The best non-travel, European travel books with descriptive writing that takes you on a journey

Jean Cerfontaine Author Of Where do you go to
By Jean Cerfontaine

Who am I?

I have been to Europe a handful of times, exploring Paris, Italy, Malta, Spain, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Amsterdam. Europe lends itself perfectly to be immortalised in literature. The continent is steeped in thousands of years of charming history, oozing out of the cobblestoned streets and painted in layers on the buildings. Scratch the surface and a new, richer layer comes to the fore, exciting and amazing anew. Europe inevitably turns into one of the important characters in any book set there and many a writer have managed to capture its essence in their work. Alongside Peter Sarstedt, Europe inspired my work, taking the reader along on a wondrous journey.

I wrote...

Where do you go to

By Jean Cerfontaine,

Book cover of Where do you go to

What is my book about?

Join in her beautiful journey as the adopted daughter of a French diplomat explores life and discovers talents for dance and art. Her travels are described in beautiful prose, sharing her trials and tribulations through the glorious vista that is mid-century Europe. As she rubs shoulders with the rich and famous in Rome, St. Moritz, Moscow, and France, the burning question of her unknown roots remains unsolved—Who is she?

Will the mystery of her origins remain unsolved, or will the truth behind her morning tears finally be revealed? Inspired by the famous Peter Sarstedt song, this is a classic tale, 50 years in the making.

The books I picked & why

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Under the Tuscan Sun

By Frances Mayes,

Book cover of Under the Tuscan Sun

Why this book?

Frances Mayes narrates life in Tuscany with a clear, refreshing voice, adding in some cooking recipes, scenic Tuscan landscapes, and adventures around Italy, along with the recipe to find happiness in the simple things in life, in a wonderful foreign setting. Italy like you’ve never experienced it before, through the eyes of an almost-local.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Why this book?

Tom Ripley is a con artiste. He is smooth, intelligent, and deadly. Tom goes on a journey to Italy to find the wayward son of a shipping magnate, Dickie Greenleaf. Along the way, Tom finds a way to become Dickie Greenleaf himself. The adventure plays out in some of the most scenic parts of Italy, following Tom on his misadventures in Positano, Rome, and Venice. Patricia Highsmith writes in a formal style that ages well and keeps the reader hooked with the wonderfully narrated prose.

A Year at the Chateau

By Dick Strawbridge, Angel Strawbridge,

Book cover of A Year at the Chateau

Why this book?

Dick and Angel set off on a life-changing adventure. They purchase a Chateau in France and start the involved process of restoring it to its former glory. The chateau becomes a central character in their story, alongside the glorious Loire Valley. You may have seen the TV show based on their exploits, but the book is so much better!

For the Love of Europe: My Favorite Places, People, and Stories

By Rick Steves,

Book cover of For the Love of Europe: My Favorite Places, People, and Stories

Why this book?

To be honest, this one is close to being a travel book. Rick Steves is a well-known traveler, with a large number of guide books and television shows sharing his exploits with the world. But, this book describes Europe in a way that no travel guide can. Rick is a master of sharing anecdotes of his travels through Europe, never failing to describe the flavours, sights, and sounds of the continent and the wonderful cities we all yearn to see. This was a wonderful escape during the 2020 lockdowns, a true lifesaver! 

A Year in Paris: Season by Season in the City of Light

By John Baxter,

Book cover of A Year in Paris: Season by Season in the City of Light

Why this book?

John Baxter is a master at his craft. He describes his life in Paris in a vivid, easy-to-read style, never failing to delve into the history of the streets he is roaming. He has published a number of books on Paris and its historic neighbourhoods, all immersing the reader in the sights, sounds, and culture of Paris. This is probably the next best thing to living in Paris yourself. 

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