Seven travel bloggers’ best literary travel stories

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There are thousands of literary travel destinations all around the world. Visiting them can enhance your understanding of an author’s work – not to mention blow out your travel budget and to be read list on new books! – but not all of them are equally worth your time and hard-earned cash. So how do you know which places you should add to your bucket list, and which are best visited in your imagination? In this post, seven travel bloggers have taken the time to tell you about their experiences with some of the world’s best literary destinations.

Get your travel planner ready – you’ll definitely want to visit these!

William Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon

with Maggie McKneely (Pink Caddy Travelogue)

Great Garden, Shakespeare's New Place
Photo credit: Maggie McKneely

“To visit or not to visit? I expected Stratford-upon-Avon to be a complete tourist trap. It’s where William Shakespeare was born, raised, died, and was buried, so I assumed it would something like a mecca for all literature lovers. I feared throngs of Shakespeare groupies spouting random lines of Henry V on street corners, or high schoolers on field trips reenacting Romeo and Juliet.

But Stratford turned out be a complete surprise. While thousands of visitors do pass through every year, the town has maintained its small, quintessentially British feel, unlike it’s close neighbor, London. Just outside of the town center are quiet, residential streets, with private cottages and gardens and locals out walking their dogs and running errands.

And this in spite of the fact that you can tour six sites connected to the West’s most famous poet and playwright. In early summer, my family and I practically had his Birthplace all to ourselves. There was no long line to take a peek at his gravesite, and the walk to Anne Hathaway’s (his wife) cottage was a pleasant stroll through the idyllic English countryside.

We visited Stratford for Shakespeare. But it was the most British of the towns we stopped in during our entire trip to England. In an effort to preserve everything connected to Shakespeare, the preservationists have inadvertently protected the integrity and charm of the village.

Hemingway’s El Floridita

with Talek Nantes (Travels with Talek)

Hemingway and Talek in El Floridita
Photo credit: Talek Nantes

I loved reading Ernest Hemingway’s novels as a kid in high school. As a Cuban-American, I was intrigued by Hemingway’s fascination with Cuba where he lived longer than anywhere else. He loved the island nation and built a home there, Finca Vigia. When I visited Finca, I saw it had been transformed into a museum dedicated to Hemingway’s memory. The home is arranged exactly as he left it. I knew that’s where Hemingway wrote 7 books while in Cuba including his classics, The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream.

One of Hemingway’s favorite pastimes while in Cuba’s capital, Havana, was to frequent El Floridita, a restaurant and bar in Havana’s colonial sector. In fact, the popular Cuban cocktail, daiquiri, really owes its fame to the writer who drank it near-daily at the Floridita. In pursuit of Hemingway’s Cuba legacy, I visited El Floridita and had a conversation with his much-photographed statue sitting at the bar.

A short distance from El Floridita is the bar, La Bodeguita del Medio where Ernest Hemingway is also credited with immortalizing the mojito by drinking it regularly in this bar off Cathedral Plaza in Havana. One of the characteristics of Bodeguita is that patrons write their name on the walls. I searched for Hemingway’s name there and found a sentence that reads, “Mi mojito en la Bodeguita, mi daiquiri en El Floridita” or “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.” The signature below? Ernest Hemingway.

Jane Austen’s Bath

with Emma Jane (Emma Jane Explores)

Emma at Royal Crescent, Bath
Photo credit: Emma Jane Explores

Jane Austen may have had mixed feelings for Bath in Somerset, England, for the high society snobs she wrote about in her novels Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, but to the modern eye, this splendid looking town about an hour and a half from London has a lot of charm. I came to Bath in search of Jane Austen, being a long-time fan of her wit and humour as well as her presentation of women as intelligent, and capable beings. I’m also named Emma after one of her famous literary characters, although I have to say I think I bear little resemblance.

Jane Austen’s Bath is hedonistic – full of social climbers and people with more money than they know what to do with. Today, Bath is a tourist town, where huge crowds flock to see the Roman Baths and swim in the natural hot springs. That said, visiting the remarkable hot springs complex built up by the Roman Empire from 60-70 AD will definitely not disappoint. For me, though, the real joy of Bath is wandering the streets to admire the architecture, sneaking into a local pub for some hand-poured English ale and finding your way to the Royal Crescent (or The Crescent as Austen refers to it in her novels). For Austen-lovers, visit the Jane Austen Centre, which gives an impression of what the town was like when Austen was a resident.

Mark Twain’s Hannibal, MO

with Roxanna Keyes (Gypsy with a Day Job)

Roxanna with Tom and Huck, Hannibal MO
Photo credit: Roxanna Keyes

I recently visited Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home, and the location where The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, begins.  During Twain’s life there, Hannibal was a bustling commercial stop for riverboat commerce. Today it is a quiet town along the Mississippi River, about 100 miles north of St. Louis.

The city embraces its famous former resident and history, with zeal.  There are a number of attractions in related to Twain, and his books. Several are registered National Historic Sites.  Coupled with the refurbished traditional American Main Street area, Hannibal exudes a character and charm that is all its own.

The Boyhood Home and Museum is the centerpiece of the Twain sites.  They feature several period homes and shops, and the museum, which includes a large collection of original Norman Rockwell works.

Although there is a lot of emphasis on the books, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about Twain beyond them.  He was a remarkable outspoken man, well ahead of his time. Travel enthusiasts often quote him: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I agree whole-heartedly.  A visit to Hannibal can be one of those surprisingly enlightening travel experiences!

Ibn Battuta’s Tangier

with Thea Wingert (Zen Travellers)

Ibn Battouta's tomb, Tangier
Photo credit: Thea Wingert

Tangier Morocco has a rich literary history that attracted both the Beat Generation poets and the world’s oldest travel writer alike. As I learned during my time there, one of the best ways to enjoy the city is to hire a local guide to take a walking tour of the beautiful city on the shores of Mediterranean sea. There we walked to among others, Café Hafa where the Rolling Stones hung out, and Gran Café de Paris, a favourite haunt of the Beat Generation writers. Perhaps the most meaningful stop on the city tour to me was our visit to the original travel memoirist, Ibn Battuta’s tomb in the city’s ancient Medina. The unassuming marker commemorates the man whose camel caravan memoirs inspired many explorers for centuries to come, present company included. It is my belief, that no tour of literary landmarks in Tangier would be complete without paying homage to Battuta, who ushered in the era of cataloguing travels for the enjoyment of others.

Hans Christian Andersen’s Odense

with Mary (A Mary Road)

Hans Christian Andersen House, Odense
Photo credit: A Mary Road

I knew Hans Christian Andersen’s book however, I didn’t know him until I moved to Denmark.  He is a Danish writer from 1800 and wrote the very famous children stories such as The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, The Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, and a lot more. When I visited his house in Odense, I’ve learnt so much about him. I’ve learnt that he was a traveller and never owned a house. I felt very connected to him since I’m the same. Today, the house he grew up in until 14 years old has turned into a museum that tourists can visit and learn more about this very fascinating writer. He was also never married and was speculated as gay which was obviously a problem at that time; therefore, many of his friends thought that he kept it with himself until he died.

If you want to visit his childhood home, from Copenhagen, you can take a bus or train to Odense which takes about 2-hours or less.

J.M. Barrie’s Kirriemuir

with Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten (Epiphany to Travel)

JM Barrie Birthplace Garden
Photo credit: Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten

Our trip to Scotland I soon discovered would not of felt complete if we skipped this small gem in Kirriemuir.  One hour’s drive north of Dundee Scotland located in the town of Kirriemuir is J. M. Barrie’s birthplace and childhood home. J.M. Barrie is the author of several book’s, but he is best known for writing Peter Pan.  My husband Kevin, like all boys (even when they become men) love the story of Peter Pan. But really, who doesn’t love the story of Peter Pan?

In Kirriemuir we easily found a spot along the quite streets to park with a short walk to the home now owed by the National Trust of Scotland. The small white cottage that been restored as a typical weaver’s home with the family living upstairs.

When we first entered the building, we found ourselves in a store filled with everything Peter Pan.  A lovely lady greeted us and explained the rules and some background about the novelist J.M. Barrie.  One bit of information she told is on how Barrie tried very hard to gain his Mother’s love after her favorite son died.  We were a little disappointed that no cameras or videoing are allowed in the home, but fully understand.

As we walked through the home, we found several original items belonging to the Barrie family.  I was pretty impressed with discovering the many books that Barrie also wrote.  Also, among the items were manuscripts and costumes from the original Peter Pan plays.

After taking our time and enjoying everything the inside of the museum had to share, which included several purchases from their store, we headed outside.  There are no issues with photographing the outside area, so we took full advantage.

Just a few steps from the home there is a wash house where Barrie would put on plays.  There is also a lovely garden with a statue dedicated to J.M. Barrie and Peter Pan.  My husband and I had a wonderful visit in this little town, childhood home of J.M. Barrie.

Have you been to any of these places? Which would be your favourite?

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