Monday, 31 March 2008

Stanfords' Travel Bookshop, London

If wandering around the travel section of your local Waterstones gives you nearly as much of a rush as ordering that first cold beer in a new country, Stanfords' flagship store - 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden - will feel like a round-the-world trip for your itchy-footed soul.

The shop's three floors are stacked high with travel guides, maps old and new, globes inflatable, illuminated or traditional, travel lit, pictorial coffee-table hardbacks and geographical miscellany . It's the only bookstore I've visited that attracts backpackers like moths to flames or like mosquitoes to ... well, backpackers sleeping in beach bunks.

Mixed in amongst travellers of the armchair or imminently departing varieties might be commissioning editors from the capital's travel publishing houses. They've just stopped in to handle the competitors' latest editions and sniff out a few ideas for next year's publishing programme. I particularly like sitting on the window ledges up on the first floor when I'm there 'researching'.

The secret to the store's success has to be its decor and range of stock: let's call it the ambiance of sun-crinkled, well-travelled great uncle's study. The buyers here seem to have filled their shelves with books on destinations and subjects that fascinate them and not just those that will sell 100 copies every week. For example, you'll find that hardback copies of Graffiti World are displayed as prominently as Lonely Planet's ubiquitous Blue List.

Stanfords' website is just as diligent in its offering of diverse travel inspiration and features in-store events listings , interviews with the likes of Simon Calder , Bill Bryson and Michael Palin , and articles written by its staff.

Stanfords is the UK's leading specialist retailer of maps, travel books and other travel accessories, having been established in 1853 by Edward Stanford... read more of the store's history here. Read more!

Sunday, 30 March 2008

101 Weekends In Europe by Robin Barton

This travel blog is no travel bandwagon. The Sandwagon prefers to follow the potholed back roads over speedy autobahns, picking the less-traversed tracks over those obvious travel trends. From the back of the Sandwagon, wind in my hair, I'll always report on as diverse a range of travel-related stimuli as possible.

That said, I work full-time for a travel publisher and have 25 days annual leave to play with. Obviously I can't set off on a 60 day horse trek across Mongolia or dedicate months of my time to paddling the length of the River Amazon in a one-woman coracle. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to flee the office and explore the world that I write about far more thoroughly, but for the foreseeable it's simply not viable.

So, I'm sorry that I can't blog from Everest Base Camp this week but I can give you insider tip offs and reviews from the travel publishing industry. New Holland's latest offering, 101 Weekends in Europe is one for travellers who, like me, shoehorn their passion for travel in alongside their passion for the dream day job. An anthology of ideas for weekend breaks, Barton's book is perfect inspiration for anyone that's short on time but brimming with curiosity for different places and lifestyles. This weekend Wenceslas Square, next Naples... April to Amsterdam, then Madrid in May. That's good enough for me.

101 Weekends in Europe written by Robin Barton and published by New Holland
Published September 2008. Paperback @ £16.99

Click here to buy it Read more!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Opera Seaon: Milan, La Scala @ Leicester Phoenix

Sandwagon's support and admiration goes to Leicester's Phoenix Arts theatre for showing recordings from La Scala (Milan) Opera season. I hope this venture has been well supported by the city, because not only is La Scala one the world's most prized venues its season also deserves this level of mainstream Midlands exposure. Equally, we mere mortals this side of Europe deserve the chance to view world-renowned performances that only the rich, famous, fur collared and sharp suited Milanese are usually party to.

Good work Leicester Phoenix and good luck with this venture.

Sunday 20th April at 2.30pm is AIDA (which opened the 2006 season) by Giuseppe Verdi. Tickets £12.00 (much cheaper than the real thing)

Phoenix Leicester, La Scala Read more!