Lonely Planet: Cambridge, England

This summer my travels are taking me to the historic college town of Cambridge, England. This will be my first time to visiting England, I am extremely excited, but I have no idea what to expect. This is also the first time I ran into the book series “Lonely Planet”. Apparently, this book is quite popular but somehow I missed out, so this review will be written from the perspective of a first time user.

Opening the book for the first time I am presented with a color map of England and a quick reference guide covering exchange rates, conversions for temperature and weights, telephone numbers and a how-to use this book. I can already tell from the first two pages that this will definitely be useful reference guide I can pull out if nothing else. As I flip the next few pages, a section labeled “England Highlights” appears which lists 15 must-see places. This is far more than a list however, boasting beautiful full color images at each location, the book already makes me feel wish I was drinking tea in the English country side.

As far as my familiarity with travel guides go, you could say it’s been awhile since i’ve read one. This being said, before opening the Lonely Planet book, my idea of a travel guide was a pamphlet or small book that featured a quick reference guide and a map. I went into reviewing this book believing this would be another dull guide that seemed to be written more for robots than humans, but this is where I was wrong. The next chapter  focused on becoming aquatinted with England. It wasn’t riddled with mundane facts trying to impress you like you might expect, the chapter read more like a letter from a friend. I was surprised but interested to read about how the English culture was shaped through music, movies and literature. A comprehensive England history lesson detailed every aspect of sports, religion, and technology, and how they came to be. The section also included a “don’t leave home without list” and discussed how to be respectful and act in the country. I can tell the authors were writing from their experiences rather than just research and this is important because it made me trust them. This is where the Lonely Planet book started feeling less like a travel guide, and more like a travel companion.

As I passed through the introduction I found the majority of the book to comprise of chapters for each city. In this review we will focus on Cambridge, since this will be my destination. Even though the introduction was extremely nice, what mattered the most was the information regarding Cambridge since I will be spending 2 weeks living in the city.  Since the book is over 800 pages, I found the city quickly in the index. In the back of the book I noticed a useful index and a glossary of terms (which can be really useful if there are language differences).  The chapter on Cambridge started with an introduction of what makes Cambridge different. Naturally, they discussed the university, but they also went other areas like the hiking and cycling paths, the famous sport called “Punting” and the beautiful leafy green meadows. The book then gave a brief history of how the town came to be, and a detailed map of the city, including sleeping and eating location and they also included where to find internet which i was extremely grateful for. Seeing how I will be unable to use my trusty iphone (due to $$$). I will have to rely on my internet access, and this book not only tells you where to find internet, but also how much it will cost.  The chapter also breaks down where to find banks, medical services, bookshops, and even laundry mats. The rest of the chapter was broken into sights, activities, festivals, tours, top end and budget locations, entertainment, children only, and lastly transportation. If i hadn’t known better I would of thought the authors had lived there their entire lives. Seeing how Cambridge is a college town, many of the sites to see were the 31 colleges that comprise the university. An example of how the information is displayed:

St. John’s College (01223-338600) www.joh.cam.ac.uk adult/child $1.70 10am-5pm Mon-Fri, (and then a description).

As you can see, everything you need to know is easily available, and there is no need to  flip multiple pages to find the information. Almost everything you think you might might on your trip will be included in this book, nothing is left out. Lonely Planet does a wonderful job of making me feel like i’ve already lived in the city many years before I arrive. This is not just a guide, but a companion that will stay close with me throughout my England adventures. I have the tendency to forget many things on my travels, but one thing I will make sure to always bring is this book. The best part of my review was realizing Lonely Planet is not a single book, but rather a series, so the same style of clarity and detailed information will be used wherever you go, and I would suggest picking it up before your next trip.

You should definitely read more at http://www.lonelyplanet.com/

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