Over the pond

When I first learned about “Bradshaw’s Illustrated Hand Book to London and Its Environs,” I was expecting a contemporary travel guide to the who, what, why, when and where of London, complete with websites, glossy color photos, detailed maps and the like. Well, I did get some of that, but in an unexpected form of an almost mini-encyclopedic book that would make a great shelf mate to my dictionary.

But upon closer look, I see that the book—written by George Bradshaw (1801-1853), an English cartographer, printer and publisher, and first published in Great Britain in 1861—really offers a journey back to Victorian London in the style and vernacular of the day, peppered with intricately drawn vintage illustrations that offer a very personal touch for tourists to the city.

Great for walking tours, Bradshaw’s book offers vignettes to all areas of London and the districts in those areas, plus a tour of the Thames, Greenwich, Gravesend and Windsor. Whether you’ve been to London or would like to visit someday, you’ll find a wealth of information to give you a unique insider’s look into one of Europe’s biggest tourist destinations.

The book is available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Forget Nice – It’s just plain naughty!

I lived in Los Angeles for 20 years and never, not once, ever heard it referred to as “The Porn Capital of the World.” Obviously I was not paying close enough attention.

But Sienna Sinclaire, a “Naughty Lifestyle Expert” (I never knew there was such a career either!), adult model, burlesque performer, sex coach, world traveler and, yes, a journalist—her first career just after college—offers a unique look at the City of Angels (do you see the contrast here?) in “The Naughty Girl’s Guide to Los Angeles.” She calls it “the perfect travel companion for those who want more from their L.A. trip than fresh seafood and tracking down their favorite movie star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”

I’ll say! Although writing from a naughty girl’s perspective, the book will appeal to men as well. And if a couple, this may just be the guide that adds a new exciting layer to your relationship.

Like traditional tourist guides, Sinclaire offers a bevy of information about must-see places but with sexy and kinky details to spice things up a notch. She starts by defining a “Naughty Girl,” then moves on to detailed, multi-chapter sections like “Naughty History,” “Naughty Travel,” “Naughty By Day,” “Naughty Shopping,” “Naughty by Night” and “Naughty Business.”

Photos in the book—both of destinations, aspects of naughty travel and naughty girls—are well thought out, beautifully shot and tastefully presented, although I wouldn’t leave it on the nightstand if you have young children at home or if your parents will be visiting for the holidays! All in all, it’s a great read for both residents and visitors alike.

On the author’s website (http://naughtygirlsguide.net), she offers several “Naughty Tours” of L.A., and those interested in the tours or book can hear more about it from her personally by checking out her G-rated video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw_MNAK3SmM.

The book is available at http://naughtygirlsguide.net.

A Melding of ancient, classic and modern

Whew! After all of the naughty LA stuff, I need a drink! But not a stiff one to knock me back into reality, rather something smooth and reassuring to take me away to a far off land–in this case, “The Wine Region of Rioja.”

Situated between Castilla La Mancha to the south, Castilla León to the west, Aragón to the east and Navarra and the Pais Vasco to the north in northern Spain, La Rioja is both a province and an autonomous region. Its excellent wines are known the world over.

The book—written by Ana Fabiano, who for two decades has led tours consisting of wine industry journalists and experts through Rioja and dedicated her professional life and vast research to the wine and food industry of Spain—is drop-dead gorgeous. From the spectacular photography to the meticulous yet obviously heart-felt descriptions of the magic of the La Rioja region, the various wine varietals, the bodegas (Spanish for grocery store, but more like a local mini-mart offering the highest quality meats, cheeses, wines and other culinary accouterment) and more, this is a must-read for wine lovers as well as those desiring a soulful Spanish travel experience. (If you are a staunch oenophile, you will probably appreciate the fact that it is the only wine book endorsed by the Riojan government.)

And it’s not just about Fabiano’s words; rather she shares from the great deal of research she put into reading Castilian books, conducting interviews with local experts and speaking with generations of winemakers. Moreover, completely appealing to gastronomic enthusiasts like me, the author has included several delicious recipes and the perfect wine pairings.

The book is available on Amazon.com.

1963 WAS A HELL

OF A YEAR

Considered by many as one of the most exciting destinations in the Caribbean, the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin is brimming with culture—three distinct ones in fact: French, Dutch and what has been described as the “blending of both with exotic native heritage”—all on one 37-square-mile island.

In the book “1963: A Landmark Year in St. Martin,” author Daniella Jeffry Pilot, a St. Martin native, offers a retrospective look at the island and its growth since 1963—the year she says her home country began to transition from an agricultural, rural economy to a commercial, tourist-oriented economy.

Part travel book, part historical reference, “1963” talks about the native islanders who moved to other neighboring islands but later returned to their homeland to establish themselves and foster in a new era of prosperity and pride in their island home. Pilot says, “The festive, gentle way of life of the natives harmoniously blended with the burgeoning new economy and greatly contributed to the success of the tourism industry.”

In the end, readers will come away with a unique perspective of the island’s history, which they can meld with today’s reputation of this Caribbean gem nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea as one of the most beautiful, natural paradises.

The book is available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at lallmanbaldwin@kc.rr.com.