As soon as I booked my flight to Hong Kong the Monday before last, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to venture out to the specialist retailer of maps, travel books and other travel accessories, Stanfords. Established in 1853 by Edward Stanford, the flagship store in Covent Garden first opened its doors in 1901. The website states that it can ‘justly claim to offer the world’s largest stock of maps and travel books under one roof’ and it did, indeed, live up to expectations. I was also pleasantly surprised to see separate fiction sections next to the travel guide books based on literature from around the world.
Split onto three levels, the ground floor housed a small café and UK travel books, maps and walking tours; the first floor was packed full of european travel guides, as well as a frame-fitting service; and, the basement covered areas such as Africa, the Far East and Southeast Asia as well as wonderful pieces of furniture and travel-related ornaments.
I quickly headed to the basement to have a look at their wide selection of Hong Kong travel books. I was glad to see well over a shelf’s worth of travel guides aimed at Hong Kong and the majority of them included Macau – an island off of Hong Kong which is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China, basically where I will have to pick up my visa once I get there. Although I looked at some of the larger travel guides I was very conscious of how small my baggage allowance is. With that in mind, I decided on the Lonely Plant Pocket Guide of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as a Cantonese phrase book.
I then wandered upstairs to the top floor, all the while taking in the wonderful map tiles on the floors: the ground floor is a map of the world, the basement is an A-Z map of central London and the first floor is a map of the Himalayas. In July I will be taking a short trip to Bruges with my mum (on the Eurostar) and, although I already have a travel guide, I wanted to see the range they had to offer (which was impressive for such a tiny city). I decided to be sensible, though, and stick with the guide I already have!