24 breaks for bookworms
1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of the American dream”. His adventures were initially serialized in Rolling Stone, before becoming a cult classic that spawned a writing style known as gonzo journalism. You can still rent a Cadillac for a night on the strip, but leave the acid behind.
2. Playing Pooh Sticks in Hundred Acre Wood
It was East Sussex’s Ashdown Forest that inspired A. A. Milne to write the delightful tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, “a bear of very little brain”. The highlight of these 6000 acres of heathland is the Pooh sticks bridge. The rules of the game are simple: players choose distinctive sticks, drop them on the upstream side of the bridge and see which flows under first.
3. Find a room with a view in Florence
More than 100 years after E. M. Forster’s gentle love story was published, it’s still possible to follow in the footsteps of Lucy Honeychurch and Miss Bartlett across Florence. Aside from renting a room with a view, you should visit the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria and the Basilica of Santa Croce, all of which make an appearance in the novel.
4. Follow the Austen trail around Bath
Jane Austen lived in Bath for five years and the city provided the setting for both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Today walking tours lead you to significant locations, while the Jane Austen Centre paints a picture of the Regency Period and of her life in the city. A short drive away, the village of Lacock is where the BBC's Pride and Prejudice series was filmed.
5. Get the 007 treatment in Paris
Sir Roger Moore’s gunfight atop the Eiffel Tower might not be quite true to Ian Fleming’s From a View to a Kill, but there’s a new way to immerse yourself in Bond’s Paris. The Latin Quarter’s Seven Hotel has created a lavish 007 suite, complete with revolver night lights and a TV loaded with the movie adaptations.
6. Explore Holden Caulfield’s New York City
J. D. Salinger’s classic coming-of-age tale The Catcher in the Rye is loved the world over and supposedly one of the ten most popular books in the USA. Today you can still retrace 17-year-old Holden’s journey through 1940s New York: start at Grand Central, drop by the Met, explore the American Museum of Natural History, and end the day ice skating at the Rockefeller Centre or wandering Central Park Zoo.
7. Enter Narnia in Oxford
Just by the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford you’ll find the lamppost which supposedly sparked C. S. Lewis’ idea for Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy’s journey into Narnia. Together with Tolkien, Lewis was a member of the Inklings during his time at university here, and you can visit the Eagle and Child pub where they discussed early drafts of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
8. Get on the road in the US
Kerouac’s jazz, booze and drug-filled tale of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty’s journey across the USA is the quintessential work of the Beat generation. Fans should make sure to include San Francisco in their On the Road revival, where the Beat Museum’s collection of memorabilia, letters and first editions help bring this period to life.
9. Visit Middle Earth in New Zealand
You’d be hard pressed not to know that this antipodean nation provided the backdrop for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. As well as exploring the natural landscape that so closely echoes Tolkien’s imagery – from Tongariro Crossing to Glenorchy – you can also visit the Hobbiton movie set near Matamata.
10. Turn detective on a Nile cruise
Published in 1937, the glamorous and haunting tale of Death on the Nile was one of Agatha Christie’s best. The book sees eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot investigate a complex murder while their liner cruises past the pyramids. Today you can stay in the luxurious Agatha Christie suite on the Steam Ship Sudan or visit the refurbished Old Cataract hotel in Aswan where Christie wrote the book.
11. Write your own motorcycle diary
The memoir of 23-year-old Ernesto “Che” Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries charts his journey through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela; it was a trip that fuelled his passion for righting social injustice and formed the political views that later led him to Cuba. In the wake of the film version, South American trips from the US reportedly rose by over 20%, but few undertake the full 8000km odyssey.
12. Experience 1984 in North Korea
Barely an article is written about this secretive state without reference to Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. Life in North Korea might not be as bleak as it was for Winston Smith, but the Big Brother-style surveillance and fascination with war have an unnerving symmetry with the book. Tours are heavily choreographed affairs: you’ll need to leave your phone and political views at the airport.
13. Get your teeth into Transylvania
The Dracula trail is well worn in Transylvania, the "land beyond the forest". It was here that Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, ruled from 1456 to 1462; he was later immortalized as Dracula in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. Stoker reportedly did all his research remotely, but today you can visit the suitably eerie Bran Castle, where Vlad Tepes was supposedly imprisoned, and the town of Sighisoara, where he was born.
14. Find love in Bali
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love has sold over ten million copies worldwide and inspired thousands of copycat pilgrimages to Ubud, where she met her partner. Aside from soaking up the atmosphere in a relaxing Balinese guesthouse, you could take a trip to the peaceful island of Gili Meno, where the book reaches its conclusion.
15. Unlock the Da Vinci Code in Paris
Reportedly the sixth most read book in the world, it’s no surprise that Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code has spawned a host of Parisian tours and experiences. Part of the mysterious thriller centres on Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu’s time in the Louvre, where nighttime tours now try to recreate the book’s suspense.
16. Follow Homer’s Odyssey in Greece
Written nearly 3000 years ago, Homer’s Odyssey describes King Odysseus’s ten-year journey from Troy to Ithaca and the mythical creatures he encounters along the way. There’s plenty of healthy debate as to whether the modern island of Ithaca is the one described in the epic, but it’s a good place to start your trip nonetheless.
17. Discover Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm
After it sold more than 60 million copies, it’s no wonder that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been picked up by Stockholm's tour companies. Guided walks give you a glimpse into Stieg Larsson’s dark vision, featuring sites from the book such as Mikael Blomkvist’s home address and Mellqvist Kaffebar.
18. Encounter geishas in Kyoto
Published in 1997 and adapted into a film in 2005, Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha charts Chiyo Sakamoto’s life and geisha training in Kyoto. You can still encounter geishas and novice maikos in this traditional city, where ochaya (tea houses) pepper the historic Gion district. Try to organise your trip to coincide with the cherry blossom in early April.
19. Make a pilgrimage to Canterbury
Published in the late fourteenth century, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales recount the story of a group of pilgrims travelling from London to visit Thomas Becket’s tomb in Canterbury Cathedral. The "Canterbury Tales" attraction now vividly recreates the sounds and smells of this Middle Ages tale, with costumed actors sometimes adding an extra dimension.
20. Seek out Gatsby Glamour in New York City
Celebrate the 1920s decadence of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatbsy with a stay at New York’s Plaza Hotel, a personal haunt of Fitzgerald which featured in the book. The lavish Art Deco Fitzgerald Suite was designed by Baz Luhrmann’s wife Catherine Martin, but if that's a little over your budget, then don't miss 'Gatsby Hour' at the hotel’s Rose Club.
21. Brush off your broomstick in Scotland
It's widely thought that Scotland provided J. K. Rowling's inspiration for the setting of Hogwarts, and activities for Harry Potter fans abound. Start with a trip on the real-life equivalent of the Hogwarts Express, the Jacobite steam train over the magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct. At Alnwick Castle, the setting for Harry’s first quidditch lesson, you can even try your hand at riding a broomstick.
22. Find paradise on a beach in Thailand
Made famous by Leonardo di Caprio and Danny Boyle in 2000, Alex Garland’s dark story of a backpacker’s search for a paradise beach is a must-read for gap-year travellers on the banana pancake trail. The film was shot on Koh Phi Phi where you can visit the idyllic white sands of Hat Maya, which provided the on-screen location.
23. Get knocked sideways by Santa Barbara Wine Country
There’s no better way to whet your appetite for a week of wine tasting than by reading Alexander Payne’s novel Sideways, which charts the story of Miles and Jack as they explore Santa Barbara Wine Country. Self-guided wine tours allow you to follow in their footsteps, tasting delicious Pinot Noirs and Syrahs as you go.
24. Savour sweet sorrow in Verona
Verona has certainly capitalized on being the setting of the world’s greatest love story, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The characters are allegedly based on the Montecchi and Capuleti families who lived here at the end of the thirteenth century; today you can tour a collection of slightly dubious sights from the Casa di Giulietta (balcony supposedly added in the 1900s) to Juliet’s tomb.
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