Move over Fielding, Fodor and Frommer. Two new travel guidebook series are joining you on bookstore shelves. While the tourist may think that best-selling trio of F's (along with Michelin, Stephen Birnbaum, Myra Waldo, the Blue Books, Nagel and others) pretty well cover traveling styles from super-deluxe to budget, the two newcomers -- Fisher and Gault Millau -- are convinced they have something new and different to offer.
Making their debut this fall with eight titles are the Fisher Annotated Travel Guides, edited by Robert C. Fisher (yet another "F"), formerly editor in chief of the Fodor organization. Six more titles are due out in March and another 10 in July, to bring the series to its initial goal of 24.
With sky-blue covers displaying the waving flag of the featured nation, the guides make an eye-catching package, aimed at capturing, as Fisher puts it, "the experienced traveler" who needs a "sophisticated" reference. "We don't lead you step-by-step, from locking up the house -- it's a kind of postgraduate guidebook."
Fisher and his writers (each book, so far, has had a single author) have tried, he says, to point out the "best" places to eat, sleep and visit, to save the traveler time and effort. As such, they are generally for "people who have money" (say, a minimum of $50 per person per day to spend for room and board while traveling).
Unlike the Fodor books, which former Foder chief Fisher says tend "to offer information but, generally speaking, no judgment," his series is highly opinionated, ranking hotels, restaurants and sightseeing attractions with from one to five red stars. The series is advertised as the first American guidebooks to award star ratings of foreign destinations.
For restaurants, one star is "good"; five is "out of this world." For sites, one star means "you should detour a couple of blocks"; five means you should make a trip to the country, if only to see this one place (Versailles in France, for example). Fisher and his authors award the stars, he says, after consulting with a committee of "dedicated gourmets, bon vivants and hedonists" in each country.
The first eight countries in the series, all dated 1983: Bahamas, Bermuda, Britain, Canada, "Best of the Caribbean," France, Japan (which Fisher wrote himself) and Mexico. Prices vary, with France at $11.95 and Japan at $12.95, and the others in that area. Annotations, by the way, are written in red in the margins -- where, for example, to find a good cafe near an important museum.