Researching our trips is half the fun of taking them to our way of thinking. While it does involve cost analysis and scheduling, we've found that a good source of information comes from books other than guide books. These entertaining reads are great for armchair travel as well.
In Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, a memoir of living in the City of Light in the 1920's, you'll sip wine in his favorite Parisian cafes, stroll along the Seine and meet his contemporaries, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. My Life in F rance by Julia Child (with Alex Prud'homme) takes you to Paris in the late 1940's. You'll go to street markets with her as she explores her new home and follow the development of her passion for cooking which ultimately led to the creation of her now-famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Fast forward to 1994 with Susan Herrmann Loomis in her, On Rue Tatin, Living and Cooking in a French town, as she takes you from Paris on her journey to Louviers, a small town in Normandy.
Many of these authors' favorite spots still exist. Our travel journal begins before we leave home as we take notes from these books on places that we might want to visit, turning our journal into a customized guidebook.