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Anyone here read Bill Bryson travel books?


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Anyone here read Bill Bryson travel books?
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Windswept
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2005-02-14, 13:49

I just finished reading Bryson's book I'm a Stranger Here Myself. I definitely got some great laughs from it (...which, believe me, I needed).

This book is a collection of weekly columns he wrote for a British newspaper (I think the Sunday Times literary supplement, but I'm not absolutely sure), detailing his thoughts about returning to live in America after twenty years in England. Some great stuff here, I thought.

I'm halfway through his book on Australia, have read the one about Britain, the one(s) about traveling through Europe, the one about hiking the Appalachian Trail, and part of one about traveling in America.

I find that his books are a bit uneven, in that often the first few chapters have some truly wonderful humor, whereas later chapters seem to be written in a rather dutiful manner, presumably to meet his deadline. (Not a problem with I'm a Stranger, however.)

One of my favorite scenes in his Europe books was when, on a REALLY long bus journey (heading toward the Arctic Circle to see the northern lights), he found that the only comfortable position in his cramped seat was to sit upside down. Again, good for some great laughs, though a bit unlikely and outrageous, even for Bryson.

ANYway... has anyone else read any of his books, and if so, which do you like best, and why?

OR... has anyone read any particular travel book by any author that you would like to recommend?

I have started buying and reading travel books in general. I would LOVE to write travel books myself. I think such an occupation sounds ideal, as occupations go, though I really, really do passionately loathe deadlines of any kind. Oh well.

Hey, Scratt... YOU could certainly write travel books, right??? Have you ever thought about it?

Thanks for any replies.

Last edited by Windswept : 2007-02-20 at 20:42.
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cjr
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2005-02-14, 16:53

I remember reading his articles in the Mail on Sunday magazine, so that's probably the newspaper you're thinking of. But that was perhaps 10 years ago.
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elvia
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2005-02-14, 20:22

HEY CAROL
How many countries have your traveled too. I've been to several countries with my job and when in the USAF.
I just love meeting people
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billybobsky
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2005-02-14, 20:48

Carol is alive???

My world view is ruined....
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Windswept
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2005-02-14, 21:03

Quote:
Originally Posted by billybobsky
Carol is alive???

My world view is ruined....
WHAT????!!!!

What is that supposed to mean?

Last edited by Windswept : 2007-02-20 at 20:43.
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Windswept
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2005-02-14, 21:38

Quote:
Originally Posted by cjr
I remember reading his articles in the Mail on Sunday magazine, so that's probably the newspaper you're thinking of. But that was perhaps 10 years ago.
Well, as I understand it, he wrote for British publications for the whole twenty years he was in England, so I imagine his writing appeared in a variety of newspapers.

Do you recall if you liked what he wrote, or has too much time passed for you to remember clearly?

I believe I've read in several sources that the British think Americans in general have almost no sense of irony. So I've been wondering how Bryson's humor comes across to British readers - whether he seems quite American, or whether he has acquired a British sense of humor by virtue of having lived in England for his entire adult life. Any thoughts on this, cjr? Thanks.

Last edited by Windswept : 2005-02-14 at 22:33.
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Windswept
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2005-02-14, 21:52

Quote:
Originally Posted by elvia
HEY CAROL
How many countries have your traveled too. I've been to several countries with my job and when in the USAF.
I just love meeting people
Hi Elvia. I've traveled through parts of Europe, and once took a freighter to Brazil and then traveled through parts of South America. Not nearly as much traveling as most Europeans manage. I'd certainly like to do a lot more. And, yes, meeting people is definitely the best part of the experience.
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scratt
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2005-02-14, 21:57

Hi Carol,

Long time... I think that is all Billybobsky meant. I certainly haven't seen you around for a while.. but I always seem to be embroiled in political rows elsewhere on Applenova. I am such a trouble maker!!

I haven't read Bill Bryson, but I will check him out. A good yard arm of British humour and travel for me would be Michael Palin's books. How do you find them? And how do they compare to Bryson?

I loved Michaels account of making his way up Mt.Everest and being very very sick. Whilst he was throwing up on the side of the trail a British guy was coming down the mountain (foot hills) and the sherpa guiding Michael pointed out who the sick person was and how incredibly famous he was. Michael was, understandably not too bothered about meeting anyone in his state but obviously had to be cordial. He spent the next hour on the side of Mt. Everest discussing hardware sales in the UK with this new found fan and nursing altitude sickness! Understatement, and struggling through adversity whilst laughing at ones own predicament is really much of the basis of good British humour. So your account of Mr.Bryson sitting upside down as it was the only way he could be comfortable sounds like he may have picked up at least some of that humour.

'Remember, measure life by the moments that take your breath away, not by how many breaths you take'
Extreme Sports Cafe | ESC's blog | scratt's blog | @thescratt
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k squared
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2005-02-14, 22:16

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carol
OR... has anyone read any particular travel book by any author that you would like to recommend?

Carol
I've often been fond of the Traveler's Tales series. I read the Spain one before I traveled there and it opened me up to other authors to read while I was there, namely Hemingway (bullfights), Irving (the Alhambra), and Penelope Casas (tapas).

I also liked Anthony Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour".
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Kickaha
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2005-02-14, 22:47

My wife absolutely *loved* _Motoring with Mohammed_, about an American that travels back to Yemen after 10 years to recover... oh heck, here's the Amazon blurb:

Quote:
In 1978 Eric Hansen found himself shipwrecked on a desert island in the Red Sea. When goat smugglers offered him safe passage to Yemen, he buried seven years' worth of travel journals deep in the sand and took his place alongside the animals on a leaky boat bound for a country that he'd never planned to visit.

As he tells of the turbulent seas that stranded him on the island and of his efforts to retrieve his buried journals when he returned to Yemen ten years later, Hansen enthralls us with a portrait -- uncannily sympathetic and wildly offbeat -- of this forgotten corner of the Middle East. With a host of extraordinary characters from his guide, Mohammed, ever on the lookout for one more sheep to squeeze into the back seat of his car, to madcap expatriates and Eritrean gun runners- and with landscapes that include cities of dreamlike architectural splendor, endless sand dunes, and terrifying mountain passes, Hansen reveals the indelible allure of a land steeped in custom, conflicts old and new, and uncommon beauty.
So he has to bury several years of travel journals when shipwrecked and saved by gun runners. And that's just the *backstory*. True, no less. It's on my post-graduation To Read stack.

@kickaha@social.seattle.wa.us
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Windswept
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2005-02-14, 22:55

Quote:
Originally Posted by scratt
Long time... I think that is all Billybobsky meant. I certainly haven't seen you around for a while.. but I always seem to be embroiled in political rows elsewhere on Applenova. I am such a trouble maker!!
Hi, Scratt. Yeah, I haven't been around for a month or so. The last time we talked was in a thread about a deer being hit by a car, as I recall. And, yes, I guess you are a bit of a troublemaker, but only in the nicest possible way.

Quote:
I haven't read Bill Bryson, but I will check him out. A good yard arm of British humour and travel for me would be Michael Palin's books. How do you find them? And how do they compare to Bryson?
I haven't read any of Palin's books, but I really should, because I have enjoyed the television versions of his travels. It would definitely be interesting to compare him with Bryson. I wonder if they know each other? I bet they do... "the competition".

Quote:
I loved Michaels account of making his way up Mt.Everest and being very very sick. Whilst he was throwing up on the side of the trail a British guy was coming down the mountain (foot hills) and the sherpa guiding Michael pointed out who the sick person was and how incredibly famous he was. Michael was, understandably not too bothered about meeting anyone in his state but obviously had to be cordial. He spent the next hour on the side of Mt. Everest discussing hardware sales in the UK with this new found fan and nursing altitude sickness! Understatement, and struggling through adversity whilst laughing at ones own predicament is really much of the basis of good British humour. So your account of Mr.Bryson sitting upside down as it was the only way he could be comfortable sounds like he may have picked up at least some of that humour.
I would very much like to read the whole account of this episode. Sounds great. I can't believe it never occurred to me to read Palin's books. I'm just glad to think of so many delightful volumes in my future. Travel and humor...the best possible combination, I think. Honestly, Scratt, some parts of Bryson's books would make me laugh so hard my stomach would be clenched in agony. If Palin is only half as funny, it will be something to look forward to with anticipation. And thank you for your reply.
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billybobsky
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2005-02-14, 23:11

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carol
WHAT????!!!!

What is that supposed to mean?

I thought you and I were friends, Billybobsky.

Boo hoo. Sob. Sniff.
I am sorry. Did I say ruined? Well, technically it is. I mean, I just assumed you jumped on the last Xcorixz Transport to La La Land -- ie the real world. Now that I know you haven't escaped the pull of this place, my world view is subsequently ruined. Its all good though -- we all noted your absence...

Did I mention that my apartment located in the second story of three story house is flooding with rain water , and I am sitting calmly typing this?
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cjr
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2005-02-15, 07:50

He probably did write for other publications, but the only one I remember was the MoS :-) I guess the papers try to keep writers exclusive to some degree.

Personally I enjoyed his articles, and quite enjoy his books. I've heard it said though that women don't like his stuff as much as men. Clearly you're an exception ;-)

Is his stuff ironic, or is he just good at being the "outsider looking in", ie observational humour?

Last edited by cjr : 2005-02-15 at 08:10.
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cjr
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2005-02-15, 08:12

Out of interest, is there a way to make a reply clearly refer to a particular prior message? I'm used to apps that thread email/news/etc conversations...
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alcimedes
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2005-02-15, 08:41

Quote:
Originally Posted by cjr
Out of interest, is there a way to make a reply clearly refer to a particular prior message? I'm used to apps that thread email/news/etc conversations...
hit the quote button the post you wish to reference.
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LudwigVan
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2005-02-15, 08:49

I'll follow Kickaha's lead and give a title, author, and Amazon blurb.

Quote:
Title: In Search of the Birth of Jesus: The Real Journey of the Magi
Author: Paul William Roberts
ISBN: 1573220124 (Hardcover)
Amazon review: Quick, what do tennis star Andre Agassi and renowned conductor Zubin Mehta have in common? They are both Zoroastrians. What, exactly, does that mean? Well, according to Paul William Roberts, the influential marks of Zoroastrianism are still visible in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, despite the Roman Catholic church's assiduous efforts to erase them over the centuries. In Search of the Birth of Jesus is a book of such stunning complexity and marvelous wit that to call it a travel book is to slight its profundity; to call it an exhaustively researched theological history is to deny the rollicking good read that it is. Roberts re-traces the steps of the Magi according to a tip in Marco Polo's Travels, and the self-styled "good Christian" then commences dismantling every common notion of the Nativity story with an iconoclastic aplomb.
Though I'm not particularly religious, I do have an interest in biblical history, and so this title caught my eye several years ago. I found it to be a great read: intellectually stimulating as well as funny and sardonic, though by no means "Bible-thumping" or "religious" in the negative/superficial sense. (Oh, and the travel aspect plays a role in that the author makes his way from Iraq to Jerusalem over the course of his account.)
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billybobsky
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2005-02-15, 11:20

Quote:
Originally Posted by alcimedes
hit the quote button the post you wish to reference.
or hit the quote message in reply option check box below the Quick Reply box.
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cjr
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2005-02-15, 11:43

Quote:
Originally Posted by alcimedes
hit the quote button the post you wish to reference.
That's too easy. I want a hard way to do it.

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Windswept
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2005-02-15, 17:45

Quote:
Originally Posted by k squared
I've often been fond of the Traveler's Tales series. I read the Spain one before I traveled there and it opened me up to other authors to read while I was there, namely Hemingway (bullfights), Irving (the Alhambra), and Penelope Casas (tapas).

I also liked Anthony Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour".
Hi K Squared. Thank you so much for the suggestions. I have just 'started' reading travel books, so many volumes are unfamiliar to me. The Traveler's Tales series sounds fantastic, in that I presume multiple promising volumes are involved. I'm definitely looking forward to checking out such a series.

I bought 'something' by Anthony Bourdain, but I have the vague recollection that it's some kind of shocking expose of the culinary world. Maybe not though. I do tend to buy books by the carload when they show up at Costco, and then it takes forever for me to get around to actually 'reading' the darned things. heh. Oh well. Thanks again.
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Windswept
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2005-02-15, 18:07

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha
My wife absolutely *loved* _Motoring with Mohammed_, about an American that travels back to Yemen after 10 years to recover... oh heck, here's the Amazon blurb:

So he has to bury several years of travel journals when shipwrecked and saved by gun runners. And that's just the *backstory*. True, no less. It's on my post-graduation To Read stack.
Hey, that sounds like a great read. I have begun to be kind of fascinated by the Middle East. I'm not sure why exactly, and I would be afraid to go there, at least in the current political climate. But I find it enthralling, for example, that a huge percentage of the Iranian people really seem to like America. What an intriguing concept to explore 'that' would be.

And after reading so many comments and explanations by Segovius about Islam, etc., my interest has been piqued greatly.

Thank you very much for the suggestion. Sounds scary and thrilling all at once.

I just started reading a travel book by a woman named Wendy Dale who went to Costa Rica (somewhere I've been wanting to go for years). Immediately upon arrival in San Juan, she became involved with a con man to whom she gave a considerable sum of money. As they walked down the street at one point, a car drove up and he was abducted by five guys. (They turned out to be investigative police and he was thrown in prison.) I've only read about twenty pages so far. Not quite the same as being saved by gun-runners, but still... (eek!). Not my idea of a way to spend a relaxing vacation.
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Windswept
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2005-02-15, 18:37

Quote:
Originally Posted by billybobsky
I am sorry. Did I say ruined? Well, technically it is. I mean, I just assumed you jumped on the last Xcorixz Transport to La La Land -- ie the real world. Now that I know you haven't escaped the pull of this place, my world view is subsequently ruined. Its all good though -- we all noted your absence...
What a relief. I thought I had somehow terminally offended you. Glad to find that was not the case. (I continue to remind you that you were the one who brought me to Applenova in the first place. )

Yes, I have been dallying in the real world, but not in a fun way. I have been going through some very difficult times, Billybobsky. At present I am just trying to take one day at a time, and trying not to dwell on my problems en masse, because when considered as a whole, they are too formidable and overwhelming. I find that dealing with anxiety is not something I do well. *sigh*

Quote:
Did I mention that my apartment located in the second story of three story house is flooding with rain water , and I am sitting calmly typing this?
OMG. How horrible! I hope by now the rain has stopped and the water subsided. Please let us know how you are doing. I hope you will take care of yourself and go somewhere safe. Please say you will.

Yeah, the 'real world.' Sometimes not much fun at all, my friend.

Love,

Carol
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Windswept
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2005-02-15, 19:01

Quote:
Originally Posted by cjr
He probably did write for other publications, but the only one I remember was the MoS :-) I guess the papers try to keep writers exclusive to some degree.
Very true. I believe the columns for the Stranger book appeared in the paper from 2000-2002, though I'm not sure; so if you haven't read that volume, you might really enjoy it. I think the humor was more consistent in it than in his actual travel books. Just my opinion.

Quote:
Personally I enjoyed his articles, and quite enjoy his books. I've heard it said though that women don't like his stuff as much as men. Clearly you're an exception ;-)
Yes, I guess I must be, because I find some of his stuff incredibly funny. I think I must have a better sense of humor than I thought, because I remember once reading a Moss Hart book on an ocean voyage (Act One, I think), and I remember laughing really hard in some places. But when my traveling companion read the same book after I'd finished it, she never laughed at all. I have always wondered about that, because I never thought my sense of humor was all that well-developed.

Quote:
Is his stuff ironic, or is he just good at being the "outsider looking in", ie observational humour?
No, his stuff isn't particularly ironic at all. I just mentioned irony as something I've heard discussed by Brits in connection with Americans... i.e. that we don't seem to be tuned-in to its presence as acutely as those of the British mind-set.
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k squared
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2005-02-15, 20:41

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carol
I bought 'something' by Anthony Bourdain, but I have the vague recollection that it's some kind of shocking expose of the culinary world.
That would probably be "Kitchen Confidential." It's not that bad. I believe it started out as an article in the New Yorker and received such a large response he turned it into a book. A lot of people will never eat fish on a Monday because of it.

The Traveler's Tales series puts together various writers on subjects ranging from eating, history, experiences, etc. For instance, in the Spain volume Penelope Casas, a Spanish cookbook author, describes how she visited the Alhambra at night with Washington Irving's book in tow. it was quite a seductive story and really makes you want to be there.
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Windswept
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2005-02-15, 21:07

Quote:
Originally Posted by k squared
That would probably be "Kitchen Confidential." It's not that bad. I believe it started out as an article in the New Yorker and received such a large response he turned it into a book. A lot of people will never eat fish on a Monday because of it.
Yeah, that's the book I have. No fish on Monday, eh? Urgh. I'll definitely have to tuck that bit of information away for future reference. Oooh...*shiver*. I never complain about food either. To me, that seems a hazardous thing to do in a restaurant where they're preparing stuff you're gonna put in your mouth. I made the mistake once of asking for more sauce for a garden omelet I was enjoying. The extra bowl of sauce came out with a strange substance in it that makes my stomach quiver even today just thinking about it.

Quote:
The Traveler's Tales series puts together various writers on subjects ranging from eating, history, experiences, etc. For instance, in the Spain volume Penelope Casas, a Spanish cookbook author, describes how she visited the Alhambra at night with Washington Irving's book in tow. it was quite a seductive story and really makes you want to be there.
Sounds great. I'm in the library right now and plan to go check their travel section as soon as my hour of computer time runs out. Hope they have that series. This is a terrific library, so they should have a few volumes at least...maybe even some of the other books people have mentioned in this thread. Fingers crossed.
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SKMDC
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2005-02-15, 21:36

Anthony Bourdain wrote a travel/food book that I enjoyed as much as Kitchen Confidential.

But I'm really chiming in to recommend Michael Palin's travel books and especially his website where he'll actually let you read all his books for free. Being a Python it's hard to keep his humour hidden, (e.g. 'Fifteen million people live in Mexico City and it smells as if they all farted at once.' ) but they are serious books. His books (and the pretty much unseen in america, TV series companions) fill me with wanderlust. I bought a region free DVD player just so I could watch his UK DVDs.
The actual books (and Basil Pao's companion photo albums are also great.

I just ordered Bryson's "african diary" & "I'm a stranger here myself"
I could use a larf.

"What's a Canadian farm boy to do?"
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Chinney
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2005-02-16, 13:05

Quote:
Originally Posted by scratt
Hi Carol,

[...]

A good yard arm of British humour and travel for me would be Michael Palin's books.

[...]
I also am a fan of Michael Palin’s books. Oddly enough though, I have never seen any of the accompanying television series. The books themselves are not ‘high art’ writing, nor are they incisive exposés of the places he visits. They are, however, interesting and observant travelogues from a person who I think would be an excellent person to travel with. I really enjoy them.

Actually, I enjoy travel books generally. They allow me to live vicariously and do, in my mind, all the travel that I wish I had time for in real life.

When there's an eel in the lake that's as long as a snake that's a moray.
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Windswept
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2005-02-16, 15:30

Quote:
Originally Posted by SKMDC
Anthony Bourdain wrote a travel/food book that I enjoyed as much as Kitchen Confidential.

But I'm really chiming in to recommend Michael Palin's travel books and especially his website where he'll actually let you read all his books for free. Being a Python it's hard to keep his humour hidden, (e.g. 'Fifteen million people live in Mexico City and it smells as if they all farted at once.' ) but they are serious books. His books (and the pretty much unseen in america, TV series companions) fill me with wanderlust. I bought a region free DVD player just so I could watch his UK DVDs.
The actual books (and Basil Pao's companion photo albums are also great.

I just ordered Bryson's "african diary" & "I'm a stranger here myself"
I could use a larf.
I've seen a smattering of Palin's television episodes. Ones about: Russia (Pole to Pole ?), about ritual drumming (in Japan? Around the World in 80 Days ?), about going through the Middle East, parts about Africa, Capetown, and Antarctica, I think.

I could be confusing Palin's programs with those of another British guy who did a travel series, but I think his involved primarily rail journeys. Hmmm. Then there was a program about taking the last train across Canada from coast to coast. Can't remember who the host was for that one.

Bryson also wrote a book along the lines of "a little something about everything." I actually have two copies of that one. It's a pretty hefty volume. Have only read like one page, because I could tell immediately that the book would require more time than I had available.

The African diary thing sounds interesting. Let me know how you like it, okay?

Yeah, wanderlust, no kidding. I want to travel without having to rush. I'd like to live in places for awhile. I'd like to live on the south coast of England for a few months, because I'm such a major Anglophile. Maybe actually living there would cure me. I wonder. In the past I seem to have had a fantasy view of England, but recent articles I've read about the crime and over-crowding have taken a bit of the edge off my starry-eyed worship. I wonder what it's really like over there. I think the draw of the historical aspects would fascinate me endlessly. I have actually been in England, but only for four days on a whirlwind, month-long Europe trip right after college. It seemed like every time I asked someone a question, they either didn't speak English well enough for me to understand their answer, or in one case, their northern accent was so strong I couldn't understand a word they said.
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Windswept
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2005-02-16, 15:41

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chinney
I also am a fan of Michael Palin’s books. Oddly enough though, I have never seen any of the accompanying television series. The books themselves are not ‘high art’ writing, nor are they incisive exposés of the places he visits. They are, however, interesting and observant travelogues from a person who I think would be an excellent person to travel with. I really enjoy them.

Actually, I enjoy travel books generally. They allow me to live vicariously and do, in my mind, all the travel that I wish I had time for in real life.
Hi Chinney. I also want to read some of the historical travel books, to find out what travelers experienced long ago. I have a book about the journeys of Marco Polo that I'm dying to read. How fascinating that should prove to be.

Can you imagine women from the 1800's traveling in long dresses? What a nightmare of clothing upkeep that would be. But I guess most travelers in general were well-off and had servants to keep their clothes clean. I think it's interesting to consider all the practical details about past travel. And just think, in a hundred years, people will look back on US with sympathy and pity, and wonder how we managed with our primitive ways and accommodations. heh.
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LudwigVan
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2005-02-16, 17:11

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carol
I could be confusing Palin's programs with those of another British guy who did a travel series, but I think his involved primarily rail journeys. Hmmm.
That's Michael Wood, one of the greats in my book. In addition to the train-themed work, he recently wrote a book and filmed a series on Alexander the Great ("In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great"). I was introduced to his work back in the 80s when PBS broadcast a series on the Trojan War ("In Search of the Trojan War" was the title of both the television series and his eponymous book). The television broadcast was recently re-released on DVD in tandem with the theatrical release of the mediocre motion picture "Troy".
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Moogs
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2005-02-16, 20:53

GOOD GOD! It's Carol... she's back in action!



Good to see you. I read one of Bryson's books several years ago called A Walk the Woods. Nearly wet myself at times while reading it. He's a great writer.

Part of why I like him is that I grew up in Georgia and at that time there wasn't nearly the sprawl there is now and so I could relate very well to many passages; I often hiked "through the woods and over the creeks" myself. Plus the whole southern humor thing where he points out all the classic symptoms of being a hill-billy, etc. Great stuff.

...into the light of a dark black night.
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