La Vie en Prose

Guidebooks from  Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Michelin and the AA. Travel writing from Robert Louis Stevenson to Rick Stein.

BOOK OF THE YEAR - British Guild of Travel Writers

How to be very very lazy in
by Laurence Phillips
400 pages - £14.99
Marseillan, on the Etang de Thau lagoon, is the perfect base for exploring Languedoc-Roussillon: travel beyond the vines, from mountain to sea; Montpellier’s city lights to Hérault’s rugged Gorges; bustling Béziers to quaint Bouzigues; pastel-shaded canal quays in Sète to Molière’s Pézenas. In this new guide, part diary, part secret address book, discover the oldest village in France; the Marseillan of pirates & poets, heroes & troubadours.

Vista-hardened travel writers surrender to the charms of Marseillan the minute they hit the port. The Sunday Times described it as “like St Tropez before Bardot”, The Guardian went further, enchanted by “wrought-iron balconies splattered with flowers”, and hailing the “undeniable frisson” and “early Riviera vibe”. Even France’s own Le Figaro simply declared Marseillan as “The new art of living”

After centuries selling wine to the world, the principal export of Marseillan is love at first sight. The story of the oldest village in France is one of buccaneers and true independent spirits, of a fisherman risking all to save a damsel in distress, of adventurers and farmers, of men of the soil and revolutionaries, of poets and feminists and the secret of James Bond’s favourite tipple.

But this book uses Marseillan as the starting point of a personal tour of an enchanting region. In what is part diary, part secret address book, the award-winning author Laurence Phillips shares his favourite places with gossip, witty observations and passion for the Languedoc lifestyle. Memories of local families, first impressions of strangers and plenty of tales learnt of long lingering lunches. Find the restaurant in Montpellier where you cook your own lunch in the kitchen, and meet a market stallholder in Beziers who will take your shopping and make you a meal then and there. Spend a week exploring the Canal du Midi, relive the ages of crusaders and Cathar heretics, discover a hidden Jewish heritage trail and find the seaside inspiration of a generation of impressionists and modern artists.

Besides Marseillan’s, sights, sites and stories, discover over 150 places to eat & drink, 40 pages on the local wines & tipples. The insider’s guide for travelling to and around the Languedoc includes 200 pages on other towns and villages across the region, two dozen beaches and has great ideas for City days in Montpellier, Sète, Agde, Béziers and more. Find simple quayside restaurants. Let lunch slip into supper and kiss your bonsoirs after another memorable bottle of wine. Dance with the winemakers or watch the seafarers of Marseillan water-jousting and taking the challenge of the Capelet greasy pole. Whether mooching in markets or mulling in museums, buying cheese from the goatherd in the hills, wine from the vigneron at the corner and oysters and fish from the pecheur who lives along the lane. Here is the lowdown on when to come, where to go, where to wander, when to wallow and where to sit back and do absolutely nothing in Marseillan, where the Canal du Midi meets the Med, and the lagoon belongs to sunset pink flamingos, and time simply stands still.

Packed with practical advice, there are plenty of tips for disabled guests, from travel notes to heads up on city restaurants that provide menus in Braille and which beaches have special tricycles so wheelchair users can go out to sea.

This is the essential handbook for anyone visiting or staying in the area, and a great holiday read to be enjoyed at a quayside café with a glass of Marseillan’s Picpoul de Pinet wine close to hand.


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Travels with a Donkey, a Dog … or a Dodgy Hip

Holiday reading comes of age with classic travel literature with a bang-up-to-date guidebook in one paperback.

Chosen by the Times as last year's must have holiday read for summer - a book not to be missed. Read it and live it for yourself: The new anniversary edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes comes complete with a lively comprehensive guide for modern travellers following in Stevenson’s footsteps.

The classic 19th century travelogue by the author of Treasure Island is an evergreen story of one man's 200-mile hike through the mountainous heart of France, a fabulous read with tales of eccentric monks, legends of mythical beasts and bloody historical yarns of persecution and revenge.

Stevenson’s route, explored with his contrary donkey Modestine, is now a nationally recognised and preserved ramblers trail and takes in some of France’s most stunning and unspoilt countryside. Even in 2009, there are no international chain hotels in the Lozère, and hospitality is left to innkeepers, monks and local families. You may still travel the length of the route with a donkey to carry your bags and pass the time of day with farmers and country folk.

In Laurence Phillips’ companion section, discover up to date reviews of dozens of places to eat, from starched napkins of fine dining to home cooked meals around a kitchen table; find plenty of hotels, guesthouses, campsites, even one of Stevenson’s monasteries, on the original route. Take a fresh look at the ever glorious Lozère and southern Auvergne, with tips for everyone passing through or hiking the original route - whether travelling with a donkey, strolling with the family and friends, walking the dogs, driving through the region or even exploring in a wheelchair.

Useful advice for disabled guests, and heads up on establishments accepting donkeys and dogs as guests. Some villages on the trail have a resident physiotherapist, should the walking start to take its toll. For short-break visitors or reluctant hikers, the book even includes a range of cheating options - hop on a school bus to save a day's trek here and there, perhaps drive between hamlets.

More than a mere traveller's tale, Stevenson’s this much-loved diary celebrates the history, passion and culture of the unknown back country of Languedoc, far from the olive groves and vineyards of the Med - last unspoilt corner of France.

Gault Millau and Michelin restaurant & hotel bibles, Top series guides to the country and regions and great classic and contemporary travel writing.

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The essential companion for any journey. 

The Red Bible returns

Countdown to dinner time. The 2011 edition of the longest established food guide whose reviews are the shortest on record hits the shelves March 3rd.

Preorder your copy now to guarantee the most memorable days out of the year. The local Languedoc questions will be as to how the Pourcel twins fare. Once awarded 3-stars for their Jardin des Sens in Montpellier, the ubiquitous chefs have, in the past lost a star on publication day. Who are the new kitchen kings in the area, which other towns can boast the laurels? Answers in Spring 2011.

Of course, with the bib gourmand logo, travellers making their way down to Languedoc can find some super stop overs en route and enjoy a true taste of terroir throughout the country.

AA, Berlitz, IGN, Michelin - all the 2011 maps you need for France and the region - atlases and fold out versions. Many at huge discounts.

Whether house-hunting, renovating, or styling your house, dealing with estate agents, builders, schools or the town hall - essential handbooks.

From Elizabeth David's Mediterranean classics to John Burton Race's dishes of the hinterland. The best recipes, food and wine stories from France.

Beat Ryanair's baggage restrictions and download half your holiday reading onto your Kindle - guide books, flit-lit and airport reading.

Dictionaries and phrase books, easy language courses, guides to menu speak and current slang. And audio CDs for practising in the car!

Cool games for young travellers, fun stories, songs and French versions of kids favourites from Cinderella to Harry Potter.

For holiday reads, travellers' tales and good old-fashioned page-turners for the airport or the beach... CLICK HERE