Western Europe

Comprising the British Isles, Nordic countries and western part of continental Europe.

4 and a half stars

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson
Published:
1991
Countries: Norway, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Vatican City, Lichtenstein, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey
Blurb: The master of humourous travel writing thoroughly entertains us on his journeys through Scandanavia, Paris, the Low Countries, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.  In amongst all of this he also manages to find something to write about in Liechtenstein, which is no small feat! Bryson writes with killer wit partly retracing his steps from an earlier four month backpacking trip taken in 1973 with his friend Stephen Katz (who Bryson fans will recall from A Walk in the Woods). The retelling of some of these hiliarious stories into this book adds to his current experiences and our enjoyment of the overall story. A laugh-a-page travel book that is sure not to disappoint.

4 stars

A Piano in the Pyrenees by Tony Hawks
Published: 
2006
Countries: France
Blurb: Hawks stumbles into something like a mid-life crossroads and decides that the two things he wants most in life is to meet his soulmate and to find lovely house abroad somewhere. For most of us, this simply would have been an ill-advised thought over a pint and a bag of crisps. But for a man who has made his name out of taking on wagers such as lugging a fridge around Ireland or attempting to beat all eleven members of the Moldovan soccer team at tennis, it is inevitable that this course of action will be put into practice.

3 and a half stars

Vroom with a View by Peter Moore
Published:
2003
Countries: Italy
Blurb: Vroom with a View: In Search of Italy's Dolce Vita on a '61 Vespa is a very amusing travelogue through Northern Italy as seen from the back of that most iconic of Italian motor scooters - the mighty Vespa. Meandering via the back roads through bucolic countryside and visiting the best tourist spots the regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Lazio have to offer, Vroom with a View provides a breezy armchair escape to one of the most loved parts of the world.

Free Country by George Mahmood
Published:
2013
Countries: England, Scotland
Blurb: George and his mate Ben set off from Land’s End to travel the length of England and Scotland on bike to John o’ Groats. Nothing too extraordinary in that, except they start out with nothing except the underpants they each are wearing and a camera to document their travels. Whilst technically a cycling travel journey, the book is more about the challenge they’ve set for themselves around not spending any money and is a great tale as to their resourcefulness and generosity of the people who they meet along the way. Told with good humour and genuine humility this is a story that officially, is a very nice read.

3 stars

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Novel)
Published:
1889
Countries: England
Blurb: No, you haven’t read it wrong, this is a story that was published in 1889. Described as a comic novel, this is an all time English favourite which manages to transcend 130 years and arguably be as funny now as it was at the end of the 19th century. Detailing a fictional journey in a row boat down the Thames River from Kingston to Oxford and back again, this is merely the portal for the author to regale the reader with usually unrelated humorous stories.  Whilst light on the travel component, this is a story worth reading and guaranteed to have you smiling frequently and more than likely astounded at how the author’s insights do not seem out of place in modern day life now. 

Continental Drifter by Tim Moore
Published:
2001
Countries: England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands
Blurb: Continental Drifter details Moore’s journey as he retraces the footsteps of Thomas Coryate, an English traveller in the early 17th century who was credited with bringing the eating fork (and the umbrella) to the English dinner table (although one assumes he left the umbrella in the coat rack). Travelling in his Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, Moore undertake this Grand Tour of Europe popularised by British aristocrats during the 17th and 18th centuries in his usual offbeat fashion. Whilst the book does have some funny moments, unfortunately I found myself midway through tiring of the journey and drifting off myself.

DNF

French Revolutions by Tim Moore
Published:
2001
Countries: France
Blurb: Despite claiming not to be cyclist, the author decides to cycle the 3,630km Tour de France route that is due to take place in a month’s time. Whilst a few shortcuts occur on the way, his efforts are rather remarkable, most especially given the number of “watering” stops that he takes along the way in order to refuel in the appropriate French fashion. Whilst the writing is at times witty, be aware that the focus is very much on the riders and history of the Tour de France and less on the surrounding countryside and towns that he passes through. As such, this will appeal more to cycling aficionados and most especially to Tour de France nuts than someone who might be looking for a travelogue through France. For me, I punctured at 44% finished and had to retire from the race.