Sunday 31 March 2013

#OBSpringFling with Julia Park Tracey - Top Ten Travel Spots

Top Ten Travel Spots for Book Worms by Julia Park Tracey When I travel, I go all word-nerdy on my traveling companions (daughters, husband, sister, whomever). I have to go to at least one place, wherever we are, that has a literary association. That can be for five minutes of contemplation. Or it could be an afternoon walking in the midst of a city where a beloved author or poet lived. Here are my top 10 literary travel spots.


1. Paris – Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Of course the whole city is delicious, for the Lost Generation writers and artists, but this bookstore, which still exists, was a haven for ex-pat Americans. The last time I was there, I bought a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast (a book about Paris) and then I went to the Café Americaine and devoured it with my coffee and croissant. Truly, heaven.


2. London – London is nirvana for Brit-lit nerds like me (I got my master’s in early 20th century British literature.) Walk around Bloomsbury, where Virginia Woolf and her pals hung out. Walk through Hyde Park and stop at the statue of Peter Pan. Pause in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey to honor those brilliant names heralded there. Cross Westminster Bridge and meditate upon the lines composed there by Wordsworth. And by all means, go enjoy a tankard of ale near the reconstructed Globe Theatre, to visit shades of Shakespeare. Even Harry Potter is there, at King’s Cross rail station. Try running through at Platform 9 ¾. Go ahead. I dare you.


3. Bath, England – I’m a Jane Austen freak and my favorite Austen novel is Persuasion, much of which takes place in Bath. Whenever I’m in England, I always stay a night at Bath to walk around and absorb the atmosphere of this gorgeous Georgian city. Guidebooks call it “heartbreakingly beautiful.” I call it steeped in all things Austen. Have afternoon tea in the Pump Room, stroll around the Circus, or be a Jane-stalker like I am. I tracked down every house she ever lived in and took a photo of the front door, and pocketed a leaf or a pebble to enshrine at home. Somewhere. Wish I could find those. clip_image010 4. New York – This city is full of literary lights. When I’m in New York, I go to an open mic night at a bar to share recent work. I stroll through Central Park and enjoy the magic of Strawberry Fields and John Lennon’s memorial. I step into the Algonquin Hotel (59 W 44th St., New York) for a dry martini and read a New Yorker (that’s where all the cool folks of the Algonquin Round Table, that is, early 20th century American writers like Dorothy Parker) used to hang out. And I might find Sebastian Junger’s bar and restaurant, The Half King in Chelsea, for a bite to eat. (505 W 23rd St , New York) clip_image012 5. East Bay, California – There are many poets and writers in Berkeley and Oakland, and I happen to live here, too. Favorite literary spots include Joaquin Miller Park, named for the early 20th century poet; Jack London Square, where his actual Alaska cabin has been brought to rest as a tourist attraction, next to Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon – where London himself drank (48 Webster St., Oakland). Or I head to Telegraph Avenue near the University of California, where many creative people have studied, and street poets expound. Plus: Indian food, tie die, hemp bracelets and vintage clothing. Hell, yes. 6. San Francisco – I lived in san Francisco for five years and loved being able to drop in on the City Light Bookstore (261 Columbus at Broadway), where Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the Beat poets used to hang out, a la Shakespeare and Company. The Edinburgh Castle Pub (950 Geary St.) is central to the annual LitQuake festival ( and there’s always some kind of hip reading series underway. The San Francisco Library is a treasure and a jewel, again with guest speakers and a vast array of resources for writers. Which writers are from San Francisco? Too many to count: Robert Frost, Dashiell Hammett, Lemony Snicket, Armistead Maupin, Gary Snyder, Michelle Tea and more. 7. Salinas, California – Sweet and simple, here is the house where John Steinbeck was born and lived as a boy. Steinbeck, of course, wrote Cannery Row, about the nearby coastal city of Monterey, as well as The Grapes of Wrath and more. Within an hour or so of Monterey and the former canneries, this house is also a restaurant, and makes for a good stop on a California road trip. (132 Central Avenue, Salinas) 8. Salem, Massachusetts – Nathaniel Hawthorne lived here, well after the Puritan witch hunts, but he always felt a little guilty for his ancestors’ participation in those unfortunate days. Hawthorne’s visits to his cousin’s home are credited with inspiring the setting and title of his 1851 novel The House of the Seven Gables. The house is open for tours. The town is particularly fun and spooky during October. Halloween? Why not? (115 Derby St., Salem) 9. Scotland – Bagpipes give me a thrill, and so do the novels of D.E. Stevenson. Many of her novels are set in Edinburgh, including Listening Valley, The Marriage of Katherine, and more of her 40+ early 20th century women’s novels. If you can jump on the train to Glasgow, stop in at the Clutha Vaults (167 Stockwell St., Glasgow), one of the oldest pubs extant in Scotland, and listen to poets share their words. I read there once myself, and it is an experience to share poetry with people who love it. Even further from town is the city of Irvine, where poet Robert Burns once lived and began writing, and the first Robert Burns Club (28 Eglinton St., Irvine) is open for tours, lectures and history about the beloved Scots poet. 10. The literary places I have yet to visit include the smaller villages of England (where so many murder mysteries take place); Stratford upon Avon (where Shakespeare lived) and Oxford, England (the Inklings met there); and any of the locations of Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. If I kept a bucket list, those places would be on it. Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist and blogger. Her novel, Tongues of Angels, is live at Amazon and your local bookstore now. Like her at Facebook/JuliaParkTracey or on Twitter@JuliaParkTracey. Photos (courtesy of Julia Park Tracey) At Shakespeare and Company, the bookstore at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie in Paris. Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross rail station, London. The door of one of Jane Austen’s houses in Bath, England. The John Lennon memorial in New York’s Central Park. Jack London’s Cabin and Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon in Oakland, California.

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