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TRAVEL CURE

 
 

For the doldrums of February...

   

 

We are in the doldrums of February, that ragged tail end of winter, when spring is barely a whisper of promise, and we are listless...wanting only flowers, leaves, green, sunlight....

 

 


The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela     Photo:ctsnow

 

The answer is perhaps a compendium, an anthology, a florilegium (with its delightful origins in flower-gathering) of travel writing—because this way one can visit where one pleases, sniff around different destinations, pack ones bags at the drop of a hat, and hop to the next place with ease, travel through time with impunity.

 

And so we picked up Condé Nast Traveler’s Book of Unforgettable Journeys – Great Writers on Great Places.  We found that the rain and gray skies made us want to wander in warmer climes, the sunnier selections from the magazine’s last 2 decades.  We stopped in Capri with Shirley Hazzard who wrote in 1991 of a 1957 visit (this is truly time traveling) '...who can say why the shape of a legendary place—hill, harbor, headland—should in itself strike us as significant, a destination?  In a region whose volcanic forms never appear random, the island of Capri, lying at the horizon of the Neapolitan gulf, has grand inevitability—as if “planted there on purpose” as Joseph Addison observed three centuries ago, “to break the Violence of the Waves that run into the Bay.”'  And we stopped with Robert Hughes on the Tyrrhenian coast where “...the ravine gathers the sun’s heat like a parabolic mirror, the dust of the track hangs in the air among the asphodels, your eyes sting with sweat, and a kite circles....”  Unfortunately we discovered that Petra was cold -- Edmund White writing of Petra in the winter says: “...the Middle East or at least Jordan, sounded suitably warm. Moreover, I remembered a grade-school teacher who’d assured us that ...Baby Jesus had been born amid sultry breezes and palm trees...well, let me assure you Baby Jesus was cold.  We were in the same general area of Bethlehem and we were snowed in.”  So much for Petra.

 

We immediately took off for Ethiopia with Pico Iyer and a trip to the ancient rock churches of Lalibela, where he “felt as if [he] were traveling through an illuminated Bible from the thirteenth century, except that all the figures moved...."

 

And we also dipped into India in Mind, a collection with a decidedly literary cast – not all travel pieces, some are excerpts from other writings: there is Paul Theroux on a marvelously mad train trip through the South of India journeying towards Ceylon, Paul Bowles in Kerala (we found out that Bowles had even been arrested for espionage in India), Mark Twain (on a round-the-world commission), Allen Ginsberg, Hermann Hesse (whose father and grandfather had been missionaries there), Bruce Chatwin, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Somerset Maugham, Gore Vidal.  Poems from Octavio Paz (who was the Mexican Ambassador in New Delhi).

 

Paz writes in In the Lodi Gardens:
 

The black, pensive, dense

domes of the mausoleums,

suddenly shot birds

into the unanimous blue

 

...and a literary travel cure was all it took to get us all fired up again...  . 

 


The Lodi Gardens, New Delhi     Photo:varunshiv

 

 

Read: Condé Nast Traveler: Book of Unforgettable Journeys – Great Writers on Great Places

 

Read: India in Mind, An Anthology

 

Tags:  travel  literature  hazzard  india

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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