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Lonely Planet New York City by Beth…
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Lonely Planet New York City (1997)

by Beth Greenfield

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The book of the city of the films of the books.

Who really needs a guide book to New York? Surely the most filmed and photographed city on earth, you can make your way from that place the giant monkey swung off to the the Statue of Liberty via the medium of car chase, easy.

Actually, not quite. OK, so New York is laid out on a handy grid (except for Greenwich Village where, confronted by streets that actually curved, I got hopelessly lost, which is some achievement because Greenwich Village, like all the neighbourhoods in New York, is actually only the size of a hamlet - 'village' would be pushing it) meaning that navigation should be easy, but it's good to know what's where and if you are heading in the right direction.

A guide book is also useful because the is an awful lot to see and if you are here for a limited time you could fall into the trap of doing the tourist tick list and missing some real gems. For instance, the Museum of Modern Art is a must visit, right? Well, maybe, but the two top floors are a waste of time if you are a European, containing as they do lots of impressionist works that you have probably already seen on loan to a gallery near home where they were better curated. But the guide book informs you that there's another gallery, the Whitney, that has the largest collection of Edward Hopper paintings in the world. Go there instead, and you will see some amazing, American art in America painted by an American (surely the reason you're here in the first place is to experience America, something not best achieved by looking at paintings of French cornfields, no matter how colourful they are).

What's good then is that if you're prepared to put in the time thumbing through the guide book (maybe on the flight over there, if you're not too busy trying to break even on the cost of your ticket by consuming a vast quantity of gratis in-flight booze and nibbles) then you will, essentially, be tipped off about the bits of New York City that haven't appeared in a major motion picture yet.

It also offers some sound advice about some major landmarks. For instance, 'The Top Of The Rock' at Rockerfella Plaza is the best place to get a skyscraper eye view of the city from. If you go up the Empire State Building not only will you queue for two hours but you'll be unable to see...the Empire State Building. For folk like me, who occasionally leave their brains behind when travelling, this is what some might call a good tip, or the bloody obvious depending on your point of view.

New York city is both small, in terms of distance it's a very walkable city, and huge, because they fit so much into it, principally by either stacking it or squeezing it uncomfortably close to something else, usually another skyscraper. So there's a lot to fit in. Despite this, I'd still maintain that the index in the guide needs to be twice the size, and have multiple references to the same thing. I do not want to have to hunt through the thing to find the right page for the subway after first failing to find references to metro, tube or underground.

My selection of this particular guide to New York was based on the reliable test of looking up the same subject in three different guides. This one came up trumps about tipping, especially bartenders. What it failed to mention however was that you should resign yourself to not being able to find an edible meal during your stay in the city.

The map of the city was excellent. Detachable from the book itself, I was able to open it, fold it up, fold it the wrong way and write and draw on it. By the end of three days it was in a sorry state but still legible and much used. The subway map, however, was useless, a complete waste of space as didn't have my electron microscope with me.

Good guide, great city. ( )
  macnabbs | Mar 29, 2011 |
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Providing coverage of sights, hotels and restaurants in New York City, this guide also features its history, maps of the neighbourhoods and transportation system, and information on museums, architecture and nightlife. A special section on the events of September 11 and its impact on the city is included.… (more)

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