Take a Literary-Inspired Adventure
Reading a good book is one of my favorite activities during a long, cold Chicago winter. Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse books that inspired HBO’s “True Blood” series, called them “the cheapest vacation you can buy.” But books can be more than a mental getaway — they’re also great inspirations for real-life vacations and can complement existing travel plans.
I’ve toured the Louvre in Paris, but wish I’d taken the time to reread “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown to see if I could crack the code myself. And on a Greek vacation, I was mentally kicking myself for not researching to see if any of the locations I was visiting had played a part in the works of Homer. In Amsterdam a year ago, I finally made my literary vacation dreams come true with a stop at Anne Frank’s house and tour of the attic described in her world-famous diaries.
Seeing a setting from one of the most mesmerizing stories of my youth — and missing the chance to most properly experience others — has encouraged me to consider taking more literary vacations.
Here are a few book-themed trips I’d recommend you consider and that I’d love to take myself:
Take inspiration from Shannon Hale’s “Austenland” (also a 2013 movie starring Keri Russell) with a Jane Austen-themed vacation. Visit Bath (at right) — the resort city mentioned frequently in her books — Sept. 11-20 this year for the Jane Austen Festival. Serious Austen-ites should pack their best gowns to take part in the festivals’ Regency Costume Promenade.
If “Pride & Prejudice” is your favorite of Austen’s novels, you might also want to head the three-plus hours north to visit Chatsworth House, the inspiration for Mr. Darcy’s Pemberly. (Although, Lyme Park in Cheshire is the location of the now-iconic lake scene from the BBC adaptation.)
Another great literary vacation in England is perfect for mystery lovers: A Sherlock Holmes-themed tour of London. Visit Holmes’ 221b Baker Street address, tour the Sherlock Holmes Museum and more. Visit London has some other great suggestions.
While there, you’d be remiss to not visit Shakespeare’s Globe theater and take in a show, just for an extra dose of literary history.
Speaking of Shakespeare, visit Verona for the popular tourist location Casa di Giulietta, said to be the Capulets’ home from his “Romeo and Juliet.” Tradition says you should write both your name and your beloved’s on the walls of the entrance to make your love immortal.
Lucy Maud Montgomery and “Anne of Green Gables” fans will want to plan a trip to Prince Edward Island (pictured above), where you can visit the gabled house that inspired the stories, a recreation of Avonalea and more.
For an American literary experience, a Laura Ingalls Wilder-themed road trip through several Midwestern states will give you the taste of pioneer life. The Ingalls Homestead in South Dakota features wagon rides, 1880s school sessions and more.
Key West (at left) is a prime spot for a Ernest Hemingway-themed trip. Although only “To Have or Have Not” had a Florida setting, his fans flock to the area where he once lived and wrote. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is open for tours.
Henry David Thoreau fans might like to follow in his footsteps with a retreat to Walden Pond in Concord, Mass., for inspiration and solitude in the same setting where he wrote “Walden: Or, Life in the Woods.”
And if you’re really ready to go all-in on a literary vacation? Train to walk in Cheryl Strayed’s footsteps on the Pacific Crest Trail from her book “Wild” (which inspired Reese Witherspoon’s 2014 movie of the same name). Though, I’d recommend doing a little more preparation and a pair of better fitting shoes.
Feeling inspired to take on any of these books’ settings in real life? Any to add to the list or — better yet — literary vacations you’ve actually taken?