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The Americas- Craig Doyle
DK Eyewitness Travel
This rather large book was one I was lucky enough to win in an auction from the curious about books site. We love America and so I thought it would be nice to get some ideas of places we might visit, especially as we don't own a guide on the USA.
The book is published by the same people who do the wonderful Eyewitness travel Guides that I have raved about in reviews before . It is however not a travel guide in that sense which in some ways is a good thing but in other ways I find it a bit frustrating and overwhelming in a odd mixture of ways.
Firstly the book is big so you have to read it while sitting at a table or at least on a big lap so not a bedtime read at all. Secondly it is called 'The Americas' and it does mean that so in my view it tries to cover just a little too much. It covers, North America including Canada, Central America, South America as well as the Caribbean. While this gives you good value for money it also makes it full of a lot of information that you may not want. If you are looking for ideas of things to do in the USA you don't want to have to wade through all the rest of the things on offer in Cental America, the Caribbean and South America.
The next rather odd thing about the book is that is organised to tell you when it is the best time to visit a specific place. This means that you go through the year from January to December and in each section the guide suggests where it is best to visit say in January.
So in January you could experience everything from Hawaii, Las Vegas, Jackson Hole Wyoming, Puerto Rico, Colombia and Chile. The guide pinpoints these on the map and tells you what the weather will be like and under this are listed several more options with a little bit about each place. These are divided into 'Festivals and Culture', 'Unforgettable Journeys', 'Natural Wonders', 'Luxury and Romance'. 'Active Adventures', and finally 'Family Getaways'.
Using January still as the example under 'Unforgettable Journeys' you have a choice of Maui and a road trip, The California Missions Trail, or Monument Valley all in the USA. Moving south you could choose Mexico traditional fishing or Patagonian Cruise even further south.
The next few pages in January then take each of these and explore it in more detail with beautiful photos, what you could do in three days or a week as a suggested itinerary and then some do and don'ts.
That is fine if you don't mind where you go and want somewhere in January but we tend to want to go to a state or country and therefore want to see what there is to do near where we are heading. This means you have to flick backwards and forwards through the book looking for mention of the area in different times of the year.
The book does have an index which is useful but it does still mean flicking between pages if your area that you want to visit comes up in more than one time of the year. It is of course very handy if you want to track down a specific festival or to find when it is the best time of year to visit a specific place. For example we want to visit Easter Island and the Galapagos so it was handy to find the best time to visit as we do not want to go when the weather is awful or when maybe the animals have migrated to somewhere else for example.
Although I love the festival section of each month I find the summary section at the back a really handy quick guide. There are two double page spreads with the first showing the festivals from January to June and the next page covering the other half of the year. After using this you can then go to the appropriate section in the book to find out more details. I think I still would have preferred them to break it down into different countries or at least continents to summarise the festivals so that you could look to see what festivals were in each month in the USA, then the Caribbean, then Central America or South America rather than all of them together.
We recently followed part of the Mississippi Great River road which we were inspired to do because of this book and Trevor MacDonald's documentary on the Mississippi. We are also looking at the book planning our next US holiday next year as we know where we want to go but are just wondering where within that area we will visit and what we want to see.
At the back of the book are some very good maps in the section called Atlas of the Americas. It is set out like a mini atlas with a summary map broken up so you know which page your section will be. They are physical maps rather than country maps so you can see the mountains, rivers etc but not the country borders so easily. I found the maps to be of a large enough size that you could see most of the big towns and they seem to have made the effort to ensure the places mentioned in the book are in the maps.
The final section gives lots of practical tips for the different countries with regard to money, visas and personal security as well as directory of useful contacts in the various countries including places like Amtrak and rather bizarrely the Australian dept of foreign Affairs and Trade - not sure what that is all about in a book about The Americas but might be useful to Aussies travelling I suppose.
The book has the most beautiful photographs not only on the pages with information but the pages at the start of each month are huge double page ones full of colour and just the sort you might find on a 'Lonely Planet 'calendar. I would happily have some of them on my wall if they were sold as prints or even better if I had taken them myself!
This is a lovely book, more like a coffee table arm chair traveller sort of book and it is one I often flick through while eating my breakfast in order to get even more inspired about travelling. The trouble is every time I look through it I find something else I want to see or another area I want to visit and the list gets longer instead of shorter.
I wouldn't say this is a must for anyone planning a holiday to somewhere in America as they are more specific user friendly guide books that will fulfil that requirement. This book is to inspire and stimulate you once you have some places in mind. Or maybe just to inspire and stimulate you from the comfort of your armchair so that you can imagine visiting all these wonderful places.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.