'll definitely find the occasional 'cheap' recommendation amongst the high end restaurants and hotels. When looking for a boutique hotel I always check out the Wallpaper guide first and have subsequently found plenty of reasonable priced options. Most, but not all, Wallpaper guides are available in an app which I always download to save me from taking the book away. Yes, I'm paying for the same thing twice but I did say I had a pretty serious addiction.

The only city guides I buy regardless of if I'm visiting the place or not are the Herb Lester guides. These fold out paper maps are small but mighty. They are beautifully designed and every city is depicted in a completely different way. They definitely don't contain a huge amount of information but they're full of trendy eating, drinking and shopping recommendations. The Copenhagen guide is lovely and I'll probably bring it on holiday with me, using it as a book mark in my Lonely Planet so it stays in a good condition. A few years ago I was gifted the European and American box-set of guides which has lead me to continue buying new guides every time one is released. Blue Crow Media make similar fold out city guides but their range is a lot smaller.

I really like the CITIX60 series of city guides and despite the collection being on the small side, most major cities are covered. These can definitely be used as a stand alone guide as the content is pretty comprehensive, plus you'll find a bunch of maps at the back. I like to think of these as a 'hipster' series due to the types of restaurants, bars and shops included. The sightseeing section isn't as comprehensive as the Lonely Planet but everything major is included. The guides are full of photography which is something you don't get in your traditional travel book so they really give you a feel for what the city will be like. The Copenhagen guide is full of places I'm looking forward to visiting. I probably won't bring the book with me as I'll just make a reference of places on my Google maps.

The 500 Hidden Secrets is a series I have recently discovered that I absolutely love. These guides are presented as a series of lists. 100 different lists will give you an oversight into all things happening in the city, many of the choices being things you won't see in other guides. I wouldn't recommend the book as your only form of travel guide as it's not really comprehensive in terms of sight seeing. However, if you're looking to get off the tourist trail then you will find so many exciting options. The Copenhagen book is jam packed with amazing recommendations that I can't wait to check out. The series is relatively new so there aren't a huge number of guides available but the brand is growing. These books are on the chunky side so it's worth making a note of interests in Google maps instead of lugging it around on holiday.

Another new set of books I've recently discovered is the LOST iN series. These are definitely more of a magazine than a travel guide with lots of editorials about new openings, trends and insider stories. Packed full of glossy photos, this is the book to pick up for the low down on the hottest shops, restaurants and bars in town. The Copenhagen edition is full of exposes on the city and a ton of exciting recommendations. I like to read these guides at home, just before embarking on the holiday as it really gets me that new city state of mind.

Another magazine type of travel book are the city guides from Cereal. At the moment these only exist for London, Copenhagen, Paris and NYC. They are quite hard to get a hold of but I picked up the Copenhagen guide in Snaps and Rye, near Notting Hill. These guides are beautiful coffee table type books with a curated list of hot places to eat, drink and shop. I treat these as a list of the best places to go, and while the choices they include pop up in most other city guides, having a list of the coolest places to frequent makes picking a place to eat a little easier. Plus the beautiful imagery is a huge bonus. Copenhagen is a hugely foodie city and I spent a long time deciding where to eat, taking into account what's hot and what represents the best of the city. I think the Copenhagen guide more or less mentions everywhere I intend to visit.

The MONOCLE travel guide series fell on my radar a couple of years ago when my friend bought me the Tokyo version. First of all, I love the way these look. The illustrations are adorable plus the actual guide if full of photography and laid out in sections for eating, sleeping, seeing etc. which makes it easy to navigate. A lot of the suggestions covered you'll find in other guides, especially those the lean on the side of 'hipster'. But the thing that really makes these stand out is the collection of essays about the city, shopping lists of recommended products, and the sports section which includes walking, cycling and running routes. I picked up the Copenhagen guide from the Monocle cafe in Marylebone. As far as I'm aware the cafe is the cheapest place to buy the guides plus it's a lovely place to stop for a drink.

A few years ago cycle brand Rapha released a collection of eight European city guides focused on cities designed for cycling. Despite not being a cyclist I bought the box-set of eight guides (you can also buy them individually) as the books are full of cool drawings and sightseeing cycle routes, with lots of stops for refuelling. They're a nice collection of guides for whether you're a cyclist or not as the proposed itineraries are pretty detailed. Copenhagen is a famously cycle friendly city and even though I'm not sure we will get much bike-time done, I like to think the guide will give me push in the right direction.

Black Sheep Guides is a series of food specific city guides that only exist for a small number of cities, Copenhagen being the most 'mainstream'. They cover around 20-30 independent restaurants and are split into different areas. The Copenhagen guide covers a few of the popular names and a bunch of restaurants I've not seen in other guides. If you're serious about food these are good guides to purchase as you can use them to plan meals and make necessary reservations before you travel. The guides recommend what to order from each restaurant which is a really nice touch. A few of the guides are available as apps.

The Secret series of travel guides are excellent for lesser known attractions. I almost find them a little overwhelming as they cover so much information that isn't found in any other travel guide. The Copenhagen guide covers small museums, specific works of art, historical landmarks, and unusual shops. These are great guides for those looking for 'unusual' things to visit as well as people who have visited a city many times and want to find something new. I'll probably tag a lot of the places mentioned on my Google maps to look out for when I'm visiting some of the mainstream attractions or for public artwork when I'm wondering around.

The Top 10 series by DK are actually the travel guides Steve likes to buy. He started using these before we met and I've now become a bit of a fan over the years. These guides are presented as lists of 10 for things to see, eat, drink etc. Many of the big attractions in Copenhagen have a top 10 lists themselves which is really helpful. I find that a lot of the recommendations are on the traditional side, especially when it comes to dining, so if you're looking for more contemporary options then you might want to look elsewhere. Saying that, I find these books excellent for sightseeing as they cover a lot of attractions, many of which are provided with in-depth content

I forgot to include my Analogue guide in the above photo which is a shame as this is another nice, smaller, series. The Copenhagen guide splits the city into areas and give the best recommendations for sleeping, eating, drinking and shopping. It's a little light on sights but it's great for what's hot when it comes to everything else. Packed full of photography, these are small guides filled with helpful suggestions.

Other guides I like that don't exist for Copenhagen include LUXE city guides, which are a collection of small, fold out guides full of high end recommendations for sleeping, eating, drinking and shopping. Streetwise produce really nice laminated maps of different cities, they aren't the most effective travelling resource but I'm fond of their aesthetics. A Hedonist's guide to is another series of what's hot travel recommendations. I used to like their old, leather bound books but they changed their design and I'm not a huge fan of the cover art any more. Despite that, their website always has great tips.

So that's my enormous list of travel book recommendations. If I had to pick my favourites I'd probably choose Lonely Planet, Wallpaper, Herb Lester, CITIX60, Monocle and 500 Hidden Secrets. I certainly don't recommend buying them all, I just have a bit of an addiction. I hope you found this helpful and do let me know if there's any series I should check out that aren't mentioned here.

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