How to Keep Travel Reading Alive

Travel ‘n Write, the blog featuring stories and photographs by Jackie and Joel Smith always entertains with their far-flung wanderings and their extended stays in Greece in their “house on the hill”.

Greek house
This picture of Jackie and Joel’s “House on the Hill became the cover for a book set in Greece.

This week, the traveling duo really caught my attention. They talked about BOOKS. Although they label their conversation “armchair travel reading”, I think in reality it fits the broader criteria of A Traveler’s Library. The books they read are chosen because they inform and enhance their travels, and Jackie and Joel share those books with others to inspire them to travel also. They kindly permitted me to excerpt their post, and if you clcik over to Travel n Write, you can see “the rest of the story.”

I also enjoyed a bit of nostalgia about the places featured in the books that Jackie shared, (see notes ) plus a definite itch to run right out and get copies of every one of those books!!

A Challenge: Keep Reading About Travel

An entire year has gone by since I last shared a book recommendation here. I thank you for sticking around while I was occupied elsewhere. Here is your chance to keep the spirit of A Traveler’s Library alive and well. I hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from Jackie Smith’s suggestions for travel reading about Jerusalem, the Middle East, Egypt and Greece. If you do, please write to Jackie (information at the bottom of the excerpt) and ask her please to continue suggesting good travel reading.  Let’s keep reading and traveling together.

Excerpt from Travel ‘n Write

The morning sunrise seems softer and the green leaves are showing hints of red and gold – both sure signs that August is leading us into an early autumn in our corner of the Pacific Northwest. It is the time of lazy afternoons on the deck soaking up the last of summer  ~ a time of travel to novel, and not-so-novel, destinations without leaving the chaise lounge.

Armchair, or deck chair, travelers, this post is for you. No packing or security pre-check required. Sit back as we are off to. . .

Jerusalem. . .

“Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgment Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to the 21st century, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of three thousand years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism, and coexistence.” – opening line of Amazon’s description of this book

We visited Jerusalem on one of those one-day-see-everything-you-can cruise ship tours last year.

The glimpse we had – though hasty – of its historical places left us wanting to know more about it: the conflicts that make up its history, how that ‘real’ history meshes with the Biblical version. . .we needed to fill in some blanks and answer some questions.

And one of the best books we’ve found to do that, is the book titled Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

At 704-pages it is not a light read in any sense of the phrase. But it is an easy read and a fascinating journey.

[NOTE: Three older books captured Jerusalem for us at A Traveler’s Library: The Bible, Exodus, and From Beirut to Jerusalem.]

Middle East. . .

She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. – Amazon books

Our fascination with the Middle East continues, even now, months after our introduction to it on that Magic Carpet Ride of a cruise last year.

While images of Lawrence of Arabia came to mind while we traveled there, it wasn’t until this year that we read about Gertrude Bell. I have to admit that it was not until I was channel surfing for movies aboard a transatlantic flight a few months ago, and landed on one called,“Queen of the Desert” starring Robert Pattison and Nicole Kidman, released in 2015, had I ever heard of Gertrude Bell and her mark on history.

After reading the book, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations,  I don’t think the movie does  justice to this woman’s amazing adventures and contributions! Too bad they didn’t have ‘blogs’ back then – hers would have had millions of followers.

NOTE: At A Traveler’s Library, we ran a series on the Middle East during the Arab Spring. My favorite book remains Dining with Al Quaeda,  but if you want to read about Syria, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Libya, Lebanon or Jordan, click the down arrow on “categories” to the left, and search destinations.]

Egypt…

Egypt Books
Books purchased in Egypt by the Smiths.

I know many of you swear by your Kindles and electronic books, but for us there is nothing better than discovering a bookstore in a new city and spending a good deal of time there looking at covers, flipping through pages.  That was the case with Diwa Bookstore in the Zamelik district of Cairo.  We couldn’t resist buying three of the oh, so many, titles that tempted. . .many by writers of whom we’d never heard of before but whom we’ve since found on Amazon (so you don’t need to go to Cairo to find the book).

This sweeping novel depicts the intertwined lives of an assortment of Egyptians–Muslims and Copts, northerners and southerners, men and women–as they begin to settle in Egypt’s great second city, and explores how the Second World War, starting in supposedly faraway Europe, comes crashing down on them, affecting their lives in fateful ways.

Central to the novel is the story of a striking friendship between Sheikh Magd al-Din, a devout Muslim with peasant roots in northern Egypt, and Dimyan, a Copt with roots in southern Egypt, in their journey of survival and self-discovery.  – Amazon books

No One Sleeps in Alexandria may have been one of the best ‘reads’ we’ve had this year.  The other two books, not novels, pictured above, were also excellent.  On the left, The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family’s Exodus from Cairo to the New World  (2008) is written by Lucette Lagnado about her family’s relocation to the United States from Cairo. An amazing tale.

Six Days: How the 1967 War Shaped the Middle East is an almost hour-by-hour look at the six day war that took place way back when we were too young to understand war or how it would shape the Middle East. Written by Jeremy Bowen, who from 1995 – 2000 was the BBC’s Middle East Correspondent, the book is a must for anyone trying to understand what has led to today’s conflicts there. It doesn’t provide all the answers, but it certainly puts them in perspective.

NOTE: Several books about Egypt got our attention here at A Traveler’s Library. I’m partial to one about movies, written by my brother. He called it Don’t Pay the Camel Driver Until You Get to the Pyramid.]

Greece. . .

Sofia’s love life has ended in disaster. Having lost her London home, she now lives with and cares for her Greek grandmother, matriarch of the family, astute business woman, and widow of an English man. Sofia hears stories from the past, of her grandparents’ meeting and life in the remote coastal village of Galini on the Greek island of Tritinos. When her grandmother dies, she bequeaths to Sofia the family house in Galini, with one condition attached.   Amazon Books

Long-time readers of Travelnwrite will remember the English writer and his editor wife, Bill and Val Kitson, who we met by chance several years ago on Crete’s southern coast in a tiny village called Loutro. We’ve stayed in touch and since the initial meeting have rendezvoused in that village to celebrate Greek Easter a short time ago.

Late last year we were honored to have Bill  select a photo of mine of our Stone House on the Hill to be the cover photo of his Greek novel, Sofia’s House.

If you just need a bit of romance on a Greek island — with a plot twist or two thrown in — this is the book for you!

[NOTE: Jackie and Joel and Ken and I share a deep fascination with Greece. A Traveler’s Library may have posted more reviews of books set in Greece than in any other individual country. To find them, type in Greece where you see the magnifying glass at the top of the page.]

[NOTE: Go directly to Travel ‘n Write for he rest of this post, and spend some time looking at their fascinating wanderings.]

YOUR TURN

Jackie concludes by saying:

That’s a bit of our ‘summer arm chair travels’. How about you?  Any good novel – or not-so-novel – destinations to recommend to others?  Send us an email (travelnwrite@msn.com) with the name of the book, the author (where and how to buy it) and why you recommend it. If I get enough responses, I’ll do another post featuring your recommendations for arm chair travels.

Since I don’t intend to regularly update A Traveler’s Library, if you want to continue to have good suggestions for travel reading, please tell Jackie to keep up the good work.

Disclaimer: Jackie also added a note explaining that she was not using links to Amazon. I, however,  AM linking to Amazon, and you need to know that since I’m an Amazon associate, I’ll get a few pennies if you buy anything after following those links to the Amazon store.

Eat Your Way Through This Mystery Set in Provence

Book: The Mystery of the Lost Cézanne by M. L. Longworth

Destination: Aix en Provence, France

This is the fifth outing for the Provence couple Antoine Verlaque, prosecutor, and Marine Bonnet, law professor. A painting disappears, that may or may not be an authentic work of the most famous resident of Aix, Paul Cézanne,  so we are treated to a secondary plot line that takes us back to the artist’s life.

When I previously reviewed Death in the Vines, an earlier installment of the Verlaque and Bonnet mysteries, I complained that it was difficult to keep the characters straight.  Whether my reading skills have improved, or M. L. Longworth has done a better job of individualizing the characters, I don’t know. But I did not have that problem with this book. Each character is unique and interesting. There are a lot of people to keep straight–mainly Verlaque’s cigar club members, the residents and manager of the apartment building where a murder takes place, the parents of both Verlaque and Bonnet, art experts, and policemen. The back story features just two characters–the artist and a young woman.

French Pastries
French Pastries – Arles, JohnPickenPhoto from Flickr.com

In addition to the human characters, a supposed historic bakery of Aix,  Michaud’s, takes center stage in both the present and the past. (It seems that Michaud’s is a literary creation, perhaps based on Reiderer in Aix, and borrowing the name of a former Paris cafe where Hemmingway and Scott Fitzgerald dined. Regardless of whether there ever was a Michaud’s in Aix, and where Cezanne picked up his pastries –and his tart–the description of breads and desserts had me drooling on the book. I also salivated over the meals eaten by the picky gourmet, Verlaque.

Aix, France
Cours Mirabeau in Aix, where Verlaque frequently strolls. Photo by MoritzP on Flickr.com

And therein lies the charm of Longworth’s series. The mystery–basically a cozy cum police procedural– is a light read and not particularly challenging as mysteries go. But she absolutely shines at placing the reader squarely in the Provençal atmosphere and mind set, and tempting us to travel there with loving descriptions of buildings, scenery and food and wine.  I have not been to Aix, and keep forgetting how to pronounce it (easier than it seems–ecks) but Longworth tempts me to add southern France to my destinations.

Cezanne painting
Paul Cezanne – Basket of Apples. “I will astonish Paris with an apple.” Photo from Flickr.com Click for info.

And as a further benefit, the mystery takes you into the world of the painter, Paul Cézanne. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the descriptions of where the artist lived. Perhaps the apartment (where the murder takes place and the painting goes missing) is poetic license just as the pastry shop is. Never mind.  The walks around Aix with Verlaque still give you a vivid picture of the old town. A highly recommended read for the traveler to Provence or the armchair traveler, as well as all fans of Cézanne.

This site describes a walk through Cezanne’s favorite places, and it also lists some good books about Cézanne.

Note: The publisher provided this book for review, which is standard procedure and has no influence on my opinions.  You should know that I am an Amazon affiliate, so any purchases you make through the links to Amazon in this post will earn me a few cents, even though it costs you no more.  Thanks for your support.

Road Trip in Surprising Alabama and Georgia

The third of articles I wrote for My Itchy Travel Feet appeared last week. The three all portrayed parts of our June road trip in Southern states, including three I had not visited before–Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

Little River Gorge and Falls
The Little River National Preserve in Alabama. Photo by Kenneth R. Badertscher

On our southern road trip, we wanted to cut through the northeastern corner of Alabama on our way from the Atlanta Georgia airport to Chattanooga TN. Not the direct route, but new territory to cover. I found some little-known byways and a couple of terrific parks (one in Alabama and one in Georgia) on this road trip. You can read about it at Exploring the South’s Little Known 3-State Byway.

To review other articles on our June Southern Road Trip:

Cloudland Canyon Georgia
Cloudland Canyon State Park rim walk, Georgia

Exploring Ashvilles’s Amazing Biltmore House

Adventure in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The Highlands of Alabama

3 Secrets for Planning a Unique Road Trip

Smoky Mtn Pk Newfound Gap state lines
Smoky Mtn Pk Newfound Gap state lines. This is where President Roosevelt dedicated the park in 1941, a year before my first visit (See story about Smoky Mountains)

Germany in Georgia

The Great Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountain
Smoky Mountain Natonal Park, Cade’s Cove drive-through barn

Chattanooga, California of the East

Chattanooga
Chattanooga from Lookout Mountain

North Carolina, Gilded and Green