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Author: Geoff Garvey, Mark Ellingham
Publisher: Rough Guides
Year: 2006 (5th Edition)
Nationality: English
Genre: travel guide
Stands out for: clear layout and extensive coverage

Review: The Rough Guide to Andalucia

Paul Collins fell in love with this guide to travel in Andalusia when backpacking round the region several years ago. Now, as he casts a critical eye over the pages of the latest edition, would he still feel the same?

By: Paul Collins

I first got my hands on a copy of The Rough Guide to Andalucia about six years ago. I was off on a trip of the region with a head full of Ford and Brenan and I borrowed it (actually ‘lifted’ is probably a better way of putting it) from my flatmate as I headed out the door. It was a constant companion and kept me informed (but more importantly entertained) throughout interminable bus rides, long, broiling afternoons laid out on the beach, and hours holed up in the corner of some noisy bar or other. Right at the end of my trip I left it somewhere, sweat-stained and with pages curling. It felt like I’d lost a limb.

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As is the case with pretty much everything else, travel guides to Andalusia can be a mixed bag. Some are very bad, with many portraying Andalusia as some sort of 19th century Romantic’s idyll. But they can also be very good (as laid out in our roundup of the best five travel guides to Andalusia).

A quick glance at the cover of The Rough Guide to Andalusia isn’t terribly promising. The fifth edition features a shot of the Giralda framed by an orange tree; the fourth, meanwhile, shows a couple in traditional garb reeling off a quick sevillana. ‘Contemporary’ perhaps isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. But then again, it is a travel guide. And why do travellers come to Andalusia? For many reasons, obviously, but few would be able to say that their trip wasn’t at least partly inspired by a romantic vision. Nor that, when they got here, they weren’t enthralled by the past’s omnipresence and its feeling of tangibility.

Anyway, down to the nitty gritty: what’s The Rough Guide to Andalucia got going for it? Well, the layout’s intuitive and clear; the maps are, for the most part, pretty good; the accommodation prices are simply graded; and the extent of the coverage – from big cities to tiny villages – is second to none.

Then there’s the contexts section at the back of the guide. Packed with background information – from an introduction to local wildlife and a detailed trawl through the region’s history to a good selection of further reading recommendations – it’s an essential store of information. The book is also broken up by three sections (on Semana Santa, regional cuisine and Moorish Andalusia) which, as well as being detailed, are laid out in striking colour.

But it’s the tone that really makes this guide so compelling and sets it apart from the rest. Is it the best travel guide to Andalusia? I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for from it, but it’s certainly the most intelligent, querying, thoughtful, witty and informative.

Ultimately, though, one thing is absolutely irrefutable: no other guide is sprinkled with as many references to the folklore, dance, poetry and assorted obscure snippets of history and culture that make this part of the world so captivating and so unique. In short, after all these years, it’s still the only travel guide to Andalusia that I’d buy.


Bibliography


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