A novel approach to travel

What books or movies inspired you to travel to another country (outside of North America and the Caribbean)? ITN asked that question and received many responses, which were printed in the June through September 2005 issues. Here are a few more.

If you have suggestions to share, write to A Novel Approach to Travel, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com (please include the address at which you receive ITN).

My first trip to the UNITED KINGDOM was planned because of having read James Herriot’s wonderful books about his life as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales. Both “All Creatures Great and Small” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful” were full of his joyful descriptions of the magnificent scenery and his obvious love of the area. The author verbally painted inviting word pictures of the North Dales landscape and the colorful people who live there.

Twenty-three years ago, at the time of this trip, these books were at the height of their popularity and tourism in that area was just beginning to blossom. I had seen an ad in a travel section of a paper for a “James Herriot Tour.” I had already decided to go alone to London and the Yorkshire Dales area using “James Herriot’s Yorkshire” as a guide. However, this tour featured a dinner at a hotel in York with a chance to meet Brian Sinclair (the real name of the character called Tristan in the books.) I brazenly went about finding the date and time of the dinner and called the tour guide to see if it would be possible for me to join the group on that evening only. She kindly agreed.

A few weeks later, in June, I flew to London and then took a train to York, where I spent two days exploring that amazing city. The evening of the dinner, I walked up to the appointed hotel and was seated right next to Mr. Sinclair and his wife! The group consisted of mostly retired people. I was in my early 30s at the time and maybe added a little fun to the group. I kept in touch with many of my fellow guests for years. In parting that evening, Mr. Sinclair asked if I would like to meet Mr. Herriot (real name, James Wight). Of course, I said “Yes.”

Mr. Sinclair assured me that if I waited outside Mr. Herriot’s surgery in Thirsk at 2 p.m. the next day, I would be able to meet the now-famous vet/author. I changed all my plans, rented a car and headed to Thirsk (about an hour north of Yorkshire) the next morning.

The surgery was easy to find, and I waited on a bench outside with a couple from Indiana. On the dot of 2:00, Mr. Herriot drove up in a very used little car and came over and greeted us. He said that if we could wait a half hour or so while he tended to patients, he would be glad to have us come in. We did so and were treated to a personal tour of the premises by Mr. Herriot plus a delightful chat.

He was very gracious, allowed us to take pictures and signed our books. I later mailed some leftover British pounds to Mr. Herriot as a donation to the RSPCA and received a personal “Thank you” letter in response.

Today, Mr. Herriot’s surgery is a wonderfully interesting museum that highlights his life and books along with veterinary history. I visited it a few years ago, and although I’ve had a lot of good travel memories since my first visit there, my meeting with Mr. Herriot will always be a highlight.

Perkasie, PA

GREECE — The inspiration for our first trip to Greece was reading Gerald Durrell’s books about his family’s stay on Corfu: “My Family and Other Animals” and “Birds, Beasts, and Relatives.” These are laugh-out-loud stories, which, although they’re primarily written for adults, we enjoyed reading to our young sons. Gerald’s brother, Lawrence Durrell, wrote much more seriously about his own experiences in Greece in, among others, “Bitter Lemons.”

EGYPT — Lawrence Durrell, again, wrote about Egypt in a quartet of stories I consider the most well-written books I have ever read: “The Alexandria Quartet.” We subsequently visited Egypt and felt this set of books gave us an insight to the country’s people.

JERSEY ISLAND, CHANNEL ISLANDS — For this destination we went back to Gerald Durrell to read his further adventures, now as an adult, setting up a zoo on Jersey Island. There are several of these, “A Zoo in My Luggage” first coming to mind. It was a delight to later visit his zoo.

SICILY — “On Persephone’s Island” by Mary Taylor Simeti is a journal of her experiences there before and after marrying a Sicilian. A sequel has followed.

INDIA — “The City of Joy” by Dominique Lapierre is a heart-rending view of parts of that country. It was later made into a movie.

AUSTRIA — “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco involved the cathedral at Melk, where we had the good fortune to hear a church choir from Southern California give a concert. My brother and sister-in-law sang with the chorus.

SCOTLAND — “The Yellow on the Broom” by Betsy Whyte is an account of the vanishing breed of “travellers” who are somewhat akin to gypsies.

Books like these make traveling even more enriching and enjoyable, especially when one can visit the places depicted.

Walnut Creek, CA

I have always enjoyed reading. King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc., were the first books that made me want to travel and see the area in which they were set. They made such an impression on me that I have traveled in areas where there were ancient walled cities and old castles. The first time I saw Carcassonne, FRANCE, I was pretty much blown away.

The only time that I have traveled just because of a book was after reading “Riding the Iron Rooster” by Paul Theroux. I took the train from BEIJING to MOSCOW. It was even better than the book.

I would like to take the trip that he described in “Dark Star Safari, Overland from CAIRO to CAPE TOWN,” but I’m afraid I am too old to be that adventurous.

Greensboro, NC

While my husband and I prepared for our long journey to INDIA, I packed a paperback copy of “Far Pavilions” by M.M. Kaye. I had never read this book and decided it would be appropriate since the story takes place in India. I read part of it during the long flight to Delhi and found the book to be fascinating.

We traveled in India, Nepal and Kashmir for 17 days in April ’94 with Four Winds Tours. After a week of touring the major sights throughout India, we arrived in Jaipur, the Pink City. By this time I was halfway through “Far Pavilions” and reading about the sisters Shushila and Anjuli marrying Rana of Bhithor. The wedding would take place at the magnificent Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, India (www.tajhotels.com). Our hotel for the night was the Rambagh Palace — an unbelievable coincidence! I was very excited.

The approach to the famous palace is along a tree-lined lane that divides magnificent formal gardens where one is likely to see an elephant, a camel, a dancing bear or perhaps a snake charmer with his cobra and mongoose. The hundred-room palace is breathtaking with its many pinnacled domes and filigree balconies.

Our room was spacious. The floor was white marble as were the walls and most of the porch outside. A large 3-domed window with pillars afforded views of a long porch and the gardens beyond. It was furnished with a green, plush sofa, a beautiful marble coffee table, twin beds, a lovely dressing table and comfortable chairs and settees. It was, thankfully, air-conditioned — a welcome relief from the sweltering heat of the day.

We had a delicious dinner in the main dining room of the palace, formerly the banquet room. I imagined that this was where Karai and Rani enjoyed their wedding reception! The ceilings were very high, with many arched windows with attractive brocade drapes. Turbaned waiters wearing white gloves were extremely attentive and helpful in choosing the many courses of the meal.

We were sorry to leave the palace the next morning, but I was delighted and thrilled to have been a guest there. As I read the remainder of the book, it was fun imagining myself as part of the remarkable story.

Easton, PA

In preparing for overseas trips, I often watch movies that may give me some background. Here are some suggested movies to watch for certain areas.

For SPAIN, “El Cid” with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren (1961) details the most famous Spanish hero, Rodriguez Díaz de Vivar (El Cid Campeador).

For ARGENTINA and BRAZIL, at Iguazu Falls, “The Mission” with Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons (1986) details the Guarani Indians’ relationship with the Jesuit priests and the building of missions for which the Missiones district of Argentina is named.

For Istanbul, TURKEY, there’s “Topkapi” with Maximillian Schell and Melina Mercouri (1964), a mystery about the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul.

Does anyone else have suggestions?

Dubuque, IA

Never before had I been inspired to visit a place based solely on a film, but after watching the movie “Waking Ned Divine” a few years ago I knew I had to see the ISLE OF MAN.

On my first day in Douglas, at the Tourist Information Center I was referred to “Alan” for a tour specifically highlighting film locations. It turns out Alan was also a driver for the film crew and knew all the spots from the movie I wanted to see.

My sister joined me in March ’05 for a return visit. She has also fallen in love with this place, which is very similar in appearance to Ireland but has its own distinctive personality.

Bowling Green, KY

Before our first trip to SOUTH AFRICA in 1984, we read “The Covenant” by James Michener. It gave us a better understanding of the country, and it was very interesting to visit the places he describes in his book. We especially enjoyed seeing where the Battle of Blood River took place and identifying other battle sites in the Boer War. On returning home, we read the book again, this time with even more interest. Several years later, in 2004, when planning a return trip to South Africa, we read the book for the third time!

Michener also gets credit for inspiring our trip to the Holy Land (1994) with his book “The Source.” It’s amazing how he goes so far back in history and brings the story right up to the present.

Another Michener book was especially meaningful to us, “The Bridge at Andau.” He was a firsthand witness to the stream of people crossing that small bridge to freedom during the 1956 Hungarian uprising. When we were traveling in AUSTRIA and HUNGARY in 2002, we made it a point to seek out that small point of land between the two countries where there is still a footbridge. The memorials lining the road leading to the bridge are very poignant.

Over the years we have read and reread “Mutiny on the Bounty” by Nordoff and Hall, so in 2003 it was exciting to plan a cruise that would include some of those places. We took with us the “Bounty Trilogy,” which includes “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “Pitcairn’s Island” and “Men Against the Sea.” We anchored in the same bay in TAHITI that the Bounty had been in. We sat on the deck drinking in the dramatic scenery while reading descriptions of it in our book.

The building of the PANAMA CANAL has always been an intriguing story and it was especially so after reading “The Path Between the Seas” by David McCullough. Soon after reading the book, we went on a cruise that took us through the canal — what an incredible feat of engineering. We will never take it for granted after reading about the cost of human life to make commerce more convenient for our country and the world.

Our library shelves contain many books about World War II. After reading “The Longest Day” by Cornelius Ryan, about D-Day, we determined that we were going to visit NORMANDY, France, someday. We wanted to see those places described so vividly in the book, like Sainte Mère Eglise and the little towns where the gliders landed.

So in 1992 we drove to Normandy and immersed ourselves in those historic places. We got to see the parachute depicted still hanging from the church steeple in Ste. Mere Eglise, walked among the shell craters on Pont du Hoc and drove through those little towns that played a part in that historic battle.

Two other books about WWII that grabbed our emotions were “Band of Brothers” by Stephen E. Ambrose, about the 101st Airborne Division (who fought together all the way from Normandy to Bastogne), and “A Bridge Too Far” by Cornelius Ryan, about the battle for the bridge in Arnhem.

In the spring of 2005 we traveled by car through HOLLAND and BELGIUM, especially scouting out those places described in the books. We drove all around the backroads skirting Bastogne, through little villages where each one had its own monument. Then we would read about that particular battle in our books and try to imagine how those peaceful fields and towns were once bloodied with battle.

We stayed in a B&B on the Rhine river just a few miles from Arnhem. As we crossed the hundred yards by ferry, we remembered how the brave soldiers were slaughtered by German machinegun fire as they struggled to cross the river by small boats or by swimming.

Corrie ten Boom’s book “The Hiding Place” tells how she and her family sheltered Jews in HAARLEM during WWII. Eventually they were betrayed and taken to concentration camps. In 1998 we were in Amsterdam and made a special point to take the train to Haarlem so we could see the ten Boom clock shop, the living quarters above it and the hiding place in the wall in Corrie’s bedroom.

Of course, “The Diary of Anne Frank” also takes place in HOLLAND. When we went through the attic rooms that sheltered the Frank family and others, we looked through the skylight which was their only window to the blue sky. We could almost hear the stomping of the boots of the Germans as they came up the hidden stairway to make their arrests.

James Herriot’s delightful books about his life as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales of ENGLAND would surely make anyone want to visit those places he describes so colorfully: “All Creatures Great and Small,” “All Things Wise and Wonderful” and others. When we toured England in 1987 we took with us “James Herriot’s Yorkshire,” which had pictures and descriptions of his favorite places. We found most of them and took pictures of the same places shown in the book.

During that trip we also got to meet Dr. Herriot in person (his name was actually James Wight) in his surgery in Thirsk (called Darrowby in his books). What a delight! He was just as common and friendly and down to earth as he appears in his books.

Greenville, IL