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Travel Resources

FRANCE - MAPS AND GUIDES

Michelin Green Guide: Provence

I do still rely on the green Michelin guides for basic background touring information for France.  If you’ll be staying in one region only, purchase the specific book for your region.  If not, the book for France will do.  And now the green guides also include some restaurant recommendations, making the book doubly useful. 

 

Michelin Red Guide 2008 France: Hotels & Restaurants

For superb restaurant recommendations for France, the Red Guide can’t be beat. 

Pre-Order: Michelin Red Guide 2009 France: Hotels & Restaurants - 100th Edition (Available May 15, 2009)

 

Michelin France Normandie (Michelin Maps)

Michelin maps are the best for driving around France.  Buy the regional maps if possible so you have all the smaller roads on them. 

 
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FRANCE - COOKBOOKS

Bistro Cooking

Patricia Wells: Bistro Cooking, At Home in Provence, The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, The Food Lover’s Guide to France, etc. Patricia Wells is the former food writer for the International Herald Tribune. She visits local and regional restaurants and shares with the reader classic French cooking as well as tips on where to find the best produce, her favorite markets, and great local restaurants. An invaluable resource. She also has cooking classes at her house in Provence.   

 
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FRANCE - BOOKS

Le cheval d'orgueil: Mémoires d'un Breton du pays bigouden

by Breton. Native Pierre-Jakez Helias vividly describes daily life in Brittany from the turn of the century to the 1950s.  This book offers an excellent description of what life was like for the Breton peasant when the area was more Breton than French. Read it in French if you can. 

 

Paris to the Moon

by Adam Gopnik.  In 1995, this New Yorker  author moved to Paris with his young family.  The book is a series of chapters describing how he and his family adjusted to life in the City of Light. His insights into the French psyche are definitely worth reading. 

 

The Foreign Correspondent

by Alan Furst.  Furst is a superb writer of suspense novels many of which take place in France at the beginning of WWII. He paints a detailed picture of Paris and the French during this tumultuous time. There is as much history as suspense in these.

 

A Year in Provence

(also: Toujours Provence, Hotel Pastis) by Peter Mayle, highlight the flavors, sights and pace of living in Provence.  Mayle single handedly created a contemporary tourist frenzy in the Luberon.

 

Village in the Vaucluse

by Laurence Wylie.  This well-known and real-life account of life in a rural French village in the 1950s gives an anthropological insight to a simpler time in Provence.  Although not identified by its real name, the village is, in fact, Roussillon, the Luberon village famous today for its ochre-colored cliffs.  

 

Boss Dog: A Story of Provence

by M.F.K. Fisher. This is a charming short book by the famous food writer based on the year she spent in Aix en Provence with her children.  Each day as she would pick up the children from school, they would go to their local café where the “boss dog” and her children became friends.  Also read her other books about living and cooking in France.

 

Letters from my Mill

by Alphonse Daudet are famous French short stories describing the simple country life in Provence in the late 19th century.  Daudet lived in a windmill in Fontvieille in the Bouches du Rhone, and the wind mill can be visited today. Read this in English or in French! 

 

Travels with Alice

by Calvin Trillin.  This is a series of short essays discussing Trillins’ own philosophy of traveling.  As one of his favorite things is traveling to the south of France and visiting French open-air markets, he has many charming vignettes that any traveler to Provence will enjoy.  Trillin is a frequent contributer to the New Yorker.

 

Cross Channel

by Julian Barnes. Famous to the British, Barnes often writes about the French vis à vis the British.  Here, his short stories bring to life the French and France. It is a stirring collection.

 
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ITALY - MAPS AND GUIDES

Michelin Green Guide Italy

These regional guides are great for Italy even though they are published by a French firm.  If possible, buy the book that is specific for the region you’ll be visiting.  If not, the general book for Italy will do. 

 

Toscana (Carte Regionali)

Touring Club Italiano maps are the most detailed ones for Italy. These maps have even the smallest roads on them. Buy the one for your region if possible.    

 

Michelin Maps: Toscana, Umbria, San Marino, Marche, Lazio, Abruzzo

Michelin Maps are also good.  Always buy the regional ones if you can.  They show more roads and are helpful once you’re off the highway.   

 
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ITALY - COOKBOOKS

Patricia Wells' Trattoria

Patricia Wells is not only famous for her books on French cooking, but deserves praise for this book on Italian cooking at well.  Her recipes offer typical dishes based on actual recipes from local restaurants.     

 

Harry's Bar Cookbook

by Harry Cipriani.  Want to learn classic Italian cooking that tastes incredible?  Reading this book is like taking a trip to Venice. These recipes, although sometimes time-consuming. always result in perfect Italian dishes that make you feel you are in Italy.       

 
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ITALY - BOOKS

Italian Neighbors

by Tim Parks. Parks wrote this book about living in Italy.  As the American husband of an Italian wife, he observed the cultural differences he encountered.  His subsequent book An Italian Education is a light-hearted discussion of how Italians bring up their children.  Both well-written, charming and insightful.   

 

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

by Giorgio Bassini.  This famous book is the story of a Jewish family in Ferrara, Italy and what happens to them and their provincial life as fascism takes over Italy.  The story follows the young people and their friendships which cross economic and religious lines.  It’s a story of growing up and addressing the realities of mature life.   

 

The Leopard

by Giuseppe Lampedusa. Chronicles the time in Sicily when Garibaldi invaded Sicily.  It chronicles life on this island before it was part of Italy.  A classic part of Italian literature, it was made into a film The Leopard with Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon. 

 

Under the Tuscan Sun

by Frances Mayes.  One could think of this as the Italian version of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence.  Mayes purchases an old Italian house in Cortona, Italy, and the book chronicles her experience in renovating the house and establishing a life for herself in this typical Tuscan town. 

 

Death at La Fenice

by Donna Leone.  This is one in a series of terrific mysteries about Inspector Guido Brunetti, who lives his typical Venetian life while solving crimes.  This is a fun series where we can imagine daily life in Venice.    

 

The Comfort of Strangers

by Ian McEwan.  It seems everyone gets lost in Venice, but what happens to the main characters in this delicious book is shocking.  Disturbing as it may be, this gem by McEwan transports the reader to Venice. 

 

Death in Venice

by Thomas Mann.  This classic tale deals with the issues of love, beauty, youth, age and death.  A widowed, middle-aged gentleman goes the Lido in Venice and becomes infatuated by a young boy he sees at the hotel.   

 
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