The journey from Palma to Soller on a lovely rickety wooden train and then by bus to Valldemossa is breathtaking. The Carthusian Monastery in Valldemossa is where George Sand and Frederic Chopin stayed in the winter of 1838/39 and George Sand wrote of their experiences in her book " A Winter in Majorca " The tour of the Monastery is not to be missed.
Google map: bit.ly/nAtVuq
The Moomin Valley of the Tampere Art Museum is a museum devoted to original works by writer and artist Tove Jansson and can be found in the centre of the city of Tampere. A heaven for those who love Moomins!
With it being Children's Book Week I can only encourage all families to get out and visit some of the amazing places here in the UK that have links to brilliant children's books. In Scotland you could visit the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, JM Barie's birthplace in Kirriemuir. Crossing the border Harry Potter fans should visit Alnwick Castle before hitting Seven Stories in Newcastle, currently the only exhibition space in the UK dedicated to the celebration of British children’s literature. Crossing the Pennines you'll find the World of Beatrix Potter at Bowness-on-Windermere with the National Trust owned former home of Beatrix Potter nearby. Moving further south there are two delights for Dahl lovers - the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery in Buckinghamshire County Museum, Aylesbury and The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden. London is home to a wealth of children's literature attractions: Discover – The story making centre in Stratford is a good place to start and a visit to the Illustration Cupboard (just of Regent Street), an art gallery representing contemporary book illustrators from around the world is a must. If you're looking for locations which feature in children's literature (although they may not have actual visitor attractions there) the website Storybook England is brilliant (www.storybookengland.com/). Pack a picnic, a good book or two to read together and visit a location from a favourite book of your childhood!
Chronic ill health led Robert Louis Stevenson, famous author of Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, to embark on a series of voyages around the South Seas. He finally settled along with his family in Western Samoa, where he became a well-loved figure, striding around like a “demented stork” according to one observer. He died in 1894 at the age of 44. It is still possible to visit his house, Vailima, and if you are fit and willing, to labour up the rough hewn path built by devoted Samoans to carry him to rest at the top of an extremely steep hill. When I was there I was alone in that uniquely peaceful spot, with a wonderful view down over the coastal town of Apia.
This is a fantastic memoir about a man looking back on his eventful life down and out traveling homeless through Greece, and other parts of Europe, while coming to terms with his present situation, a life threatening battle brought about by his past. Brilliantly written, engaging and informative. Can't recommend this book enough.
Robert Louis Stevenson, famous author of Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, was living in America in 1888 when his chronic ill health led he and his entire family to voyage around the south seas. This book describes how he came to settle in Western Samoa, build a home there, Vailima, and finally die there in 1894 at the age of 44. Years after reading it I struggled alone up the rough hewn path which devoted Samoans had built to the top of a steep hill to lay him to rest. I was alone with a wonderful view down over the coastal town of Apia, reading the inscription on his grave:
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
Vailima Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson ed. Methuen
I was overjoyed to discover this book in the eighties, to find a kindred spirit, someone who not only found himself fired up by the sound of exotic destinations like “Hispaniola” and “Cathay;” but one who does not accept “it’s impossible, you can’t take a series of ships around the world” as a final answer. Well, he did it, by tanker, freight, dhow, junk, anything that moved, twenty-three vessels in all over seven months, encountering pirates, coolies, captains and admirals, always the best, most entertaining and enterprising of companions. “Slow Boats Home” is the equally exciting sequel.
Slow Boats to China by Gavin Young
Sara Wheeler travelled alone around the long skinny country that is Chile for six months in the early 90’s, and this is her account. She tells it like it is, and the truth is travel can be horrible: missed connections, sea sickness, squalid rooms and the frustrations of bureaucracy. We learn about the history, literature, geography and politics of the country, she mixes with everyone from the poorest to poshest, and there are plenty of detailed maps of her route. Best of all, the book is hilarious, with phrases like: “our room was made entirely of hardboard, the bathroom locked on the outside and we had to unscrew the lightbulb to turn the light off."
Travels in a Thin Country by Sara Wheeler
This is an extraordinary book written at a time and about a place, that means it will almost certainly never be replicated. Peter Levi and his friend the author Bruce Chatwin travelled through Afghanistan in 1970 to study classical influences on Buddhist architecture and sculpture. It was a wild and dangerous expedition undertaken by bus, foot and on horseback, and Levi comments perceptively "I remember thinking we were as remote from the world then as we should ever be in our lives". This book defines the difference between travel and tourism.
The Light Garden of the Angel King by Peter Levi
Laurie Lee, best known as the author of Cider with Rosie, set out to walk from the north to the south of Spain in July 1935. Why Spain? Because he knew enough of the language to ask for a glass of water. By the time he arrived in Andalucia a year later civil war had broken out and he was evacuated by a British destroyer. This is real adventure among the wild beauty and blazing heat of the countryside he trudged through, and the poverty of the people he lived among. He reflected afterwards: “I was perhaps never so alone and never so alive again."
As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
The Travellers Tree was published in 1950 and is a vivid account of Leigh Fermor's journey through the Caribbean. He travelled by sea and air through the chain of Caribbean islands, visiting fifteen islands in all. Two chapters are devoted to Haiti one to Jamaica, another to Trinidad, but he also visited many of the smaller islands and he reflects on the different peoples, languages, religions and cultures that he comes across. His accounts of the various islands are not a travel guide but paint a detailed picture of the Caribbean as yet untouched by mass tourism. The title of the book refers to the Traveller's tree common to the region. His interest however is not just in the natural world that he encounters but the diversity of the people he encounters including the original Amerindian population of Dominica. Many sections of the book give the reader considerable historical background and also include references to earlier visitors and their impressions of the region.
Published by Penguin books
Although it's a very hefty book and not necessarily one to take with you when travelling, if you are planning a big adventure this book is brilliant for suggesting places to go and things to see when you get there.
I was travelling to Australia and was keen not to just do the tourist trail.
This book recommended places to visit to view art in Melbourne and it was a brilliant springboard to make me think about places to go and things to see.
When I'd had enough of artistic viewings I wandered a little further out of Melbourne to St Kilda and spent some time watching the kite surfers on the beach, then headed off for some fun at Luna Park just off the boardwalk at St Kilda.
In need of something yummy to eat after a hard day viewing art and having fun I wandered along St Kilda High Street and struggled to select from the unbelievable number of cake shops!
buy the book from Amazon (or better still buy the e-book and you can carry it with you). A great place for art in Melbourne is the National Gallery Of Victoria. 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.
This book beautifully captures the sensuous beauty of 1930s Spain. Long before the days of inter-railing, the 19-year-old Laurie Lee walks from Vigo to Granada, knowing only one Spanish phrase. His rite of passage brings to life the "stutter of cicadas" in Valladolid, "disease ridden Cadiz" and the gypsy flamenco dancers of Seville. Through the freshness of a young man's eyes, the book portrays the steamy heat and vitality of a country on the brink of civil war. As a good travel book should - it makes me want to go there!
A pleasure to read with no lists of "the best 10" places to see but lovingly based on a lifetime of walking around Venice. It will take you to where Canaletto stood to paint famous scenes, obscure alleys with Byzantine remains and will provide knowledge of things you will not otherwise know, e.g. the rio used by Casanova to asignations at Palazzo Bragadin, as well as giving a more thorough guide to both Venice's usual and to its beautiful but less visited trasures than any other book.
As Ted Simon says of himself, “It was going to be the journey of a lifetime, a journey that millions dream of and never make, and I wanted to do justice to all those dreams”.
Anybody who ever rode a motorbike dreams of emulating Ted Simon’s epic four year circumnavigation of the globe (1973-77). The romantic cowboy in all of us, the carefree loner riding off into the sunset and the inspiration for every long-distance bike journey since.
Written with a frank honesty of the highs and lows of the road; insight into the politics, personalities and dramas this book has become a training manual and bible for every biker who ever gazed out of the window and thought, “I wish I was on my bike”.
In fact, the journey was so life affirming that Ted did it all again 24 years later, at age 70, the story recounted in his book Dreaming of Jupiter.
The powerful words of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem ‘Mont Blanc’ are for me the strongest motivation to travel anywhere. There are no funny tales, pleasant valleys or sun-kissed beaches. This poem leaves you in awe of the “Ghastly, and scarred, and riven” landscape as Mont Blanc “gleams on high”. It casts a timeless, intoxicating spell which envelops the senses and moves us to think beyond our own lives.
In its way, an anti-travel book. Not against the notion of exploration and discovery, but contrary to prescripted itineraries, tired clichés and sightseeing schedules. A celebration of getting lost in Paris; of finding one’s own trajectory through a city that has been much-written about, but that can still stun you with its surprising beauty.
You can’t go wrong with Colin Thubron, and I’d put "In Siberia" at the top of the list. As one reviewer said about the region, these “are places that you would not wish to visit in your wildest dreams”. But one such place, Krasnoyarsk, was the destination of a group of British teachers (myself among them) on a British Council sponsored visit. On the flight to Moscow I seem to recall almost everyone in the group of eight sitting reading their Thubron and it provided us with a cultural and spiritual context for the trip that made the experience all the more profound.
Penguin Books, isbn: 0-140-26860-X
In River of Time, Jon Swain writes beautifully of time spent in Cambodia in the most horrific of times, as the Khmer Rouge tighten their grip on the country. The stories of war are as horrific as the tales of the old Indo-China are captivating. A wonderful, haunting book.
Laurie Lee supposedly said he turned to prose when his passion for poetry died. But this second autobiographical volume was a continuation of his poetry by other means. It has romance, adventure, politics and war, the tragedy of 1930s Spain. It sucked me in the first time I read it, making me want to follow. So I did. And still it draws me back. If you think you’re tired of Spain, read (or re-read) this.
Published by Penguin, rrp £8.99. Available from Amazon and any good bookshop.
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