You never know what you’ll find on a trip through the library stacks. Back in the travel section of Popular Culture are all sorts of gems for the armchair traveler, including these older titles which you may have missed when they first came out.
The Clumsiest People in Europe or: Mrs. Mortimer’s Bad-Tempered guide to the Victorian World, is actually excerpts from three of Mrs. Mortimer’s works published in the mid-19th century. Favell Lee Mortimer, despite only twice having set foot outside of her native England, had something to say about almost all the countries of the world and their residents. The French for instance, “like being smart, but are not very clean,” while the Germans “do not often drink tea, nor do they know well how to make it.” London is dismissed as not being a pretty city, “because it is not built by the sea-side or on high hill;” but that’s not as bad as Lisbon which looks pretty at a distance but “looks very ugly when you come up to it.” Mrs. Mortimer may be cataloged as a travel guide, but it is, in fact, a guide to the Victorian middle class.
In contrast to Mrs. Mortimer’s stay-at-home approach, Carl Hoffman spent six months circumnavigating the globe on the world’s worst conveyances: the statistically most dangerous airlines, the most crowded and dangerous ferries, the slowest buses, and the most rickety trains. Fortunately, he lived to tell the tale, both of his travels and of the unforgettable characters he met along the way in The Lunatic Express.
Finally, if you think your summer vacation was lousy (and you don’t mind profane language), The Idler Book of Crap Vacations: 50 Tales of Hell on Earth may be just the thing to make you realize how good your trip really was.