A novel approach to travel

This is subscriber only post.
Get one year of online-only access — only $15!
Below is a sample of the article.
Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

In the early 1970s I enjoyed reading the works of the British author R.F. Delderfield. His books were set in many places in England, but it was obvious that his real love was DEVON, where he lived. As a high school English teacher who taught British Literature, I always felt that I should visit England, but it was Delderfield’s trilogy “A Horseman Riding By” that convinced me to buy a plane ticket, rent a car and experience Britain, which I did in 1976.

In 2000 I reprised that trip for the benefit of two recently retired English teacher colleagues and four other friends. They didn’t have anywhere in the West Country in mind, but I told them I couldn’t go back to England without going there. We spent a few days there and they also loved it.

Because of the literature that we loved, we also visited CANTERBURY (“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer), STRATFORD, Wales (“How Green Was My Valley” by Richard Llewellyn), PENZANCE (“The Pirates of Penzance,” a light opera by Gilbert & Sullivan), DORCHESTER (“The Mayor of Casterbridge” by Thomas Hardy), GLAMIS CASTLE (“Macbeth” by Shakespeare) and HAWORTH (the Brontë family).

JUDY PFAFFENBERGER
Toledo, OH

My desire to see CORNWALL and the WEST COUNTRY of England came from an author who began her adult fiction career at the age of 70. Mary Wesley, a British author, wrote about 12 books, among them “Jumping the Queue,” “Harnessing the Peacocks” and ”Camomile Lawn.”

Her books are filled with black humor and explorations of love, marriage, parenting and death. They are also lovely travelogues of the West Country. She described this part of England so well that I decided I had to visit and booked a Backroads tour in 1998. The tour company was very accommodating and arranged to visit some of the places described in her books.

One of the best stops along the coast was a lovely church, St. Just-in-Roseland, on the Roseland Peninsula. We also spent the day in Totnes, where Ms. Wesley lived and wrote for many years, and visited the shops she described, tasted the local cheese as well as the Scrumpy (cider) and had Devon cream and crumpets in a garden setting.

I wrote a note to Ms. Wesley thanking her for inspiring me to visit, and when I returned to the U.S. I had a letter in reply.

We have had the opportunity to travel the world, but this was a most personal and memorable time.

ANNMARIE PITTMAN
Alexandria, VA

Not just one novel but a group inspired two recent trips.

I’ve been a great fan of British mystery writers since I discovered Agatha Christie when in my teens. In the fall of 2004 I took two Smithsonian Journeys (Box 23293, Washington, D.C. 20026-3293; phone 877/338-8687 or visit www. smithsonianjourneys.org) trips entitled “Classic Mystery Lover’s England” and “Mystery Lover’s Murder on the Orient Express.”

We visited sites connected with Christie herself and some other famous British mystery characters: Sherlock Holmes (by Arthur Conan Doyle), Lord Peter Wimsey (by Dorothy L Sayers), Inspector Morse (by Colin Dexter) and others. We met many authors, including Colin Dexter, Andrew Taylor, Natasha Cooper and Simon Brett.

The second tour ended with a ride on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express from Victoria Station in London through the Channel Tunnel and over the Alps to Venice.

It was a wonderful experience seeing sites of many of my favorite mysteries and discovering new writers.

PRISCILLA LONG
Mercer Island, WA

I have been a fan of Dick Francis and his books about the horse racing scene since the 1960s. Many are set in the one industry town of NEWMARKET, England. When in London in June ’04 we took a day trip there. The train ride from Kings Cross is about one hour, with a transfer at Cambridge.

We went in the morning and walked to High Street, where the National Horse Racing Museum (www.nhrm.co.uk) has a 2-hour minibus tour of the town (£20, or near $39, adult). It visits a trainer’s yard, a horses’ swimming pool, the town itself and “the gallops,” which are the extensive fields around the town where the horses train. They are ridden by their lads under the watchful eyes of the trainers. The guide was a very knowledgeable daughter of a trainer and an ex-lad herself. We then visited the interesting museum and shop. The afternoon tour goes to the National Stud.

There are more than 2,500 racehorses and two separate racecourses in town. It was great to see the area Dick Francis had described so well in his novels. Next time I will go when there is racing.

MARY JOYCE
Alameda, CA

My friend and I set off that day FROM HAWORTH, England, TO the tops of the blustery high moors of THE PENNINES. We were in search of a vibe from the Brontës. Our code names were “Charlotte” and “Emily.” Our goal was to make our way to the ruins that inspired the novel “Wuthering Heights.” We hoped to find a trace of the women who walked these chilly fields dressed in petticoats and wooden clogs.

We were about the same age as the English authors, and we — as they did — loved to read, hike and write, but there the similarities seemed to end. As Coloradoans, my friend and I wore fleece and Hi-Tec Boots. Provisioned with muffins, water bottles and some Marshmallow Peeps® (it was Eastertime), we set off.

The climb took us through glens and hidden waterfalls, past lambs too numerous to count and to a BBC film crew making a documentary about the Brontës.

At the top were the ruins that inspired the novel. The wind howled, and we were frozen despite the blue skies and warm sun. We could just imagine the field ablaze with purple heather, now dormant and brown. Even more fitting, we easily could pretend to be there in winter, with the cruel snow taunting the ghosts of Heathcliff and his Cathy.

Too cold to eat our odd picnic, we fed the muffins to the sheep who lived in the crumbling walls of the old farm. We read the opening page of the novel: “Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling. ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial word, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. . .”

Then the wind ripped the book away.

With that, Charlotte and I decided to make our way down the other side of the hill to a village with a warm pub and some cold ale — something the Brontë sisters never could have done, especially in those petticoats.

JENNIFER M. EISENLAU
Boulder, CO

Ever since I was introduced to her in 1963 as a freshman in college, my favorite author has been Jane Austen. I have read and reread her six novels, two incomplete novels and her juvenilia. I even belong to the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and get together with other Austen devotees to discuss aspects of the books.

So it is a bit surprising that my first real trip to England wasn’t until June 2001. Book Adventures (call 937/434-9019 in Centerville, Ohio, June to mid-November and 941/480-0074 in Venice, Florida, mid-November through May, or visit bookadventures.com), run by Mary Lou White, was offering a JASNA-sponsored trip to Jane Austen’s England for $3,499 including airfare from New York. It was a pilgrimage I could not resist. It was very exciting to visit her former haunts, such as her homes and parishes in CHAWTON, STEVENTON and WINCHESTER.

The tour also took us to the places that were discussed in her books. I walked along the ramparts of PORTSMOUTH like poor Fanny (“Mansfield Park”), jumped down the Granny’s teeth in LYME like Louisa (“Persuasion”) and along the streets of BATH pretending to be Catherine (“Northanger Abbey”) or Anne and Frederick (“Persuasion”).

The visits to these places were especially meaningful because for some 40 years I had only imagined them.

NILI OLAY
New York, NY

In an issue coming up — books that inspired people to travel to destinations around the world.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

In the early 1970s I enjoyed reading the works of the British author R.F. Delderfield. His books were set in many places in England, but it was obvious that his real love was DEVON, where he lived. As a high school English teacher who taught British Literature, I always felt that I should visit England, but it was Delderfield’s trilogy “A Horseman Riding By” that convinced me to buy a plane ticket, rent a car and experience Britain, which I did in 1976.

In 2000 I reprised that trip for the benefit of two recently retired English teacher colleagues and four other friends. They didn’t have anywhere in the West Country in mind, but I told them I couldn’t go back to England without going there. We spent a few days there and they also loved it.

Because of the literature that we loved, we also visited CANTERBURY (“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer), STRATFORD, Wales (“How Green Was My Valley” by Richard Llewellyn), PENZANCE (“The Pirates of Penzance,” a light opera by Gilbert & Sullivan), DORCHESTER (“The Mayor of Casterbridge” by Thomas Hardy), GLAMIS CASTLE (“Macbeth” by Shakespeare) and HAWORTH (the Brontë family).

JUDY PFAFFENBERGER
Toledo, OH

My desire to see CORNWALL and the WEST COUNTRY of England came from an author who began her adult fiction career at the age of 70. Mary Wesley, a British author, wrote about 12 books, among them “Jumping the Queue,” “Harnessing the Peacocks” and ”Camomile Lawn.”

Her books are filled with black humor and explorations of love, marriage, parenting and death. They are also lovely travelogues of the West Country. She described this part of England so well that I decided I had to visit and booked a Backroads tour in 1998. The tour company was very accommodating and arranged to visit some of the places described in her books.

One of the best stops along the coast was a lovely church, St. Just-in-Roseland, on the Roseland Peninsula. We also spent the day in Totnes, where Ms. Wesley lived and wrote for many years, and visited the shops she described, tasted the local cheese as well as the Scrumpy (cider) and had Devon cream and crumpets in a garden setting.

I wrote a note to Ms. Wesley thanking her for inspiring me to visit, and when I returned to the U.S. I had a letter in reply.

We have had the opportunity to travel the world, but this was a most personal and memorable time.

ANNMARIE PITTMAN
Alexandria, VA

Not just one novel but a group inspired two recent trips.

I’ve been a great fan of British mystery writers since I discovered Agatha Christie when in my teens. In the fall of 2004 I took two Smithsonian Journeys (Box 23293, Washington, D.C. 20026-3293; phone 877/338-8687 or visit www. smithsonianjourneys.org) trips entitled “Classic Mystery Lover’s England” and “Mystery Lover’s Murder on the Orient Express.”

We visited sites connected with Christie herself and some other famous British mystery characters: Sherlock Holmes (by Arthur Conan Doyle), Lord Peter Wimsey (by Dorothy L Sayers), Inspector Morse (by Colin Dexter) and others. We met many authors, including Colin Dexter, Andrew Taylor, Natasha Cooper and Simon Brett.

The second tour ended with a ride on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express from Victoria Station in London through the Channel Tunnel and over the Alps to Venice.

It was a wonderful experience seeing sites of many of my favorite mysteries and discovering new writers.

PRISCILLA LONG
Mercer Island, WA

I have been a fan of Dick Francis and his books about the horse racing scene since the 1960s. Many are set in the one industry town of NEWMARKET, England. When in London in June ’04 we took a day trip there. The train ride from Kings Cross is about one hour, with a transfer at Cambridge.

We went in the morning and walked to High Street, where the National Horse Racing Museum (www.nhrm.co.uk) has a 2-hour minibus tour of the town (£20, or near $39, adult). It visits a trainer’s yard, a horses’ swimming pool, the town itself and “the gallops,” which are the extensive fields around the town where the horses train. They are ridden by their lads under the watchful eyes of the trainers. The guide was a very knowledgeable daughter of a trainer and an ex-lad herself. We then visited the interesting museum and shop. The afternoon tour goes to the National Stud.

There are more than 2,500 racehorses and two separate racecourses in town. It was great to see the area Dick Francis had described so well in his novels. Next time I will go when there is racing.

MARY JOYCE
Alameda, CA

My friend and I set off that day FROM HAWORTH, England, TO the tops of the blustery high moors of THE PENNINES. We were in search of a vibe from the Brontës. Our code names were “Charlotte” and “Emily.” Our goal was to make our way to the ruins that inspired the novel “Wuthering Heights.” We hoped to find a trace of the women who walked these chilly fields dressed in petticoats and wooden clogs.

We were about the same age as the English authors, and we — as they did — loved to read, hike and write, but there the similarities seemed to end. As Coloradoans, my friend and I wore fleece and Hi-Tec Boots. Provisioned with muffins, water bottles and some Marshmallow Peeps® (it was Eastertime), we set off.

The climb took us through glens and hidden waterfalls, past lambs too numerous to count and to a BBC film crew making a documentary about the Brontës.

At the top were the ruins that inspired the novel. The wind howled, and we were frozen despite the blue skies and warm sun. We could just imagine the field ablaze with purple heather, now dormant and brown. Even more fitting, we easily could pretend to be there in winter, with the cruel snow taunting the ghosts of Heathcliff and his Cathy.

Too cold to eat our odd picnic, we fed the muffins to the sheep who lived in the crumbling walls of the old farm. We read the opening page of the novel: “Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling. ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial word, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. . .”

Then the wind ripped the book away.

With that, Charlotte and I decided to make our way down the other side of the hill to a village with a warm pub and some cold ale — something the Brontë sisters never could have done, especially in those petticoats.

JENNIFER M. EISENLAU
Boulder, CO

Ever since I was introduced to her in 1963 as a freshman in college, my favorite author has been Jane Austen. I have read and reread her six novels, two incomplete novels and her juvenilia. I even belong to the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and get together with other Austen devotees to discuss aspects of the books.

So it is a bit surprising that my first real trip to England wasn’t until June 2001. Book Adventures (call 937/434-9019 in Centerville, Ohio, June to mid-November and 941/480-0074 in Venice, Florida, mid-November through May, or visit bookadventures.com), run by Mary Lou White, was offering a JASNA-sponsored trip to Jane Austen’s England for $3,499 including airfare from New York. It was a pilgrimage I could not resist. It was very exciting to visit her former haunts, such as her homes and parishes in CHAWTON, STEVENTON and WINCHESTER.

The tour also took us to the places that were discussed in her books. I walked along the ramparts of PORTSMOUTH like poor Fanny (“Mansfield Park”), jumped down the Granny’s teeth in LYME like Louisa (“Persuasion”) and along the streets of BATH pretending to be Catherine (“Northanger Abbey”) or Anne and Frederick (“Persuasion”).

The visits to these places were especially meaningful because for some 40 years I had only imagined them.

NILI OLAY
New York, NY

In an issue coming up — books that inspired people to travel to destinations around the world.