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Bookish travel

As the weather turns sharply colder and the holiday decorations start cropping up—as well as the Union Square holiday market, much to Former Intern Bridget’s delight—I inevitably start dreaming about vacations.  Admittedly, I’m not a tropical beach vacation kind of gal, so it doesn’t make a ton of sense.  Still, I find myself thinking about where I’ll go next and how lovely it will be and making up elaborate plans for cities I may or may not ever visit.  Helpfully, National Geographic Traveler has come up with a list of the Top 10 Literary Cities (h/t LA Times book blog).  Now I can pretend my wanderlust is totally work related and blog about it.

I’m feeling rather ahead of the game, having been to cities 1-4 and 8.  I didn’t find myself doing many bookish things when I took a trip to Edinburgh a few years back, but I do remember wandering into a “close” near the castle and suddenly understanding the title of a book I’d been shelving at work a few weeks before—it had sounded suitably atmospheric that I’d not quite registered that I didn’t know what the word meant, but then seeing it on a street sign the lightbulb went off.  Dublin gets the #2 spot, which makes perfect sense to me, having studied Irish lit and spent a fair amount of time there.  On my last visit, I browsed an incredible manuscript collection at the Chester Beatty Library for hours when the rain and poor planning diverted my former roommate and I from our previous plans.  Once, before I’d even been to London, I planned a walking tour based on some combination of Oliver Twist and Martin Amis’s London Fields for a college class—though admittedly in the times I’ve been there, I never recreated it.  I have, however, spent hours in the British Museum, including the pretty extraordinary reading room.  And Paris I know more from books than anywhere else, so my wandering about was very much driven by things I recognized from literature.  Washington, DC, I’ll admit, I’ve never experienced in a literary way.

What about you?  How many of these cities do you know?  Any recommendations for when I make my way to the others?

One Response to Bookish travel

  1. Kim says:

    Seeing Santiago, Chile on the list, I’d strongly recommend visiting not only La Chascona in the capital (where you will find a wonderful painting of Neruda’s wife Matilde and her lustrous curls) but also make the day trip to his two homes on the Pacific coast–Isla Negra (where there is a great seafood restaurant) and his home that looks like a ship coming out of the side of the mountain in Valparaiso, complete with portholes. There are many great stories of Neruda especially at Isla Negra. His desk top was a piece of wood, likely from a seafaring vessel of some sort, that he saw floating on the ocean through his window while writing. And although Neruda was enamored of the ocean, at Isla Negra you’ll see his boat in which he and friends drank while never leaving dry land. (It seems he was afraid of the water.)

    When in Chile, read Neruda’s “Memorias” (his autobiography, also translated into English). In one scene, while he was on airplane over India, a storm shook the plane so hard that it began to rain into the fuselage. He describes the terrifying scene, then writes how a Buddhist monk simply picked up an umbrella and serenely opened it to stay dry.

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