Swap the foodie holidays and spa trips for a literary adventure and explore the written world.
If you ignore the Hollywood-inspired Jane Austen hordes who descend on the city of Bath in the UK and semi-literate Brontë-buffs getting lost around the village of Haworth, following the trail left by an author can be a deeply personal experience. It can add to your understanding of the books you love and can also unlock a place in a new, authentic way. Here’s a few choice destinations from around the world that should fire up your imagination.
The Chilterns, Roald Dahl
The tranquil Chiltern Hills in the UK, where the Cardiff-born author lived and wrote for more than 30 years, are dotted with places and landscapes that inspired the stories. The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre (www.roalddahlmuseum.org) in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, invites children and adults alike to explore his life. Attractions in the area include the inspiration for Matilda’s library, Danny the Champion of the World’s gypsy caravan, and Fantastic Mr Fox’s woodlands.
LA, Charles Bukowski
Bukowski’s work is shot through with the ghettoised grimness of Downtown Los Angeles. Traverse the poet’s literary landscape by visiting his bungalow on De Longpre Avenue, an official cultural landmark, before taking a drive down Hollywood Boulevard to Thai Town. Though many of his haunts have been demolished, there’s still a lot of Los Angeles that doesn’t form part of the Hollywood cliché. Skid Row may not be top of the tourist attraction hit list, but an afternoon in the King Eddy Saloon (www.kingeddysaloon.com) will make you feel like a real hipster. Esotouric (www.esotouric.com) does literary tours of Los Angeles.
Buenos Aires, Jorge Luis Borges
Borges once wrote that his city was a map of his humiliations and failures. The Argentinian capital is full of little corner cafés. The Richmond, on Calle Florida, is a grander affair and still preserves the starchy atmosphere of the 1920s. Take a stroll from the leafy Plaza San Martín, which Borges loved, to the labyrinthine Recoleta Cemetery (www.recoletacemetery.com), the ostentatious resting place of Argentina’s elite. Beyond the capital, Villa Ocampo (www.villaocampo.org) is where Borges hobnobbed with his aristo pals in the lap of luxury.
St Petersburg, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Even though he was born in Moscow, Dostoevsky’s literary works rarely stray far from St Petersburg. Head to the Vladimirsky area of the city where he lived, and visit the Dostoevsky Literary Memorial Museum (Kuznechny Pereulok 5/2), his last apartment preserved along with fascinating memorabilia. Other landmarks include Pionerskaya Ploshchad (where, in 1849, Dostoevsky was mock-executed) and Sennaya Ploshchad, a square that figures prominently in Crime and Punishment. For a kitsch treat, grab a bite to eat at The Idiot Restaurant (www.idiot-spb.com) and check into The Brothers Karamazov (www.karamazovhotel.ru), a four-star hotel near the Memorial Museum.
Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk
Retrace the Ottoman Empire’s crumbling glories through Pamuk’s wistful eyes. The Nobel-winning author cherishes the city’s lesser known backstreets and the areas that whisper Turkey’s real history. Escape the buzz of Istanbul’s westernised commercial district and head to Sahaflar Carsisi, a bookstall bazaar where a teenage Pamuk once took his sweetheart, then indulge your spiritual side in Eyup, home to the sacred tomb of Abu Ayyub Al Ansari and Istanbul’s holiest mosque. Finally, unwind with a potent Turkish coffee in Pamuk’s Cihangir district – a bohemian yet upmarket area south of the Galata Bridge full to the brim with antique little cafés.
Paris, Arthur Rimbaud
Become a flâneur – defined by Charles Baudelaire as one who understands the art of wandering a city to truly experience it. Libertine poet Rimbaud, who outraged the sensibilities of his time, should be your model for a shrine-free pilgrimage. Follow in his footsteps and roam the city, swapping your map for some of the poet’s verse.