Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Literary Tourists

I made my first solo trip to London when I was 21 years old. As a life-long student of history, I was naturally excited to explore as an adult everything from the Tower to Westminster Abbey and Hampton Court. But I also came to London as an enthusiastic devote of Georgette Heyer. When I walked down St. James's Street or sat on a bench in Hyde Park, part of the thrill I experienced undeniably came from my awareness of the historical associations of those place. But it was a history filtered through the talented imagination of one of my favorite authors. I was there as a literary tourist.

There have long been Dickensonian (Dickensian?) tours of London; now there are De Vinci Code tours of Paris. I recall searching out the grave of Greyfriar's Bobby in Edinburgh, thanks to a Disney movie I'd loved as a child. When I went back to the Alhambra, I could hear the echoes of my father's rich baritone telling me one of his favorite bedtime stories, about how when Granada's last Moorish ruler paused and wept as he looked back on the beautiful city he'd loved and lost, his mother admonished him, "Don't cry like a woman for what you failed to defend as a man."

So it was in this tradition that Steve and I spent last week in New Iberia, Louisiana. Yes, we were there because New Iberia is in the heart of Cajun country and because it is the site of Shadows on the Teche, a lovely plantation. But we were mainly there because as anyone who reads James Lee Burke knows, New Iberia is the literary home of Dave Robicheaux. We had a great time, and once I get my photos organized--and get though all the radio interviews I have lined up this week--I'd like to do several posts on it. But in the meantime, the photo above is of the Bayou Teche, while here is Victor's Cafeteria, where Dave always eats breakfast...so of course we did, too.


Pax Deux said...

Would love to hear more about about the trip to New Iberia! Would love someday to take that trip myself.

On the subject of literary tours... I know of a young lady who was so taken by the romance of reliving Washington Irving's "Tales" while visiting the Alhambra, that she did not notice the increasing flustering and frustration of her boyfriend, who was trying his best to gain her attention in order to propose! He did succeed, however :lol:

orannia said...

I love the idea of being a literary tourist. IIRC I visited the grave of Greyfriar's Bobby when I was in Edinburgh. I haven't done the Da Vinci Code tour...but I do remember standing in St Peter's Square at the Vatican and working through Angels and Demons :)

Oh...not literary per say, but I did go on the Jack the Ripper tour. It was scary!

Sphinx Ink said...

Nice post! I look forward to seeing the pix.

Charles Gramlich said...

I enjoyed hearing about your and STeve's trip. I need to get Lana to go with me on something like this.

Susan/DC said...

My husband and I took a walking tour in England this summer, and one of the reasons I chose that particular route was because it had literary connections. We spent the first night in Bakewell and walked to Chatsworth. Having read the Amanda Foreman biography of Georgiana (and seen the movie), I was very interested in seeing the actual home. We then went to Hathersage, where Jane Eyre is supposedly set, and from there went to Castleton, near the village of Eyam, the true life setting of Geraldine Brooks' "Year of Wonders". Not to mention we were in Peak District, and I kept thinking back to the scene in "Pride & Prejudice" where Mr. Darby meets Elizabeth's aunt and they discover that they each spent their youth in Derbyshire. The setting is lovely even without all the literary connections, but they definitely added a richness to the trip.

And have to add that I visited New Orleans for the first time last week. Fascinating, unique city. I want to go back, since I did not have time to see nearly as much as I wanted to, and perhaps I can add a trip to New Iberia. Must recommend a restaurant, Rambla, on Camp Street just outside the French Quarter. There is no such thing as too much beignets, but if you're in the mood for something a little different, the churros (and everything else we had) at Rambla are wonderful.

Beth said...

On an entirely different subject, I have now finished The Babylonian Codex. It downloaded to my kindle yesterday morning.

Great story, though the bit about destroying Babylon is more than a bit sick making. Thanks also for the references at the end.


Steve Malley said...

Next time I'm in the States, NOLA and New Iberia are definitely on the menu! My last visit (seven years ago), time and the pain of old acquaintance prevented me. Now I think I'm ready...

Can't wait to see your pix! :)

cs harris said...

Pax Deux, it is a lovely place. And that's funny about the Alhambra; I had never read Irving's "Tales" but bought a lovely copy last time I was there.

Orannia, when my daughter went to Edinburgh last spring, SHE went to see the grave.

Spinx Ink, I took a ton; now I just nee to get them loaded.

Charles, you ought to take her up to Natchez. She'd love it. Even Clinton is fun.

cs harris said...

Susan, that sounds like a wonderful trip. I'm jealous. I've never tried Rambla, but if they have churros, I'm going! When I was a kid in Madrid, a little old lady used to come down the street selling them every morning.

Beth, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It was reading the report on the destruction of Babylon that partially inspired the story. As an archaeologist and historian, reading about what was done left me shaking with impotent fury.

Steve, the pain of old memories can be hard. If you do come, look me up!

Dana said...

I look forward to seeing your photos! I love going on vacation vicariously :-) Just got "What Angles Fear" today. On my way to curl up next to the fire with it. Kids are fed, dinner is slow cooking in the oven. It's ME time. Thanks for writing such a wonderful series. Love that I am at the beginning of it!

Firefly said...

Would love to see your photos please! The Alhambra is a visual delight. So beautiful it almost hurts the eye!
On another note I felt the same when I went to Bath in the UK after reading all the many books set in Regency England. I look forward a great deal travelling to the deep south in your country

cs harris said...

Dana, I do hope you enjoy it!

Firefly, hopefully I'll get them up soon. I'm having some trouble with my flashdrive.

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