Lonely Planet’s Best Worst Pick-Up Lines For Travelers

heart
“I hope you’re not a monk, because I’d love go Tibet with you.” Cue sound of detonating bomb.

Our friends at Lonely Planet recently compiled a list of the best worst travel-themed pick-up lines, via Twitter. The results are hilarious, as well as cringe-inducing. Some of our favorites:

“This may not be India, but since I saw you, I’ve felt like I’m in Lucknow.”

“You must be from Paris, because you’re driving me in Seine.”

“Hey girl, you’re looking Varanasi.”

“Would you allow me Dubai you a drink?”

“Did you overstay your visa? Because you’ve got ‘fine’ written all over you.”

We were always taught that puns are the lowest form of humor. But it seems there’s a time and a place for everything (we were also taught not to use cliches in our writing). Here’s hoping these come-ons give you the, uh, tools you need for a great Valentine’s Day. Good luck out there.

[Photo credit: Flickr user debaird™]

Book Review: Lonely Planet’s ‘Better Than Fiction’

What is travel writing? Is the genre defined by its commitment to true-to-life recounting of the people, places and cultures we have experienced and lessons to be drawn from them? Or is travel writing something more malleable, simply a style of writing, true or not, that utilizes places and people as vehicles for a good story? The tension between these two competing definitions is at the heart of the new travel-themed anthology, “Better Than Fiction” by Lonely Planet.

“Better Than Fiction” is a collection of short travel-themed works by some of the world’s top literary fiction writers, including Joyce Carol Oates, Isabel Allende and Alexander McCall Smith. Edited by Gadling’s own Features Editor, Don George, each of the 32 included short stories plays with this notion of “truth in travel writing,” bringing to bear the storytelling skills of veteran fiction writers to the world of non-fiction travel writing. Each of the varied works relates a true-to-life story from the author’s personal wanderings around the globe, all told with the writers’ rich storytelling skills intact.

For anyone who considers themselves a voracious consumer of travel writing, “Better Than Fiction” will make for a refreshing and illuminating read. In each of the short stories there’s a richness of character and crispness to the dialogue that makes them feel like excerpted chapters from a novel. Considering the growing glut of “Top 10” and “destination tip” travel journalism that exists online, it’s easy to forget the best travel writing works because it’s good storytelling, not merely a laundry list of destination facts and to-do’s. Great travel storytelling, like the work showcased in “Better Than Fiction,” reminds us that ultimately discovering the truth about the places we visit involves more than just restating the facts.

Lonely Planet’s Top US Travel Destinations For 2013

lonely planetSavvy travelers are already looking to make their 2013 travel plans. Our friends at Lonely Planet have done much of the work to make travel booking easy, releasing their new 2013 guides and top ten U.S. destinations for travel in the new year.

Whether you’re returning to an old favorite or picking a new city to visit on a weekend away, these ten destinations are great places to consider booking your next vacation.

Louisville, Kentucky
From horses to a hot cultural scene, Louisville has secured the number-one ranking for 2013, with editors at Lonely Planet going so far as to call it “the new Portland” for its “lively offbeat cultural scene,” writing about cool restaurants in “NuLu” and old warehouses turned breweries in addition to micro-distilleries on the Bourbon Trail as well as the famed Kentucky Derby.


Fairbanks, Alaska
Visit for the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) or great food at the Taste of Alaska at the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center. This cold destination is hot, hot, hot.

San Juan Islands, Washington
Dubbed the “Gourmet Archipelago” by Lonely Planet guidebook author Brendon Sainsbury, these islands boast 250 days per year of sunshine, numerous beaches and tons of places to explore by bike or foot.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This capital city was nominated not for its famed cheesesteaks but for its burgeoning arts scene. In addition to the world-renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art, the formerly remote Barnes Foundation, a once private collection of Matisse, Renoir and Cézanne, has a new central location. There’s also a slew of new museums and galleries in areas like Liberties and Fishtown.

American Samoa
It’s not a state, but this remote island destination has untouched pacific beauty as well as a great national park. You’ll fly from Honolulu to Pago Pago to explore this remote yet beautiful destination.

Eastern Sierra, California
Think of this area as the untouched version of Yosemite. Explore this California destination’s wide range of natural phenomena.

Northern Maine, ME
Go off the grid in Maine, in a remote area that borders our northern neighbor, Canada.

Twin Cities, Minnesota
Midwest, here we come. Lonely Planet suggests a visit to Minneapolis and St Paul, where can ride bikes, check out great music or enjoy small town vibes in a big city. The only thing cold here is the weather.

Verde Valley, Arizona
Located Phoenix and the Grand Canyon, this lush destination has it all – food, spas, and great art.

Glacier National Park, Montana
Another remote national park, this remote destination is easier to visit than ever thanks to a relatively new shuttle system. But visit soon, climate change means that the park’s glaciers could be gone by as soon as 2030.

[Image Credit: Lonely Planet]

The Problem With Guidebooks, Or How I Came to Hate Lonely Planet On A Sunday in Crete

anogiaHave you ever been so annoyed with a guidebook that you wanted to track down the author and bludgeon them to death with a rusty hatchet? Neither have I, but yesterday I came close.

I almost always invest in a guidebook when I take a trip. But I’m not sure why, because I’ve been led astray on so many occasions. After arriving in the Greek isles at the start of a six-week trip, my wife and I bought the Kindle edition of the Lonely Planet Guide to the Greek Islands.

I’m generally very high on Lonely Planet but this book is awful. For example, yesterday I convinced my family to make a day trip to Anogia, a remote village in the mountainous interior of Crete, on the basis of an enticing description of the place in the book (see photo above). The author described the village as “memorable” and “known for its rebellious spirit and determination to express its undiluted Cretan character.” (Whatever that means.)He or she went on to say that the town’s cafés were “frequented by black-shirted mustachioed men, the older ones often wearing traditional dress,” and claimed that the town was sought out by “foreign travelers in search of rustic authenticity.”

I was also drawn in by the author’s vivid description of the town’s reputation for lawlessness and its history – villagers sheltered Allied troops in WWII and the Nazis murdered all the men in the town in retaliation. I knew it would be a trek from our base in Plakias, on Crete’s south coast, but based upon the author’s recommendation, I didn’t want to miss the place.

Google maps claims the trip should take one hour and 27 minutes each way, and I’m a fast driver, but it took us two hours on windy, torturously circuitous roads to reach the village, largely because we were constantly getting caught behind slow moving cars and trucks that were impossible to pass on the curved roads.

Here I have to admit, in full disclosure, that my adorable, yet sometimes highly annoying, 2- and 4-year-old sons also contributed plenty of stress on the drive, what with their quarreling, whining and intermittent demands for snacks, movies, entertainment and pleas to get out of the damn car.

I was exhausted by the time we arrived in the town, which, by the way, is at least an hour drive from anywhere that travelers might be coming from. But I was still ready to dig the place. The day trip had been my idea and I was eager to prove it had been a good one.

Anogia has two sections – a lower town, which has 2-3 cafes, a church, restaurants and 20 or 30 widows dressed in black aggressively peddling rugs, and an upper town, which has 2-3 empty hotels, two forlorn restaurants and a smattering of homes and other businesses. The cafes in the lower town were full of old people but none were dressed in traditional outfits and only two men had impressive moustaches.

Perhaps the village-folk had received warning that a Lonely Planet author was coming to the town and they all prepared by growing stashes and getting gussied up in traditional Cretan outfits? Or perhaps the last Lonely Planet author to actually visit this town passed through in 1974 and everyone else has just used their description for subsequent editions since then?

old person sleepingAnogia is not an attractive town. If I had to describe it, the words I would use are: unremarkable, modern, remote, ugly, forlorn, impoverished, touristy and avoidable, among others. The town may have an interesting history but we saw no museums and none of the elderly people we met in the village spoke English. It’s the kind of place that’s fascinating to read about but not very interesting to actually see. How dead was this little village? I think this photo of an elderly woman taking a nap with her door open (right) says it all.

After deflecting offers from about two dozen carpet sellers, we’d seen all we needed to see of the upper and lower towns, both equally forgettable. Like gluttons for punishment, we decided to take the LP guidebook authors advice on a lunch recommendation and sought out a place called Ta Skalomata, which they claimed had “home baked bread” and “great grills at reasonable prices.”

In six weeks of travel around the Greek Islands, I’ve had exactly one bad meal and this was it. We took the waiter up on his recommendation that we try their fresh grilled lamb, but it was pricey and was about 85 percent bone, cartilage and fat. Revolting.

The torturous two-hour ride back to our base was filled with recrimination, along with a tremendous amount of whining coming from the back seat, and I felt terrible for killing our day on such a boondoggle. If we had a month in Crete, it would have been a pity, but with just a week, it felt like a criminal waste of our time.

The information you find in guidebooks is often just one person’s opinion and it has to be taken with a huge grain of salt. Why had I led my family to a remote village in Crete, a place loaded with beautiful and interesting places to visit, solely based upon an enticing entry in Lonely Planet?

We’d already been burned by this book on more than one occasion. The authors told us about a “world class” Mexican restaurant in Naxos that was a joke. In Kos, we took a one-hour-and-20-minute ride on a public bus out to a town called Kefalos, based upon a description in the book, which claimed that it was a “traditional village” that was a good place for visitors looking for someplace “a little more authentic.”

When I read the words “traditional village” and “authentic” I conjure up images of a nice old town, with a square filled with cafes, pedestrian streets and old stone houses. Kefalos has none of those things. Like Anogia, it’s a very ordinary, modern town with little charm and nothing to see. Worst of all, we had no car and would have been stuck there for six hours, thanks to the limited bus schedule, if we hadn’t been given a ride by a very friendly pharmacist in the town.

There is no way to adequately cover all of the most interesting sites in all of the Greek Islands in one book. But what’s maddening about this one is that they devote tons of space to places that barely deserve to be in the book at all and gloss over or completely ignore other places that are really quite interesting.

For example, the book has a very slim chapter on Naxos, but inexplicably features a four e-page long description of a jewelry shop in Halki, another mountain village they over-hype as “one of the finest experiences” on Naxos, when in fact the place is eminently forgettable.

Likewise, there is no mention of San Michalis, an absolutely gorgeous place on Syros and the book gives short shrift to the beautiful western half of Samos and to some of that island’s amazing hikes to medieval churches and monasteries.

The problem with this and indeed many guidebooks is that the authors try to make nearly every place seem interesting and so travelers who don’t have time to see everything are left guessing which places they should visit and which they should skip. They delve into the town’s history, which is interesting, but what you really want to know is: what’s the place like and is it worth my time?

Guidebook authors are out in the towns they visit doing the research and meeting people who have a vested interest in attracting tourists to the place. It’s only human nature not to want to turn around and write that a place is an unremarkable hellhole after having made friends and contacts. But that’s a shame because travelers have limited time and need help prioritizing.

As for my disastrous outing in search of Cretan “authenticity,” I’m as much to blame as the author of that section of the guidebook, because I’ve been traveling and getting burned by guidebook advice for decades and I should have known better. The next time I read about a place that’s very “authentic,” I’ll be sure to give it a miss.

[Photo by Dave Seminara]

The Most Useful Useless Phrasebook Phrases

broken heartI’ve frequently touted Lonely Planet’s Phrasebooks on Gadling (about as often as I’ve truthfully stated that I receive no kickbacks from them). They’ve saved my butt countless times, helping me do everything from getting on the right train platform to finding out what obscure ingredient is in a dish.

There’s another reason I love these indispensible travel companions, however, and that’s for their entertainment value. Like all LP books, the personality and preferences (and sometimes the nationality) of the authors shine through, although the content is consistent. Whether Czech, Hmong, or Mexican Spanish, you’ll find the layout and categories the same, barring cultural or geographical improbabilities: don’t expect to learn how to get your car tuned up in a Karen hill tribe dialect, for example.

I confess I’ve used my phrasebooks as icebreakers on more than one occasion because they make the ideal bar prop or conversation starter. Whip one out of your daypack, and I guarantee within minutes you’ll have attracted the attention of someone…so wield and use their power carefully.

The following are some of my favorite useful useless phrases culled from my collection. Disclaimer alert: May be offensive (or just plain stupid) to some readers. Also note that phrasebooks, unless written by native-speakers, will always have some errors or inconsistencies in grammar or dialect, especially when transliterated, so I won’t vouch for the complete accuracy of the following:

French
“No, it isn’t the alcohol talking.” Non, c’est moi qui dis ça, ce n’est pas l’alcool qui parle.

“Maybe a Bloody Mary will make me feel better.” Peut-être qu’un Bloody Mary me fera du bien. Unsurprisingly, many LP phrasebooks are written by Australians.

Spanish (Spain/Basque version)
“I’m sorry, I’ve got better things to do.” Lo siento, pero tengo otras cosa más importantes que hacer. Trust me, this comes in very handy if you’re a female traveling in Latin America.

“Do you have a methadone program in this country?” ¿Hay algún programa de metadona en este pais? Because savvy travelers are always prepared for the unexpected.

womanItalian
Under a heading called “Street Life” comes this handy phrase: “What do you charge? Quanto fa pagare?

And because Italians are romantics at heart, you’ll do well to learn the following exchange:
“Would you like to come inside for a while?” Vuoi entrare per un po?
“Let’s go to bed/the bathroom.” Andiamo a letto/in bagno.
“I’d like you to use a condom.” Voglio che ti metta il preservativo.
“Would you like a cigarette?” Prendi una sigaretta?
“You can’t stay here tonight.” Non puoi restare qui stanotte.

German
“I have my own syringe.” Ich habe meine eigene Spritze. This is actually useful, but not so much in German. If you’re traveling to developing nations and have a condition such as diabetes, definitely take the time to learn this. As for carrying syringes and hypodermics in developing nations if you don’t have a pre-existing medical condition, do so at your own risk. I’ve debated it and to me, I’d rather not be caught with “drug paraphernalia” on my person.

Portuguese
“I may be in a wheelchair but I’m able to live independently!” Posso andar de cadeira de rodas mas consigo ter uma vida independente! This isn’t so much funny as it is totally random. And I like the exclamation point.

“Oh baby, don’t stop.” Nao pares, amor! Better have this memorized or you’ll defeat the purpose of looking it up when needed.

Japanese
“Sorry, I can’t sing.” Go men na sai, u tai nam des [phonetic]. Very “Lost in Translation.”
tasmania map
Australian
“I’m feeling lonely/depressed.” “Miserable as a shag on a rock.”
My favorite ‘Strine phrases – not found in the LP book; I just know a lot of Aussies – include “leg opener” (a bottle of cheap wine) and “mappa Tassie” (map of Tasmania, referring to a woman’s pubic region, although I suppose this made more sense before Brazilians became the norm).

Vietnamese
“Do you want a massage? mát-xa không? Not a cliché at all.

“You’re just using me for sex (male speaker).” Am jeé moo úhn laám ding ver eé aang toy [phonetic]. Talk about progress.

Thai: “Where can I buy some gay/lesbian magazines?” mii nang seu keh/khaai thîi nai? Emergency!

[Photo credits: heart, Flickr user Toronja Azul; woman, Flickr user http://heatherbuckley.co.uk;Tasmania, Flickr user NeilsPhotography]

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