Creativity Corner Creative Living

city hopping

February 22, 2012

I got thinking. How do people choose what to see, where to shop, eat and stay when exploring a city. We all know there is a plethora of things each city has to offer and with limited time how do we choose and navigate, and more so how do we keep a record of what we want to visit?

Back in the early 90’s i swore by the marco polo guides. Originated in germany, it was like a bible to me. Every time i would visit a new city, off i went to a shop (note ‘shop’ as we didn’t have internet shopping) to buy the accompanying guide. I would study it as if my life depended on it. They had the marco polo selection for every category and you could be sure that their ‘favourites’ were honest and had nothing to do with price. I’ve used so many of their suggestions and was never disappointed.

Slowly, they started bringing out english editions which i preferred. They are no longer available but the german version is still thriving.

City maps are everywhere and each person has their favourite. I did try many afterwards, here are some of my selection: luxe guides, travel guides with a difference. Super-svelte in format, it will fit into any pocket. No pictures, no graphics (except the front cover), only concise, curated travel companion for the discerning traveller. Updated each year, they also have monthly online updates.

Who hasn’t heard of wallpaper city guides? Of course you have. A run away success, they have dominated the travel guide market since their launch in october 2006. Many tell me they don’t like the guides because they associate it with the magazine. I can tell you i have had the best meals and other recommendations from them. I really like their 24 hours in a city section. For example, the first milan edition told of the then recently opened studio museo achille castiglioni. Achille castiglioni was a renowned itailian industrial designer who, at the age of 84 died in 2002. His heirs got some sponsorship and in 2006 signed a 5 year agreement allowing his studio to stay open and be visited by the public. I was so excited to be able to go and see the studio of such a talented designer, so phoned a friend and flew to Milan. It was magical and i will not forget that visit in a hurry. Additionally, through the guide, i found an incredible place to eat, an authentic 40 year old family run tiny restaurant.

A couple of years ago i came across a little start-up called à la carte. One to always support entrepreneurial endeavours, i immediately ordered myself a map. I was impressed with what i received: a guidebook, city map and piece of art all in one. Totally charming.

What’s great is that they also have maps for creative types: ‘create your own city à la carte maps come with a plain map and 2 pages of stickers and icons. You can, so to speak, decorate your own map.

Well, by that time i had already created my own maps out of normal city plans. I often go to berlin and sometimes like to take a 48 hours trip, rent a scooter and go trendspotting. So that i’m organised and know what i’m doing i create and decorate my own maps and keep adding as i go back to those cities. Here is a section of my personalised berlin map with some of my favourite haunts.

Here are some of the stickers i use. I got these from paperchase.

These days, although i still read city guides i rely a lot on the blogging world. What better way to find real gems? So, city travellers, will you share some of your ways of experiencing a city break? Do tell.

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21 Comments

  • Reply Lauren February 22, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Well the next time we travel internationally (hopefully next summer…it’s been too long), I’m just going to grab you! Your maps are gorgeous! Making my wandering foot itchy!

    • Reply tina February 22, 2012 at 11:36 pm

      Ha. I hope this has cheered you up on a rather sad day for you guys:(

      Just before your comment I noticed your website disappeared from my blogroll? Go figure, bit like when twitter shows you many unfollowers. Anyway, hope things brighten up for you.

      Oh, hope Erin will notice the Macaroon. Put it in for her….

  • Reply Theresa February 23, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Thanks for all the wonderful recommendations. Like Lauren, I think I’ll just ping you the next time we come to Europe. 🙂 I trust your taste. (Bloggers are an excellent resource.)
    I will also save this post because one of the fun parts of traveling is marking up the guides. On our first trip to Europe, there are actually more than a few pictures of me with my nose in the guide book.

    • Reply tina February 23, 2012 at 7:34 am

      Bloggers are an excellent resource especially when you get to know their taste.

      I can imagine travelling with kids is another thing all together.

      I really like the ‘à la carte’ diy guides because it’s fun to mark up where one goes or where one has been. It’s also an interactive thing to do with kids where they can choose their fav. stickers.

      I can picture you with your nose in the guide book:)

      I’m such a kid sometimes:) hope you’re well T.

  • Reply annie February 23, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Great post Tina and great photos! I love your personalised maps.
    I must say I hate Wallpaper guides. I bought one for Buenos Aires and I was so disappointed. It was basically here’s where to go if you’re pretentious and if you like modernist architecture. It was such a narrow view of a stunning city and for me it is a represntation of the magazine, only interested in ‘cool’ stuff and ignores things which may be fun and enjoyable but that aren’t cool enough for them. I ended up throwing it away.
    But I rarely buy travel guides anyway. I have a weird thing that I don’t like knowing where I’m going before I arrive. To me it’s like knowing what my Christmas presents are before I’ve opened them. I just like turning up and deciding when I get there. The only thing I ever buy is the pop-up maps as those are just the best thing ever. Agree re blogs. If I were going to Philadelphia for example I’d just ask Erin!

    • Reply tina February 23, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Thanks. I was sure you hated Wallpaper guides and you are correct in everyhting you say. However, sometimes there are these nuggets like the 24 hours recommendations that are normally written by a local. I’ve had some great results and in some of their guides I couldn’t find anything that felt like me!!!

      I know what you mean by not buying Travel guides. I somehow like collecting them ( have you noticed? )and I must admit I am a ferrocious researcher before I go to a new place. I think that stems from wanting to be in control, no, really Tina?

      Mostly, when arriving in a new place I tend to spot like-minded folks and get them to spill their secret addresses. I love seeing a place from a locals point of view, not visit lke a tourist.

      I agree, when hitting Philadelphia, I will just ask Erin!

      Ps. Pop-up maps, what have I been missing?

  • Reply Holly February 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Oh Tina. You’re so cute and thoughtful and you care about stuff 🙂 I wish I was more attentive and invested in certain things sometimes – like city guides! But that’s why I have you now 😉 I usually resort to Lonely Planet guides – only because I don’t know anything else, lol.

    great post!
    Xx.

    • Reply tina February 23, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      @holly I love that you call me ‘cute’. Sometimes I am a bit like a child and I know it seems odd to some. I’ve always liked getting excited about the little things in life – they seem to make it all worth it!

      Lonely planet is great – especially for far out places. But pictures and stickers do it every time for me x

      Of course, you have me… I’m always happy to recommend like I did in Berlin!

      @caroline Yes, loads of things I haven’t tried like having kids:) Thank you. You’re always so kind and encouraging.
      I’m really looking forward to ‘Trend Daily’. It sounds so cool and we’ll all be here to support you. x

      @sam hiya. Thanks for stopping by. The funny thing is that we read each other comments to Annie every day so I feel I know you somewhat:)

      I really think all guides have something unique but with the internet and blogging they have to work harder to stand out and make us want to buy them.
      Coming across ‘a la carte’ maps was fun and brings creativity with it. They’re taking another angle.
      Moleskine do a whole range of travel notebooks but they are BLACK and boring. I also like surprises and adventure but……
      Also have used ‘le cool’ and online unlike.net Both good. Here is a good link to online guides: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/sep/26/websites-blogs-city-breaks
      Ta, my dear:)

  • Reply trend daily February 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Yet another lovely post Tina! And, I love your rings from previous post. Is there anything you haven’t tried!! Great reading and pics-as always! Caroline x

  • Reply Sam Lennie (Interiorsam) February 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Love this post, it really got me thinking. I’ve tried all the mainstream guides – Lonely Planet, Time Out, Frommers with varying degrees of success. I imagine being in the middle of a busy square, bustling with people, sun shining, my hair blowing in the breeze, flicking through the pages, it has an aura of carefree and romanticism. It never quite works out that way in reality, When I get to a destination, the guide rarely gets used, it’s tossed aside in favour of local knowledge or the excitement of discovery and adventure.
    I love your little a la cart maps though, very creative. x

  • Reply Erin February 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Macaroon! What flavor is that, do you reckon? Looks like coffee or maybe even vanilla. Or praline! mmm, now I want macarons. I cannot wait to have them at a real Parisian Ladurée in just a few short months. I’m trying not to freak out over it, but failing miserably.

    I love your collection of city guides! For my trip to Belgium we bought two guidebooks, one from Fodors, and one by Rick Steves. Do you have him over there? He’s this adorably geeky little guy with his own travel show you writes guide books as well. He spends over 100 days a year in Europe scouring cities and small towns for the best of the best, including secret non-tourist gems. And he provides multiple walking tours for each city depending on what you want to see, and gives you step by step instructions (turn left at fountain, walk one block. look to your right, see the museum, etc). Between guidebooks and the internet and what I’ve heard from friends, I sort of have compiled a giant itinerary of stuff to see when we’re abroad. Also, Google Earth helps! I know that’s a recent technological advancement, but it’s so cool and helpful to plop yourself down in a foreign city and “walk” around and scout out your routes. Once we have hotels booked and everything I think we’ll do just that. Have to maximize your days, you know!

    Thanks for sharing your collection! Have a sweet weekend. xo

    • Reply tina February 24, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      Happy to saw the Macaroon. How could I not dosplay it for you? Yes, you’ll be feasting in Paris at Ladurée or try Pierre Hermé, also wonderrfull.

      I just had to google Rick Steves. Nope, never heard of him. Not sure he exists on this side of the pond but he sounds positively american:) his style sounds really interesting and different.
      Please report back on what you thought….

      “I sort of have compiled a giant itinerary of stuff to see when we’re abroad.” I am sure you have:) Trust you to use Google Earth. I would have never thought of that but then I am not Lisbeth and from a different generation. Good on you, I think that sounds like a fine plan. Anyway, there has to be room for discoveries and getting lost. That’s part of the charm when tarvelling with your ‘amour’. Can’t wait for you to be in Europe. It’ll make you sooo much closer.

      I noticed you haven’t commented on Chi, Annie’s and my little tiny nudges of you popping over to London at all. Are you thinking about it or is it totally out of the question?

      Happy weekend x

  • Reply Toni February 25, 2012 at 7:09 am

    I have always been rather matter of fact in terms of selecting a suitable travel guide, but that may just have to change now!
    Next time I’ll will go for a beautiful cover pocket sized!

    • Reply tina February 25, 2012 at 9:34 am

      The pocket sized ones are only good because they don’t take much room in our handbags and often are concise enough. the bigger ones, sometimes have more photograph which is fun too.

      Here is a challenge for you. Choose one for our Berlin trip in May x

  • Reply Chi @ Carousel February 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Using a guide when you only intend to visit for 48 hours makes perfect sense to me. There simply isn’t the luxury of time to seek out places to eat, etc. on the fly. That said, I must admit that I only ever seek out restaurants (and nothing else) before I leave home. I prefer to let things happen organically.

    I’m not a natural planner but becoming a parent has forced me to start getting into the habit. We’re yet to take L on a city break but I LOVE the idea of the stickers on maps – so would she, I’m sure! 😀
    What a great memory or piece of wall art it would make!

    I’m so looking forward to seeing Berlin through your eyes!

    • Reply tina February 25, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      @Chi I can imagine that EVERYTHING changes when one has kids. I think L would love to put on her own very special stickers. So, maybe when you take her for her first city break that could be a little project:)

      We’ll definitely have fun in Berlin!!

      @Micki Awww. You say the nicest things, especially for a man:) well, you are my favourite man, right? I always challenge, you know that:)

      Just came back from seeing a beautiful film. I thought of you throughout so really nice to hear from you. It’s called: Extremely loud + incredibly close. Its’ about a boy who is finding it hard to come to terms with his father dying in the World Trade Centres on 9/11. He goes in search of a message that he believes his father left for him somewhere in NYC. Truly moving. I think you will like it. x

  • Reply Micki February 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Are there many blogs that inspire people to think about certain things? I don´t know, but I know the things you talk about have got something in common: They´re all parts of our life, everyone is in touch with it (the one or other way ´round) but we mostly don´t give it the attention we should. These certain “little tings”…
    Tina , you know we are in agreement: Details are important. But you challenge us all to internalize: Watch, be interested, respect, ask, open up, learn, practice – all time and everywhere.
    Love

  • Reply Beth February 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    What a great post. I’m just like you Tina (imagine!). I research and plan and then when I get there I ask the locals. I am most interested to talk to the locals about food and have found the best restaurants this way. I do love the idea of a ’24 or 48′ hour guide. I’m also curious about these pop-up maps Annie mentioned. Annie?

    • Reply tina February 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      Beth, of course we are the same. Soul sisters!!! x I know, we must nudge Annie about these pop-ups. No clue what she meant. Hope you guys are enjoying the sunshine. Am now trying to get my next post out:)

  • Reply annie February 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    On the way to the Lakes in November we stopped in Knutsford to do a Waitrose shop. We thought we’d go for lunch and R spent ages trying to research on the internet whereas I just asked the woman on the till at Waitrose. Much easier! And she recommended somewhere nice. I probably wouldn’t ask someone who works in Aldi though.
    Pop up maps: http://amzn.to/Ajo75N
    Not only are the cute and fun, they’re easy to fold and you can use them one handed. They’re awesome!

    • Reply tina February 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      You asked the woman at the till in Waitrose in Knutsford for a recommendation for lunch? Brave choice! Happy it had a good ending:)

      Oh, pop out maps, my dear, not pop-up which is different. Thanks for that. Yes, I had seen them and they are brilliant.

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