For Janet Street-Porter "Coast to Coast" means walking from Dungeness to Weston-Super-Mare and from Cardiff to Conwy, along more than 500 miles of foot paths and over 65,000 feet of hills. Along the way she accosts the local people - from farmers, walkers and local eccentrics - in an attempt to find something interesting to write about.
Ms Street-Porter must have been told the walk was dodgy material for a book in the first place. She invites famous friends like Vic Reeves (comedian), Chris Smith (Labour's Minister for Culture) and, er, Reg Presley (front man for The Troggs and UFO nutter) to join her on different stages of the walk to spice the story up. This proves hopeless though, as is demonstrated as early as the first day when she teams up with Vic. I'd had high hopes for some general naughtiness, but all I got was something along the lines of: "I met Vic.... We walked up Mermaid Street.... We sat at a table.... After a giant curry I said good-bye to Vic." It's not all quite as bad as this, but it isn't all that much better.
The (comparable) highlights of the book are mainly to be found during the second leg, when Ms Street-Porter finds herself at the northern end of the Cambrian Way in Wales. The more exciting scenery seems to stimulate her into evoking more plausible passion in her writing and using some fresher adjectives. After struggling my way through all 50 days of the journey, I was as exhausted as she was, but even happier that it was all over.
Next Time Round In Tuscany (Aurum, pounds 14.95) by Ian Norrie.
Having stood in the great Piazza del Campo at Siena, photographed the magnificent leaning tower of Pisa, and admired the buttocks of Michelangelo's David in Florence, you might think you'd "done" Tuscany - but not according to Ian Norrie.
This guidebook, like its predecessors, Next Time Round in Provence and Next Time Round in the Dordogne, is designed for those visiting any already familiar area, or wanting to venture of the well-beaten tourist track.
Each chapter of the book is devoted to a different area, city or village, and begins with a list of the main sights. As promised, Norrie's guide takes us to lesser-known hill villages, neglected Etruscan tombs and churches with minor masterpieces of Renaissance art.
However, Norrie breaks his promise by filling a fair portion of the book with places likes of Pisa, Florence and Siena, although he tries, not unsuccessfully, to absolve himself by claiming to direct us towards the little frequented places of interest.
What is beyond doubt is that Norrie is able to convey his knowledge in an amiable and informal way. You might well find yourself caught up by his infectious enthusiasm, and making a bee-line for the kind of places you'd never normally visit (such as cemeteries and civic museums).Reuse content