Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Armchair Romance Makes the World Go Round

June 30, 2011

I started reading category romances in the early 80s. Mills and Boon, Harlequins, Loveswepts, Candlelight Ecstacy Supremes (yup – thanks for that line Dell!) and Silhouettes. I devoured them. I love reading romances with their optimism, affirmative relationships and their happily ever afters. But something that sneaked up on me, something that I was only vaguely aware of, was my enjoyment of reading category romances set around the world and, in particular, in different states of America.

Oronce Finé 1534 World Map - Cordiform Projection

The first time I recall choosing to read a romance because of  its setting was after I had read Janet Dailey’s Tidewater Lover (set in Virginia) and Mistletoe and Holly (set in Vermont). I then borrowed from my local library A Lyon’s Share (Illinois) and realised that this was no coincidence. After a little bit of research I discovered that Janet Dailey had decided to write a category romance for every state of America. How fabulous! I had hit the mother lode! I continued borrowing and buying Dailey’s books purely for this reason. I don’t think I read all 50 in her Americana series but it certainly put in the hook for reading romances set in specific states or countries.

I am a huge fan of Anne McAllister‘s Montana Cowboys, ooh! and her Boston Savas’s. I loved Cindy Gerard‘s Wyoming based Outlaws trilogy and oh! those hot hot hot Westmorelands by Brenda Jackson live all over America. They’re in Montana, Colorado and Texas just to list a few states.

Of course, settings in category romances go beyond America and are set all over the world with the reader getting a wonderful sense of place from many stand out authors. Sarah Mayberry has a wonderful balance of character and place in her books which are mostly set in South-Eastern Australia, Karina Bliss‘ sense of New Zealand and those wonderful English villages juxtoposed with exotic Spanish, Greek, Argentinian and Italian villas in Lynne Graham‘s angsty gems.

For the reality is, wherever in the world you are, whatever country you are traversing, whichever place you are discovering, it is inevitable, that somewhere and sometime, someone has had a romantic moment there. And as a romance reader and armchair traveller, I want to read those stories.



Travels in India

June 29, 2011

For me, when I think about it, all books are travel books. I read because I want to travel, to experience different places, different times, different lives. My favourite book takes me to India in the 1950s, just after it gained independence. Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy is an epic read at almost 1,500 pages, but so delightful that I didn’t want it to end. It is full of vibrant colours and emotions, engaging characters and landscapes and fascinating details of Indian lives from the most impoverished to the very wealthy. The characters, including the country itself, have stayed with me and I have tried to recapture the glorious feel with other books set in India ever since.

Perhaps it wasn’t the best move to start with A Suitable Boy because I have not found a book to match it and have never read another book set in India that manages to capture such beauty and hope amidst the struggles. Tishani Doshi’s The Pleasure Seekers and Susan Kurosawa’s Coronation Talkies come close and I do love E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India and Rumer Godden’s The Peacock Spring, both set during England’s rule. Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance appears on so many favourites lists but I confess that I found it the most depressing novel I have ever read! A country of great contrasts, I’m not sure I’ll ever visit India in person, but I do love to go there in a book. I like going to China too, and England and France and Japan and……


Eighty Years of Tintin and Still Travelling

June 22, 2011

For eighty years, Herge’s Tintin books have been a formative reading experience for most kids. And for many children, it is Tintin that first introduces them to the life of reporters, travelling the world and solving mysteries along the way. His adventures saw him visit the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and even the Moon. But for Tintin, it was not about the journey. It was the story he had to write. The setting was incidental and understanding the culture and terrain went along with solving and reporting his mystery.  And for many avid fans following Tintin’s travels becomes a planning guide for their own journeys.

Vol 714 Pour Sydney

Tintin never reached Australia. He had all intentions to get to Sydney but somehow, in the investigative Tintin way, after he took off from Jakarta his plane made an unscheduled stop on a Dutch East Indies island instead. Thankfully, Tintin, in the form of books, did get to Australia. And whether you owned his books, borrowed them from a friend or discovered them at the library, the foreign correspondent resplendent in plus fours, a long beige coat and his wire fox terrier remains one of literature’s instantly recognisable characters.


Have eReader – Will Travel

June 18, 2011

or how my holiday luggage was liberated

Back in 1993, I travelled across Mexico for 3 weeks with my sister and a friend. I left Australia with 7 kgs in my backpack. I travel light. I had 2 books with me. My Lonely Planet Mexico and a novel (I am sure – yet I cannot recall the title). When I was boarding the plane to fly home my backpack was in excess of 20kg. Apart from 1 rug, 1 hammock & 1 dress, all the extra kilos were books that I had accumulated, and read, during my 3 week holiday. I had scoured bookshops, bought travel brochures from different archaeological museums and I picked up a number of discarded novels at youth hostels and resorts, as is the habit with many travellers.

Subsequent travels through Europe were no different. I would leave home with minimal luggage and I would return laden with books. On one particular trip I had so many that I mailed them, cargo style, on a 3 month ship journey as I couldn’t afford the excess luggage cost. I love reading but, en masse, it is a heavy, space consuming habit.

Last year, however, I bought an eReader while I was overseas. I loaded it up with over 80 books. Some were freebies and others were loans through my local library’s ebook lending scheme. And though I still went into a few bookshops, specialist shops, second hand shops and market stalls, I no longer needed to buy books to keep me going through a holiday. I still bought museum guides or special editions such as a collection of poetry from Wordsworth’s home in the Lakes District in England.  But for my fiction reading, I stuck to my eReader and the liberty of less weight in my luggage.

Did I read all 80 books? No. But I did read quite a few and some of those books were so enjoyable I went out and bought myself a print keeper copy.  And though, now that I am at home I rarely use my eReader due to preferring the tactile pleasure of printed books, when a weekend away is coming up or I am planning a holiday, I load up the eReader and take out the smaller suitcase.


The art of handmade bread / written and photographed by Dan Lepard

June 12, 2011

The art of handmade bread written and photgraphed by Dan Lepard takes the reader on a journey of bread. The focus is on European breads, many made using some fermentation processes. Most bread has a story and there are short, illustrated sections on key bread influences from several European countries. This book is for the bread lover, although the stories are of wider interest. There are helpful photographs for raising your own sourdough.

Ale bread with wheat grains


Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto

June 3, 2011
Springtime Kaiseki: Sashimi - Flounder Sashimi, Oil-blanched Prawns

Cooking Lecture - Springtime Kaiseki: Sashimi - Flounder Sashimi, Oil-blanched Prawns by flickr user panduh

I always knew there was a tea culture in Japan, but until I read Untangling My Chopsticks by Victoria Abbott Riccardi I had no idea that there is also a complex, elegant culinary tradition that is part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Riccardi’s memoir recollects the two years she spent in Japan learning about Kaiseki – the highly ritualized form of cooking that accompanies the formal tea ceremony. It is a fascinating read that gives insight not only into Japanese food culture: from the myriad number of ways that it is acceptable to eat sushi, to unusual Japanese cooking ingredients like Kudzu, but also insight into Japanese culture and history.

And even better… the memoir contains 27 recipes!

I still think of this book every time I eat sushi, and if I ever travel to Japan I will definitely try and take a culinary tour of Kyoto, or stay in a homestay so that I can experience a traditional Japanese home meal.