Book Reviews

101 Places Not To See Before You Die-a book review

When a local Borders announced its going out of business sale earlier this year, I stocked up on a lot of travel related reads including Catherine Price’s 101 Places Not To See Before You Die. Being an addict of Patricia Schultz’s 1000 Places To See Before You Die (even though the likelihood of me being able to stay at a $1,000 a night hotel in Botswana is quite slim), I enjoy periodically perusing its pages and checking off an item once “seen.” I thought Price’s book would be an enjoyable read although I must admit I was somewhat worried that there might be places I had loved included in it (and indeed there were).
There’s no need to explain the book as its title aptly sums it up but featured in it are places that obviously the majority of (sane) travelers would never visit-a North Korean gulag, the great Pacific garbage patch, the annual poison oak show.  But there are others quite curious sounding, that if I ever happened to be in that place, I’d still want to check it out, regardless of Price’s assessment-Grandpa and Grandma (rocks on Thailand’s Lamai Beach that resemble male and female genitalia) the traveling mummies of Guanajuato, Mexico, and the Winchester Mystery House in California. 
And then of course there was number 27 which I completely agreed with, Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Although I know it’s something that many people dream about doing once in their life (native New Yorkers having enough common sense to stay as far away from that area as possible on the day), I can’t think of anything more unappealing. Times Square is somewhat lackluster for me to begin with (cheesy souvenir shops, immigrants hawking their knock off wares) but when you add more than a million people boxed in like cattle in usually frigid temperatures, its appeal for me decreases even more. That and the fact that a hotel room overlooking Times Square costs more than your firstborn seems more trouble than it’s worth. 
The place that definitely saddened me for being included was Disneyland Paris. Although I know the Disney parks aren’t for everyone, I didn’t agree with Price’s labeling of it being a place one should avoid. No, I wouldn’t plan a trip to France just for the sole purpose of visiting Europe’s only Disney park, but should I happen to be in Paris (as I was on my honeymoon last year) and need a break from playing the role of tourist, Disneyland Paris is the perfect solution. Only an hour’s ride on Paris’ suburban rail, my husband and I had a terrific time riding the rides that had minimal wait times (so unlike Disney World), and experiencing the Disney culture with a certain je ne sais quois. And if anyone tells you that the French still loathe the fact that Monsieur Mickey Mouse invaded their country, they obviously haven’t been. The day my husband and I were there, English speakers, specifically American English speakers, were definitely in the minority.
If you’re looking for a laugh, I’d recommend the book but it’s not at all something I would take seriously. I do  know that if I ever happen to be at Lamai Beach in Thailand, I’ll probably visit the rocks and take a picture…or two. 

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  • Reply
    April 20, 2011 at 1:46 am

    I totally agree about Times Square on New Year’s Eve! Never done it, don’t want to!

    I have been to the Winchester Mystery House! It was really neat, in my opinion. She was BSC! (Bat-$h**Crazy) We will be going to San Jose next May for a wedding and I totally want to take J (and my parents, if they go as well) to the house for a tour!

    I can show you my photo album from that trip sometime!

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    April 20, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I would love to see the photo album! I remember you telling me about it. In my opinion, there’s stupid, gimmicky tourist attractions and then there’s unique attractions which is what the Winchester Mystery House sounds like. I think the history behind the house and the woman is enough to warrant a visit!

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