I Was a Potato Oligarch: Travels and Travails in the New Russia by John Mole

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From the bestselling author of It s All Greek to Me! and from a traveller who likes to get his hands as well as his boots dirty, this is an eye-wateringly funny true story of his travels and travails in the New Russia Sometimes sinister, often hilarious and always entertaining, I Was A Potato Oligarch is a Russian feast from caviar to samovar The Soviet Union has disappeared along with people s nationality, currency, jobs, salaries, pensions, politics. Oligarchs pillage the nation’s wealth. It looks as if Russia might become a liberal democracy. It also looks as if it might plunge into chaos. These are fascinating times and John Mole wants to be part of this New Russia. But what can he do? An MBA, 15 years in international banking and a few novels, have left him with few useful skills. Inspiration strikes – British fast food! Nobody is doing baked potatoes and the secret is in the packaging. He gets to work with technical advice from Jackets of Brixton, money from the British taxpayer, and a partnership with the Russian Farmers’ Union. And then, just as it takes off – the summons. Breakfast with the mafia… The potato business becomes a journey under the skin of the New Russia. Hired as a rabotnik, a worker, entitled to a week in a sanatorium every year, he tries to corner the market in business names and pizza cheese. He is taken for a corpse’s son, a Red Square demonstrator and a vampire’s victim. He tries to merge into his surroundings, too literally sometimes, but nothing that a hose-down and a change of clothes doesn’t put right. While he is trying to sell British fast food to Russians, Russians try to sell things to him. Fireworks, seashells, tungsten, the scrapings of baby reindeer horn. And advanced biotechnology, using bacteria to purify the air in submarines. Spuds end in fiasco. Bugs come to the rescue.

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To Prussia With Love: Misadventures in Rural East Germany by Roger Boyes

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‘We-have-a-house-in-the-country?’ Lena nodded solemnly. ‘Where?’ I almost shouted, briefly rattling the table. ‘No, wait, don’t tell me – it’s Todi in Umbria, right? The old manor house, the one with the lemon groves!’ ‘Alt-Globnitz.’ ‘Alt-Globnitz?’ Suddenly I felt cold. ‘Alt-Globnitz. It’s a really nice place. You will love it.’ In a desperate attempt to save his relationship with girlfriend Lena and take a break from the world of journalism, Germany correspondent Roger Boyes agrees to make a great escape from the easy urban lifestyle of Berlin and decamp to the countryside. Roger has hopes for southern Italy, but Lena has inherited a run-down old schloss in deepest, darkest Brandenburg. Needing a form of income, they decide to set up a B & B with a British theme. Enter unhelpful Harry and his Trinidadian chef cousin, a mad Scot to advise them on re-branding Brandenburg, some suicidal frogs and a posse of mad tourists. It all culminates, naturally, in a cricket match between the Brits and the Germans on an old Russian minefield. Farce meets romance in this follow-up to the successful A Year in the Scheisse.

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A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain by Paul Richardson

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In this vivid and humorous journey, Richardson takes us past the cliches of paella and gazpacho to tell the real story of Spain’s mouth-watering food, from the typical coastal cuisine to the shepherd cooking of the interior and the chic ‘urban’ food of Madrid and Barcelona. Along the way he gets caught up in a fish auction and the annual pig slaughter, spends a day at El Bulli restaurant and makes a never-ending stream of new friends.

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Paddle: A Long Way Around Ireland by Jasper Winn

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One summer, writer and musician, Jasper Winn set himself an extraordinary task. He would kayak the whole way round Ireland – a thousand miles – camping on remote headlands and islands, carousing in bars and paddling clockwise until he got back where he started. But in the worst Irish summer in living memory the pleasures of idling among seals, fulmars and fishing boats soon gave way to heroic struggles through storm-tossed seas … and lock-ins playing music in coastal pubs. Circling the country where he grew up, Jasper reflects on life at the very fringes of Ireland, the nature and lore of its seas, and his own eccentric upbringing – sprung from school at age ten and left free to explore the countryside and its traditional life. Charming, quietly epic, and with an irresistible undertow of wit, Paddle is a low-tech adventure that captures the sheer joy of a misty morning on Ireland’s coast. As the sun breaks through, you’ll be longing to set off too.

Mission Mongolia: Two Men, One Van, No Turning Back by David Treanor

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It was an empty landscape now with huge horizons in every direction, a compressed, steam-rollered desert where man had no place. We lacked the skills to carry out even basic fixes. If the van stopped working we were really stuck. No one knew where we were and our last mobile phone signal had been 150 miles ago. Fifty-something and tired of arguing with John Humphrys over the day’s headlines, BBC journalists Geoff and David found themselves eagerly volunteering for redundancy. But rather than easing into retirement with the odd round of golf, they decided to buy a van and drive off to Mongolia. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time… In an epic journey through Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Siberia and across the Gobi Desert, they discover more about each other in a few weeks than they did sharing an office for years. Lying in wait are crooked cops, bent border guards and terrible roads, but also welcoming and curious locals, eager to help the pair on their mission.

The Pillars Of Hercules: A Grand Tour Of The Mediterranean by Paul Theroux

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At the gateway to the Mediterranean lie the two Pillars of Hercules: Gibraltar and Ceuta, in Morocco. Paul Theroux decided to travel from one to the other – but taking the long way round.
His grand tour of the Mediterranean begins in Gibraltar and takes him through Spain, the French Riviera, Italy, Greece, Istanbul and beyond. He travels by any means necessary – including dilapidated taxi, smoke-filled bus, bicycle and even a cruise-liner. And he encounters bullfights, bazaars and British tourists, discovers pockets of humanity in war-torn Slovenia and Croatia, is astounded by the urban developments on the Costa del Sol and marvels at the ancient wonders of Delphi.
Told with Theroux’s inimitable wit and style, this lively and eventful tour evokes the essence of Mediterranean life.
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First Global Village: How Portugal Changed The World by Martin Page

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This is a brilliant potted history of Portugal. Martin Page not only writes well but has tremendous insight into people and places and makes a very neat jigsaw of Portugal and its place in the world.
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Istanbul: Memories Of A City by Orhan Pamuk

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Turkey’s greatest living novelist guides us through the monuments and lost paradises, dilapidated Ottoman villas, back streets and waterways of Istanbul – the city of his birth and the home of his imagination.
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Ghosts Of Spain: Travels Through A Country’s Hidden Past by Giles Tremlett

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The Spanish are reputed to be amongst Europe’s most voluble people. So why have they kept silent about the terrors of the Spanish Civil War and the rule of dictator Generalísimo Francisco Franco? The appearance – sixty years after that war ended – of mass graves containing victims of Franco’s death squads has finally broken what Spaniards call ‘the pact of forgetting’. At this charged moment, Giles Tremlett embarked on a journey around Spain – and through Spanish history. Tremlett’s journey was also an attempt to make sense of his personal experience of the Spanish. Why do they dislike authority figures, but are cowed by a doctor’s white coat? How had women embraced feminism without men noticing? What binds gypsies, jails and flamenco? Why do the Spanish go to plastic surgeons, donate their organs, visit brothels or take cocaine more than other Europeans?
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