Best Notes for the Grand Tour

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Book review: Leading the Blind

Leading the Blind is Alan Sillitoe’s witty compilation of some of the most interesting, bizarre, quirky or hilariously biased and outdated bits from 19th century guide books to continental Europe, with a select few parts of the Middle East thrown in for good measure. These guide books were tailored to wealthy British travelers doing trendy Grand Tours across Europe, and were full of warnings and tips for navigating the quirks of these foreign countries. Sillitoe was a connoisseur of some of the genre’s popular classics, and sifted through the volumes for some of the highlights and consolidated them in narrative form, grouped by country.

It’s very amusing to see what exactly concerned travelers – some things never change, apparently, but some are very indicative of the time. Plus lots of amusing observations and anecdotes – like how many gallons of wine are allegedly drunk in Paris in one year, what’s appropriate or not for any “ladies” traveling, and what oddities to expect from innkeepers and hotels along the well-traveled routes. Absolutely worth a read for the subtle sense of humor and a portrait of those places and their perceptions.

Leading the Blind: A Century of Guide Book Travel
by Allan Sillitoe

new ebook edition published July 12, 2016 by Open Road Media

Advanced review copy courtesy of the publisher

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