Find your own Favorites

September 17, 2009

In the world of travel names like Rick Steves and the good people at the Travel Channel have great influence on travelers. And while I appreciate Rick Steve’s work and the information diseminated by Samantha Brown, I have come to realize that they are not your average travelers and as such the information they provide needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

First, even though they give you budget travel tips, their food and dining choices are anything but for the budget minded. Second, they are not local to the regions they travel to. As such, most places they recommend are very commercial. Third, these folks have a whole crew that either travels with them or helps organizes the travels, including accomodation, reservations and transportation. So, if you find yourself struggling to cram everything they do in the short time, or find room at the hotels they recommend, don’t beat yourself over it. Finally, networks like the Travel Channel, and authors like Rick Steves often need to obtain permits from the local governments. I wonder if some of these permits come with pre-conditions about visiting or writing about specific establishments. Is it a coincidence that both Rick Steves and Samantha Brown recommend Cafe A Brasiliera in Lisbon, where there are literally a thousand plus cafes. What’s more, this particular cafe is the most expensive one that I have ever been to in the city and I know this because I confirmed with family members who have lived in Lisbon now for over three decades.

I purchased Rick Steves’ Portugal guide to see things that my family might not be aware of. It turns out that very important things like Frangush de Guia (Grilled Chicken from Guia) and Palaccio de Mafra, which is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal are completely missing from his book. In fact, there is no mention of what locals consider the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

Cafe Suica and Confeiteria Nacionale, both recommeded by Rick Steves are extremely over-priced and are far from my favorites. While it is possible that these places, were truly independently reviewed by Rick, and he really liked them, having people there actually tell you their favorites is an entirely different thing. In the same area as Cafe A Brasiliero, Confeiteria Nacionale and Cafe Suica, there is a place called Cafe Gelo, which has better Pastais de Natas, a better Belinhos de Bacalau and a much better Galao (Portuguese version of Cafe Latte).

Similarly, I have seen guidebooks often rate some museums very high. But to a generalist traveler who is not biased towards museums, a museum may not be worth exploring once you have seen the Louvre in Paris or the Vatican museum.

Now I am certainly not suggesting not reading, watching or following these folks, because some of the ones mentioned here truly deserve to be followed and respected, but take their suggested eateries and accomodation with a grain of salt. Focus on discovering what locals like and have your own favorites rather than trying out their’s. For those who don’t have access to local experts in the area, consider using forums on sites like Lonely Planet, Rick Steves or Boots Travels to post questions in advance. Or simply pick up a map and go it alone.

Safe travels!

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One Response to Find your own Favorites

  1. Lainey on December 6, 2016 at 1:06 AM

    "I link ai post che altri hanno messo nei propri siti che fine faton?&quno;Ma non devi cancellare blogspot. Lo lasci qui com'è. Però continui dall'altra parte.

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