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I must admit, I wouldn't instinctively turn to the AA (Automobile Association) when it comes to guide books, especially not one for the Caribbean! However, the AA do produce a good range (300 or more) of guidebooks, and the Explorer series is really rather good.
Softback, handy travel bag size (not pocket), around 300 pages of a mixture of text, full colour photographs and useful maps. This book covers all the major islands including:
Anguilla, Antiga, Aruba, Barbados, Barbuda, Bonaire, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Grenadines, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinque, Montserrat, Nevis, Puerto Rico, Saba, St. Croix, St. John, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Martin, St. Thomas, St. Vincent, Tortola and Trinidad & Tobago. Whilst perhaps each island could command a book in itself, this is a great introduction to the Caribbean in general, and of great use when island hopping, or just deciding which is for you.
Initially, the book is like many other guidebooks. Of course it contains details of the country history, it's people, food & drink, hotels, restaurants and so on. It does seem to excel in the areas of what to see and do, rather than endless lists of hotels on each island.
What I would say straight away, is that it seems a very bright book, absolutely full of colour, not just in the photographs, but the maps and section markers too. Of course, it is a Caribbean book, if it wasn't bright and colourful, there'd be something very wrong!
The author of this book, James Hamlyn spends his time island hopping, trying out the bars and restaurants and perfecting his dance skills - sounds like a nice enough job to me. James is a born traveller, and his writing skills paint wonderful pictures of island life. His experience shines out from the pages, leaving you without a doubt exactly what he's talking about - and most importantly giving you the desire to do exactly what he's done.
The photographs too, are wonderful, and plentiful, with usually a couple on each page, very few though occupying a whole page. There are many people pictures, school children, rastas, musicians, dancers, woman at market and so on. There are also plenty of general scenes, beaches, nature and buildings. Each photograph is explained, with a brief caption.
When it comes to describing things worth seeing, ratings are given, such as "Do not miss", "worth seeing" etc. A budget guide to admission charges is also included. Rather than giving exact prices which are subject to change, saying expensive, moderate or inexpensive means that this should always reflect it's price bracket, eve nonce the book is a few years old.
The "focus on" sections are great, and go into some detail about things such as pirates, music, marine life, markets, spices, coral, voodoo, fauna, cigars and more. You feel like you are learning more and more about the places, it's people and culture with each word you read.
The five page index points you to the right page for any subject or island you may be looking for.
The guide seems to be updated every few years.
Price £12.99, available in all good on-line and off-line bookshops, well worth checking out.
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