Jul 052011

Wallpaper City Guides & SD Cards

When we travel to a new city, it would

be ideal to know some locals.  But what

if we don’t know anyone, where do we

look for help?  Wallpaper’s City Guides

are my favorite resource for scouting

out new cities.  Phaidon just released

a bunch of new cities for us to explore.

Wallpaper City Guides by Phaidon Press.

Little Gems

Most guide books are designed for people who stay at home, travel with more than one suitcase, and love to carry around pounds of useless souvenirs.  A good guide book needs to do the following things to be packed in my bag:

[ SMALL ] If I cant fit a book inside of a jacket pocket, its not coming along.

[ PICTURES ] A guide book without pictures is alike a cook book without pictures.  Sans-images, they are technical books unfit for life on the road.  Chances are the 21st century Shakespeare is not writing travel guides, so the pictures best way to get me excited about a place.

[ NAVIGATION ] Making your way in a new city can be tricky enough, so a good layout is appreciated.  If you have to say, “what page did I see that shop listed on?” then the book is not working.

[ ESSENTIALS ] What does a city have to offer?  In a new city I always look for a good hotel, authentic places to eat, cool things to buy, and anything that is distinct to that specific city.  If you get those four things right, its usually a good trip.

[ BONUS ] Though not necessary, its good to carry a tiny map and something to write in.  Predictive text on an iPhone can destroy names and addresses.  Better to stick to the “old pen and paper.”

Wallpaper City Guide Cairo by Phaidon Press.

Phaidon’s Wallpaper City Guides

If I did not know any better I would say Phaidon read my traveling mind when they designed the City Guides.  When I first picked up “Venice” I thought, “hmmm…seems too small to have enough information.”  But as I tested the book against my own experience I found it was right on point, with ideas that were new to me.

[ DIMENSIONS ] All city guides measure 6-1/4″ long x 4-1/4″ wide x 3/8 thick.  They are easy to tuck in a jacket pocket, camera bag, or even a back pocket if necessary.  If its too big to carry it might as well be left at home.

Cairo Book Binding Shop. These are the types of images that make me want to explore Cairo. Phaidon Press.

[ PHOTOGRAPHS ] These guides used actual photographers to take their pictures.  Unlike the crappy snapshots I see in other guide books, these photographs are clearly taken by photographers with a sense of style.  The high quality paper and color images give you a reason to get out of the hotel early and hit the streets.

The tab design of the City Guides is brilliant, easy to navigate, and well organized. Phaidon Press.

[ TABS ] Someone in the design department came up with the genius idea of dividing the sections of the book with tabs.  Once you open the front cover the tabs read like this: Landmarks, Hotels, 24 Hours, Urban Life, Archtour, Shopping, Sports, and Escapes.  What else could you need?

Panorama maps are really smart because the only time we see the city from above is when we are landing at the airport. These maps let you orient yourself from a real perspective. Phaidon Press.

[ MAPS ] Some people are visual while others are more cerebral.  To offer everyone a navigation option, they decided to publish two style maps.  In the front of the book is a panoramic photo with the major buildings highlighted.  While the map in the back is a standard street map.  This way you can navigate the city whichever way you like.

The standard issue map for the "left brain" travelers. Phaidon Press.

[ SURPRISES ] The two bonus items in every City Guide are the “Notes” and the “24 Hour” section.  In the back of the book there are a few pages with lined and graph paper.  This way you can take notes or make sketches along the way.  I have never been much a a “daily journal” guy, but it is nice to have a place to jot down your thoughts as you sip a glass of wine watching the sun set over some piazza.  The other great idea is the “24 Hour” tab.  Have you ever only had 24 hours to visit a city?  While some would say its sad, I actually like the idea of just having 24 hours in a city.  The frenetic pace can be romantic and make me feel “in the moment.”  When I need to enjoy myself for a short period of time, the City Guide has your day covered.  Filter through a filter of fine taste, they give you the best places to eat and most essential things to see all in 24 hours.  Does it work?  Absolutely.  But that doesn’t mean you are done with the city.  It usually means the love affair is just beginning and this one night stand may turn into a life long engagement.

The only draw back of Wallpaper’s City Guides is there is not a guide for every city.  But Phaidon just released a new batch of cities and revised some of their older editions.  I used to buy these guides exclusively for trips that were confirmed, but now I use them for inspiration.  Here is the list of the new releases for your traveling pleasure:

Worth The Memory

Now that your memories are in the safe hands of Phaidon, BH Photo is having a great sale on San Disk SDHC Cards.  The timing is perfect since I need to stock up on cards for my trip to Tanna.  No sense traveling half way around the world, to a remote Pacific Island only to have a memory card shortage.  My card of choice has been the San Disk Extreme 16 GB/30mb card.  It gives me a little over 800 images with the Leica M9 and works flawlessly.  I have a few 8GB cards, too but the 16GB is just the right size that I don’t need to worry about switching a card in the field.  I prefer to keep a larger card in the camera.  This way I never worry about dropping the card in the mud or something silly like that.

SanDisk SDHC 16 GB/30mb per second

SanDisk SDHC  8 GB/30mb per second

And in case you are using a DSLR they are having a deal on those too:

SanDisk Compact Flash Card 16 GB/60mb per second

SanDisk Compact Flash Card 8 GB/60mb per second

This is my favorite travel reading. It fits perfectly in a carry on and gets me in the mood to travel. Monocle July/August 2011.

Where to Travel Next?

If you are all revved up, but not sure where to go, check out the newest edition of MONOCLE.  If you are not familiar with MONOCLE, go out and buy a copy.  I like to think of it as a magazine that focuses on “things that are going well in the world.”  While every other magazine in the world highlights the doom and gloom, there is a collection of people working world wide to improve our quality of life.  MONOCLE searches Global Affairs, Business, Culture, & Design for the good news I enjoy reading over a cappuccino croissant.  Their recent issue is devoted to their annual city survey, where they rate the most livable cities in the world.  Instead of endless statistics they use creative measurements like the “Number of Starbucks,” “Number of Electric Car Charging Points,” and “Hours of Sunshine.”  Its a charming view into the cities determined to elevate city living to an art form.  They also select their photographers from a pool of international competitions like the Magenta Foundation and other emerging artist contests.

Jaume Plensa's sculpture "Echo" in Madison Square Park, NYC. Summertime has finally hit the city.  © Adam Marelli.

Where is your next trip?

I would love to hear from you and get a better sense of who will be stamping your passport next!  Leave a comment below with your next destination.

  5 Responses to “Travel & Memory”

  1. Interesting books, must check’em out! Thanks for the hint.

    Our trip for this summer: a 3 week round trip by car through the southern half of Sweden, staying a few days at each location. Part of the trip for nature and beautiful landscapes. Part of the trip for exploring cities like Stockholm, Goteburg and Malmo. In the bag my trusty M9 + 35cron asph + biogon 25/2.8.


    • Robert,
      That sounds fantastic. Beautiful landscapes and Swedish design meccas should make for a fabulous time. Stockholm came it at #11 on MONOCLE’s Quality of Life survey.
      Never shot the 25mm myself, but that 35 is a beauty. Enjoy my good man, enjoy.

      • Hi Adam,
        the 35 cron is a beauty indeed. The 25 is a great lens if you like to go a little wider for landscape shots. And it performs very well.
        Looking forward to see how high Stockholm is going to end up on my own Quality of Life survey. But I bet there is no need to worry about it :-)
        Take care! Robert

  2. Enjoyed watching yr tutorial video on B&H….my nx trip is to north eastern Italy in May!, I Love Europe and Italy has so much to offer!

    • Hi Sylvanna,

      Where about in Italy? down by Venice or further north? Either one should be exceptional. Glad you enjoyed the B&H video too.


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