Posts Tagged ‘travel writing’

Vale Patrick Leigh Fermor

June 13, 2011

I was saddened last night when I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw the following post:

As a child of Greek migrants, I always looked for references to Greece in the books that I read. Both my parents were from the central and northern mountains of Greece, yet all the books I read were set on the islands or the Peloponnese. Then, aged 20, I discovered Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Roumeli: travels in Northern Greece. Imagine my delight to read tribal names that I had grown up hearing such as the Sarakatzan, and the Karagounides of Thessalia, the boyars of Moldowallacia (peculiarly enough my father was fluent in their language), the wandering quacks of Eurytania, and so many more.

Fermor opened my eyes to the rich variety of the peoples of Greece and, like Lord Byron before him, that the English seemed to be imbued with being philhellenes.

Along with many readers across the world, I fell in love with the rest of Fermor’s travel writing.His prose, his observations. Along with his writing, I love the vision of an early 20th century Englishman, carrying a volume of Horace, Oxford Book of English Verse and a sleeping bag walking across a mid-war Europe. A young adventurer discovering lands unknown, a war hero and ultimately, in his older age, a writer retelling his experiences.

“They’re written by a man of 50, looking back at a boy of 18, evoking the joy of travelling while young – that amazing, honeyed time.”  Travel writing great Patrick Leigh Fermor dies aged 96, Guardian 12 June, 2011

His blog has listed many obituaries from around the world. Fermor has inspired travel writers for many decades and I believe he will continue to inspire many more.

Vale Patrick Leigh Fermor.



Travelling through the sense of home

June 11, 2011

One of my favourite ways to armchair travel is to head straight for the interior decorating section of the library. For a glimpse into the private homes of the rich and famous, homes of politicians, authors, artists and financiers in countries around the world transports me into a place that I will never really experience for myself.

Image by flickr user coco+kelley

I am grateful for these gracious, wonderful home owners that have opened their doors to the photographers, stylists, publishers and writers whose task it is to inspire the reader’s aestheitc, to let them dream of a home on the edge of a Tuscan village, or a treetop home in Africa that is visited every morning by a friendly giraffe, the waterfront villa on the Mediterranean, the sumptuous palace on an estate in England or the eye-opening wonder of John Travolta’s home with a runway and hangar for his jet.

Some may say that these homes give us a yearning for the unobtainable. But for me, these are homes that are far away from my own reality. These are homes that leave me wide-eyed and curious as to how they came across their art collections. What sort of books are on their shelves? Where did they buy their first kilim  – was it in a market in Istanbul? Have their sculptures come from galleries? Have their portraits been private commissions or are they chosen by decorators to satisfy a yearning for a specific style.

Amongst my favourite interior decorating books are Stafford Cliff’s, from his The Way We Live in the City and The Way We Live by the Sea to his earlier contributions in New York Style, Greek Style, Indian Style, Spanish Style and the list goes on. Ros Byam Shaw’s Perfect English, Michael S Smith’s Elements of Style and India Hick’s An Island Life all bring with them a sense of the country and space they are set amongst.

For, to me, travel is not only about the travel guide that will help me find a place to eat and a place to stay. Travel is about understanding how people, who live in a city, town or village or are isolated either on a farm, on a mountain or on an island, are influenced by their surroundings. How these people’s homes are a reflection of their own cultural understanding, their climate and their position in society. We all have to have a place to cook, a place to bathe and a place to sleep, if we are amongst the fortunate around the world who have homes to live in. But once these basic needs are met, it is our homes that differentiate us.


It’s a Lonely Planet …… the art of travel guides

June 4, 2011

Let’s admit it, the travel sections of our libraries get a solid workout. Someone is either going somehwere or thinking of going somewhere every single day – that’s where the handy travel guides we stock those shelves with come into play……. True, we’d be lost without them…… or our travellers would be!

Up there with the standard Lonely Planet titles we have Fodor’s, Rough Guides, Open Road, Frommer’s, Bradt …… the list goes on. We have come to trust the Lonely Planet guides for their simple, accurate, helpful information, and the fact they are re-published regularly. And in response to demand and increase in world travel they too have begun to expand their title selections and open out into more specialised travel guides – now there are Encounter guides, City guides, Shopping guides, and Activity guides (think cycling, walking, diving, trekking) not to mention a broad range of phrase books to aid the intrepid traveller.


The Book That Launched a Thousand Trips

June 2, 2011

When it comes to armchair travel I like to think that I started right at the beginning of Western Literature. I was weened on Homeric tales. And happily, my first physical journey was not only to Greece but to Homeric beginnings.

I have stood in the same place that Helen of Troy stood when she was still Menelaus’ Queen. I have walked around the stones and terraces in Mycenae. The same ones that Helen spent her days in. I have taken photos of myself under the Lion Gate, knowing that, momentary tourist that I may be, I am touching the same ground, the same soil that Paris stood on moments before capturing and escaping with beautiful Helen triggering a long war, that even thousands of years later, people are still discussing, minds are still speculating, archaeologists are still exploring and kids are still discovering.

I grew up listening to Greek myths being told across the dinner table. These were not official storytelling sessions, these were discussions and stories passed down through generations. We were all captured by the intrigue, the romance, the battles and the gods.

And in my family, it was all about beautiful Helen. Did Helen elope with Paris? Did he kidnap her? Was she unwilling? Why would so many soldiers cross the sea in order to bring her back to Menelaus? She was a traitor. Was this her father Zeus’s doing or was it Hera in her usual spitefulness that caused all these misdeeds.

As a child, I didn’t understand that these people were myths. They were real. If my parents talked about them in such a familial way, then they must be my relatives over in a country I have only heard about. It dawned on me when I was about 9 during a lesson in class that they were not relatives – they were heroes and heroines! And at 16, I felt such an overwhelming moment of awe sweep over me as I slowly walked up the hill, at Mycenae, towards the Lion’s Gate.

I have since visited Mycenae 3 more times. The last time was to take my children. They too, have grown up listening to Greek myths at the dinner table from when they were young. And they too stood on the sparse rocky soil looking across terraced olive groves across the Peloponnese. And they too marveled that all those stories of Homeric feats originated at the place we all stood.


go reads: reading to feed our wanderlust

June 1, 2011

The theme for June is #goreads

by flickr user GeekyBiker

Photo taken by flickr user GeekyBiker on the island of Curacao, off the Venezualan coast, in 2007.

This month we will be reading all sorts of things describing journeys, adventures and experiences of new places.  Our desire for new experiences will be stimulated as we encounter exotic locales that we have never before imagined or explored, but we might also discover travel writing, fiction and non fiction that reminds us of all those special places in our lives, encouraging feelings of nostalgia and gentle homesickness that feed into our longing to go out into the world and experience it to the fullest.

You can join us and tweet about what you are reading in June using the twitter hashtag #goreads.  You can also use this tag on other social media sites such as flickr or when you post about your reading on your blog.

You might also want to add tags for each month’s reading to Trove, Library Thing, and your library catalogue (if that is possible) – so that other people can see what you are reading.

This is a reading month for place lovers, intrepid adventurers, dreamers and armchair travelers.  So as winter sets in we hope you will join us in exploring the world – fueling your own wanderlust and imagination as you read and share your travel titles during #goreads.