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Lonely Planet California 6th Ed.: 6th Edition Paperback – Mar 6 2012
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About the Author
Aftergraduating from college in Chicago. Sara Benson jumped on a plane to California with just one suitcase and $100 in her pocket. She has bounced around the Golden State ever since. especially between San Francisco and Los Angeles, where she sea kayaked and hiked her way along the toast to update this guide, and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where she has worked as a national park ranger. Already the author of over 40 travel and nonfiction books. Sara also contributed to Lonely Planet's USA and Coastal California guides.
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I live in San Francisco and thought about buying this guide to help organize for out-of-town visitors. I pick a place that I decide may be appealing to one or more of the people that I am entertaining, but then relating that place to a given map seems an impossible task. There are no references or links between the explanations and the maps provided before. Moreover, maps have the same colors and page appearance as the explanation, so it's hardly impossible to spot a map unless to turn several pages over. I believe they should look at the Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore guide, which is done in a complete and at the same time, easy to follow guide. They added there the map page and the number for you to put your finger directly on the map. Then, maps should be highlighted on the specific areas that are being explained. Instead, they all look the same, so it takes a lot of time or effort to go from the explanation to the map (if you're lucky to find the map).
The highlights at the beginning are biased. They can be found by glancing at any touristic website about California on the internet. Overall, I think that the information is good, only that it needs to have more investment on the production and organization aspects.
The bulk of this near 800-page text is consumed by the "On the Road" section that covers California broken down into 13 different regions by the authors. The regions that I heavily absorbed were for San Francisco, Marin County and the Bay Area, North Coast and Redwoods, Northern Mountains, and Gold Country and Central Valley, but the book also covers Napa and Sonoma Wine Country, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, Central Coast, Los Angeles, Disneyland and Orange County, San Diego, and Palm Springs and the Deserts. When deciding whether this book is right for you, be aware that Lonely Planet also offers travel guides completely dedicated to individual regions. Earlier in the text, the editors offer an overview of what they consider the top-25 places to visit, and although I have scoffed at some other listings that Lonely Planet has provided in other travel guides, in retrospect I ended up including roughly 25% of the places on this list in my itinerary without even realizing it: (1) Pacific Coast Highway, (2) Redwood Forests, (6) San Francisco's Golden Gates, (7) Ferry Building Marketplace, (19) Gold Country, and (24) Mendocino.
One location on this list that almost made the cut, (22) Lassen Volcanic National Park, was unfortunately just barely outside the distance tolerance when en route back to San Francisco from the North Coast and Redwoods portion of the trip, which was one of the two highlights of the trip along with with San Francisco. As with other Lonely Planet guides, I really enjoy the detail of the writers, and their recommendations were largely spot-on, although I must admit that some were slightly off, such as their rave review of an eating establishment just north of Eureka in a town called McKinleyville, and their descriptions of Mendocino, which although largely accurate due to the beautiful views and whale watching, was largely a sleepy town due to timing, although the heads-up that the town is nicknamed "Spendocino" was appreciated. While I am an experienced traveler, sometimes I need to remind myself that travel guides such as this one, while well put together, should always be considered just a starting point, and are always to some extent based on opinion. Very well recommended despite its minor flaws.