We just returned from two wonderful weeks in France (conveniently timed just after the release of the 1999 Red Guide). I have used the Red Guide in Italy and especially recommend the Red Guide if you intend to get off the beaten path and visit smaller or less well known towns in France.
Don't imagine that the Red Guide only includes four star hotels and three star palaces of haute cuisine! The hotels and restaurants listed are rated on a 1-5 scale (1-5 forks for restaurants and 1-5 roofpeaks for hotels) along with special recommendations for outstanding entries, exceptional values or bargains. The listings include everything from simple family-owned small-town accommodations to the Ritz in Paris. There is useful information advising what food or lodging is available in towns that don't make it into a guidebook including details such as prices, relative level of comfort and special features (such as having a beautiful view or being in a historic building) and even the lower end of the restaurants listed are a cut above the average.
The Red Guide integrates well with Michelin Maps and the Michelin Green Guides (the Green Guides contain historic and landmark information, but no hotel/restaurant listings). We (on occasion) drive a half-hour off course to eat lunch in a town with a Michelin rated restaurant. When using a Michelin map the names of towns with restaurants or hotels in the Red Guide are underlined in red for easy reference. Almost all of our lodgings and most of our meals for two weeks in France (excluding one emergency road stop at a McDonald's near Roanne and one lunch from a crepe vendor across from our hotel in Paris) were in establishments listed in the Red Guide. We stayed in a range of hotels to the most simple to the most "luxurious" featured. We ate in Michelin 1-5 "fork" rated restaurants as well as a Michelin one star restaurant in Paris and a three star restaurant in Burgundy.
Only one restaurant was disappointing -- a two forker in Paris (Au Bon Acceuil - 7th Arrondisement) which attempted to do an "American-style" turn of the tables. The food was good, prices reasonable, but being accustomed to 2-3 hour dinners we found the service to be geared toward getting us out the door in 90 minutes -- the next diners were waiting and the waiters were practically breathing down our necks!
The Red Guide is in the language of the country -- here French -- but it includes a translation "bookmark" and the symbols used are easy to understand. If you like to get out and independently travel away from major tourist destinations, but still want comfortable accomodations and great meals, don't go to France (or Italy) without the Red Guide. Bon Appetit and Bon Voyage!
Copyright © 1999 by Stephanie Bloomfield. All Rights Reserved.