Travel By Book: Bryson’s Britain

July 31, 2012

Posted by Kanga.

Bryson, Bill. Notes from a small island. London: Black Swan, 1996. Print.

During this two week stay at home vacation I am visiting Britain through the eyes of Bill Bryson. We have a very similar sense of humor and perspective on the world, so reading a Bryson book usually results in my laughing out loud and then reading the passage aloud for DaddyBird.

Bryson is at his best when he is making up words, like imaginary (but believable) place names – the Buggered Ploughman pub, Ram’s Droppings bypass, or the rail crossing at Great Shagging. Or mocking the formality of a restaurant menu by asking for “a lustre of water freshly drawn from the house tap and presented au nature in a cylinder of glass.”

His description of Daniel’s department store in Windsor makes me want to explore it. The sad part is that it is probably not there anymore. In this book Bryson is describing his “farewell tour” of Britain in the early 90’s. He combines flashbacks to the 70’s when he first arrived in England and his 90’s observations giving a taste of nostalgia for the things already lost to the passage of time. His travel plan was to use only public transportation (bus and train), but 1990’s reality was that much of the public transport network had disappeared.

Travel by book means that I have no pictures to show my daily adventure. However, having been to Britain a time or two, I will slip in one of my favorite pictures from a previous trip.

street in Southwark

Southwark, London 2009


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve found reading books about places with which I have at least a passing familiarity makes the book more vivid. Have fund in England and wherever else your travels may take you 😉 ~Linda

  2. But Bill found the Sceptred Isle so bountiful he returned and lives in a Norfolk vicarage!

    Next time you get to England, do take a peek at Ludlow.

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