Advantages Stunning photos; Quality of the journalism; the variety of locations they review
Disadvantages £3.50 per issue
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Lonely Planet Magazine was launched in December 2008. Owned by the BBC, I first heard about it through another BBC Magazine I was reading nearly 7 months ago.Published monthly, the first issue I bought was in December last year (in which a Lonely Planet 2010 calendar was also included). The magazine showcases three different contributors every month and that particular issue promised articles by Michael Palin, Marcel Theroux and Tim Moore. That was enough to draw me in. Incidentally, the front cover claimed, “I was shaking as much as it’s possible to shake in an aeroplane seat” - Michael Palin. Our National Treasure suffering a near death experience maybe? Who wouldn’t want to read more?
At first glance, I thought a glossy magazine like this would be aimed at people with far more disposable income than me, seeking inspiration in terms of where to go on holiday. Recent covers would confirm this: South Africa, Australia, Cambodia and Peru. Not exactly aimed at families on shoestring budgets, or even gap year students.My heart nearly skipped a beat, though, when I noticed my first issue contained a lowdown on the ‘UK’s 10 Cosiest Pubs’. Not only seasonal (this was December after all, and what’s nicer than being by a real fire in a nice pub on a cold day?), but also more within my price range.
There are nearly 140 pages in each edition, and all but the Mini Guides are printed on good quality glossy paper. The Mini Guides are on what I would think is recycled paper, ideal for tearing out and folding, although as I’ve not used any, I couldn’t guarantee their durability.The first main page is the Editorial page. I usually skim read this column simply because it’s mainly about plugging the guidebooks (the 100 millionth has recently slid off the printing presses) or suggesting you join the magazine for their second year by taking out a subscription. At the bottom of this page though, we’re introduced to the highlighted contributors that month, together with 3 beautiful photos from articles inside the magazine.
The contents page is a double page spread with more beautiful photos taken on location and in the centre, a globe which instantly pinpoints where the magazine is going.Something noteworthy is the length the magazine goes to to maintain its integrity. Although their journalists may be using one specific airline or hotel, they always publish details of all the available travel suppliers and not just plug those who gave them assistance. For example, for April’s edition, Marcel Theroux travelled to Cambodia. Although there are no direct flights from the UK, it lists many options including a total of 7 airlines which can get you there.
Of course, the articles aren’t intended as an alternative to guide books (certainly not their own guide books) but as a taster to countries I might know little about I can’t really fault it. Their regular contributors write good quality articles (given Marcel Theroux spent time trekking around the UK with his dad Paul for The Kingdom By The Sea it‘s hardly surprising) and the photos are stunning. For more immediate and up to date facts or travel information the magazine wins hands down over any guide book.I also like the variety of articles the magazine has. For instance, flick back from the relatively sobering article on Cambodia and it’s people and you’ll find one on Peru. Not on the obvious Machu Pichu, but the vibrant city (or so it says) of Trujillo in northern Peru at Festival time. The photos almost come alive from the page and make me want to join in the fiesta too!
Moving nearer to home than either Cambodia or Peru, one of the articles I find the most interesting is entitled 10 Easy Trips. For those without the money or time to explore further afield, they recommend 10 places which you may know of but have never been to. March’s edition featured Greenwich Naval College, London and La Cuisine Paris school amongst others. Having walked past the National Maritime Museum and around Greenwich Park many times, I’m fairly familiar with the territory, but I hadn’t realised a new Visitor Centre and exhibition have recently opened there, or that the Naval College “serves modern European food in smart, unstuffy surroundings” in the Inside Restaurant. A restaurant I would be more than happy to visit, should I get the chance.
As for the chic lessons in French cuisine, “the multilingual classes last up to three hours, leaving plenty of time to explore the city afterwards. Sessions cover everything from French pastries and a walking tour of markets, to the secrets of haute cuisine…and (you) finish off the day with a few glasses of fine French wine.” Starting at £31 for a one hour class I think it would be a wasted experience for me, the only parts I would enjoy are the walking and drinking. Still, they manage to make it sound so much nicer than a pub crawl around my neighbourhood.
A small criticism of mine is that the reader panel seem to be mainly comprised of those living within England. For instance, food and drink critic Matthew Fort had written the (10 page) review of the magazines’ 10 favourite pubs I have already mentioned. This was immediately followed by a lowdown of 8 pubs which were recommended by the magazines Reader panel. Although Forts’ article covered pubs from Belfast to Wester Ross, the readers panel comprised pubs all but two of which were in England. I’m sure there’s no bias on the magazines’ behalf, so this must be simply down to a lack of interest from readers wanting to join up from other parts of the UK.Also, I’m unsure as to the benefit of their Mini Guides. Every issue includes 6 of these which you tear out and keep. They all include little maps. I imagine the West End in London one is more beneficial than say that of Tyrol, Austria. The Tyrol map being of the same size, it includes virtually all of Austria and some of Germany and Italy to boot. The West End map would be of use to stick in your pocket, but a map of the whole of Austria? Hardly useful if you get lost walking.
Although the magazine has plenty of advertising, I can’t say I find it intrusive. They’re mainly by travel specialists, showcasing holidays as varied as Bhutan, Yemen or Portugal. Fat face also seems to feature regularly too and often include money off vouchers to spend in their stores if you have one nearby.~ Price and availability ~
Every issue I’ve read encourages you to sign up to buy by direct debit and get the magazine delivered to your door, but I’ve yet to do that. I’ve bought every copy from my local WH Smiths (other good newsagents/stationers also available). The reason being, I like to have a quick rifle through it first, to see if enough grabs my interest to want to buy it - yes I am one of those annoying people who stand in the aisles flicking through magazines and getting in everyone’s way. But only once a month.£3.50 is the price at the till, but there seems to be a continuous offer of three issues for £1, should you be tempted enough to sign a direct debit mandate. I’m happy to pay full price for those issues which either contain articles by contributors I like, or feature articles that pique my interest.
~ Some useful facts ~Don’t drink Naphtha fuel. It’s meant for cookers, and Sir Ranulph Fiennes was none too impressed when one of his Siberian security guards drank theirs.
Whilst filming Pole to Pole, the small propeller plane Michael Palin and his crew were in had difficulty landing on the North Pole. By the third landing attempt he was “shaking as much as it’s possible to shake in an aeroplane seat”. So there you have it.
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