Sunday, March 9, 2008

Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe -- Bill Bryson

Close friends know I have been bitten by the travel bug ever since I read Eat, Pray, Love. I have been doing the "I need to go to Italy" chant for the past few months. Bill Bryson's 'Neither here nor there' managed to add just about 30 other places to the chant.

The book is Bill's humorous (not always the laugh-out-loud kind of humor, but the amused-grin-evoking kind) recounts of his travel around various cities in Europe.

The thing I liked most about his potrayals of these various places was how he pays so much attention to the people and the culture itself as opposed to the palaces and the museums and the gardens. Personally to me, that is what is most intriguing about a new place.

The narration has the lighthearted tone of a relaxed back-packer taking his time to soak up the essence of a new place. Facts have clearly been exagerrated here and there to achieve a part-comical, part-acerbic flavor - but that is a humorist's license, is it not?

The Romans park their cars the way I would if I had just spilled a beaker of hydrochloric acid on my lap.
The problem is that [in Paris] the pedestrian crossing lights have been designed with the clear purpose of leaving the foreign visitor confused, humiliated, and, if all goes according to plan, dead.

Now, for the nit-picking: on the whole, the book gave me the impression that there were more places that displeased him than delighted. A little more cribbing than I would generally choose to hear :).

Otherwise, an apt book for a travel enthusiast in a very ironical way - it leaves you with the feeling that you've had enough reading about it and you just need to take the next flight.

Thanks to Sandeep for lending me the book! :)


scritic said...

Very very intrigued by the hydrochloric acid metaphor!! :-)

At the risk of totally destroying the joke by asking to have it explained, a few questions.

(1) If I spill hydrochloric acid on my lap, my first instinct would be to jump out of my chair and dance around the room, howling in agony.
(2) Perhaps -- just perhaps -- the acid in touch with my lap might make me drop my pants and run to the bathroom or -- more prudently -- run to the bathroom and then drop my pants.

What exactly out of these two things do the Romans do when they park their cars? :-)

Harini Sridharan said...

I wouldnt myself have conceived parking cars would induce anyone to start dropping their pants :p, but who knows. The author, wisely, leaves it to our imagination :).

Lost Thoughts said...

A very different perspective on travel and what to look for or experience. Generally all I tend to do is carry a camera and make sure I get the best photo of the location and I am standing in the middle of the frame to make sure that everyone else knows that I visited a new place.
I guess the author stopped at the instinct of stopping the car after someone has spilled Hydrochloric acid (He played it safe), what can happen after you stop the car is anybody's wild guess :)