Three months into lockdown and boy oh boy, the wanderlust is still strong. Since COVID has hit, I’ve made a travel journal (despite not being able to travel), a list of stay-cation ideas (despite not being able to travel), and planned my dream holidays for the next five years (despite not being able to travel – I think there’s a theme going on here).
In looking back at a lot of these places I’d like to visit, they seem to fit into three categories; history, relaxation, or books. Yup, not only has my love of books influenced my degree, my job choice, and most aspects of my personality, it’s now creeped into my holiday destinations too. Am I surprised? No. So, with that, here are the bookish places I’d like to go (my bookish travel tour, if you will)!
Hobbiton, New Zealand
Oh my goodness, talk about a cliche! Well, I don’t care. I want to go to Hobbiton! For those of you who have not heard of Hobbiton, it is a fictional town in The Shire where small human-like beings called Hobbits live in J R R Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings series. However, it’s no longer just fictional…
After the success of Peter Jackson’s film series, and the subsequent prequel series of The Hobbit, the set was made a permanent fixture in New Zealand, and is now a very popular tourist destination. You can visit The Green Dragon Inn, tour The Shire, and visit Bilbo’s own hobbit hole, Bag End. Personally, I like to see myself as a bit of a hobbit; (curly hair, on the shorter side, has an affinity for singing songs and eating lots of food), so I can imagine myself fitting right in on the tours. I’m also a bit of a LOTR dork, so you’d find me right at the front of the queue.
Moving half-way across the world, we come to the most bookish non-book related place I can think of. Hay is a gorgeous market town in Mid-Wales that is full to the brim with bookshops, second hand stores, and stationers. When the weather is nice, books line the streets and spill out of the doorways. It is literally an ~*aesthetic*~.
Putting Hay on this list is kind of cheating, as I’ve been a few times already. However, it’s never been for more than an hour or two, as my parents live relatively close. I’d love to spend a whole day there, maybe staying in a hotel for the night so I can really explore. Even better; I want to attend Hay Festival. That’s right folks, it’s a festival all about books. I was meant to attend this year with my mum (we’d already bought tickets to see a Sandi Toksvig talk, and see a RCS production) but alas, Coronavirus hit. Fingers crossed for next year!
Yes, I know, that’s pretty broad being a whole country and whatnot, but hear me out. Greece has so many areas of ancient history and archaeology, I am struggling to pick just one area to visit. I want to see the temples of Athena at the Acropolis, learn about the Oracle in Delphi, explore the ancient city of Rhodes, and visit Mount Olympus itself.
I know that covers a lot of ancient history, and this is a post about bookish places; may I present to you, Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey! Perhaps the two most famous poems in the Western world, they tell the tales of the siege of Troy, Odysseus’ journey home, and the interference of the Greek gods. And let’s not forget a Greek tale with a modern twist, Madeline Miller’s Circe. This book, interestingly enough, reimagines the tale of the enchantress Circe, from Circe’s own view point. It would be so exciting to see those places mentioned in the books, to know what happened there (or what myths were told there). Well, I would find it exciting.
Honourable mention – I really want to visit Crete again, especially the island of Spinalonga. This island used to be home to a leper colony, and is the centerpiece of Victoria Hislop’s The Island!
This is another semi-kinda-cheat, as I haaave been here, but I really didn’t have time to look around! I had a great opportunity to perform music at one of The RSC’s outdoor stages last summer, but it did mean we only had time to set up, perform, grab a quick Maccies for lunch, and then perform a second time in the pouring rain before heading off.
Stratford-Upon-Avon is known as being the birthplace of writer William Shakespeare. It’s safe to say I am a little bit of a Shakespeare nerd (if my Shakespeare based dissertation and numerous Shakespearean performances have been anything to go by), so it just makes sense that I’d like to explore the town where Shakespeare was born. Ideally, I’d like to see a play at The RSC, go boating on the Avon, and traipse around some of the museums and galleries that have popped up. It’s only two hours away from where I currently live, so I don’t really have an excuse not to go! Well, apart from Coronavirus and the fact I can’t drive…
New Orleans, USA
And the final spot on my bookish travel tour would have to be New Orleans! In all honesty, I wasn’t inspired by a singular book or author to put this on the list, I was more inspired by the literary scene that has blossomed there. Tennessee Williams wrote some of his best work whilst living in New Orleans, as did Anne Rice and Ernest Hemmingway when they stayed at the Hotel Monteleone. There are so many book shops and bars that claim to have a connection to these authors, that I’d never run out of things to do or see.
As well as being a literary lovers dream, New Orleans is full to the brim with history, especially music history. It’s the birthplace of jazz, people! I feel it would be an exciting and vibrant place to visit; a place to have a lot of fun, but also a place where I could learn something new, and I am all about that.
So, those are the top five places I want to visit on my bookish travel tour! I’ll give an extra shoutout to New York City (for too many reasons to describe) and the Forest of Dean (for inspiring Tolkein). Do let me know if you’ve been to any of these places, and what bookish places you’d like to visit!