Howse is the sort of travelling companion who always notices the things in the corner of the picture that you would otherwise miss, who recommends the nondescript bodega you would otherwise walk past, and who gently fills in the gaps in your knowledge of a city's backstory without making you feel a complete clot. I'm just back from Granada and when I read his chapter on the Alhambra I realised I had spent the day there with my eyes shut. I'll just have to go again - this time with a copy of the wonderful The Train in Spain in my knapsack.
This is the Telegraph writer Christopher Howse's second book on Spain and if anything it is even better than the last one (A Pilgrim in Spain). It is simply structured in 10 chapters each describing a train journey (with the occasional bus, where a line has been closed) and the stops on the way - Zamora to Zafra, Cuenca to Valencia, Guadix to Chinchilla, and so on. Not the usual tourist routes. As Howse says, it is a book about Spain, not about trains - about its language, food, landscapes, trees, art, religion, history and people. There's a lot about food, actually, and even some recipes ("first, collect your acorns..."). The author stays discreetly in the background - humane and gently ironic - but he makes you see. The section on Spanish ways of being drunk is superb. All in all, a great pleasure.
Christopher Howse's writing is in a league of its own - erudite, expansive, generous, witty. I'm an avid reader of all his Telegraph columns, whether the Sacred Mysteries series or his sideways takes on modern mores and language. It's wonderful to see him given the space to stretch his pen. This is an excellent travel companion to places both familiar and unknown.
Don't bother with this book if you wish to learn about the best place to neck sangria in Barcelona. Howse is inquisitive, erudite, and often very funny. This is not a book about trains, and it's not really a travel book. But it's a brilliant portrait of the parts of Spain few of us ever bother to explore. Superb.
I am an avid reader of the author's regular articles in the Daily Telegraph and immensely enjoyed his previous book "A Pilgrim in Spain". He takes us on journeys to Spain which would not occur to most visitors and his observations and information whet one's appetite to visit the places he goes to. This is a wonderful travelogue - his descriptions of his travels and the places he visits are spot on. Enhorabuena, Mr Howse! I can't wait for your next trip to Spain!
Interesting, individual and quirky recollections of travels in Spain. It is a great shame that some sections of those wonderful railway lines are now reduced or closed but he does capture the pleasure of journeys in unusual regions whether by train or bus.