Steven Peterson's Reviews > France

France by Nicola Williams
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's review
Oct 04, 09

Read in October, 2008

This travel volume, by the folks at Lonely Planet, is well done! It begins with the authors listing their favorite places, with nice color photos to illustrate--from # 1, Avenue Champs-Elysees to # 16 Annecy. The book begins with an exhortation to prepare for a trip to France well in advance: "Some parts of France are tried-and-true, bona fide 'dream destinations' and as such require planning weeks, if not months, in advance in order to snag the best room in the house. . . " (page 18).

Introductory materials include a series of travel itineraries, such as Paris to Provence. There follows a brief but useful history of France--from prehistory to the present. Then, of course, a brief treatise on French culture with nice boxed features (e.g., dos & don'ts) and mention of such issues as sports, religion, the arts, and architecture, among other subjects. After that, a section on France's obsession with food, with some nice slick color photos. Nice coverage of both food and drink.

The heart of the book, though, is its discussion of France, district by district. Here, we get a brief introduction to attractions in communities, where to eat, where to stay, sites to see, and so on. Sometimes, I think, the coverage is a bit thin, but the book is already over 1000 pages long, so more coverage might make this simply too much of a good thing!

Paris, of course, needs to be mentioned. There are maps of the major regions of Paris. The section on sights to see begins with the Louvre (what a museum!), Jardin des Tuileries, Palais Royal, Centre Pompidou, Place des Vosges, Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle (the latter a small gem), the Sorbonne, the Eiffel Tower, Bois de Boulognes, and so on. No great detail on any of these, but enough to get a flavor of the various attractions, so that one might wisely choose which would be priorities for visiting. There are sections on recommended places to stay and to eat. Too, there are sections on entertainment and the arts.

In the hinterlands? One example: Beaune. Once, I flew into Paris and was then driven to Lake Geneva, going through the Jura Mountains--and then returned on a parallel route. My driver stopped at a wonderful restaurant in Beaune. One of the most delicious meals that I have ever eaten! Beaune was charming. The description here helps revive those pleasant memories. The writeup notes that wine tasting is a favorite activity, and describes the bounty available at Beaune.

And on it goes. . . .

Anyhow, a useful companion were one to contemplate a trip to France.

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