guidebooks

Old Jul 24, 08, 10:11 pm
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guidebooks

What is a good/the best English-language guidebook to France? I would hope for a hefty section on Paris with some info on other regions; museums; thorough info on trains and public transport; and ideally tips for off-the-beaten-track shopping and solid (but not necessarily specatular) dining. I'm neither high-end nor low-end but very middle; but can do the occasional run to either end.

Normally, I find the 'Lonely Planet' series OK, but I haven't been to Europe in a while and thought I should check with you experts.
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Old Jul 25, 08, 12:39 am
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Normally, I find the 'Lonely Planet' series OK, but I haven't been to Europe in a while and thought I should check with you experts.
I try not to be loyal to any one particular publisher of guidebook. I think the quality will vary by region covered simply because the quality of the author will vary.

LP is strong in some areas, Moon in others, RoughGuide in other....

I really enjoyed Cadogan for Paris but I have to confess it was 5+ yrs ago.
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Old Jul 28, 08, 2:33 pm
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I assume you will be in Paris. Where else in France? No reason to carry around big books covering the whole country if you will only be going to a couple of places other than Paris. Also - in general - I like to carry separate sightseeing and food guides (and will be doing that on our trip to Paris this fall). Robyn
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Old Jul 28, 08, 2:37 pm
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Portions of the post that previously appeared in this space have been deleted. I would provide you with a reason why, but doing so would likely be against the TOS.

Last edited by uncertaintraveler; Dec 18, 08 at 3:36 pm
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Old Jul 29, 08, 11:43 am
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I'm not usually a Rick Steves fan, but I used his book for a recent trip to Paris and was pretty pleased with it for info on sightseeing, especially.
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Old Jul 29, 08, 12:53 pm
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Your local library usually has a good variety of guidebooks, although they aren't necessarily the most current. I usually check out an armload of them, and then use amazon.com to order my favorite for the trip. I have actually taken the library book with me, but usually prefer ownership so I can mark them up.

And I usually end up buying the Lonely Planet one. I like the maps and specific directions and walking tours. Consider one on just Paris too. The city specific ones are nice light slim little things for traveling.

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Old Jul 29, 08, 4:53 pm
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For our handful of trips to Europe we've used Lonely Planet, Frommers, and Rick Steves. Of late and going forward, we're pretty much just bringing a Rick Steves book supplemented with personal pre-trip research on the Internet. I don't think we've used the France country guide but instead went with the Paris and the Provence/French Riviera books when we visited Paris, Nice/Villefranche sur Mer, Arles, Pont du Gard, etc. last year. I'd expect a good chunk of his Paris guide, which we found great, would be in his France guide.

What I like about the Rick Steves guides
- His commentary. You kind of need to like his style.
- Directions and tips. I think his directions are very good. Very good local and side trip transportation information. And his tips for skipping lines, etc are great.
- Simple maps. This is hit or miss depending on the situation but most of the time I just need a simple map to get me in the right direction and I'll figure the rest out myself or reference a better map

What I don't like about the Rick Steves guides
- I typically don't like his restaurant recommendations. We usually research this ourselves.
- I don't recall shopping being a strong point in his books either.

I think his main audience are middle aged, middle of the road travelers which I think is what the OP is looking for.
The books do include sections for side trips and instructions on how to get there of course

I also have to recommend Sandra Gustafson's Great Eats Paris book. Excellent dining recommendations.
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Old Jul 29, 08, 7:44 pm
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Originally Posted by Jay71 View Post
What I like about the Rick Steves guides
- His commentary. You kind of need to like his style.
- Directions and tips. I think his directions are very good. Very good local and side trip transportation information. And his tips for skipping lines, etc are great.
- Simple maps. This is hit or miss depending on the situation but most of the time I just need a simple map to get me in the right direction and I'll figure the rest out myself or reference a better map

What I don't like about the Rick Steves guides
- I typically don't like his restaurant recommendations. We usually research this ourselves.
- I don't recall shopping being a strong point in his books either.
Agree 100% on all counts. His tips for skipping lines saved me a lot of time and his transportation info was spot on in my experience. But the shopping info definitely left a lot to be desired as did the restaurant recommendations. Rick Steves book was so much more helpful than the Access Paris guide I also have (but didn't take on my trip). I sometimes like Frommers guides, but for Paris, the Rick Steves book was really much better than the other books I checked out.
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Old Jul 31, 08, 10:19 am
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Thanks for the various tips. I have to say I didn't know about Rick Steves; I'll definitely take a look. I'm not a shopper, so that's all right. I'll check out separate restaurant guides. I'll be staying in Paris, so maybe I need a Paris-only guide; but I'll be making some trips as well.
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Old Jul 31, 08, 10:24 am
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Remember that all printed guides are a bit old by the time they are printed and sold. I do much better with internet WEB sites especially those that are put out by the cities themselves.

That said, the best hotel and restaurant tips i've gotten have been from FT!
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Old Jul 31, 08, 11:22 am
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Originally Posted by oldpenny16 View Post
Remember that all printed guides are a bit old by the time they are printed and sold. I do much better with internet WEB sites especially those that are put out by the cities themselves.

True! I like wikitravel. They have many pages at varying levels of detail. They have a great Paris page... and then a detailed page for each arrondissement! They are great at getting a feel for a place.

I confess that I don't think I've ever used them to get a restaurant recommendation. But I guess I predict that a webguide by the people, for the people is probably pretty reliable.
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Old Jul 31, 08, 3:25 pm
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Originally Posted by oldpenny16 View Post
Remember that all printed guides are a bit old by the time they are printed and sold.
Not to harp on Rick Steves but...
No book can be completely up to date but his update process is also a strong point of his books as they are updated on a yearly basis. Information is gather by him through his annual stints to Europe and through his guided tour infrastructure. He sells tours (as well as books) and gathers info from his guides. I'm not sure if this is an annual thing but I believe he occasionally also brings his guides to his head office in Edmonds, WA to collaborate. In between yearly editions, official updates and corrections are supplied on his website by his team while readers can also submit info in a separate section (that supposedly gets reviewed for corrections to the next edition).
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Old Jul 31, 08, 3:43 pm
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Originally Posted by oldpenny16 View Post
That said, the best hotel and restaurant tips i've gotten have been from FT!
I've gotten some great tips from FT too. However, I usually employ one of two strategies. I may default to recommendations from a food critic/reviewer that I trust and agree with their style (eg. Sandra Gustafson for Paris). Otherwise, I'll compile a list of places that are frequently recommended from multiple sources. This amount of research is a bit insane and my wife tells me so. However, during our travels, we still also choose random places and busy places with varying degrees of success. You probably can't go too wrong in Paris or France in general (though I did see this crazy episode of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares involving a vegetarian Parisian restaurant.)
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Old Jul 31, 08, 3:52 pm
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Recently someone asked my advice about guidebooks to France. I lived in Paris for ten years, am a French teacher, and know the country very well. I spent two hours at Barnes and Noble this week, reading through the guidebooks. Some were reasonably good, others were realistic options for a neophyte, but I didn't love any of them. I think that the Eyewitness or Michelin books are good for the museums and main tourist attractions, but you can get everything else that you need from FT. I do get a kick out of the old Baedecker guides, BTW.
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Old Jul 31, 08, 4:38 pm
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Originally Posted by georgemma View Post
Recently someone asked my advice about guidebooks to France. I lived in Paris for ten years, am a French teacher, and know the country very well. I spent two hours at Barnes and Noble this week, reading through the guidebooks. Some were reasonably good, others were realistic options for a neophyte, but I didn't love any of them. I think that the Eyewitness or Michelin books are good for the museums and main tourist attractions, but you can get everything else that you need from FT. I do get a kick out of the old Baedecker guides, BTW.
We like the Michelin Green Guides for sight-seeing; they're pretty detailed.
Mr. Tb still likes the Red Guides for hotels and restaurants; I am more likely to consult FT.
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