Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Paris & Amsterdam, Books and (small) Board Games

Well having already mostly forgotten what work is (despite only being off 5 days so far), we're now off on holiday in the morning. First stop is Paris, then onto Amsterdam on Sunday. I think it is going to be board game-light week due to luggage constraints, though I am managing to squeeze a few small games into my bag.

Parade - A classic small card game. There's a parade of cards on the table 0 to 10 in various different colours (5 maybe?). You've got to put down a card each turn on the end of the card, but depending on what card you place you may be forced to pick up cards. The aim is not to pick up cards, but if you do, try to get the most cards in a colour to only score 1 point per card rather than the face value.

Province - This is a micro game which I kickstarted a couple of years ago. Only played once and can't really remember much at all about it, but it is tiny, so in it goes!

Fungi - A really nice card game about mushrooms for 2 players. Lovely to play, helps if you like mushrooms (or at least don't feel sick at the sight of them like some people I know).

Lost Legagy: Starship - Only played once or twice, is really small and comes in its own bag. Not supposed to be as good with two players, but we'll give it a go.

No theming there alas. I suppose I could have bought 'The Merchants of Amsterdam' (BGG rank 1021), Hotel Amsterdam (7754), The Chaps From Amsterdam (with an average rating of 3.2, probably not worth the excess baggage charge), or even 'Amsterdam' from 1973. As for Paris, there's 'Paris Connection' (rank 1014), Paris Paris (rank 2067) or Drive on Paris (rank 3365). If anyone's played any of these, let me know what they're like! As it is I'll stick to small games that fit in the bag!

As to books though, I have gone for a bit of a theme. The last book I read was a light military SF novel which was enjoyable enough, but I wanted something with a bit more substance next. So I've gone for some non-fiction history/travel books linking in to where I'm going.

First up is 'Parisians' by Graham Robb. The author has written a number of other non-fiction books, most notably 'The Discovery of France' is a book all about the French - the place, the people, the customs and lots of interesting stories. That book excluded Paris however, perhaps because he always intended this follow up book.

Parisians are a series of twenty stories (or vignettes to use a word of French origin) about famous Parisians, to narrate the story of Paris. The first story is from just before the French Revolution and continue up until recent times. Some of the stories are of famous Parisians you've actually heard of, some little known historical figures that deserve a bigger place in history. I've actually started this one, and it is already fascinating.

I've had mixed feelings about Bill Bryson in the past, there's some books that I've started but never really got into. I think the problem is that his books are a mix of informative and comic, and for me there's an ideal balance which is not always met. I don't mind erring more on the informative side, after all I enjoy reading straight travelogues too, but if the balance tips too much towards the funny at the expense of the information imparted he tends to lose me. I don't really like books that are funny but empty.

I recently read 'Down Under' though, his book on Australia, and thought it was fantastic. I learned a lot and laughed a lot throughout. So I am going to give 'Neither Here Nor There', an account of his travels through Europe ,a go. He stops in both Paris and Amsterdam (along with a lot of other places), so that fits in well with my holiday.

Finally, a history of Amsterdam. I had a choice of this book by Russell Shorto, and one by Dutch writer Geert  Mak. I opted for 'Amsterdam' by Russell Shorto, partly based on the sample first chapters I read (though both were very promising), but also because Shorto wrote one of my favourite history books, 'The Island at the Center of the World' about the early history of New York (when it was a Dutch colony known as New Amsterdam).

Amsterdam has a short but fascinating history. It is less than a thousand years old, but only several centuries after its founding was, for a while in the late 17th century, the most prominent and successful of European cities. I know relatively little about it however, so I am looking forward to learning more.

So that's what I'm taking with me. The trip isn't really about board gaming or reading of course, there won't be that much time for either. But hopefully after a long day's sightseeing there will be time to relax with a game and a book - and maybe a glass or two of wine in Paris, and a few beers in Amsterdam...