Behind Tripmondo the magazine is a website that collects information for “all” places on Earth. It started off as a hobby project and has now grown into an online mega library.
Although it is put together by hand it seems to be driven by a series of bots. This shows up most when you look for a really small place (like Thorn) and of course it is the only way to deal with the problem of listing everywhere on the planet. It was off-putting, at first, but actually gives a nice, quirky feel to the information.
You feel like you are not just getting the average tourist information on big museums, shopping opportunities and travel information that is regurgitated by guide books ad infinitum, but something that a) gets a bit more beneath the skin of a place and b) is a bit more random.
So I did, what I imagine most folks do on their first trip to Tripmondo, I looked for a tourist destination I would like to go to, a place I know really well already and, lastly, my home village.
http://www.tripmondo.com/italy/tuscany/florence/ is not a place I want to go to until I am old, but it is a place I want to go to! So I surfed off to Florence to check out the info.
Each place page starts with a rather general wikipedia-esque opening paragraph. No gushing prose about the beauty and culture, just some facts about where it is, what is there, how to get there and what time it is with the obligatory Google map and suggestions about where to go instead!
Then comes a selection of images from Panoramio which have been tagged the name of the town you are looking for. This makes for a nice change to the tourist board images that you normally get and a great set of links to other people’s posh holiday snaps – very addictive!
Eventful, an excellent resource of worldwide events, provides information about events taking place nearby.
The attractions are listed on a dedicated page and use information from Wikipedia with links to that page for further information.
Next come a selection of webcams provided by webcams.travel and hotels provided by hotel.de. A greater understanding of the area can be gleened by visiting a link on the right column but a prior knowledge of Tuscany was required to benefit from it.
All in all it seemed a great collection of information about Florence all in one place.
I then looked at London and found a similar story. Odd phrases aside (“Depending on your travel modalities”) it opens in the same way. I would love to know what drives the information because the range of alternative destinations is quite wide, including areas of London, nearby towns and not-so-nearby towns (Southampton!?). Still: why not!
More photos and more events are followed by more suggestions of attractions. And it is here that Tripmodo either lets you down or stands out from the crowd… I am not sure which.
Instead of the standard sights it gives you the PriceWaterHouseCoopers building and the Anglo Belgian Club, the High Commission of South Africa and the British Optical Association! Now, when I come to London, I don’t think of any of those places but then again maybe that is my fault. Why should I always consider the British Museum and the London Eye above Hungerford Hall?
The webcams are all interesting but, for London, the bot lets the site down by presenting two videos about double-glazing, which is unfortunate, because if you click the link for more videos there is an Aladdin’s cavern or wierd and interesting stuff. My favourites are the Chelsea Pensioner who takes us inside the Royal Hospital and the one of the luxury yacht crashing into Richmond Bridge!
So it was now for the fun bit! Four fields over from the famous Toddington M1 Service Station is the village that gave the services its name! What would Tripmondo make of this sleepy little village with one library, two take-aways, three churches, four pubs and five cafes?
It doesn’t! My little village is usurped by a place in Gloucestershire “84 miles West of London, the country’s capital town” What the….?
Hoping that Tripmondo could redeem itself, I looked for Thorn, 1 .5 miles down the road. This village is two houses and one farm. The bend in the road is more famous than the village! But Tripmondo was up to the job with images and videos and a fairly sensible list of nearby attractions. It even suggested Oxford as a suitabe “alternative” destination, which I am not sure Oxford would be happy with, but the five inhabitants of Thorn will surely take!
Events are faithfully pulled for the surrounding area and, quite frankly, give Thorn a sophisticated air that I am not too sure it deserves.
So why did Tripmondo so gleefully ignore the much more worthy Toddington? It is not that it can’t deal with exact duplicates. Maybe I have just found the only place in the world that Tripmondo does not cover. Who knows, but I am going to write a letter!
Anyway, be that as it may, following this review, I think that, in Thorn, I have found Tripmondo’s real strength. It is not in the big tourist destinations, that everybody always harks on about, but in the smaller more interesting places, that will never get a mention in Fodor’s or even Lonely Planet that Tripmodo excels.
So next time you go travelling, give Tripmondo a try: unless you are going to Toddington, Bedfordshire!