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The Last Train to Zona Verde, by Paul Theroux - review

1 June 2013
The Last Train to Zona Verde: Overland from Cape Town to Angola Paul Theroux

Hamish Hamilton, pp.353, £20, ISBN: 9780241143674

Paul Theroux has produced some of the best travel books of the past 50 years, and some of the lamest. His latest work shrieks swansong, from its title — The… Read more

Twigger

What it's like to escape from Colditz

27 April 2013

Colditz: Here I am, stuck in the same ventilation shaft that Pat Reid used to escape through just over 70 years ago. It’s a tiny letterbox-shaped hole, about three feet in… Read more

travel-panorama

Travel: Ireland’s wild west

23 March 2013

The problem with writing about the Burren is that there’s no consensus about where it is. Different people have different ideas. On my first trip there, I plaintively asked a… Read more

The Georgian brickwork around O’Connell Street was painstakingly restored during the boom

Travel: Dublin, comeback city

23 March 2013

The boom and bust have left their mark on Dublin. Cruising through the outskirts past the (industrial) estate of Sandyford — flimsy-looking buildings, each as nastily designed as the last… Read more

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Travel special – Scottish borders: On the edge

26 May 2012

It’s odd, but most of the English faces we see in our wee corner of the Scottish Borders are merely ‘stopping’ for a night or two on their way north.… Read more

Road to ruins

21 April 2012
The A303: Highway to the Sun Tom Fort

Simon & Schuster, pp.332, 14.99

This is a delightful book, nostalgic, slyly witty, perceptive and at times flirting — deliberately — with old fogeyism. Tom Fort, a BBC radio journalist, starts from the assumption that… Read more

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Inflated dreams

17 March 2012
The Ice Balloon: One Man’s Dramatic Attempt to Discover the North Pole by Balloon Alec Wilkinson

Fourth Estate, pp.245, 14.99

When almost every tale about the Arctic has been told, when the major explorers have been assessed and re-assessed, when even the most obscure bit-players have been drawn into the… Read more

Africa’s excesses

17 March 2012
Crazy River Richard Grant

Little Brown, pp.272, 13.99

There are an awful lot of prostitutes in Africa and most of them seem to pass through the pages of Richard Grant’s book at one time or another. All this… Read more

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A paralysed landscape

10 March 2012
Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of the World’s Most Mysterious Continent Gabrielle Walker

Bloomsbury, pp.388, 20

‘Very, very, very sexy’, a field-researcher scratches in his Antarctic notebook. He is describing a meteorite the size of a £1 coin that he has just picked up off the… Read more

Still roughing it

7 January 2012
The New Granta Book of Travel edited by Liz Jobey, with an introduction by Jonathan Raban

Granta, pp.429, 25

We are all tourists now, and there is no escape. The first thing we see as we jet round the world is a filth of our own making. Resort hotel… Read more

Not for sissies

3 December 2011
Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria Noo Saro-Wiwa

Granta, pp.272, 14.99

Nigeria is not exactly a tourist destination. A colleague chortles over the memory of trying to wangle his way in — without a journalist’s visa — during Sani Abacha’s military… Read more

Rumbled in the jungle

26 November 2011
Cry Havoc Simon Mann

John Blake, pp.351, 19.99

This book is a mess. Simon Mann may have been brought up on John Buchan, educated at Eton and Sandhurst, and taken Conrad and the Iliad with him on his… Read more

The call of the wild

27 August 2011
The Last Colonial Christopher Ondaatje

Thames & Hudson, pp.256, 19.95

Christopher Ondaatje is best known as a member of the great and the good and a generous patron of the arts, notably the National Portrait Gallery. The pieces collected in… Read more

A well-told lie

13 August 2011
The Cat’s Table Michael Ondaatje

Cape, pp.265, £16.99

Autobiography provides a sound foundation for a work mainly of fiction. A voyage in an ocean liner provides a sound framework of time and place. Michael Ondaatje was born in… Read more

Heroes of the Ice Age

13 August 2011
An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science Edward J. Larson

Yale University Press, pp.326, £18.99

In Shackleton’s Footsteps: A Return to the Heart of the Antarctic Henry Worsley

Virgin Books (Random House), pp.260, £18.99

Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen Roland Huntford

Continuum, pp.330, £10.99

The Quest for Frank Wild Angie Butler

Jackleberry Press, pp.213, £25

In the early 20th century, explorers were goaded and galvanised by the blanks on the maps — the North and South Poles, and the mist-draped floes and glaciers around them.… Read more

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Junk, day and night

6 August 2011
Litter: How Other People's Rubbish Shapes Our Lives Theodore Dalrymple

Gibson Square, pp.159, 9.99

Travelling the 400 miles from Glasgow to London recently, Theodore Dalrymple noticed that the roadside was littered with food and drink packaging, flapping in the wind like Buddhist prayer flags.… Read more

Don’t blur the lines

30 July 2011
Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground Mark Mason

Random House, pp.376, 12.99

Did you know that on the Central Line’s maiden journey to Shepherd’s Bush, one of the passengers was Mark Twain? Or that The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Sign… Read more

The last place on earth

23 July 2011
White Fever: A Journey to the Frozen Heart of Siberia Jacek Hugo-Bader, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Portobello Books, pp.323, 16.99

Colin Thubron has called Siberia ‘the ultimate unearthly abroad’, the ‘place from which you will not return’. Colin Thubron has called Siberia ‘the ultimate unearthly abroad’, the ‘place from which… Read more

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Talking about regeneration

23 July 2011
Ghost Milk Iain Sinclair

416, pp.20, 9780241144350

Iain Sinclair, the London novelist and poet, is always on the move. From the industrial sumplands of Woolwich to the jagged riversides of Gravesend, he rakes unfrequented zones for literary… Read more

Wool of bat and lizard leg

16 July 2011
Thin Paths Julia Blackburn

Cape, pp.250, 17.99

When Julia Blackburn and her Dutch husband Herman move into an old village house perched on a cliff high above the Italian Ligurian Riviera they become part of a dwindling… Read more

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Good companions

16 July 2011
Seen in the Yemen: Travelling with Freya Stark and Others Hugh Leach

Arabian Publishing, pp.308, 45

‘Choose your companions’, says an early Arab proverb, ‘thereafter your road.’ In the 1970s, Hugh Leach’s companion on his travels to Northern Yemen was Freya Stark, and she has become… Read more

The other man’s grass . . .

9 July 2011
The Art of Camping Matthew de Abaitua

Hamish Hamilton, pp.240, 14.99

Hundreds of thousands of hardy souls are preparing for a few nights under canvas this summer, often facing sunburn or trench foot while giddily jumping up and down in a… Read more

Ways of escape

9 July 2011
The Tao of Travel Paul Theroux

Hamish Hamilton, pp.275, 16.99

When I compiled a list of the top dozen travel writers of the past century for an American magazine the other day, it required some effort not to come up… Read more

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Bella vistas

9 July 2011
The Best Gardens in Italy: A Traveller’s Guide by Kirsty Mcleod, photographs by Primrose Bell

Frances Lincoln, pp.262, 30

Great Gardens of Italy Monty Don and Derry Moore

Quadrille, pp.224, 25

Many moons ago when I went to Sissinghurst to ask Nigel Nicolson (late of this parish) if I could write about his mother, Vita Sackville-West, he raised his hands, and… Read more

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Relics of old Castile

11 June 2011
A Pilgrim in Spain Christopher Howse

Continuum, pp.214, 16.99

Christopher Howse describes Spain as ‘the strangest place with which Westerners can easily identify’. Christopher Howse describes Spain as ‘the strangest place with which Westerners can easily identify’. He has… Read more