If you’re lucky enough to be going to London sometime and you’re a Beatles fan, be sure and pick up The Beatles’ London: A Guide to 467 Beatles Sites in and Around London. Here you’ll find a detailed and meticulous listing of every significant (and some not-so-significant) site associated with the Fab Four. Heavily illustrated and carefully mapped (including listing nearby Tube stations), you’ll soon be able to immerse yourself in Beatlemania. The book is divided geographically so that you can make the most of your time, and includes a special “Fast Fab Excursion”, an outlined walking tour that encompasses the most essential Beatle sites (allow about five hours), and a section on the filming of “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Help” and “Magical Mystery Tour”. While a lot has changed about London since the Beatles were in town, it won’t be hard to find yourself following in the footsteps of Paul, John, Ringo and George. And even if your travel plans don’t include London, any Beatles fan will be in trivia heaven with this book.
Congratulations to KarenW, the winner of our first ever Davenport Library Info Cafe blog contest! Karen’s excellent comment recommended not one but several wonderful places to visit, all arranged in a handy driving tour and includes great places to stop for a meal along the way. Her tour will appeal to many interests including families, and really showcases the beauty and history of eastern Iowa. Be sure to check out her comment!
Need some more ideas for your next Staycation? Here are some thoughts from a couple of our blogging librarians:
Lynn: I, for one, can’t wait to get on the road and try out Karen’s ideas. (it’s very useful to know how to gauge your coffee consumption when you’re in (relatively) unknown territory).
One of my favorite staycations follows the river on the Illinois side. It starts with an early morning hike at Mississippi Palisades State Park in Savanna (fortified by a thermos full of good strong coffee). Trails along the cliffs and ravines provide just enough challenge to make ice cream, popcorn and/or an elegant Italian meal in Galena seem totally justifed. To me, it’s a great combination of natural beauty, physical exercise and (sort of) sophisticated indulgence.
Ann: Don’t pass up a visit to the Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Grinnell (about a 2 hour drive west of the Quad Cities, just off Interstate 80) where you can experience Iowa the way it was when the pioneers arrived. Less than one tenth of one percent of the tall grass prairie that once covered Iowa remains; at Neil Smith they are hard at work preserving and restoring authentic prairie. They have an excellent visitor’s center with educational displays and a introductory film, walking paths of various lengths (some are perfect for children) and a driving tour where you will have a very good chance of spotting the buffalo or elk herds. The Refuge is free but you’ll want to pack a picnic lunch. Don’t miss visiting this rare and beautiful land.
Congratulations again Karen and thanks for the great Staycation ideas! Your IMAX tickets are in the mail!
Here we are – already getting to the end of vacation season. Many fellow library workers and customers are talking about all the fun trips they have planned before school starts (the New Windsor rodeo, Tabor Home Vineyards & Winery, the windmill in Fulton, Illinois, the Iowa State Fair) or the fun things they’ve done on their days off. If you’re one of them, we’d like to hear from you; the best ideas will win a prize. The following rules apply:
The destination must be within a 1-day drive (round-trip) of the Quad-Cities.
Ok, there’s only the one rule.
Submit a comment to this post by August 21st , and you may be a winner! The Putnam Museum and IMAX Theatre have generously donated 2 tickets to Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa (showing through October). A perfect choice for all you travelers, armchair and otherwise. The winner will be announced August 25 – good luck!
When you think “travel writer,” you usually think of someone like Paul Theroux or Bruce Chatwin. Not exactly laugh riots. In fact, they can be pretty grim. The more painful the journey and annoying their companions, the more they like it. The Great Railway Bazaar was Theroux’s first travel book and became a classic of the genre. He celebrates the hardship and minimizes the joy of travel – increasingly so, the further he goes along the Orient Express.
Theroux does excel in describing the people he meets in Europe and Asia – London to Afghanistan to India to Japan to Siberia. Ghost Train to the Eastern Star was a sequel of sorts, in which Theroux travels by train again to China, Vietnam, the former Soviet Union and sees the incredible changes 30 years have wrought.
Other masters of the travelogue as endurance test are Bruce Chatwin (In Patagonia) and Jonathan Raban. A British writer, Raban writes about the Mississippi River in Old Glory. (He irritated many locally with his depiction of Davenport).
So, if you find yourself in the midst of a very bad vacation, start writing – you may as well get something constructive out of it!
Travel writers range from morose (Paul Theroux) to the absurdist. Summer seems more appropriate for the latter, so for the unfortunate few out there who haven’t experienced a Bill Bryson book, please do so now.
There’s absolutely no excuse for those of us who live in Iowa, as Bryson is one of our own. He grew up in Des Moines, traveled in Europe in the ’70’s as a young man, and has alternated living in England and the U.S. ever since.
My all time favorite is Notes from a Small Island, in which Bryson affectionately pokes fun at the English in all their eccentricity. He clearly admires the British character – their humility and forbearance, but can endlessly mock their customs and language (place names such as Farleigh Wallop and Shellow Bowells and incomprehensible Scots accents). Those of us who’ve never quite grown up find this hilarious.
The blurb on the British version warns, “Not a book that should be read in public, for fear of emitting loud snorts.”
It’s the American thing to do – despite the dismal state of the economy and the need to cut back, a lot of people hit the road each summer on vacation. Something about our vast collection of interstate highways, our love of cars, our need to explore – it’s all part of the American character. And seeing more of this beautiful country – mountains, plains, cities – keeps us going around “just one more” corner. Of course, there are stretches of road – Nebraska comes to mind as does, quite frankly, large chunks of Illinois – that you must get across just to get where you’re going. Thank goodness for that super-slick CD player, built right into the car – just the thing to keep you and everyone in the car happily occupied!
Now, what to feed it? Let’s turn to our own librarians for their recommendations.
Lynn reminds us that a lot depends on who’s on the car with you. If you’re traveling with multi-generations, you need to look for something that will engage the kids, but is interesting to adults too. She suggests The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, the classic (travel!) story of three pets separated from their family. A perilous journey with cute, smart animals and a happy ending – a winner for everyone. She also suggests West with the Night by Beryl Markham (another travel story!), an incredibly beautiful description of Markham’s life in Africa of the 20s and 30s. Although probably not of interest to children, Lynn also loved The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, a poignant story of love and loyalty.
According to Lynn, another thing to consider when choosing a book on tape is the narrator. A good reader can make a so-so book interesting, while a bad reader can ruin even a great book. For this reason she recommends anything read by Audie Award winner Barbara Rosenblat who has narrated a variety of titles including the Amanda Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters and mysteries by Nevada Barr and Lisa Scottoline. Jim Dale, beloved award winner reader of the Harry Potter series is another narrator that makes listening a pleasure.
Ann just listened to The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith, part of the No. 1 Ladies Detective series. Nothing terribly dramatic happens during the course of the book – read these stories for the evocative setting of Botswana, the various characters that you grow to love, the belief that kindness and politeness can improve any situation. This is a slow-paced book – sometimes almost too slow – but that’s also what makes it wonderful – calm and leisurely, leaving the reader/listener feeling the same.
Rita recommends the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlene Harris. They’re funny and fast-paced and you may find yourself believing that vampires really could be walking among us. She also liked Downhill Lie by Carl Hiaasen, a non-fiction account about returning to golf after a long absence. Read by the author, it’s filled with dry humor and great insights for fellow golfers.
Rita also reminds us that you there are hundreds of titles you can download from NetLibrary, a free service that allows you to transfer audio books to your MP3 player (which you can then hook up to the CD player in your car) Sign up for an account at either of the Davenport libraries, then access it from any computer, any time.
With so many great books to listen too, you might be tempted to take the long way home! What about you – do you have any favorite books-on-CD that you’d recommend for a long trip?
Five Ways for the Traveler to Save Money
1. Buy magazines (10 cents) and paperbacks (10-25 cents) at the library sales. You can read them on the plane, in the airport, at the hotel. (This has the added advantage of reducing your travel imprint as you go – tear out the pages and discard them as you go). It’s really cool if you buy travel magazines about your destination!
2. Reserve a copy of the most recent Fodor’s/Lonely Planet/Frommer’s guide and make notes about sites you want to see. You will be more focused and proactive (instead of waking up each morning and deciding what in the heck you want to do today).
3. Go to the travel and tourism website for your destination to find free museums, parks, festivals, author visits to bookstores, and, of course, libraries.
4. Staycations/Be-a-Tourist-in-Your-Own-Backyard/Whatever You Want to Call It (Sit in your backyard, sipping your favorite beverage and read the latest John Grisham or Dan Brown. In the evening, invite your best buddy over for the latest James Bond or Judd Apatow dvd that you’ve gotten from the Davenport Public Library).
5. Save bucket loads of cash on audiobooks by checking out books-on-cd, playways or downloading our ebooks the next time you head out on the highway.
In between trips, there’s nothing better than kicking back with a good DVD.
Some of the AT’s favorites are travel series such as Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days and Samantha Brown’s Passport to Europe – all the fun and cultural education without the hassle. Though theoretically designed for the prospective traveler, Rick Steve’s Europe Through the Back Door DVDs are great entertainment whether you have any intention of going to a particular destination or not.
For some travelers it’s all about the journey and not the destination. They love everything about airplanes and airports; for this person Tom Hank’s The Terminal is a quick fix of airport culture. Other fun flicks in the air-trip-as-disaster mode are Red Eye or Snakes on a Plane.
Or explore a historic house. Or visit one of the natural wonders of this country. Celebrate National Parks Week (April 18-26) and discover some of the special places of America.
The United States established the first national park in the world in 1872 with Yellowstone National Park. Since then, the National Park service has developed hundreds of parks, recreation areas, historic sites, monuments and memorials throughout the country. Everyone’s familiar with the famous sites, like the Grand Canyon or Yosemite but there are many more worth visiting ranging from the seashores of North Carolina to Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home in Kentucky to the volcanoes of Hawaii. The National Parks offers tons of services including ranger talks and ranger-led walks, preservation of the natural and historic treasures and multiple recreational opportunities, almost all of which are free or very low cost.
While it might be a little late to visit a park this week, now is the perfect time to plan your summer vacation or your next weekend getaway. Be sure to check out the books available at the library including:
Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks by Lonely Planet
Great Lodges of the National Parks by Christine Barnes
Yellowstone: a Natural and Human History by David Wallace
The Armchair Traveler is starting a travel writing series; Part I focuses on writers who excel in describing both the place and the process of travel.
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
de Botton excels in capturing the alternate reality and mindset that occurs when you leave home, especially when you are a solitary traveler. He describes the sensation of pleasant isolation and anonymity you experience on a train; or the phenomenon of marveling at the smallest differences in a foreign city.
As the Romans Do by Alan Epstein
This is Rome from the American point of view; the author moves his family to the city to experience the daily life of a Roman (getting an apartment, enrolling his kids in school, grocery shopping, etc.) as well as absorbing the cafe culture, soccer obsession, the Italian sense of fashion, and the passion for evenings spent in the piazza.
These pieces from newspapers, magazines and websites are edited by a Who’s Who of travel writing (Bill Bryson, Frances Mayes, Anthony Bourdain, Ian Frazier) and range from the lighthearted (David Sedaris on an ariport layover and Bill Buford sleeping in Central Park) to New York post 9-11, and extreme adventures in Uganda and the Australian Outback.
Italian Journey by Jean Giono
This small book is both an appreciation of post-war Venice and philosophical reflections of why we travel. A Frenchman, Giono finds an oasis of beauty and quiet after experiencing the more obvious attractions of Naples and Capri.