Spotted By Locals and In Your Pocket

Tallinn in your pocket

The travel guide book industry is outdated. I know someone who was working an update of a major set of travel guides which will not be published until six months after subbing. A lot can change in six months. Last year we found Lonely Planet’s Miami guide hopelessly out of date (it was two years old and the recession had closed many Miami places). The book might have been forgivable but the iPhone app version had the same incorrect content.

Various websites have entered the market through crowd-sourcing recommendations and reviews from locals and fellow tourists. Problem is few have got the critical mass of users needed to useful. And I don’t need to tell you the issues with Trip Advisor.

On a trip to Antwerp I used a guide by Spotted by Locals. As the name suggests it is run by locals who update a blog with cool and interesting places they like. You can buy the blog as a PDF guide or an app. Ahead of my next trip, to Tallinn, I’m looking at In Your Pocket who do the same sort of thing.

These sites still have a way to go in terms of usability but the key thing is the information is constantly updated. And the PDFs are updated every few months.

So what you get is the local insight and expertise you’d expect from a traditional travel guide. But a faster turnaround.

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London’s Roman Amphitheatre

London Amphitheatre

On a wet Tuesday time needed to be killed in the City of London. That is how I discovered the ruins of a Roman Amphitheatre. They are in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery and were unearthed in the 90s when preparing to build the gallery. It’s London’s only amphitheatre and looks like it was the site of many a good gladiator fight and public execution.

There are only a few ruined walls on display, along with wooden drains. But it is free to visit and the feeling of being in a modern building surrounded by bricks of old is unique.

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Craft beer bars

Craft beers

Real Ale has always been considered a bit of an old man thing. Now the young men (and women) have their own take – the craft beer bars. These have lots of beers on tap and in bottles, taps are mainly draught with a few hand-pumped barrels, come from small UK brewers, a few European and a lot of American ones.

The Rake in Borough has been around a good while. The Draft House is attempting a little chain. Then the masterly Euston Tap, in a tiny gatehouse in front of Euston Station, came along, kick starting an explosion. There’s now Mason & Taylor in Shoreditch and Cask in Pimlico. More recently the lovely Smithfields boozer The Old Red Cow converted but they are cheating by keeping most pumps the same and including the likes of Becks Vier in the line-up.

Truth be told I prefer a nice American craft beer or little UK brewery’s IPA to most of the traditional ‘farty’ real ales. But all this is coming at a price. It maybe the poor $-£ exchange or taxes but the Euston Tap is starting to charge for a half what should get you a pint. Please don’t make my beer enjoyment a premium experience.

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