Customer Reviews: Fodor's England 2012: with the Best of Wales (Full-color Travel Guide)
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on December 21, 2011
Fodor's, Dorling-Kindersley, Rick Steves and Frommers comprise the 'gold standard' of travel guides for my family. With the new 'Travel Intelligence' series, upgraded city center maps and enticing color plates of scenic attractions, Fodor's now has the edge over Rick Steves and Frommers guides. We concentrate our world travel on Europe and I have spent a total of two months in England, with my most recent visit lasting a month and being three years ago. We spent a week in London, a week in Bath and toured through the Cottwolds to Wales, the Lake District and Yorkshire. I sampled Fodor's information on places we visited to test their content against what we found from all sources in preparation for our trip. One guide of 875 pages (including a very useful index of places)can't begin to be everything to all travelers...but this guide comes close. Dining and lodging choices are indicated for each locality covered and pricing plus contact information is provided. Are you vegetarian? Choices for dining are indicated in most major places. What about pub culture and 'pub grub' (not so 'grubby' these days)? The same can be said for ethnic food from Indian and Oriental cultures. Should you want to focus on touring notable British gardens, a special section informs the reader about types of gardens and useful vocabulary and many of the major gardens and flower shows are noted throughout the book. Of course Royal and notable castles receive good coverage. From my experience, information is accurate and is clearly presented. I might be a bit more enthusiastic about some sites and attractions than the guide is so this book does not represent any attempt to 'sell' the visitor on anything. Read this book and you will be well-equipped to make choices and plan your own tours, or assess organized tours by using the book to compare your ideal itineraries to what is available.

Speaking of Regions, the guide breaks England and Wales down into London, the Southeast, the South, the West Country, the Thames Valley, Bath and the Cotswolds, Stratford-on-Avon and the Heart of England, Lancashire and the Peaks, the Lake District, East Anglia, Yorkshire, the Northeast and Wales. A concise table of contents gives meaning to these divisions by naming major cities and attractions discussed within each of them. Travel Smart England gives useful tips and includes an itemized list of maps. There is a double-page schematic map showing travel times between major communities that I find to be useful in organizing independent travel.

These days, Fodor's also has a fine and generously-available web site that provides more information on dining and lodging than can comfortably fit into even a bulky volume.

As always, I recommend spending money for more than one guide: lodging and dining choices don't necessarily repeat from one company's guide to another and there is some variation in the selection of sites and attractions that might be of interest. With travel to England, I also recommend the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) guide to 'real' beers, ales and ciders and I find their advice on pubs, pub decor, pub music and pub food to be much more comprehensive than that provided in the general purpose tomes.
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on January 29, 2013
I always choose Fodor's when I am looking at travel guides. The maps are good, the pictures are nice, and the tips about getting along in other cities and countries are spot on. This particular volume helped us have a wonderful time in London, Bath, and Salisbury in April 2012. Without this guide, we wouldn't have even known about some of the places we visited. In an age when "everything" is available online, I still think it's worth it to have a physical book to consult before, during, and even after the trip. It's a better way to browse and explore before you even leave home.
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on September 4, 2012
Nicely laid out. From what I've experienced reviews are pretty accurate. Very nice pictures and itinerary ideas. Good quality book has stood up to lots of thumbing through and being thrown about in bags while traveling. Highly recommend both the book and visiting England!
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VINE VOICEon December 20, 2011
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I have found that Fodor's guides are very good books across the board. This book is no exception. It is filled with full-color photographs (0ver 350 of them!). It has 77 maps, and the maps are also in color which is a nice feature. It also has a great laminated, pull-out map of London which is a very nice extra. It has many convenient tools to help the reader plan his or her trip, including practical advice that many guidebooks seem to leave out. This book divides England into 13 sections, including Wales, then takes each of those sections and divides them into even smaller, more manageable sections.

It also has sections on on where to find the special attractions, different lodging options, top attractions, and also provides the reader with optional itineraries. Essentially, this book does all the work for you! This is a very complete guide, covering everything from food and hotels, to night life and entertainments. In addition, it includes special sections on special topics such as The Tower of London, Stonehenge, Pubbing, English gardens, and hiking in the Lake District. I can't think of anything that this book leaves out. The photographs alone are worth the price of this book! If you are planning a trip to England, you should definitely check out this book. It is great! I highly recommend this book. 5 Stars!
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VINE VOICEon March 15, 2012
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In general I think that Fodor's travel guides are the best out there, being more comprehensive than either Frommer's or Eyewitness Guides and better suited to a range of budgets and interests than Lonely Planet. Fodor's England 2012 is particularly good with a nice balance of maps, pictures, hotel & restaurant recommendations, descriptions of towns and regions generally and places of interest, and a nice bit of history and asides on such English staples as gardens and tea.

The guide starts out with the usual helpful info (overview, when to go, recommended itineraries, top attractions). Then there's a sizable section on London, which describes each of the city's neighborhood's quite well and hits all the highlights of things a first, second, third or even fourth or later time person might want to see. The hotel listings are quite comprehensive given that the book covers all of England.

Later chapters are divided into regions, with each section consisting of an overview and reasons to go, followed by a city by city breakdown, including sights, hotels and restaurants and, where applicable, info for shopping, sports and nightlife. Travel options are covered quite well, with distances to closest towns and sometimes travel time from London or other big cities.

Major highlights, such as York Minster and Stonehenge, get a couple of pages devoted to them. There's a London tube map in the back of the book and a detachable fold out map of England, as well.

Having lived in London and traveled fairly extensively over the north of England (an area that often gets short shrift, but not here), I can vouch for the guide's accuracy and recommendations.

A great travel book inspires you and makes you want to go and this guide totally does that. Only problem is it might make you want to go too many places!
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VINE VOICEon January 26, 2012
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For those of us in America, England is still, in many ways, the Motherland. We are drawn to it more for the past, often romanticized or vilified, than for the culture of the early 21st century. This Fodor's guide balances the main draw, the past, with the realities of traveling today. While the book covers all of England and a bit of Wales, it focuses on thirteen areas, each represented by a chapter in the guidebook.

After some basic information about traveling in England and customs in England (this is not the USA, folks), the guidebook dives right into London in the largest chapter. London is the principle draw for many reasons and this is reflected in both the details of the chapter as well as the pull out "On The Go Map" at the back of the book. Other maps are included in the pages but when traveling you may want to get other easier to carry maps.

The other chapters are less detailed though they all include basic information on restaurants, sites, transportation, etc, the same general information you find in all Fodor guides. While the table of contents lists seven "features" that are several pages each at various points in the book, throughout the chapters there are paragraphs and sometimes enough pages of extra information about a location, event, author you might know that makes you think of England. Having these listed was well would have been excellent for let's say the literary traveler or the gourmet looking for an adventure.

The biggest disappointment though in this guide was the inclusion of only two suggested itineraries in the first chapter and then only one more that I found it the book. For American travelers, but others as well, these itineraries can be great for helping us decide how much time we want to spend in another country. We may not follow the day to day suggestions, but as I read and looked up sources suggested I realized that the starter itineraries were really quite short to really fully use this guidebook. For most of us, going to England will be a once a lifetime experience so we want to make sure we get the most out of it.

Good information over all, good background for the different sites, cities, and regions, plus a Fodor's standards applied to a nation English speakers may feel too comfortable with to fully grasp how different everything may be, makes this a good guide to start planning a trip with.
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VINE VOICEon January 22, 2012
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The Fedor's Guides have become very well known for their information on places around the world. This is certainly true for the England 2012 guide. The aim of the authors were to provide travel advice for every nook and cranny of England and a bit of Wales. Because England is a country of small villages with London dwarfing all other areas in England in population and activity, the task is a difficult one. Fortunately, this has been done hundreds of times by many authors and I'm sure that the publisher's biggest job was to pare down the material to fit into a reasonable volume. The book is over 800 pages and includes a map of London (including the Tube map). If you're going to London, a Tube map is almost a must because of all the lines that run and all the possible exchanges to go from A to Z (or zed if you prefer).

In general, the book provided the basics for each area which includes things to do, hotels, how to get around, and places to eat. With so many areas covered, you won't find a comprehensive guide in this book but really some of the author's recommendations for hotel and food. I found the discussion of the local food a bit on the redundant side, but if you've been to England, the menus have a tendency to look very much the same. One of the failures of the book (and a clear deduction from five stars) was the lack of cost information in the book. If you've traveled to England, you already know that it is considerably more expensive than the US. In fact, the rule of thumb of pounds instead of dollars with an exchange rate of around 1 pound per 1.60 dollars makes things more than 50 percent more expensive. In my book, this is a must for planning travel. So in addition to the guide, you're really going to have to do some research on the internet to find the best values for hotels and possibly even food. It's also not a bad idea to get the most current information about the cost of admission for attractions like the many castles, manor houses, etc. because they do change fairly often (in the more expensive direction).

On the plus side, the authors provide a favorably biased love of England and highlight the local attraction of every area. They do a fairly good job of this, but I'll caution you now that some of the local maps that are embedded in the book are just not correct, assigning places to the wrong county or district. This makes easy reference in the book, well, not so easy. In addition, the index is also of some value, but it is limited. For example, if you wanted to hike the Pennine Way and wanted to get tips on this, you simply would have to skim most of the book to get almost no good advice on how to do it. This is a bit of a problem with the book because there were multiple authors, it made the integration of the book difficult and not very well executed. Also, you had some descriptions that are simply a matter of opinion such as Stratford Upon Avon being characterized as the heart of England. Don't let anyone tell you differently, either London is the heart of England or there is no SINGLE place in England that makes other areas pale in charm and history.

The strengths of the book include the description of the places and the reasonable attempt to give the reader an impression of the local character. By the way, it's not the greatest book if you are planning a family trip because the authors pay very little attention to the needs of the family. So in this way, it is a bit like the Lonely Planet series, but I have to say that I prefer this guide to the Lonely Planet series. Also, the book is clearly meant as a reference book, but if one were to sit down and read the nearly 900 pages of text, they probably will get a decent history lesson (although they most assuredly will probably find some inaccuracies).

I'd definitely recommend buying this guide if you plan to see more than just London. England is relatively small and the train system is wonderful. I should warn you that they do use a credit card with a chip, so shopkeepers sometimes have problems with cards that need to be swiped. Also, the book does a terrible job of painting the less rosy side of some of the small cities like Manchester, Liverpool etc., so traveler beware. But the book is heavy but compact and can be used for casual travel around the country. Finally, the book is a bit heavy, but is compact, so it's marginally acceptable for traveling. However, if you're going to England and only seeing London plus one or two more places outside of London, other specialized books may be more suitable (and smaller, lighter). Of course, England during the Olympics will simply be a mess and EXTREMELY expensive, but travel before or after will be quite nice with the days still fairly long. A word of warning that travel in the winter is quite difficult because the days are only 6 - 9 hours long (in terms of sunlight). This makes it very difficult to get over jet lag and I simply couldn't find this "advice" in the book.
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This guide encompasses all of England, but spends the longest stretch on London, which is perhaps not surprising: in addition to being Britain's cultural capitol, it also will draw millions of tourists the 2012 Olympics. Visiting London this year will not be like any other year. 2012 might be the year to visit the Cotswolds or the Lake District; but if you must visit London, this guide will help you come prepared.

Much of this guide is pretty predictable. It helps you choose which activities most merit your time, which restaurants and hotels most deserve your support, and how to hail a cab, ride a train, and use the phone in a country with different customs. Much of this content changes little from year to year, though it does help to keep current with the changes. Which new eatery in the massive Gordon Ramsay empire, for instance, really stands out?

This guide's focus is on city life and human culture. Though it spends some time on issues of natural beauty, that's kind of ancillary. The authors as good as admit that they deal only with isolated spots in Wales because that country is largely rural. If you want to see the countryside, and England's renowned rural landscape, shop around, because this guide deals with that theme only fleetingly.

I especially like the little articles. These actually do change annually, and even if you don't expect to visit Stonehenge or order sandwiches and lager in a pub, they make for interesting reading. In fact, I've taken this guide to work and just browsed the articles on my lunch break; in the middle of today's cluttered, hyper-busy lifestyle, they make for relaxing mini-vacations. Almost as good as a day trip to Britain itself.
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on January 11, 2012
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I love to travel. When I'm not traveling, I'm either dreaming of travel or planning a trip. When I travel I shy away from tour groups and tend to visit the non-touristy areas. Many times those I am traveling with and I are the only tourists/foreigners in the area at the time we're visiting. While I admit that seeing places you've only heard of like The Tower of London or Westminster Abbey or Saint Patrick's Cathedral or The Cliffs of Moher are awe-inspiring, its the people I've met in the out of the way areas that I truly remember. I was pleasantly surprised at the new Fodor's England 2012 Guide. I had remembered the Fodor's of yore -- decent information but in a rather ininviting format (no pictures, newsprint quality paper) At the price I pay for travel guides (my husband teases me by saying if I bought fewer travel guides we could travel more) I want more than just descriptions. With the new, improved Fodor's I get a book with glossy pages, full color photos, and much more. It details the more popular sites but also gives a great deal of information on places off the beaten bath. If you like the Insight Guides or DK's Eyewitness Guides, you will understand it when I saw Fodor's now provides travelers with the best of both the old Fodor's and these other two guides, with up-to-date information and pictures so beautiful you would buy this book for them alone. I was also impressed by the detailed "Features" sections which takes several points of interest and goes into them in greater detail. Very helpful is the section on "Pubs" detailing what ages are welcome, what types of Pubs to visit and to avoid, what to expect as far as pub grub, how to order beer, and how to engage others in conversation. In the Tower of London feature you will find details about the Beefeaters and what they are wearing as well as famous tower prisoners and much more. Whether you are ready to make a trip to England (oh and there is a nice, albeit too short, section on Wales) or just thinking or dreaming about it, you could do a lot worse than starting with Fodor's Guide.
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VINE VOICEon January 1, 2012
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I've never been anywhere in the United Kingdom but the nation has long been at the top of my list of dream trips. Many of my favorite books, films and television programs have British settings. I'm a lover of historic homes, churches and castles. And my late father was stationed during World War II in London for three years. London was a city he greatly loved even in war time and hoped to return to visit in a time of peace. So I was thrilled to receive the latest (2012) Fodor's England which also includes highlights from Wales.

All the usual items expected in a travel book are in this volume including maps, tourist attractions, natural beauty and suggestions for places to dine or lodge with general price ranges noted as well. There are also several other unexpected sections that taught me a lot about British life. "Flavors Of England" was especially interesting to me as a long time reader of British novels and mysteries. (Fellow Brit lit lovers haven't you ever wondered exactly what a blood/black pudding is?) Also on a food note there is a chapter devoted to "Great Indian Food In England" which thoroughly describes individual dishes that are often collectively known as curry. There is also an information section that describes for the prospective traveler everything an American needs to know about the famed and traditional British pubs.

As a lover of British history and literature I appreciated the book's inclusion of many spots associated with famous authors. The book has lengthy sections on each of England's distinct areas. Geographically these are London, The Southwest, The South, The West Country, The Thames Valley, Bath and the Cotswold's, Shakespeare Country/Heart of England, Lancashire and The Peaks, The Lake District, East Anglia, Yorkshire, Northeast and Wales. Travel to England is probably not in my future for 2012 but I'll be turning to Fodor's England as a reference whenever I want to know more about anything English.
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