Well, I might as well confess right now.
I’m a hopeless travel reading, studying, planning nerd. And when it comes to travel, it’s a sickness. Seriously. I mean, I own travel books for places we have no plans of visiting. It just came up in conversation at one point, I got curious what it would be like to visit, so I bought a travel book to read about the options. I’ve picked out my ‘top picks’ for apartments on VRBO in cities I’ll probably never see (but it would be so awesome if I did!).
I also have to confess, I rarely get all the reading done I’m hoping to before a trip. I totally would if only we didn’t have to do things like eat and sleep and get schoolwork done with the girls. And I make a valiant effort at times and wind up staying up until 3 am, only to be met with Scotty’s bemused smiles the next morning as I snarl my way toward coffee. But I never do get it all done. (In continuing demonstration of their selflessness, the girls have volunteered to forgo schoolwork in this quest. They are little angels.)
The books pictured is my reading stack for London. As for the big London: the Biography, one chapter in I decided that while this will definitely be read later, it will be later. It’s just too much for me to try to get done right now. The foreword is a comparison of London with the human body, the first chapter all about prehistory and fossils found. One whole chapter is on restaurants. Not where to try, what is for food and what is for atmosphere – but on the history of dining in London. I do find it really interesting – but not at the top of the ‘before you go’ list.
On the other hand the Not-For-Parents London Everything You Ever Wanted to Know was read cover to cover by several members of the family. It is much like an Usborne book about London put out by Lonely Planet. Easy read in a sitting, and even though I had concerns that my teen/tween would shun such a “childish” book, it only took the off comment or two like “Huh, the first ‘fast food’ in London was jellied eel! They were caught in the Thames, and during WWII food was so limited even eels were scarce. Ick.” as I read to get them taking the book from my hands and read through. Because Katie found a few sentences on the hedge maze at Hampton Court Palace, the childhood home of Anne Bolelyn, I looked it up. It looks like an excellent, entertaining/educational site – and we are going to make it a day trip. And KatieRose gets to fulfill her long held desire to go running through a real hedge-maze.
London with kids was also a cover-to-cover read with highlighter in hand. Some of it was a bit to ‘kid’ for teens, but a lot of it was really helpful in picking out where we may want to visit. It’s a little different planning a trip like this with the kids. I’m trying to make sure that my list of ‘I really need to see but will bore the kids to tears’ is extremely short. I get about 1 short such visit for each London and Paris, and even then I’m trying find ways to make it better for them. Thankfully my girls actually want to see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre (thank you Not-For-Parents Paris!).
I’m reading London Stories right now, and hope to read the whole thing before we go. It is put together by the guides of London Walks (who, as you can hopefully guess, give walking tours of London) and actually says “a great place to read this chapter is at X location” and then tells you significant & interesting history and points of interest in that area. The chapters are in narrated story format, and this, in my mind, is the type of book that every major city in the world should have. I would slowly make my way through every single book. I’m trying to pick two or three of these that are most relevant to the things we will be seeing in London, and then pull the best info out of it to share with the family when we are near that spot.
The Rick Steves books I always like for two things: the walks he plans out and narrates in the books, and his eating and sightseeing suggestions with cost in mind. He’s seems to give really good advice on “not all that impressive given the — euro admission/cost.” That’s some useful stuff when you are traveling with a family of four. He even tells you, at each museum or site, what he believes are the must see things and walks you through getting to and seeing those things. I have Rick Steves London Walks downloaded on my phone, so I can highlight the ‘most want to share’ parts, and pull it up electronically while I go.
DK Eyewitness books are full color, lots of pretty pictures of sites and main attractions with a few sentence description, and diagrams of the museums and attractions, metro maps, city/area maps, etc. They are the most typical guide books, and they really are useful to actually have on hand while walking around.