For those unable to jet off to Europe to escape the cold winter blahs, a trip to the bookshelf could prove the next best option. From personal journeys and foodie delights to historical perspectives and breathtaking sights, these fresh reads take you across the continent without ever having to leave your armchair. No passport required.
I See England, I See France …
The history and majesty of London, England, home to royals, roundabouts and the reluctant-to-relocate wife and daughter of Canadian journalist Sean Mallen. In Falling for London: A Cautionary Tale, Mallen paints a portrait of the U.K. capital through both the excitement and challenges of an ex-pat Toronto family acclimating itself following his reassignment as a foreign correspondent. Meanwhile, Canuck sisters Tracy Kasaboski and Kristen den Hartog trace their family’s roots from Europe to Canada, beginning with Dickensian poverty and hardship in Victorian London through astonishing travails and tragedy before culminating in London, Ont., in The Cowkeeper’s Wish: A Genealogical Journey.
A hop across the English Channel lands one at the Palace of Versailles, a sprawling monument to the extravagance of the French monarchy. And while revolution forced King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, to high-tail it out of there, the palace welcomed author Guillaume Picon and photographer Francis Hammond to capture its lavish decor, lush gardens and breathtaking rooms – including areas and artefacts off-limits to the public – for Versailles: A Private Invitation. Then, head further south with Canadian artist and designer Virginia Johnson, who employs both prose and paint for her Travels Through the French Riviera, a watercolour exploration of the people and places that make up the storied Côte d’Azur. Or pull back and take in all of the sights and flavours of Provence with the late Peter Mayle, the celebrated British author known for A Year in Provence, through his final ode to his adopted home, My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now.
If the cobblestone streets and canals of Amsterdam are more your speed, walking guide Egbert de Haan invokes the spirit of his real-life city tours in Amsterdam Then and Now. This visual feast captures the storied Dutch city through lenses past and present, juxtaposing archival images of Amsterdam’s most famous landmarks – from historic towers and train stations to breweries and the Anne Frank House – with modern photos. As such de Haan takes readers on an Amsterdam excursion that spans centuries – a feat that’s impossible on foot.