Dear Rick Steves,
I am writing to you as I have a serious concern, for which you are partially to blame. During my past few days in Paris, I have noticed people’s heads have been replaced by guide books. These poor people are wandering about, with no mind of their own, exclaiming “Look John, this pavement was replaced in 1945”, or other factoids of no particular interest. They are failing to open their eyes, look around them and take a chance on something not written down for them. Even worse, when they read “The Palace houses the most impressive collection of renaissance handkerchiefs in eastern France, and if you don’t agree you must be an idiot”, they take it for granted that this opinion must be true. A guide books is only an expression of someone else’s experience, highlighting their interests and their encounters. It should not be used as a way of expecting to re-live these same events. At best it is a condensed yellow pages, for a method of reducing a huge number of possible visits to a manageable few, based on the travelers interests.
What guide book did Columbus use? Did it say ” The bay around Havana offers excellent protection for foreign fleets, however avoid the overpriced Mojitos of the neighborhood bars”? I say take a chance, the drinks may be overpriced, but you may have the time of your life.
Personal experience has also shown the one-time accuracy of these guides to be now lacking, with the opening hours, and even existence of places proving to be incorrect. Also, in a book, not affiliated with yourself, we are urged to visit “the prow of Ile Saint-Louis: Bring a picnic or just a bottle of wine and watch the sunset from the most romantic of perches”, this is true only if your idea of romantic is to picnic in a public latrine, surrounded by twelve year old drunks and smokers, hiding it from their parents – bring an extra bottle to share with them.
Rick, please place a warning at the front of your book, highlighting the danger of becoming a guide book zombie and tell people to take a chance on the unknown.
p.s. You say there’s little reason to visit the Scottish Borders, yet having experienced Versailles, OPEN YOUR EYES MAN, you are obviously easy to please!