Saturday, 21 November 2015

Marco Polo Travel Guides ~ London and Corfu

As well as being an avid reader of both novels and non-fiction books, I also have an addiction to magazines and travel guides.

I can spend hours looking through travel brochures and online travel agents, planning a trip to all sorts of places.  When Gina from Marco Polo Travel Publishing contacted me and asked if I would be interested in seeing some of their travel guides, I jumped at the chance. I picked out guides for places that I already know and love, I wanted to see if there were places that I'd missed, not heard about, that I could put on my 'must do and see' list, and I  also wanted to judge how good they actually are.

So, I asked if I could see their guides for London and Corfu and Gina kindly sent copies of The Travel Handbook for London, the Spiral Guide Perfect Days in London and their Corfu Pocket Guide.

I've spent the past few weeks browsing through them all, and they really are excellent. I've read lots of travel guides and these are perfectly laid out, with colourful pictures, pull out maps and insider tips for each location.

The Perfect Days in London, Spiral Guide is the perfect size to pop into your bag or even your pocket. The cover is shiny and has a map on the front inside, and the back inside has an Underground map with another pull-out map in a clear plastic case.

The spiral binding is especially good as you can find the section that you need and keep it open easily.

The contents are divided up really well; starting out with 'The Magazine' which incorporates; In The Flow of Life - on the Thames; Pub Life; Festive Spirits; City of Change; Urban Green; The Mark of Fame; Football Crazy, London's Best for Free and Live Sounds.  Each of these sections are useful and informative.

The next section is a general overview of the whole of London, called 'Finding Your Feet' and includes; First Two Hours; Getting Around; Accommodation; Food and Drink; Shopping and Entertainment.  There are some really handy tips within this section and I'd consider it a must-read.

The Spiral Guide then goes on to cover different areas of the city; St James, Mayfair & Piccadilly; The City; Westminster and South Bank; Knightsbridge, Kensington & Chelsea; Covent Garden, Bloomsbury & Soho, one by one. Each district has:
  • Getting Your Bearings
  • The Perfect Day
  • Top 10
  • Don't Miss
  • At Your Leisure
  • Where to ....  Eat and Drink, Shop, Go Out
The final section of the guide covers excursions to Kew and Windsor and Walks and Tours in the city.
This really is a very comprehensive guide that seems to cover just about everything and would suit all ages, all tastes and all nationalities.

And so to the Corfu Travel Guide.  We've been visiting Corfu for many years now, usually staying in the North West of the island, but we've also been to the South. It's a beautiful island, with many hidden delights and I was interested to see if this guide covered it well.

It's a small, slim book, again with a glossy cover.  The front cover folds out to reveal 'The Best Marco Polo Highlights'; fifteen places that the publishers consider to be essential. The back cover folds out and has a map of Corfu Town and there is a pull out map of the island enclosed in a plastic wallet.

The guide begins with fifteen of the best insider tips, I found these very interesting and have noted down a couple to try when we return in 2016.  Before the actual guide part of the book there are some really interesting features; Great Places for Free; Only in Corfu, Unique Experiences; If It Rains, Activities to Brighten Your Day; Relax and Chill Out.  Then comes a really comprehensive and fascinating introduction charting the history of the island.  There are sections about life on the island, the food, shopping and the perfect route.

The guide then covers the main areas of the island, region by region.  Starting with Corfu Town and through the north, the south and the central area of the island.  The information is precise, the illustrations are great.  This is a fascinating and tempting guide and certainly enables you to plan a visit that will incorporate all of the best things to do on the island. 

The book finishes off with sections such as; Trips and Tours; Sports and Activities; Travel With Kids; Festivals and Events; Links, Blogs, Apps & More; Travel Tips and Useful Phrases.  

Finally, I have a copy of the London Travel Handbook.  This one is more than your average guide, it's fatter and a little bit heavier, although still small enough to carry about easily.  The cover is more rigid and folds to reveal Marco Polo insights at the front and a very good Underground map at the back.  Like the others, there is a pull out map in a plastic folder within the back cover.

The beginning of the book has a couple of pages of 'Do You Feel Like ...', that covers views of the city from above, drinking in historic pubs, seeing London from the water, exploring interesting cemeteries and graves or doing something really traditional.  This is a great touch and allows you to find relevant places of interest to you.  All of the sightseeing highlights are featured too, including the British Museum, St Paul's Cathedral and Windsor Castle.

The book then moves on to various chapters, starting with the Background of London; interesting facts from history and the modern  day, a way of setting the scene for your visit. The Enjoy London section looks at; Accommodation; Children in London; Entertainment; Festivals, Holidays and Events; Food and Drink; Museums and Exhibitions; Shopping and Tours and Guides.

There's a great section on Tours in the city, with a really eclectic mix of things to do and see, a little different to the usual sightseeing tours. Things such as: Soho: Creative People, Drinker and Intellectuals and Spitalfields - An Immigrant Corner for 100 Years.  The handbook then goes on to cover all of the sights, listed in A-Z, and again there are some unusual, out of the ordinary places included in this section, along with added infographics such as the Changing of the Guard and Monarchs of the Ocean.

Finally, there's a really useful section on practical information for the visitor, especially useful for overseas visitors and includes such things as Health, Money and Prices.

This is a comprehensive, very well put together handbook and would be great for young people and children as a learning aid, as well as it's intended use as a guide book.  There are some brilliant photographs and images and lots of lots of information to be found. 

Marco Polo have produced three fabulous guide books, I'd really recommend them.  

To find out more about Marco Polo and the other guides that they produce, check out their blog    

Huge thanks to Gina who sent these guides to me for review.


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