There are a number of things about myself I am reluctant to admit. Mostly things I don't like, but feel I ought to. Top of this list is Travel, yes travel with a capital T.
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There are a host of reasons I don't like it... I'm a bit of a control freak; flying makes me nauseous; I'm a really fussy eater; I'm embarrassed that I don't speak any other languages; I detest packing...
...it costs a fortune; strangers make me nervous... blah blah blah. Oh, and latest on the list: I have a one-year-old. So now there are nappies and a whole extra person's safety to be concerned about.
The flipside of this of course is that I am still a curious person. I am still interested in new places and new people, intrigued by different cultures and awed by spectacular scenery.
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I am interested in adventure. I just don't necessarily want to have one myself, nor deal with the resulting laundry.
My very best friend, then, is a well-curated travel guide. As an armchair traveller, books can allow one to be worldly, not to live a sheltered life. You can discover new places and yet they always have your favourite brand of tea available.
As Daniel Gray so eloquently puts it in his book Scribbles in the Margins: 50 Eternal Delights of Books, "The page is a magic carpet we can ride to distant lands. Lines of text are wings, darting us from our homes and parachuting us among igloos, forests and deserts... they are paper aeroplanes, braving Antarctic turbulence on our behalf." Gray's book, as a brief aside, is a brilliant gift for bibliophiles:
The travel guides I am currently delighting in are City Guides from the marvellous people at Cereal (you may have heard of their excellent magazine). We've recently got these in for the shop, and they are fabulous.
No wading through pages of tired old tourist haunts and Top Tens here. Instead an insightful collection of boutique hotels, charming restaurants, lesser-known galleries and uber-cool concept stores. Each spread is a visual feast; stylish photography complemented by pithy editorial.
Of course, to the committed aesthete, there is much to recommend them, the subtle cover design makes them ideal coffee table books, and of course they line up very nicely together on the shelf, in all their minimal monochrome glory.
I know I'm waxing lyrical a little bit, but they really are a joy. They may even persuade me to leave my armchair sometime.
Tempted? Check out the guides here!