I have a deep ambivalence towards guide books, and particularly towards Lonely Planet efforts. I've always felt that following a guide book too closely removes the best of exploring by reducing the sense of discovery you get from a new place. In addition, I've seen the 'Lonely Planet effect' in action, whereby a hotel/resturant/attraction's success or failure depends almost entirely on whether it makes it into the guide book, and whether it gets a good review. And whether it does so depends, unfortunately, on far more than how good the place is.
Having got my misgivings out of the way, what's this tenth edition of the France guide book actually like?
It's just stunning. I've never seen a guide book so good. Despite my misgivings above, the upside of the Lonely Planet series is that they are (on the whole) carefully researched, logically laid out and hugely informative. This edition has all of that in spades, and the presentation seems to have been stepped up hugely from previous editions that I've seen or used. In the past the maps and illustrations were a bit of a let down - this book has a huge number of high quality full-colour maps, and 3D illustrations of main attractions that act like a maps as well as a source of information about the attraction.
I am in the middle of planning three trips to France over the next few months: one to Bourg D'Oisans for a cycle trip, one to Paris and one to the Med. In each case I've found high quality information relevant to my trip in a logical layout and format, and its helped considerably with my planning.
My misgivings about guide books and about Lonely Planet remain. But, used in the way that makes sense to me, this guide book is just about as good as it possibly could be.
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