Travelling in Britain and Europe? Start from the fireside.

Books are a staple as Christmas presents but here are two books with longer legs than most, offering insights and information for the independent traveller focusing on rail journeys in one and on having fun with a senior bus pass on the other.

Both books are edited by the editors of hidden europe magazine, the insiders specialist on poking about amongst Europe’s myriad curiosities, below the tourist radar.

We know them, we know they know what they’re talking about, that they are endlessly on the move, exploring, gathering information, that they are always factually accurate and that they write well and accept nothing less from their contributors.

Each of these two books has been commissioned from them by other publishers, each has been highly successful and each is now in preparation of new editions.

Bus-Pass Britain

Bus-Pass Britain has been a massive success – and was a finalist in the British Travel Press Awards.

An immediately attractive idea, this book is a celebration of travelling by bus [free] around the British Isles, based on a selection of 50 accounts of favourite bus-routes from many more submitted by members of the public in response to a competition by publisher, Bradt.

These favourite bus routes provide a patchwork of journeys across all parts of Britain, including Scotland and both rural and urban areas.

Evocative and fun, the book reveals how free bus passes have bred a new generation of keen explorers.

Readers join the writers on the top deck of an open tour for a fresh perspective on towns and villages across the country. Each journey includes recommendations on where to stop and explore, providing details of inspiring sights, suggested walks and the best local cafes, pubs, restaurants.

All the practical details: bus times, the length and duration of each route and travel connections to the start and finish, are provided and the book features a scattering of quirky stories and reflections (entitled Bus-stops) on the wonders of this more leisurely form of travel.

Europe by Rail

Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers was commissioned from Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries by Thomas Cook.

Part of the publishing deal was that Thomas Cook support the book’s own website, maintained by the editors and carrying all sorts of additional and often novel information. Check it out here. The information includes a page on European Rail News, which means that up to date information is always available.

This book is full of surprises. It is a Thomas Cook familiar  – this is the 13th edition [published in March 2012] – but these editors have given it a radical makeover and taken it into new territory in content and design.

Yes, in its focus on a selected 50 routes across Europe – ‘from the Atlantic coast to the Bosphorus, from northern fjords to Spanish sierras’ – it carries all the detail and tips you will want in its 700-and-some pages, with up to date descriptions of 26 hub cities and with text on over 200 other cities and towns.

It also, however, leads you to an insiders’ Europe, to places and routes that enchant and tease and, as is the hallmark of the editors, based on serious exploration for the curious, the interesting and the buried treasures that are always anywhere for the engaged traveller.

The editors say: ‘Over the past few years, we have criss-crossed Europe by train, from fast journeys on sleek expresses (such as TGV and ICE services in France and Germany respectively) to memorably slow meanderings on remote branch lines. We have written about slow trains through Bosnia, slow trains through Bohemia and even about the humdrum suburban trains that shuttle through our home city of Berlin.

‘We have swapped stories with strangers on trains in Russia, we have been on trains marooned in deep midwinter snow in Scandinavia and we have slept soundly on trains that crept by dead of night around the back of factories in unnamed towns.’

You get the drift. This is not about the sort of travelling that is about getting somewhere to do something and then getting out again. This is about travelling as a destination and with a purpose of its own. There’s a touch of the Startrek incantation about it.. ‘to boldly go…’

Even reading it leaves you with the sense of having travelled.This may be all some receivers of this gift do – and they will feel renewed afterwards; while others will be incited to action and, armed with all of ‘how to’ and ‘what to do’ detail, take off to travel light on the chosen journey of a lifetime.

Y0u see what we meant when we said that these books have longer legs than many.

Check in

You can get hold of Bus-Pass Britain here online, from the publishers, Bradt. It costs £15.99.

You can get hold of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers online here, from the publishers, Thomas Cook. It costs an astonishing £14.99.

And there’s hidden europe’s own online shop

hidden europe magazine has its own online shop here.

This offers subscriptions; an Advent Sale of subscriptions as presents; and themed selections of issues of the magazine itself.

At this time of the year, when most of us are home-bound, one way or another, just thinking of travelling is enough to get us ready to move. And now there’s new life in the use of the bus pass.

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