Travel writers fallible

This item appears on page 63 of the February 2009 issue.

Regarding the reader’s letter “Can Guidebooks Be Trusted” (Nov. ’08, pg. 24), I must add that I cannot trust them.

For the last 25 years I have had an apartment in the Marais district of Paris, and I read every article on Paris that I can find. The New York Times recently had a special travel section that included a long article on the Marais. It included the sentence, “I love to browse in the antique shops in and around the rue des Rosiers.”

It was obvious the author had never been there, since there is not one antique store in and around the rue des Rosiers in the Marais. However, the rue des Rosiers in the famed Paris flea market in St. Ouen, outside the city limits, is crammed with them. It appears the author checked a Paris information reference and found “antiques” on the rue des Rosiers, then made an incorrect assumption. I wonder how many New York Times readers went looking for antiques in the wrong place?

In another publication there was an article on Paris, allegedly by someone who lived there, that said the Canal St.-Martin started at La Villette and ended at Place de La République. That one should have been caught. Canals do not end in the middle of cities; they connect two bodies of water. That canal goes underground at République into a very long tunnel and emerges at the Bastille to connect to the Seine.

I also read an article on Paris restaurants that mentioned Le Rubis, a famous wine bar where patrons stand at upturned wine barrels on the sidewalk to eat and drink. The writer said this was because there was only a very small dining room. The downstairs dining room is indeed small, but behind a door at the end of the bar is a staircase to a very large dining room upstairs.

And so it goes. All of these errors occurred in major publications. If these major errors could be made by supposedly professional writers for well-known publications, it is not wise to believe anything much. (Of course, that includes restaurant reviews that I have had published in ITN; since then, two of the restaurants have changed hands and are no longer recommended.)


Wayne, NJ