"Salem: A Guide to America's Bewitching City"
Salem, Mass., has earned a reputation as the unofficial Halloween capital of the world. It has something to do with those witches.
The Salem witch trials may have taken place in 1692, but you would never know it by wandering around town. (Alas, most of the witchery events took place in nearby Salem Village, now known as Danvers, but not to worry: Danvers also is discussed in the book.)
Even so, images of broom-riding, hat-wearing witches are on mailboxes, in newspapers and even on police cars. There are witch museums galore too. They include the Witch House, the Witch Dungeon Museum and the Salem Wax Museum of Witches and Seafarers. There's even a "Bewitched" statue, in honor of television's most famous witch.
But there's more to Salem than witches, of course. The city also has a great maritime history and a prestigious literary past. For centuries Salem was an important seaport. It was also the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne, a descendant of a witch trial judge. Hawthorne lived in Salem most of his life: The House of the Seven Gables, immortalized in his novel of the same name, remains a popular attraction. Author Alexandra Pecci suggests that diners at Nathaniel's restaurant in the historic Hawthorne Hotel try the Scarlet Letter Martini, made of raspberry vodka, Chambord and cranberry juice. (Tourist Town Guides, $14.95)
"Art + Paris: Impressionists & Post-Impressionists"
In the early 1870s, French painters Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro, weary of dealing with the established French art academy, decided to form their own group. They, of course, became known as the impressionists.
This richly illustrated homage to impressionism offers portraits of the movement's major figures and examples of their work. Parisian museums contain 150 impressionist masterpieces in their collections, many of which are lovingly described here.
The guide includes walking tours of Paris. Readers are encouraged to see where the impressionists lived and worked and where they received their inspiration. Among the most entertaining walks is in the Pigalle and Montmartre districts. The Moulin Rouge, where the cancan dance originated, is still there, as is the atmospheric Lapin Agile cabaret, a favorite hangout of Picasso, Modigliani, Apollinaire and Utrillo. (Museyon Guides, $19.95)
"Open Road's Best of Paris"
So much to do and not enough time: That is the common complaint among visitors to Paris. Author Andy Herbach has come up with a solution, of sorts. In this breezy guide he features one-day, weekend, one-week and two-week itineraries, providing what he calls the best suggestions for everything (that would include museums, art, architecture, accommodations, restaurants, shops and parks). He briefly discusses all of the major sites. He also includes do-it-yourself walking tours, including a culinary walk.
"Open Road's Best of Paris" is an especially good choice for first-time visitors. (Open Road Publishing, $12.95)Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times