Tag Archives: England

Vera: British Mystery Draws Us to Northumberland

Every corner of England looks enticing if you watch PBS and their imported shows from BBC and other British producers–particularly mystery shows. (mouse over map to see what county or area is featured.)

SHERLOCK, the contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes, teases us with images of today’s London in the VERY SHORT (3 episode) seasons.

SELFRIDGES, although the longer running series about a popular department store is not a mystery, it takes us through several decades of commercial London and cuts across various social levels.

INSPECTOR LEWIS (and its forerunner Inspector Morse) lures us to the charming university town of Oxford, west of London.

Cambridge England
Peterhouse, Cambridge England. Photographer A.D. Teasdale

GRANTCHESTER, with its hard-drinking, mystery solving, sexy young priest, does its best to lure us to rival university town Cambridge, north of London.

Yorkshire, England
A village in Yorkshire, England

DOWNTON ABBEY, another non-mystery show that has been seen by just about everyone, has just about everyone yearning to rent a manse in the green, green moors of Yorkshire in northern England.

LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX , a love story rather than a mystery, shows us a contemporary Yorkshire right in the middle of inland Yorkshire.

South Coast of England
The territory of Foyle’s War, along the English Chanel in the South of England.

FOYLE’S WAR takes us back in time to World War II and to the  south coast of England for more charming villages and bucolic scenes. Several counties were used as settings, including Sussex, Surrey, Dorset,, Hampshire and Kent.

DOC MARTIN ignites a passion for the rocky cliffs, green fields and flower-filled quaint villages of Cornwall in the southwest.


Northumberland Border

And now along comes the mystery series VERA, intent on dragging us all the way up northeast–almost to Scotland– to her stomping grounds in NorthumberlandAccording to the tourism folks, the show has done a terrific job of increasing the number of visitors to this chilly if scenic part of Britain.

I may be influenced by her wonderful first name :-), but Vera Stanhope, Detective Commissioner Investigator (or DCI as we fans call them) strikes me as one of the most interesting of all the English mystery solvers.

She is never outdoors without an overcoat and long wool scarf, and usually a waterproof hat. Indoors, she is rarely without a flagon of ale–unless more staid setting demands a cup of tea–either of which one would think would be needed to warm up after those windy forays outside.  Her somewhat frumpy middle age is rescued from plainess by big, soft, brown eyes.

Her demeanor is winning, going from sympathetically calling a suspect “luv” to barking insults at her crew if they don’t respond quickly enough to her commands. When she gets down to seriously questioning a bad guy, you know this is someone you would not want to mess with!

But about that constant coat and wool scarf–Northumberland is definitely not going to be a fun and sun vacation. So what is the draw? Dramatic landscape, crashing waves, endless vistas, castles and Hadrian’s Wall.

The series is based on books by Ann Cleeves, and Northumberland’s tourism blog explains how you can follow in Vera’s footsteps in an article on literary travel.

What have I missed? Have you seen other English TV that makes you want to travel?

Darn that PBS/British television partnership for making us want to travel all over England!

 Disclaimer: I have included some links to Amazon here, in case you’d like to buy CDs or download some of the programs. Although it costs you no more, when you shop through my links, you are helping A Traveler’s Library, because I am an Amazon affiliate.

13 Best Places to Eat, Shop,Travel and Enjoy

Cultural Travel

Cultural Finds in 2013

By Jessica Voigts

A new year, and a look back at old favorites, leads me to realize that I’m always thinking about food and culture. Not a surprise, given my lifelong pursuit of both! Take a look at some of my favorite posts from the past year (hint: food cues forthcoming).


Canadian butter tarts
Canadian butter tarts. Photo by Jessica Voigts

I love mixing travel and food. In fact, travel for me is food! In this article, Shakespeare and Tarts in Stratford, Canada , family reminiscences coincide with my Granny’s recipe for Canadian butter tarts. Ah, Stratford, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

One of the most popular recipes on Wandering Educators this year was my Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Bark – it’s easy, healthy, and delicious! 

Restaurants & Resources

Scotland Food: Mallaig Prawns
Fresh Mallaig Prawns, The Tea Garden, Mallaig, Scotland – Jessie Voigts

Oh, Scotland – full of such great food! In Exploring Scottish Food One Bite At a Time, I share my favorite restaurants – and some great resources for Scottish food.

One of our editors at Wandering Educators, Casey Siemasko, shared an article on the experience of Night Markets in Taiwan . She notes that your attitude is critical to success – and shares some shopping tips that come from experience.


In How to Take a Delicious Cultural Odyssey, Close to Home I shared my technique of going global while staying local. Whether it is food, books, or art, you don’t need to leave the country to explore the world.

Our Chief Editor, Brianna Krueger, shares some shopping tips that all travelers can use, in Totally Nonsarcastic Ways Layovers are Awesome  Bet you’ll agree…

Art & History

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth
Chartres Cathedral labyrinth, Photo by Tom Flemming

In Tired of Visiting Cathedrals? 7 Reasons to Take Another Look , learn how you can avoid cathedral fatigue and really dig deeply into place.

And, I was very proud of one of our editors, Josh Garrick, who made art history when he was the very first American to exhibit at the National Archaeological Museum in Greece!


In Visiting the Shire you’ll be inspired by the landscapes of New Zealand, as shown in the Hobbit movies. You’ll also learn how you can take a Hobbit road trip!

In 6 Magical Items to Keep you Safe at Hogwarts, one of the students in our teen travel blogging program, Sarah Albom, discovers some fun and useful items from the Harry Potter Studios in Londonl


Legend of Sleepy Hollow Story Teller
Jonathan Kruk performing at Old Dutch Church
Photo © Tom Nycz

This year, I had great fun at A Travelers Library exploring Medieval Christmas traditions and the Halloween back story of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow . What I love most about these articles is the connection from our practices and readings to history.

More history (and a recipe) awaits, in You Can Thank Napoleon for the Yule Log. Food writer and one of our editors Kristen J. Gough digs up the history of this holiday tradition – you’ll be surprised!

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

Pet Travel Tuesday

Destination: England

Book: Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) – Jerome K. Jerome

By Pamela Douglas Webster

How does a travelogue first published in 1889 remain continuously in print to the present day? By being gut-bustingly funny.

Victorian author Jerome K. Jerome meant his now-classic tale, Three Men in a Boat, to be a travel guide describing a journey on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford. But while people continue to duplicate the journey themselves—many of the pubs depicted in the book still exist—most of us read it as comic literature.

The story opens with Jerome recounting his many ailments. His self-diagnosis came from consulting a medical encyclopedia. With each reading of a new set of symptoms, Jerome discovers another disease he’s suffering from. In fact, he finds himself suffering from every malady—typhoid, cholera, and diphtheria—everything except for housemaid’s knee.

When he talks to his friends, Harris and George, the author finds they also suffer from lethargy and an extreme reluctance to work.

As far as I could tell from the book, George is the only one of the three men with a job. Or, as Jerome explains,

“George goes to sleep at a bank from ten to four each day, except Saturdays, when they wake him up and put him outside at two.”

And as for Montmorency, the dog of the title, he lives at the expense of the author.

The three humans decide to take a wooden skiff up the Thames to escape the stress of 19th century life. Despite making his displeasure unknown, the fox terrier is outvoted three to one and the trip is on.

A Thames skiff like the one used in 3 Men in a Boat.
A Thames skiff.

The three men are on a lark and continually afflicted with misadventures. As the book progresses, I found it hard to imagine any three characters less equipped for an adventure that involved rowing, towing, and sailing. (Jerome’s description of the three getting tangled in the sails had me relieved that they spent most of their time at the sculls.)

But they are just aiming to have fun, which they do between misadventures. Montmorency has greater aspirations.

“Montmorency’s ambition in life, is to get in the way and be sworn at. If he can squirm in anywhere he particularly is not wanted, and be a perfect nuisance, and make people mad, and have things thrown at his head, then he feels his day has not been wasted.”

The dog somehow ends up being the most rational character in the book.

Jerome alternates comic stories with descriptions of the burial places of famous people, historic events, and scenic views. His description of his friend Harris becoming lost in the Hampton Court maze was one of his funniest stories.

The Hampton Court maze.
The maze at Hampton Court.


But some of his historic descriptions are purple and overwrought. I found myself skimming his discussion of King John’s face-off with the barons at Magna Carta island. But frankly, the book is so funny overall that one might be grateful for relief from laughing.

To this day, Three Men in a Boat is read by British school students. It has been made into three different films, including one that was adapted by Tom Stoppard and starred Tim Curry and Michael Palin in 1975. And many people read it over and over.

I laughed out loud throughout the book. At his best, Jerome K. Jerome could be the love child of P.G. Wodehouse and David Sedaris. The humor has aged well.

And at the time of year when we’re approaching the darkest days of the Northern hemisphere, Three Men in a Boat, is a charming escape. You might even find yourself rereading it every solstice.

Disclosures and Photo Credits: The Thames Skiff is by Hackworth on FlickrThe Hampton Court maze is by bobgjohnson on Flickr. Both are used under a Creative Commons license. The book link takes you to Amazon. If you buy a book after using that link, I will earn a few cents but your book will not cost you more. Thanks for your support.