Sunday 10 October 2010


ABC's Kevin McCloud shows us how to experience the highs - and the lows - of a grand tour through France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Loosely following in the footsteps of the most notorious grand tourists Kevin clambers in, on and amongst the greatest buildings, ruins and cities in Europe and also veers drastically off the official path to visit the brothels, bathhouses and drinking dens which formed the other half of the grand tourists’ experiences.This accumulation of sights sounds and smells allows a sense of what it must have been like for a callow Briton to have come face to face with the heat and the noise, the drama and still living history of the civilisations of Europe.

As always, Kevin, who speaks French and Italian fluently, is an entertaining and masterly companion as we delve behind the facades we all think we know so well.

I have to admit that I'm a fan of Grand Designs, a show hosted by Kevin McCloud. I enjoy watching other people's dreams as they share it with Kevin, and take the building of their homes from idea, to concept, to actually making it a home with cameras there at every step.

It's exciting to watch, and hardly ever goes according to plan as far as finance and time are concerned. Still, Kevin's got a knack for capturing the good, the bad, and the in-between. He's also got a good eye for design.

So when Kevin McCloud's Grand Tour of Europe was played on the ABC, I watched it with interest. And Kevin didn't disappoint. He takes us on a wonderful journey of design, architecture, and a whole lot more. He starts in England and soon travels to Paris, and makes his way into Italy. Where he shares some personal memories about his own experiences. Before moving to Greece, and showing us some wonderful and very influencial architecture.

He takes the hard roads that the old Gand Tourists used to take in order to get a taste for European design and everything else it had to offer, things they brought back to England. As well as tasting the many other delicacies available to them. Venice was a lovely stop-over, but I enjoyed the insight of every spot he travelled to, even his last stop in the Alps.

This book is a wonderful companion to the series. As I read each chapter, I couldn't help but hear Kevin's voice inside my head, as if he was reciting the book to me. It was a strange, but entertaining experience. I actually enjoyed reading his adventure as much as I did watching it. There are also some really cool pictures throughout the book, and isn't the cover really cool?

Kevin McCloud's Grand Tour of Europe is a very interesting book packed with facts, insights, opinions, and a lot of history. I really enjoyed tracing the path of travellers from so many years ago, and finding out what they encountered along the way. I also liked checking out the designs that account for so many of the most characteristic buildings we know today. As well as the beautiful scenery, he goes to some lovely places.

It doesn't matter if you've seen the show beforehand, or even if you decide to watch it afterwards, I think this book will captivate anyone who likes design or history. Or just an interesting journey.

Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour of Europe, September 2010, ISBN 9780753827888, Phoenix Paperback

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