Continental Drifter: Taking the Low Road with the First Grand Tourist by Tim Moore

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They stuck their coaches on ride-on, ride off ferries, whisked through France and Italy moaning about garlic and rudeness, then bored the neighbours to death by having them all round to look at their holiday watercolours’ Many people associate the Grand Tour with the baggy shirted Byrons of its 19th century heyday, but someone had to do it first and Thomas Coryate, author of arguably the first piece of pure travel writing, CRUDITIES, was that man. Tim Moore travels through 45 cities in the steps of a larger-than-life Jacobean hero incidentally responsible for introducing forks to England and thus ending forever the days of the finger-lickin’-good drumstick hurlers of courts gone by. Coryate’s early 17th century bawdy anecdotes include being pelted with eggs, pursued by a knife wielding man in a turban and, finally, being vomited on copiously by a topless woman with a beer barrel on her head:- For once, Tim Moore has no trouble keeping up the modern-day side. And his authentic method of travel to replicate these adventures? A clapped-out pink Rolls Royce, of course.

Continental Drifter: Taking the Low Road with the First Grand Tourist

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A Season With Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusions, National Character and Goals by Tim Parks

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Is Italy a united country, or a loose affiliation of warring states? Is Italian football a sport, or an ill-disguised protraction of ancient enmities?
After twenty years in the bel paese, Tim Parks goes on the road to follow the fortunes of Hellas Verona football club, to pay a different kind of visit to some of the world’s most beautiful cities. From Udine to Catania, from the San Siro to the Olimpico, this is a highly personal account of one man’s relationship with a country, its people and its national sport. A book that combines the tension of cliff-hanging narrative with the pleasures of travel writing, and the stimulation of a profound analysis of one country’s mad, mad way of keeping itself entertained.

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Fishing In Utopia: Sweden and the Future That Disappeared by Andrew Brown

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From the 1960s to the 1980s, Sweden was an affluent, egalitarian country envied around the world. Refugees were welcomed, even misfit young Englishmen could find a place there. Andrew Brown spent part of his childhood in Sweden during the 1960s. In the 1970s he married a Swedish woman and worked in a timber mill while helping to raise their small son. Fishing became his passion and his escape. In the mid-1980s his marriage and the country fell apart. The Prime Minister was assassinated. The welfare system crumbled along with the industries that had supported it. Twenty years later, Andrew Brown travelled the length of Sweden in search of the country he had loved, and then hated, and now found he loved again.

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You Are Awful (But I Like You): Travels Through Unloved Britain by Tim Moore

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It began with an accidental daytrip to an intriguingly awful resort on the Thames Estuary, and ended 3,812 miles later: one man’s journey through deep-fried, brownfield, poundshop Britain, a crash course in urban blight, deranged civic planning and commercial eccentricity. Following an itinerary drawn up from surveys, polls, reviews and lazy personal prejudice, Tim Moore goes to all the places that nobody wants to go to – the bleakest towns, the shonkiest hotels, the scariest pubs, the silliest sea zoos. He visits the grid reference adjudged by the Ordnance Survey to be the least interesting point in Britain, and is chased out of the new town twice crowned Scotland’s Most Dismal Place. His palate is flayed alive by horrific regional foodstuffs, his ears shrivelled by the 358 least loved tracks in the history of native popular music. With his progress entrusted to our motor industry’s fittingly hopeless finale, he comes to learn that Britain seems very much larger when you’re driving around it in a Bulgarian-built Austin Maestro.
Yet as the soggy, decrepit quest unfolds, so it evolves into something much more stirring: a nostalgic celebration of our magnificent mercantile pomp, and an angry requiem for a golden age of cheerily homespun crap culture being swept aside by the faceless, soul-stripping forces of Tesco-town globalisation.

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Bon Appetit!: Travels Through France with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle

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Gastronomy is a wonderful starting point to study France and the French. As the retired schoolmaster from Provence says ‘The religion of France is food. And wine, of course.’ And they put their money where their mouth is, spending a greater proportion of their income on food and drink than any other nation in the world. Literally hundreds of gastronomic fairs and festivals take place throughout the year all over France – a frog fair, an hommage to the sausage, to the turnip, to the quiche and the noble Camembert. What kind of person is a snail-fancier? Is there a brotherhood of sausage connoisseurs? How can you devote an entire weekend to the French fry? Peter Mayle finds out and brings hilariously and affectionately to life the people who can get passionate about a frog’s leg or a well-turned omelette. Over ten years ago he transformed our feelings about Provence, now he captures the irresistible essence of France herself – and her food.

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A Country in the Moon: Travels in Search of the Heart of Poland by Michael Moran

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In this uproarious memoir and meticulously researched cultural journey, writer Michael Moran keeps company with a gallery of fantastic characters. In chronicling the resurrection of the nation from war and the Holocaust, he paints a portrait of the unknown Poland, one of monumental castles, primeval forests and of course, the Poles themselves. This captivating journey into the heart of a country is a timely and brilliant celebration of a valiant and richly cultured people.

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Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames

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The river Danube flows through more countries than any other river on earth. It runs like an artery from the heart of Europe in the Black Forest to Europe’s furthest flung fringes, where it joins the Black Sea in the Danube Delta in Romania. A journey along its length takes in all of European history, and encompasses the very latest developments in what can be called the New Europe. Starting at the river’s source in Germany, Andrew Eames here takes a fascinating and revelatory journey by bicycle, boat and on foot. Along the way, he knocks on the door of the occasional Schloss in the hope of accommodation for the night and meets a real live Hohenzollern; he travels through areas of intensive heavy industry as well as completely rural areas where wolves still roam and tribal fisherman live on islands thatched with reeds. He passes through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Ukraine – as well as a brief stopover with Count Dracula in Transylvania. Blue River, Black Sea is an absorbing and highly entertaining book which explores how much we really know about the New Europe. Andrew Eames doesn’t shrink from analysing the difficult issues of race and cultural identity he is bound to encounter along the way and his book seeks to find an answer to some of the most complex problems facing Europeans today.

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