Travel: books of the week

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The Independent Travel
The Time Out Guide to Eating and Drinking in Paris, 1998. (Time Out Guides, pounds 3.50.)

Paris may still be the culinary centre of Europe but if you've ever made the mistake, as some of us have, of visiting the city unprepared, you'll know what an expensive lottery eating out there can be. This is the second year that the London-based listings magazine has produced a guide to eating and drinking in Paris. The glossy A4 format, designed to make it look as similar as possible to the weekly magazine, may be slightly unwieldy for people who are trying to avoid looking like tourists, but it certainly covers the ground.

Written by Parisian residents, it deals not only with eating out but cafes and bistros as well. The restaurant guide, certainly the reason you'd want to buy this guide, is broken down into major themes, such as classic, contemporary, seafood, and trendy, and there are smaller sections on international cuisine as well.

The guide also includes a section on choosing the right wine, which manages to strike a balance between being comprehensive, and accessible to those of us who have never worked out the difference between vins du patron or vins de maison, without going overboard on jargon.

Echoes of a Native Land (Little, Brown and Company, pounds 20) by Serge Schemann.

This highly readable book is written for those who dream of roaming rural Russia and dropping into obscure villages where the locals hardly yet know the Tsar has fallen.

Russian bureaucracy may stop ordinary tourists from doing that, but finally the gate has opened for Pulitzer prize-winners like Serge Schemann to rediscover the small village (now called Koltsovo) 90 miles south of Moscow, from which his grandparents fled after the 1917 revolution.

To spur him on were the 100-year-old diaries of his grandfather, describing long summer evenings drinking tea on the terrace, listening "... as mama played my favourite nocturne of Chopin".

Schemann finally got there in 1990, and ended up not only immersing himself in the life of the village but even buying himself a log cabin.

The book turns into a lyrical journey through the last 200 years of Russian history, the period in which the Russians passed from serfdom to revolution, and then "back to serfdom again". It is a superb trip that you will certainly not find in the brochures.

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