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Going by the Book on the Travel Scene

August 10, 1986|DON JAMES | James is a Los Angeles free-lance writer. and

"The Customs and Ceremonies of Britain--An Encyclopedia of Living Traditions" by Charles Kightly is an interesting revelation of hundreds of celebrations and colorful events in Britain, many of which are either mysterious or have historical significance. It's a well-chronicled guide to help plan a vacation or to get acquainted with the pageantry dating back more than 200 years (Thames & Hudson: $24.95).

The wealth of information in the Berlitz guide to "Europe" ($8.95) is amazing. It covers 22 Western European countries from Austria to the United Kingdom. It's a neat compact guide with full-color maps, including a few color photos to pique the interest. Another above-average guide is the Berlitz "Japan--Country Guide" ($7.95). This one has many color photos that reveal this land of surprises.

For 1,440 miles, the "Colorado River Recreation Guide" takes you from its Grand Lake origin in Colorado to the Mexican border. Fresh-water enthusiasts particularly will want this guide once they see it. The detail and quality of mapping the river, distances between landmarks and easy-to-read coding for food, fuel, marinas and lodging is above average. Access roads for boaters or campers to specific locations is also included. It's available at most boat or sporting goods stores. If not, send $15.95 (plus $2.25 handling) to Aquamaps, P.O. Box 417, Denver, Colo. 80201.

"The Intelligent Traveler's Guide to Historic Scotland" by Philip A. Crowl is an intriguing travel volume that provides a meticulous narrative on Scotland spanning the end of the Ice Age to the close of World War II. Emphasis is placed on visible remains of the past-monuments, castles, churches, museums and architecture. It's a 625-page textbook-quality compendium but with no reference to where to stay, eat, etc. Consider it required reading for the traveler or as an addition to the travel library (Congdo & Weed: $35).

"Trekking in the Indian Himalaya" by Gary Weare outlines five trekking regions with individual maps and detailed info for each locale. It discusses the level of difficulty, walk time, best seasons, including accommodations, equipment, routes, etc. Travelers using either pack horses, guides or backpacks could find a whole new world of adventure (Lonely Planet: $7.95).

One section in "The Woman's Guide to New Zealand" has some unusual language hints. A loo is a toilet, a rug is a blanket, sister is a nurse or if you grizzle you're complaining. Although there are many basic tips for the woman traveler it's a general collection of information useful for either gender. It's a tad high at $7.95 (plus $1.25 handling) but it does zero in on this beautiful island at the bottom of the world (Kiwi Distributors, P.O. Box 1721, La Jolla 92038).

"Celebrations" by Judith Young lists more than 200 of America's best festivals, jamborees, carnivals and parades. It's a fun book that could add much more to your vacation. The guide is divided into eight regions with each of these divided into four seasons. So, wherever or whenever you go, an event could be happening nearby (Capra: $10.95).

For 25 years, Gault and Millau have been considered by many as foremost French critics on the art of fine living. Two of their "Best Guides," for "London" ($13.95) and "France" ($14.95), have been described as witty, breezy and opinionated. Either book is more than a travel guide with all the inside looks into the best and sometimes the worst (Crown).

"A Museum Guide to Washington D.C." by Betty Ross offers the visitor hours of free entertainment. It's an enlightening reference to 50 museums, historic houses, libraries and special places. Included are briefs on historical background, public transportation, facilities for the handicapped, etc. It's a worthwhile investment for the tourist or resident (Americana: $9.95).

Here are two guides about visiting America's last frontier. "Berlitz Cruise Guide--Alaska" ($4.95) explains where to go and how to enjoy it via a deluxe hole-in-the-water lined by steel. It provides practical and informative details on sightseeing, eating, shopping, plus a background on most ports of call. The more adventurous traveler may instead want to try Alaska's version of lodges with varied personalities as outlined in "Alaska's Backcountry Hideaways--South Central" by Roberta L. Graham. It introduces you to the innkeepers and the sometimes rugged accommodations, prices, reservations and how to get there (Pacific Search: $10.95).

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