Book review: The New York Times, 36 Hours, World (3 /36 /365)
When travelling on a tight schedule, one of the biggest challenges is deciding how to spend your precious time in each destination. How do you see Paris in just two days, for example? The answer is: you don't. Instead, your best option is to rely on a credible friend or guide to suggest a few ideas to capture the feel of the place.
Enter The New York Times' three-volume 36 Hours box set, which, following from its regional Taschen travel guides, is the paper's latest and most comprehensive to date. Edited by Barbara Ireland, it pulls together the best of the newspaper's 36 Hours columns, which have been providing curated guides to spending 36 hours in a city since 2002. Three volumes span 365 destinations around the globe - the idea being to have enough inspiration for each day of the year.
These guides are not intended to be exhaustive lists of key tourist attractions. Instead, seasoned travel writers offer their personal suggestions, be it a local bar, a hidden park or the one gallery not to be missed. This gives them a clear focus, unlike other generic guides on the market, which aim to cover a bit of everything and inevitably fail.
The soft-cover books are both tactile and visual - brought to life with fresh illustrations and vivid photography. Their alphabetical ordering by city is not immediately intuitive, meaning you'll stumble from Abu Dhabi to Agra, Biarritz to Big Sur; perhaps a deliberate effort to help us discover places we weren't looking for. However, index tabs make for easy page flipping and a regional index gives you the option to map out longer itineraries.
Popular cities get special treatment: there are three guides to London for example (one for children, a literary one and an East London one), and Toronto has a separate guide for hipsters. There's a rough guide to prices for hotels and restaurants, and illustrated, numbered maps feature zoom-ins of mentioned neighbourhoods for easy reference. Not everyone will have the budget of a Times reader, and you'll find more tasting menus than budget eats, and more cocktail bars than dive bars, though the books strive for balance.
Each set comes with a registration code for unlimited access to the digital versions of the guides, but there is no interactivity. They're simply PDFs, which you can download or print out and slip into your pocket before setting off.
Fourteen new cities were all fact-checked and updated in 2014, and an email is provided for readers to send updates if they spot errors.
This set is more whimsical than practical, so you may want to supplement it with something more comprehensive. Even so, it's lovely for pondering your next destination.
The New York Times, 36 Hours, World (3 /36 /365) Edited by Barbara Ireland (Taschen)