I don't normally go for guide books that try and lead me by the nose but they've got this one about right, at Lonely Planet.
Yes, it's based mainly on prescribed routes, but they do a great job of linking them into longer itineraries, suggesting detours and listing highlights. In the description of each trip, they say what it's best for (outdoors, family, walking, etc.), list photo opportunities and advise the ideal time to go. Trips range in length from two days to a fortnight. Recommendations for sleeping and eating are given.
They divide the country into six regions, something I don't much like (it's really annoying if you're going to be based where two or three regions meet) but can live with, given that there are only six of them (why DOES the National Trust insist on dividing England/Wales into ten regions in its Handbook? Grrr!). Each region has a map showing the trips, so you can see at a glance how you might combine them. In addition, each trip has suggestions for linking to other trips, and not just within the same region.
The trips are all linear. My own preference would be for shorter, circular trips based on central points, because I hate having to unpack/re-pack every day and would rather stay in one place for a few days, but others will have different views. The ideal might be linear routes with day-long circular detours from places with recommended accommodation.
I haven't used the book `in anger' yet but have spent a lot of time browsing it and making plans. Because of my preference for circular routes, I've only awarded four stars, but if you happen to like touring then this book is probably well worth five stars to you.
The powers that be at Lonely Planet appear to have made a recent decision to use their brand name to extend their range of books way beyond the traditional travel guides which they have been noted for for many years. Product line extension of this sort does not normally succeed and indeed, one could argue with the relevance of producing coffee table type books on food for example which is one of their recent forays. However, publishing books on road trips is a very logical use of the brand name and, used in conjunction with a proper, comprehensive country guide, is an excellent and useful addition to their range.
This is a book of some 440 pages, the first thirty odd of which are devoted to more general advice such as top experiences and an extremely short guide to major cities. Why anyone should rely on a book like this for the latter is a mystery as the coverage is so minimal. However, the bulk of the guide is dedicated to the suggested car itineraries. These are divided by region and include trips of various lengths from a couple of days up to two weeks. There are various themes such as Art, Cheese, Wine, Caves and Chateaux. Of course it is perfectly possible to mix and match so as to create trips to suit the length of time you have available.
I took a close look at the Loire region, which I am quite familiar with and what was suggested was certainly adequate to keep a family with a car happy for a vacation. The places to visit were sensible and there were also suggestions on accommodation and eating places. At the end of the book there are road trip essentials to keep you safe and legal together with other tips for travelling in France.
Overall this is a very useful book and one which we will certainly be taking with us and using on our next French vacation.
on 3 October 2013
Having used Lonely Planet guides to travel round France with a trust road atlas, I was not sure what to expect of this book. On the face of it, the book will help you find the hidden gems of France by road, and equally importantly the hidden gems of roads themselves. If that is what you are hoping for I may be about to disappoint you. But all is not lost.
There are many different types of travellers and at first glance, this book is designed for the traveller who wants to see everything but not have the burden of planning much other than perhaps where to stay. If that's you, then this book is lacking. It's not good enough in my mind to use as an atlas (the map at the back is awful), although the instructions for most trips (comprising only 2 or 3 roads it must be said) are easy to follow. Most trips seem to entail driving 20-50 miles a day (apart from the 2 week tour of France), which is a little too leisurely for me. The problem with most the trips is they are too local, so if you are wanting to combine several of the "amazing road trips" you have to join them up yourself.
The key to getting the most out of this book, in my opinion, is being able to decide the area you want to visit, and then use the guide to help you find the hidden treasures. This book therefore is useful to help plan a trip before you go, more a case of making sure you don't miss one of the things that are recommended. The problem there, of course, is that you are then into Lonely Planet territory so why bother with this book.
I really hoped this book would pick up some hidden gems of roads to drive on, but it is really all about how to drive between towns, and Lonely Planet guides do it better. What a shame!
I love France - I really do but would I recommend this book?
The French countryside is some of the best in the world - and it is peppered with amazing villages, towns and cities. Each region has a distinct personality and much to offer.
This is an attempt to capture all of this in a series of driving holiday ideas. On the face of it - this is a sound idea. However it necessitates a lot of very limited detail for each of the towns and areas.
For me, this is a great starting point for someone contemplating a trip - but you really would need to buy a more detailed guide to get the best out of the holiday. Lonely Planet does some very good regional guides - so you would end up buying two books.
Perhaps this is one to look at to select your region and then go off and get something more in depth for the actual trip.
We enjoy touring by campervan and France is new to us so this seemed to be perfect for our needs.
The book couldn't be more clearly laid out starting with an overall map of the country showing all the suggested routes, journey times and how the routes could be linked together to make a series of shorter trips or a long exploration of nearly the whole of France. From here the book is divided into 6 regions of France with an overview of each and recommended route to make the best of your visit offering plenty of ideas and inspiration.
General useful information such as the best time of year to visit eg to avoid traffic jams or enjoy the best weather, typical costs eg for meals and accommodation, websites for further information, important telephone numbers and a few useful French phrases.
The routes are clear and concise with highlights and detours suggested, places of interest to visit (complete with admission fees, opening times and website links) and the best spots from which to take photographs. To my surprise, all of the routes are linear but I can't help feeling these should have been circular routes to ensure we didn't miss any more 'best bits' on the return route..
Overnight accommodation and mealstops are suggested. A little disappointingly for us, most of these are hotels and B&Bs with very few campsites or aires suggested on any route. It may be that there are no campsites/aires in the area but it would be useful if this were stated because this is the info we need for planning our trips.
A good section is the driving guide which also includes the french names for a few vehicle parts and a few helpful phrases which could be used at a garage but there are a few minor ommissions - eg I note the French word for 'petrol' is given but not diesel - and many vehicles today are diesel!
A useful loose map is included inside the back cover - a good touring map of France with highlighted places of interest to visit. I've laminated it so it's easily to hand during a journey.
Overall, the book is well-researched, clearly written, attractively presented and provides all the information any touring visitor could wish for. A good purchase for anyone planning to tour France either for a first-time or repeat visit to ensure you see the best that France has to offer.
39 tours of France are detailed in this excellent Lonely Planet guide. Journeys like Monet's Normandy, D-Day's Beaches, Chateaux of the Loire, Foothills of the Alps, and Dordogne's Fortified Villages are broken down in distinct steps showing the main points that you must not miss, giving you time scales for the trip and giving you enough background to get the most from the journey. There are recommendations for where to stay and where to eat also.
Looking at the suggestions that have made on two of the trips that I have personally completed the recommendations make sense and also include a couple of things that I previously missed. Historic sights, well stocked wine cellars, classic eateries and points from which you really must take an excellent holiday photo are detailed throughout the book
This is an idea book, an inspirational read, and will either get you hooked on driving in France or at least inform your decisions about where to go.
If you like France this book may give you so many ideas that you just hop in the car now and drive down to the tunnel, but whatever your commitment to our European neighbour you cannot help but learn relevant and helpful information from this book. Why not also take Lonely Planet's guide to 'France' as well - with both of these books you need not miss anything, and one will fill in the gaps in the other.
Lonely Planet guides have a history of being very good, especially for the budget traveller, and I have discovered one or two real gems in their pages. This guide book therefore has a good pedigree. Sadly, I will not be visiting France within the review deadline time to test it out, but I looked up the places I am familiar with to get an idea, and I was impressed.
The times given for the tours are realistic, and in amongst the obvious tourist sites, there are other places on the routes that you probably wouldn't have known about without further research. There is also a variety of time scales. For example, one that I rather fancied took in Monet's garden at Giverny, and other sites associated with artist. I think that would make a very nice little tour that one could do over 2 or 3 days as a mini holiday not far from the Channel ports, or as part of a longer break in Normandy.... and of course you could bolt on another one in that locale.
There are also themed tours - modern art (a great one taking in sites associated with Van Gogh, Picasso and Matisse), prehistory, religious pilgrimage, vineyards, etc
In summary, I think this book might prove to be an inspiration for visiting a particular area, (especially if you're looking at an area you hadn't visited before, and hadn't realised it had so much going for it!), giving you ideas for taking in the local sites in a way which wouldn't mean a lot of random dashing about. (And of course, you don't have to stick to their schedule, if you wanted to whizz round, or go slower)
This guide to 'road trips' in France has several great points that can help to inspire and plan a lovely trip to this beautiful country but as hotels and restaurants change quickly I would also use the internet as back up to check current standing and reviews for these.
Unlike some guides it does give great coverage of most areas of France - routes in the very popular Loire, Dordogne, Alsace and Alps run alongside lesser known areas like the Jura, Auvergne and an intriguing route north of the Pyrenees named the 'Cheat's Compostella'
Themed route suggestions are provided at the start of the book providing for those with different passions and interests - Art, Nature, History, Food, Wine or Architecture lovers are given a few suggestions under each theme of road trips that would be particularly relevant eg Alps/Camargue for Nature or The Loire/Cathar region for Architecture.
The guide gives you details for each route with mileage, suggested stopping places and a small map to show the route with key places to visit but each trip has only 1 or maybe 2 pictures so you may find yourself looking some of the places up when your interest is piqued!
10 of the trips are highlighted as classic trips and regarded as their favourites [always open to debate!!] - one trip is a 2 week, highlights of the country, trip that looks comprehensive but quite tiring ... I like to take my time.
I have enjoyed perusing this book and it covers many of my favourite areas but also suggests a few new places that look interesting - it is good addition to my travel 'library' for planning and dreaming.
on 16 August 2013
This book covers 39 routes throughout France, and so is not in any way an in-depth, comprehensive guide to the country. What is does do is help you to quickly and easily find a few trips that would suit you, and plan them. It's ideal for those of us that find the more highly-detailed guides daunting to wade through. It's really great for picking a route that will suit you, giving enough information to enjoy your trip. It lists 10 top trips at the front and then divides all of the routes by region. It also identifies the best trips for your interests - e.g. wine, art cuisine, history, architecture, nature. It has a brief description of each route, and a local map showing the route. Obviously a complete road map is a must as well, in case you get lost or want to wander off route. Places of interest en route are briefly described, including good local eateries. Some of the routes link to each other, and this is clearly shown, so that you could plan a bigger trip with ease. Really useful little guide - made us want to pack the car and set off at once.
I love Lonely Planet guides but my favourites are these Amazing Road Trip ones. They're great to use when planning a trip so that you can get the most out of your time rather than aimlessly driving around looking for places to see, stay, visit etc. With 39 to choose from here there's probably something for everyone.
We're taking my mother on a trip round the D-Day beaches as it's something she's always wanted to see and with this guide I feel confident that she'll be getting to see it all and not miss anything important to her. Now that we have the guide though we're already planning other trips nearby to make the best use of our time and all the hard work has been done for us and a little time spent now in making up our itinerary will save holiday time for fun stuff. It even has it's own pull out map so things couldn't be made more easy.
Very useful guide that's fun to read even if you're an armchair traveller.