by Andrew Sanger
My very first travel article, published in London's Evening Standard in March 1979, was Working For A Thirst, about the vendanges [grape harvest] in France. It was quickly followed by Greece On The Cheap, also for the Evening Standard, and a piece for the women’s magazine She about my job as a delivery driver in rural France.
Still in 1979, Marble Island, for the Observer (Oct '79), about the Greek island of Paros, was my first appearance in a national newspaper. The same year came a second article for the Observer, Cycle Party, about travelling around by train with a bike.
In 2018 what may turn out to be my final travel article for a national was a 6-page special promotional feature on Jerusalem in the Daily Telegraph (Jan '18).
In the 40 years that passed between there were numerous commissioned articles across the spectrum of UK mainstream media, particularly the Observer, Guardian, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Evening Standard, The Times and Sunday Times, Daily Mail and Mail-on-Sunday, and the Daily and Sunday Express.
Other publications I’ve contributed to many times are the Jewish Chronicle, BBC Holidays, The Vegetarian, France Magazine, Bella, Options, and travel trade magazines TTG and ABTA Magazine. I have also written for Living Spain, Woman's Own, Take A Break and Vogue, as well as many customer magazines, specialist publications and travel websites on subjects from Birmingham to Bermuda, Quebec to Queensland, camping to castles and much more. Oh, and I also wrote under the name Jane Pitt!
France and all its regions are my chief speciality. For 10 years I was editor of Top Rail (later, Rail Europe Magazine), the customer magazine of French Railways.
My other specialist subjects include Israel, Ireland, Greece, Flanders, the Canary Islands and vegetarian travel, all of which I explored for articles and books.
An article can be important for personal reasons, such as Fear of floods revisited for The Times (Jun '98), about returning to the place in the Vaucluse area of southern France where I had been caught in disastrous floods which left 31 dead.
On the other hand my acount in the Independent (Jan '02) of volunteering for the IDF - in print as The English writer who volunteered for Israel's army and online as It's like a kibbutz, only we're helping Israel to survive - sparked weeks of hate mail from the paper's readers, even death threats, and calls to boycott my books!
Some articles won awards, twice including the Travelex Travel Writers' Award - for Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, about the Galilee, for BBC Holidays magazine (Dec '94) and Van Gogh's Visions of France in Top Rail (Spring '96).
In addition to journalism I have also written brochure and advertising copy and commercial text within the travel industry, including the entire brochure of the Irish Tourist Board in London and of tour operators specialising in France, and was lead copywriter on a Eurotunnel ad campaign.
In 2018 I moved away from travel journalism to focus on fiction writing, but continue to contribute to guidebook updates.
I have written 25 travel books and guidebooks as sole author and co-authored 25 others. Most have been published in several editions and been translated into many languages. The majority were commissioned as part of popular established series, including Michelin, Fodors and DK. In some cases I created the series. Others were stand-alone titles. A few are still revised and in print.
My most recent guides are to the Normandy Coast and Upper Normandy (Footprint, both 2013), and DK Eyewitness Top 10 Dublin (co-author, 2020 edition).
Some of the books I am happiest with, or which proved the most important are...
I was privileged to be asked to write this beautiful little hardback, which added my modern guide to Robert Louis Stevenson’s river and canal journey through northern France in 1876. The book was illustrated with watercolours by Michael Reynolds.
The Rough Guide to France (co-author, 1st edn, 1986) was my first real book, co-authored with Kate Baillie and Tim Salmon. No computers, no internet; just train tickets, notebooks and typewriters. Among the first guides of its kind.
The Vegetarian Traveller (Thorsons, 1987; Grafton, 1991), the first original book idea I ever pitched, pre-sold 4000 copies and was listed as a best-seller.
Exploring Rural France (A&C Black; 1988, 1990, 1993) A guide to self-drive touring in France on country roads was unique at the time (and became my biggest earner overall!). The guide had many devoted readers who sent in comments and suggestions for the next edition. The publishers created a series using the same approach in ten other countries, with myself as editor. I also wrote Exploring Rural Ireland (1989, 1993) for the series.
An Inland Voyage by R L Stevenson, with a Travel Guide to the Route
(Cockbird Press, 1991)
The Pernod Guide to Long Weekends in France (Penguin, 1992) and The Villages of Northern France (Pavilion, 1994) both involved detailed on-the-ground research in rural France.
Languedoc & Roussillon (Helm, 1989; A&C Black, 1994, 1997. In the US, Passport Books), was one of the first serious travel guides to this Mediterranean French region (or rather, two regions) which had been my home for several years.
Written in intelligent narrative style, illustrated with beautiful photographs by Joe Cornish, the book became part of a respected series of French regional guides to which I also contributed South West France (1990, 1994).
AA Explorer Israel /Fodors Exploring Israel (1996, 1998, 2000, 2006) A hefty, much praised guide to Israel's sights and cities, life and culture, and to Israel's story. Half-killed me to write it, but a good result.