Andalucia minus the Costa del Sol
My attention has been drawn to a mini-row rumbling along on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum. It seems as though the Lonely Planet’s new Andalucia guide has not covered Marbella and the Costa del Sol. According to the first commenter, the guide dismisses the area as not worth bothering with.
I’ve not seen or read the book in question (I perhaps should have) and I’ve also not been to the Costa del Sol since I was four years old. I’m therefore not the right person to comment on whether the assessment is correct.
It does throw up an interesting talking point, however: Should guide books ignore popular areas and attractions just because they think they’re not worth going to?
My initial reaction is supportive of the Lonely Planet stance. My (possibly inaccurate) perception of the Costa del Sol is of a hellworld of Only Fools and Horses theme pubs and sunburned simpletons whose idea of a holiday is to be surgically attached to a pint of Carling. If, indeed, it is like that, then fair play to authors – the Costa is best avoided.
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Frankly, this should be extended to a lot of other tourist traps as well. I’ll not weep if Madame Tussauds never gets another guide book mention again.
But another side of me gets extremely annoyed with the snobbish LP attitude. I’m regularly infuriated by Lonely Planet’s refusal to include things like theme parks, slightly tackyattractions and other things that are just plain fun. They often do the same thing with hotels, far happier to recommend an overpriced ‘boutique’ joint where the bedroom light is attached to a camel’s backside and the bath is made of Fairtrade chocolate than a chain hotel which is clearly better in every way. The relentless preaching about responsible travel gets on my nerves too, and the information on tours is always frustratingly scant.
One forum commenter congratulates the authors on knowing their audience. But I’m not sure they do. My suspicion is that some of the people buying that Lonely Planet Andalucia guide will, for one reason or another, be people who have booked to stay on the Costa del Sol but still want to explore. People with young children, perhaps, or those in financial difficulties who have to go where it’s cheapest. Just because they’re in package holiday central, it doesn’t mean that they only want to stay in the resort all week.
I’d argue that it’s cases like this where a guide book author’s mettle is really tested. Anyone can say the Alhambra in Granada or Mezquita in Córdoba is great. But finding pleasant places to stay in Torremolinos that aren’t overrun by chair-throwing chavs is a challenge. Same with finding bars that have a bit of character or things to do that don’t involve sunloungers and being sick in Lineker’s.
Sure, the LP may be right to say the area is best avoided. But it should also explain why it’s best avoided and then it should pick out the specks of gold in the sea of turd. It’s not right to just ignore it – too many people reading the book will be going there, whether the author approves or not.
When the going gets tough…
A guide book author earns his or her stripes when the going’s hard. It’s not right to just say there’s no budget accommodation in New York orjust because it’s really tough to find – it’s the author’s job to go and track it down.
I’m sure it’d also be a lot easier to just strip Cancun out of theguidebook, Las Vegas out of the relevant US guides and the Gold Coast out of the tome. But sneering in disapproval is a cowardly way out. A good researcher goes in, explains the situation and snuffles out the best of a bad bunch. Explanation and illustration are far better tools than omission.
Do you think the Costa Del Sol should be left out of an Andalucia guidebook? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.