Has there ever been a funnier man to travel Europe, and return to tell about it, than Tim Moore? Doubtful. Certainly not the man who spawned the concept of the Grand Tour, that mainstay of young 17th- and 18th-century English aristocrats sent around Europe to be cultured but who usually spent more time in bawdy depravity than in cathedrals. That is Thomas Coryate, who walked to Venice and back in 1608. Coryate was the first man to take the trip for pleasure rather than commerce and with the specific intention of boasting on his return (in fact, he penned the first travelogue). Moore follows Coryate's footsteps from France to Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and home again, but with a few unusual props of his own--an absurd billowing purple velvet suit and a clapped-out 1980 Rolls Royce that proved impossible to park on medieval streets. (After the pompous car offends a French peasant, Moore cooks up endless versions of "This is not my car..." fibs.)
Remarkably, Moore finds that not much has changed since the slightly short man in tights wandered the continent. The city walls and medieval alleys look as if knaves could be lurking close by, while the single-track stone bridges, grand chateaux, and humble villages he sees were ancient even in Coryate's day. Moore is even able to find the places of torture Coryate describes so gleefully, including the unmarked round stone "on which if any banckerupt do sit with his naked buttocks three times in some public assembly, all his debts are ipso-facto remited." Of course, not everything is the same--while there are still picnickers on the roof of Milan's cathedral, there are also mobile phones, and bowling is now considered an art in Italy. Coryate got himself into all sorts of scrapes with his pretentiousness, belligerent arrogance, and eye for the ladies. Moore is equally adept at slapstick, which he tells with self-deprecating humor--playing James Bond at a casino in Baden-Baden, pilfering grapes in homage to Coryate--and he's just as much a cheapskate with his pan-European survey of pizza parlors and MacDonald's bathrooms. In some fantastic fluke of time, Coryate finally found his perfect travel partner in Moore, and the result is a hilarious jaunt through Europe, past and present, that's not to be forgotten or, for that matter, repeated. --Lesley Reed
From Publishers Weekly
In The Grand Tour: The European Adventure of a Continental Drifter, British travel writer Tim Moore (Frost on My Moustache) entertainingly recounts the history of a civilizing ritual for the backward Brits. Moore dates this privileged and often quite dissolute practice to Thomas Coryate, a 17th-century courtier whose travel memoir, Coryate's Crudities, recounts disastrous and ribald adventures. Ensconced in a used Rolls Royce and a red velvet suit, Moore sets out to retrace Coryate's journey. Coryate was no gentleman Moore says that his book, "[a]s well as sounding really very mad... was clearly an extended fart anthology" yet as Moore points out, he's an appropriate forefather for the many infamously vulgar English travelers. Moore's own raucous journey will delight American audiences.
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