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Glimpses of Britain and Other Destinations

January 23, 1994|COLMAN ANDREWS

More brief notices of worthwhile travel books that have appeared in recent months:

THE BEST OF BRITAIN'S COUNTRYSIDE: The Heart of England & Wales; THE BEST OF BRITAIN'S COUNTRYSIDE: Northern England and Scotland, and THE BEST OF BRITAIN'S COUNTRYSIDE: Southern England, all by Bill & Gwen North (The Mountaineers, $12.95 each, paper).

The idea of the Seattle-based Mountaineers' "Two-Week Traveler" series, of which these volumes are part, is to offer detailed two-week (actually 15-day) driving-and-walking itineraries of specific regions of the world. It's a good concept, lending direction and shape to what might otherwise be just miscellaneous touring tips. These particular titles are chatty, fact-packed and pleasant to read; no doubt they would be even more pleasant to use.

EXPLORING BRITAIN'S COUNTRY GARDENS by Michael Wright and EXPLORING BRITAIN'S VILLAGES by Susan Gordon (Hunter Publishing, $14.95 each, paper).

Created and published in England by Britain's Automobile Assn., these are attractive large-format paperbacks full of handsome photographs and brief descriptions of picturesque gardens and villages, respectively, all over England, Wales and Scotland. No detailed maps, itineraries or hotel and restaurant information are offered, but the text and photos may well inspire the reader to seek these out on his or her own.

THE CHARLESTON, SAVANNAH & COASTAL ISLANDS BOOK: A Complete Guide by Cecily McMillan (Berkshire House, $14.95 paper).

This latest addition to Berkshire House's useful "Great Destinations" series explores the fabled Lowcountry between Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga. There's no particular depth to the book's approach to the region, and you'll have to look elsewhere for an evocation of the sensuality and romance of this stretch of coast--but practical matters, from hotels to beachfront rentals, restaurants to fitness centers, are dealt with thoroughly and well.

NORTHWEST BEST PLACES, 20th anniversary edition, by David Brewster and Stephanie Irving (Sasquatch Books, $18.95 paper).

The latest update of the definitive guide to hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Because the authors specialize in this region and have been covering it for so long, their guidebook is an unusually trustworthy traveling companion.

SANTA FE, TAOS & ALBUQUERQUE ACCESS by Robert Mayer, La Donna Mayer and Carmella M. Padilla (Access Press/HarperPerennial, $18 paper).

Hip, multicolored, full of miscellaneous facts and observations, easy to use--the usual Access package, here encompassing the three most famous towns in New Mexico.

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK: A NATURAL HISTORY GUIDE by Jeremy Schmidt (Houghton Mifflin, $14.95 paper) and GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK by Rose Houk (Houghton Mifflin, $14.95 paper).

These two thoughtful, nicely crafted books, each devoted to one of America's great natural wonders (or rather complexes of natural wonders), aren't hard-core guidebooks so much as readable backgrounders, personal and knowledgeable in tone. Both have clutches of first-rate color photographs in their midsts.

COSTA RICA'S NATIONAL PARKS AND PRESERVES: A VISITOR'S GUIDE by Joseph Franke (The Mountaineers, $16.95 paper).

Yet another book on this hottest of destinations for the ecologically inclined--straightforward, conscientious, very specific in the information it provides.

DUBLIN by Tony Wheeler (Lonely Planet, $9.95 paper).

The latest of Lonely Planet's little city guides, literally pocket- or purse-size, with small type, plenty of photos, accessible maps and a wealth of both information and insight.

FLORENCEWALKS, revised edition, by Anne Holler (Henry Holt & Company, $14.95 paper) and ROME, second edition, by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls (Cadogan/Globe Pequot Press, $14.95 paper).

Holler provides well-informed walking tours of the great capital of the Italian Renaissance in a volume that is perhaps not quite as stylishly written as some other "CityWalks" titles, but that nonetheless covers its ground compellingly. Facaros and Pauls tackle the great, sprawling, chaotic, multilayered city of Rome with energy and flair. Theirs is one of those guidebooks, all too rare, which is both good reading and of real practical use.

DIVING CLUB MED by Michel Verdure (AquaQuest Publications, $18.95 paper).

Descriptions of 10 Club Meds, most of them in the Caribbean or Mexico (the one exception being the Club in Moorea, in French Polynesia), with firsthand tips for scuba diving off their respective shores. Richly illustrated with the author's own photographs; he is both a master scuba instructor and professional photographer. He has also worked as director of several Club Med villages, so you may want to take some of his glowing prose with a grain of (sea) salt.

AWAY FOR THE WEEKEND: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, third revised edition, by Michele and Tom Grimm (Clarkson Potter, $14 paper) and QUICK ESCAPES IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA by Eleanor Harris (Globe Pequot Press, $13.95 paper).

The Grimms, well-known local travel writers (and authors of this section's "Trip of the Week" column for some 16 years), here suggest 52 weekend itineraries, with appropriate prices and phone numbers, within 250 miles of Los Angeles. (They stray as far north as Yosemite and the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks and as far south as Ensenada--destinations not quite in Southern California.) Harris outlines 21 weekenders (again south to Ensenada, and in this case north as far as San Simeon, and north and east to Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nev.), a bit less thoroughly than the Grimms, but still with plenty of good tips dispensed.

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