In her gorgeous book 84 Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff states that she goes to England to find “the England of English Literature”. That’s always been my reason for visiting England – nothing means as much to me as a place connected with a much-loved author or the spot where a poem or novel is set. The photo you see here is my 2019 Exploring the Literary Landscapes of England tour group.
Literary England – My Top Ten
I first went to England when I was 20 – I think I was almost shaking with excitement on those first days in London. Then I began to see the glories of the English countryside and villages. I remember my first bus ride in the Cotswolds, when I just longed to call out to the driver to ‘slow down’ so that I could see things properly.
I should have been in England on the day you receive this newsletter, but thanks to Covid-19 I will not be travelling, nor will the group of excited literary tourists I should have been taking with me. So, instead of sitting thinking sadly of all I should have been seeing, I decided to create a virtual talk about my Top Ten literary places in England. I must say that choosing only ten, and then ranking them, was an incredibly challenging task. I have not included any places in London (there will be a separate talk about that great city) and possibly I have left out some of your favourite spots.
It’s a personal journey, based on travels on my own and then over many years of leading literary tours in England. I hope you will enjoy the quotes and readings I have included, the anecdotes about different authors, and beautiful views of the places I love most in England. There are no prizes for guessing which is my No 1 Literary Destination, not only in England, but in the world, but you might find that the other nine offer you some surprises.
Literary Scandinavia – My Top Ten
I’ve also been working hard to get my virtual talk on my Top Ten places in Literary Scandinavia completed in time for this newsletter.
I found that when I first mentioned to people that I was leading a literary tour of Scandinavia, they often looked rather blank and then asked me what Scandi writers there were. I soon reeled off a list – Hans Christian Andersen, Karen Blixen, Astrid Lindgren, Thor Heyerdahl, Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, Sigrid Undset, and the list goes on. This talk will take you to places connected with some very familiar authors, but might also introduce you to a few new ones.
Sweden, Denmark and Norway offer some fabulous literary destinations, with crime novels, fairy tales, book towns and literary walking tours. I even include one surprise author you’d probably never guess. And I let you share in the best literary guided walk I have ever experienced.
Come with me to the lands of fjords and valleys, Scandi Noir, and castles on a very different sort of armchair literary journey.
Over to you
Are you one of my past travelling companions? Where did you go, South of France, Italy, perhaps the USA? Which places would you like to see next from your armchair, or would you love to recommend to others who haven’t been there yet? Please tell me your suggestions in a comment below.
One lovely lady told me that she has purchased several copies of my virtual talks and tours to send to her friends as small gifts for birthdays. I think that this is a really thoughtful gift and easy to arrange during isolation, but also any time. Can you think of someone who would enjoy virtual travel?
I’m desperately hoping that I’ll be able to recommence literary tours in person by next year, but revisiting England and Scandinavia has helped me relive the absolute joy of showing these special locations to like-minded people. I do hope you will enjoy my first two virtual tours also.