Thwaites Wainwright Prize

by Jo 10. April 2014 16:00

The shortlist for the Thwaites Wainwright Prize for Nature and Travel Writing 2014 has been revealed today at London Book Fair.

About the prize:

The Thwaites Wainwright Prize can be narrative or illustrative non-fiction and is open to writers from all over the world, but their resulting books must be focused on the British Countryside. The prize will be awarded to the work which best reflects The Wainwright Society’s core values of inspiring people to explore the outdoors, whilst engendering a love of landscape and respect for nature. A £5,000 prize fund will be presented to the winning book.  

We look forward to welcoming the authors to our Long Acre store this evening for the launch party! 

The Shortlist for the Thwaites Wainwright Prize is as follows:

The Green Road Into the Trees by Hugh Thomson 

Hugh Thomson takes a 400-mile journey across England from coast to coast - one that takes in ancient landscapes, abandoned tracks and drovers' roads. Some are overgrown and almost completely obscured by brambles and weeds, but these old trails can still be found and navigated by locals who know where to look. In The Green Road Into The Trees, Hugh reveals how older, almost-forgotten cultures have more of an influence than we may have otherwise thought - with intriguing discoveries about the Vikings, Saxons and Celts yet to receive nationwide attention.More...

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Life at Stanfords

The Queen of the Black Forest: Baden-Baden

by Jo 9. April 2014 16:16

by Barbara Tognini

If one is thinking of visiting the Black Forest in southwest Germany, it would be difficult to ignore the charm of Germany’s most famous spa town: Baden-Baden. Surrounded by forested hills and lying along the small river Oos, Baden-Baden nowadays is visited mostly for its beautiful setting in the Black Forest, for its Art Nouveaux buildings, for the boutiques of popular brands, and as a base for walks in the forest. To judge from what it looks today, it doesn’t seem to possess any major attractions or sights, and it appears to be sleeping peacefully at the margins of the famous forest.

However, there was a time when Baden-Baden was la grande dame not only of Germany, but of the whole Europe. Its thermae and casino used to attract la crème de la crème of European society, such as Queen Victoria, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Otto von Bismarck, Austrian Empress “Sissi” – to name just a few. I decided to visit it exactly because of this prestigious past to try to understand what was so magnetic to les bons viveurs de la belle époque, and to see what it has to offer to the 21st century visitor.

Despite its fin de siècle appearance, the town has an ancient history. Due to the presence of hot springs (with temperatures ranging from 56°C to 68.8°C), the area has been inhabited since prehistory, and under the Roman rule it became an important regional centre. The name “Baden” probably comes from the Latin “balneum”, the same root that produced the English “bath”. The presence of the Romans is still visible in the ruins of the baths: what’s left of it is not in bad condition and it can be seen with a guided tour or individually with the help of an audio guide. More...

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Book Review: American History books by Nick Bunker, Dan Snow and Lawrence N. Powell

by Jo 9. April 2014 14:55

by Gregor Swiderek        

Even when I'm not travelling to America I continue reading books on that subject. Today I would like to share with you three fascinating titles about the early colonial history of America. The first two especially are close to my interests as they investigate in depth early British – American links.

So, the first book I would like to mention is Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World by Nick Bunker. It describes in great detail the crucial events of the late 16th and early 17th centuries which lead to the establishment of the Plymouth Plantation by the “pilgrims”. Actually, this book is as much about British history as it is about American. In fact it probably tells us more about Britain and Europe in those years than about America. The book concentrates on the Puritan movement which developed at that time and which flourished in a few regions of England from where the majority of the influential pilgrims came from. Bunker concentrates on Nottinghamshire and some parts of Sussex. He also describes the political and religious situation in Britain in those years as well as the European wars, politics and economy (which all contributed to establishing New Plymouth). This book is well researched and investigates many different angles to an otherwise well known but often simplified and stereotypical story of the pilgrims. There is for example a great chapter describing puritans exiled in Leiden which provides great insight into Dutch history and British – Dutch links. More...



Pathways to Pleasure Part 3

by Jo 9. April 2014 10:37

by Charles Davis

Previous blogs in this mini-series discussed the cottage industries and agronomic imperatives that have shaped the walking experience in high mountains, but not all our pathways to pleasure were beaten out in pursuit of such down to earth objectives. Some of the pioneers were looking further afield, a lot further, exploiting the elevation of mountains for triangulation surveys. The obvious incidence of this are the trig points in the United Kingdom that have become so popular that many hikers ‘collect’ them and, now that they have been superseded, campaign to preserve them. Trig points are less dense on the ground in Spain, but their geographical and historical reach is perhaps greater. For instance, the ruins on top of mainland Spain’s highest mountain, Mulhacen (see Walk! The Alpujarras) and the remains of the track zigzagging down its southern flank, date from a nineteenth century survey of North Africa that took advantage of the summit’s views of Algeria. But for my money the best story involving scientists in high places concerns François Arago, the nineteenth century French astronomer, mathematician, physician and politician, who became an academician at the tender age of twenty-three. More...

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Expert Travel Advice


by Jo 28. March 2014 09:52

by Olivia Schroeder

While all of my friends spent their spring break lounging on the beaches in Florida or taking advantage of all inclusive resorts in Mexico, I was stuck where the weather was not as warm. However, I refused to allow the lack of sunshine ruin my spring break. My friends and I decided to get out of the UK and headed straight for Italy. We spent time in Rome and Florence where I ate more carbs in a few days than I probably have in my entire life. My excuse was that by not eating my weight in pasta and pizza I was being rude to the Italian culture! Other than a day of rain, Italy was beautiful but not my favourite destination of spring break.                                                                  

After our Italian adventures, we caught a flight to Nice, France. We were not even off the plane before I could hear my friends wishing we had spent the entirety of our trip there. Out one side of the plane we could see the Mediterranean Sea and out the other side, snowy mountain tops. Luckily for us, the sun shone for the duration of our stay. Our days were spent exploring the markets and walking along the beach. There was a flower market that sold the most beautiful bouquets for a fraction of what they would cost at home. While I personally found it too chilly to put on a swim suit and lay in the sun, the residents of Nice flocked to the beach ready to start on their summer tan. At night we would watch the sunset on the beach and then find dinner in a café along the water.More...

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We've Been There

Pacific Coast Highway

by Jo 18. March 2014 11:10

by Gregor Swiderek

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH in short) is one of the world's most scenic roads, if not the most scenic one. As the name suggest it hugs the Pacific Coast, often perched on top of the very steep ledges. It runs from the southern tip of Baja California in Mexico all the way to the top of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, but the most scenic, and famous, part stretches between Morro Bay in the south and Carmel in the north (both in California).

My first encounter with this fabulous road was in 2004 when with a few of my mates we toured the west coast after spending summer working in California. It was great trip and we were absolutely gobsmacked by the PCH. Back then we drove all the stretch from Los Angeles to the Olympic Peninsula but our time was quite limited and we wanted to see a lot of places so we were really rushing along. The other big downside of that trip was the fact that I couldn't yet drive myself. So, even back then, I made a strong commitment to head back that way and drive the road myself. Over the years of my travels to the USA I did manage to drive some sections of the PCH in Oregon (which are almost equally stunning) but it wasn't until my latest trip that I got opportunity to drive the most scenic bit of it, along the central Californian coast. More...

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Expert Travel Advice

Pathways to Pleasure - Part 2

by Jo 12. March 2014 12:18

by Charles Davis 

In a previous blog, I spoke about the charcoal-burning and lime-firing that furnished many of the paths still in use in Mallorca, but these cottage industries were far from being the only activities opening up what has since become the leisure walking landscape in Spain.

Snow gathering for the purposes of preparing medicines and for refrigeration was still in operation as late as the 1920s. Trampled into ice and packed between protective layers of diss grass or straw, the snow was stored in deep pits variously known as casas or pozos de nieve in Spanish and casa neu in Catalan (literally snow ‘houses’ or ‘wells’), then transported down to the lowlands piecemeal on mules during the summer nights. Like the activities of charcoal-burning and lime-firing, the trails left by snow gatherers provide some great walking experiences, and some of the surrounding cabins are still used for shelter. The trade in ice was so definitive of the mountain environment that the culminating point of the Axarquia, which was originally called Tejeda because of the surrounding forests of yew (tejos), is now uniformly known as ‘La Maroma’ after the thick rope used to access the ice pits on the summit. More...


Expert Travel Advice

Win tickets to see The A-Z of Mrs P

by Jo 10. March 2014 16:34

Stanfords is delighted to be sponsoring the brand new musical fable The A-Z Of Mrs P.

The musical is now showing at Southwark Playhouse until 29th March 2014: starring Isy Suttie as the pioneering Mrs P; with Tony Award winner Frances Ruffelle as her emotionally fragile mother; and Olivier Award winner Michael Matus as Phyllis's beloved and impossible father, the map publisher Alexander Gross.

The story:

In 1936, Phyllis Pearsall left her husband in Venice and came to find her way in London. Then she received a telegram from her father, map publisher Alexander Gross.

And here begins the story of how an eccentric Bohemian artist put down her paints and picked up the drawing board to follow in her beloved and impossible father’s footsteps to map an entire city. Follow their different journeys as they intersect and diverge through the thoroughfares and alleyways of London, scaling new heights, seizing opportunities, to build an iconic business midst the tangled labyrinths of a troubled family saga.

We have 5 pairs of tickets to giveaway - to enter simply fill in the form below:More...

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Book of the Month - A Sense of Direction

by Jo 10. March 2014 14:47

Our Book of the Month for March is A Sense of Direction by American writer Gideon Lewis-Kraus. After a recent visit to our Long Acre store, he kindly agreed to share some of his photos from his travels on our blog:

My book begins in Berlin, a place many young people had long been moving to for the general lack of authority that obtained there; in the book, I liken it to a variety of anti-gravity chamber. When you're young and have creative aspirations and have been working hard, as I was, in an expensive city - in my case, San Francisco - just to pay your rent, it's easy to fall victim to the fantasy that if only you didn't have to work so hard for the basic necessities, you'd find yourself in full creative flower. But one of the things I discovered in Berlin was that the mere absence of external authority did not usher in a new era of internal authority, and after a few years at loose ends there I took up my friend Tom's larkish suggestion that I accompany him on a trip along the Camino de Santiago, a medieval pilgrimage route across northern Spain that has, over the last few decades, become tremendously, a historically popular with a young crowd of secular drifters.

As we set off one morning from our hostel in the Pyrenees, I took immediate comfort in the fact that we were just following signs; all authority had, at least superficially, been successfully externalized. One of the arcs of the book has something to do with how we all relate to authority - how, for some of us, and for me at that moment in my life, we need to externalize desire in order to feel it as authority. We need to hear our wants as foreign needs. So a lot of the book becomes about how one relates to signposts and guidebooks along the way. (I reserve a special ire for guidebook-author irresponsibility.)More...

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Expert Travel Advice


by Jo 9. March 2014 09:12

by Olivia Schroeder

After the early morning train ride to Paris all I really wanted to do was crawl into bed and take a long nap! My friends had other plans and made sure I came along with them on a bus tour of the city. One thing I love about bus tours is how much you get to see so quickly. Last time I was in Paris I fell in love with the architecture, it’s absolutely stunning and it seems like every building has a story. The Louvre for example was a fortress, then it became a castle and then a museum, or how the statues above the portals of Notre Dame were pulled down and destroyed during the revolution because they were believed to be French kings. They weren’t French after all, but rather the kings of Israel, so the ones standing today are recreations. Even the bridges have history; they were built to commemorate battle victories and some have an ‘N’ on them to salute the bridge commissioner, Napoleon.   

After our tour we headed straight to the Louvre. I think I was told that in order to see every piece of art housed in the museum it would take a person 6 months. Unfortunately we only had a few hours, so we grabbed a map and began our trek through the Louvre. First stop, Mona Lisa. We knew we were in the right place when we saw the huge crowd of people gathered around a small wall in the center of a room. Even only being a relatively small painting, the Mona Lisa has her own wall and 3 museum employees keeping an eye on her viewers. It is true what they say, her eyes follow you around the room, I checked twice just to make sure! It was interesting to learn that the Mona Lisa is too expensive to be insured and therefore never allowed to leave the Louvre. It reminded me of a book about an art thief I read when I was younger, Le Vol de la Joconde. One of my favorite things to look at in art museums is paintings of Jesus. A strange thing to seek out, but it is so interesting to see how people all over the world portray him. In some French paintings he is paled skinned with a well groomed beard and in other paintings he looks like he stepped out of the Middle East with long dark hair. But each painting had something beautiful about it.More...


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