There are a few resources I could not live without in planning trips to France. When it comes to dining or accommodations, below are my two favorite go-to guides that help ensure a marvelous time.
Michelin Red Guide, France
This book is the authoritative source for eating well in France. The guide is published annually and can make (or break) a chef. Divorces and bankruptcies have occurred because of demotions by this guide…chefs have even committed suicide for being downgraded.
Every year I’m in France I pick up a new edition, however, the Michelin website (www.viaMichelin.com) offers almost just as much information---and this means you don’t have to lug the heavy $40 book home (the last few years, Michelin has begun producing a paperback version, however, it’s still heavy). Be advised that Michelin produces two guides for France. The “red” guide showcases the country’s best restaurants and hotels, while the “green” guide addresses sightseeing. (BTW…in World War II, American soldiers were all given copies of the green guide as the maps were the best compiled resource France had to offer at the time).
While the red guide rates the top “fine dining” chefs, it also lists restaurants that offer the best value in every price category. It also points out food establishments that offer a particularly charming atmosphere. Hotels, likewise, are listed in every price point, however, those that are particularly charming are highlighted with a special designation. Another advantage is that the guide uses symbols for ratings, thus there’s no need for fluency in French.
I simply couldn’t live without the red Michelin Bible.
Gault Millau Guide, France (GM)
Like the red Michelin, GM also publishes an annual evaluation of France’s best restaurants. I particularly like this book as it offers an entirely different opinion on the best places to eat in France. Some restaurants receive ratings similar to that of Michelin, but in many cases the GM serves up a different perspective on who’s top dog.
I buy the current edition (about $35US) every time I’m in France but I always hate to do so because it weighs several pounds (recently GM has begun also producing traveler-friendly paperback versions.) There are some other drawbacks to this guide in that it is only published in French. For those who don’t speak French, you’ll miss the important commentary about the restaurants, however, you would still be able to see their numerical rating, as well as prices. (BTW…the guide gives each restaurant’s website and these websites are often also in English.)
Similarly to the Michelin red guide, the GM also rates hotels. Again, non-French speakers will miss the details in the annotation, but you’ll be able to easily understand which hotels get the best ratings. Unfortunately, GM’s website is available only in French. One huge advantage of GM, however, is that it also produces a yearly guide on the best wines in France…naturally, only in French.