In November, I was in Port-au-Prince for the 30th anniversary conference of the Haitian Studies Association, held at Université Quisqueya. It was a pleasure to be part of one of two panels on the Kingdom of Haiti, where I presented the paper Henry Christophe’s State Coach: Conspicuous Consumption in the Kingdom of Haiti, as part of my ongoing research in to the life of the revolutionary leader and king of Haiti.
As part of that research, when I’ve been in the north of Haiti working on my guidebook for Bradt, I’ve tried to trace as many locations as I can associated with Henry Christophe’s life. I made a walking tour of colonial Cap Français for my own amusement but had put it aside on the assumption that it was a bit too niche for the general guidebook reader. Recently, a Twitter conversation led Marlene Daut to ask me if I would write something up for H-Haiti, part of the H-Net Humanities & Social Sciences blog network.
The blog is something of a follow-up to the photojournal Touring the Haitian Revolution that I did in 2016 for Age of Revolutions. It’s a blend of the mapping and ground-truthing I do as a travel writer, mixed with archive sources like Moreau de Saint-Méry’s 1797 account of Saint-Domingue and the wealth of colonial maps that can be found online through sources like Gallica and the Library of Congress, as well as more contemporary sources like the bulletins of Haitian historic buildings put out by ISPAN, the national heritage organisation.
The article, Mapping Early Haitian History, can be found here.
I spent part of spring 2018 in Tunisia for Lonely Planet. This was the first time that LP had been in the country for an update since the Arab Spring. I’d worked on that last edition of the Tunisia guidebook, which was published in 2010.
This was something of an experiment for Lonely Planet, as the update is 100% digital – available for free on the website, with the coverage of Tunis also available as part of the Lonely Planets guide app. The newly researched material has also been complemented by a series of articles, of which I have written two.
The first is a primer to the many film locations associated with the Star Wars movies.
The second article is about exploring the Sahara desert – smaller in Tunisia than in neighbouring countries, but no less worthwhile.
You can find the Star Wars article here, and the Tunisian Sahara article here. Lonely Planet’s full coverage of Tunisia is available here.
My newest guidebook for Lonely Planet has just hit the bookshelves. I researched and wrote two thirds of the new guide to Jordan last year, spending two months on the road in the country – a month apiece sandwiched either side of Ramadan. For the second month, I rented an apartment in Amman next door to my old flat just off Rainbow Street. It was lovely to spend a few weeks pretending I still lived in the city!
There’s some lovely new stuff in this edition, highlighting how Jordanian tourism continues to adapt to its regional challenges. We have extensive coverage of the Jordan Trail hiking route that runs the length of the country, the new community tourism projects in Umm Qais overseen by the energetic Baraka Destinations, and the newly re-opened Shaumari Wildlife Reserve in the east, where you can go on safari to see wild oryx, once regionally extinct but making a slow return thanks to a captive breeding project.
Lonely Planet Jordan is available to buy direct from LP here, or wherever books are sold in print or ebook formats.
My latest guidebook for Lonely Planet has just been published, and it’s about one of my favourite countries to travel in – Jamaica. I’m the lead author on the guide, and did the ground research for Kingston and the eastern parishes of the island, including coverage of Port Antonio and Ocho Rios. There are some excellent new additions to the guide, from farm-to-table organic restaurants, tighter coverage of Kingston’s party scene and even more of Jamaica’s astonishing waterfalls and swimming holes. Here’s why I wrote in the book’s introduction, where you get asked to discuss what you love most about the destination:
It’s the spicy plate of jerk washed down with a cold Red Stripe beer. No, it’s the giant speakers of a sound system blasting out dub reggae after dark, while the DJ cues up the next track on his decks stationed under a mango tree. No, the Rastafari street art in a downtown Kingston neighborhood. It’s the cheeky tour guide at the waterfalls getting the tour group to strike Usain Bolt’s lightning pose. It’s getting lost in Maroon country and sunsets over the sea. What, you wanted only one thing I love about Jamaica? Wait, let me try again…
Lonely Planet Jamaica is available to buy direct from LP here, or wherever books are sold in print or ebook formats.
I spent much of the spring and summer of 2017 working on the new edition of Lonely Planet’s guidebook to Jordan. Research was broken into two month-long sections, falling either side of Ramadan (the fasting month is never the ideal time to write restaurant and cafe reviews for a guidebook). The first time I worked on the guide was at the tail-end of spending nearly a year living in Amman, and it was great to head back to see friends, revisit old haunts and find new places to write about.
Jordanian tourism has been in a tough place since the Arab Spring, but it was good to still be able to find green shoots. The community tourism scene is thriving, not least thanks to the efforts of people like Muna Haddad, the powerhouse behind Baraka Destinations, and its many projects in Umm Qais and Pella. Haddad is also one of the leading lights behind the Jordan Trail, an epic 650km hiking trail that runs the entire length of the country, from the northern hills to the Red Sea. If you were to hike the whole route it would take about six weeks, but the organisers have broken it down into eight bite-seized chunks, the most splendid of which is the four day trek from the Dana nature reserve along the back-routes to Petra. It’s been dubbed the ‘Inca Trail’ of the Middle East, and a few years ago National Geographic named it one of the world’s best 15 hikes.
The new edition of the Lonely Planet Jordan guide is out next year, and will contain detailed information about each stage of the Jordan Trail. As a small taster, they asked me to write an article about the route. No matter how short a section you might hike, the trail is a revelation about the diversity of Jordan’s landscapes – brilliant as they are, there’s a lot more to the country than just Petra and the craggy deserts of Wadi Rum.
You can read full article on the Lonely Planet website here.
The new edition of Lonely Planet’s Morocco guidebook is out now. I researched and wrote the chapter covering Tangier and the Mediterranean Coast. Rather pleasingly, this means that my area is this edition’s cover star , with a lovely shot of Chefchaouen’s blue-washed medina.
Guidebook writing can sometimes be a bit of churn, writing up one destination while planning the next trip and sometimes working on the edits of a previous job at the same time. There’s not always much of a chance to look back at what you’ve done, but as I put the new edition on my shelves it was quite startling to realise that I’ve now worked on five consecutive editions of the Morocco guide for LP over the past decade, as well as covering the country on separate research trips for LP’s Africa on a Shoestring, West Africa and Mediterranean Europe guides. Adding it all up, that’s a lot of mint tea and tajines.
My relationship with this particular guide goes back to 1994 when I used the first edition on a backpacking trip to Morocco. Back then the book was called Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and it was a great tool even if it didn’t warn a couple of naive students just how silly it was to take a non-stop bus from London to Casablanca (answer: very). It’s a great book, and it’s always a thrill to work on it. Here’s to more editions to come!
I’ve written a couple of short pieces for G Adventures about Jamaica.
The first is about the historic town of Port Royal near Kingston, which as various times in its history served as a haven for such notorious pirates as Blackbeard and Henry Morgan, a Royal Navy base where a young Nelson served, and a location for Dr. No, Sean Connery’s first outing as 007. You can read the full piece here.
The second article is about the joys of Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica’s biggest music festival, which is held every July near Montego Bay. Read more about it here.
You can find out more about G Adventures’ trips to Jamaica here. The new edition of the Lonely Planet Jamaica guidebook, which I co-authored, is published in Oct.
My latest two guidebooks for Lonely Planet are now available. I’m the co-author of guides to two rather different destinations – Bangladesh and Fiji.
It’s hard to think of two guides that had two such contrasting research trips: from rattling about in rickshaws in Dhaka – the most crowded and congested city I’ve ever visited – to scuba diving resorts on the edge of Pacific reefs. But both worthy destinations in their own right. And counter-intuitively, it was Bangladesh that had the exciting surf scene (in Cox’s Bazaar) rather than Fiji. The latter wins out for waterfalls and manta rays however…
Lonely Planet Bangladesh is available here. Lonely Planet Fijiis available here.
The second edition of my Haiti guidebook for Bradt Travel Guides is finally out!
Tourism in Haiti has seen a lot of developments since the book first came out at the close of 2016, and it was a pleasure to write about them for the guidebook. These aren’t just the big headline grabbers like the grand new hotels in Port-au-Prince, but local tourism iniatives from tours of coffee collectives near Jacmel to whale watching off the coast of Petit-Goave, and community-run cave tourism in Dondon. These are all initiatives that show that the talk of tourism isn’t just a series of social media slogans put out by the Ministry of Tourism, but local communities taking action themselves to encourage visitors to their areas.
The book also includes several new maps. I’m particularly pleased to include plans of the Citadelle and ruins of Sans Souci (collectively Haiti’s biggest tourism draw card), as well as a map of historic sites around Cap-Haïtien to make it easier for visitors to the city to see what’s on the doorstep.
Haiti being Haiti, 2016 wasn’t a very straightforward year, and the book went to press after Hurricane Matthew ripped through the southwest. We were able to add in a short update to the eBook versions, which is planned to be included in later reprints of the actual book.
The guidebook is available direct from Bradt here, (in print, PDF and .mobi formats for eReaders) as well as the usual online sellers.
I’m in the middle of editing the new edition of my Haiti guidebook for Bradt, which will be hitting the shelves towards the end of the year. One thing I’m particulary pleased about are some of the new maps – a specific map to historic sites in the north, and plans of the Citadelle Henry and palace of Sans Souci. Haiti’s history offers so much to the visitor.
With that in mind, I’ve just put together a photo journal for Age of Revolutions, touring the main locations of the Haitian Revolution. It was a fun exercise, and gave me the opportunity to throw in some of the historical footnotes there’s never space for in a travel guide. On the cathedral on Place d’Armes in Cap-Haïtien for example, witness to so many key moments in Haitian history:
The great chronicler of Saint-Domingue, Moreau de Saint-Méry, wrote that when the church’s bell rang, the blacks would cry, ‘A good white is dead, but the wicked ones remain.’
I also spoke to the Haitian culture and lifetyle website Kreyolicious about the new guidebook, as well getting to take the temperature of the Haitian tourism right now. Overall I’m cautiously optimistic, although the continuing drama of that is Haitian politics makes it difficult to take a truly long-term view (to be fair, as a Briton writing in the days after Brexit it might be fair to equally turn the mirror on my own country). In the new guidebook there’s a lot more coverage of community-led tourism project, such as at Dondon, a little-visited town that has some great caves with Taíno carvings:
[The town] got together and formed a local tourist association so they could get organised to attract visitors so that those assets benefit the whole community. They weren’t waiting for the tourism minister to give them their blessing or for an NGO to come and do some capacity building, they just went ahead and set it up themselves. I was thrilled to be able to write about them in the new guidebook.
Efforts like this give me great hope for long-term tourism development in Haiti. You can read the complete Kreyolicious interview here.