May I take up Foxglove's intriguing reference to the simple pleasure of reading and of books.
It certainly complements my own experiences of how to enrich travel generally - and "leisure" travel specifically. The pleasure to be gained from sitting in a comfortable hotel lounge - or even a bar, though in this context well-intended intrusions may be harder to manage - comes from many sources, of which sheer enjoyment, learning and a heightened sense of perspective are but three. The surrounds do not have to be grand or even particularly luxurious; spectacular vistas can be a distraction. For example, I've spent hours in the lobby of the Amsterdam Marriott turning the pages and idly watching the world pursue its ineluctable path. Sometimes, though, the spectacular undeniably stimulates the imagination: for me, a good example would be the Exec Lounge on the 58th Floor of the Shanghai JW, with its view out over 23 million bustling souls and 2/3000 years of history.
What of content? Well, of course "each to their own", but here's a couple of examples of how I found that books helped me appreciate a location in several different ways. Imagine yourselves in the building shown above - The Prado Gallery in Madrid. A treasure trove in itself, this place is home to what many call the "second most famous painting in the world" - Diego Velasquez's "Las Meninas". Gaze and wonder at its multi-faceted intricacy. And then turn to a book entitled "Everything is Happening" in which the author, Michael Jacobs, "searches for the ultimate significance of the painting by following the trails of association from each individual character in the picture, as well as his own memories of relationship to this extraordinary work." The result: a widened sense of appreciation; a more balanced critical perspective; and enhanced satisfaction. Later, a glass or two to the good, I am close to heaven.
If you are venturing to Munich, take a look at Catherine Hickley's description of Hitler's art dealer and his secret legacy - "The Munich Art Hoard". And then go out into that city's rich resource of art and political history, wander around and imagine how it all happened - moving with the writer from "the street -corner battles of Kristellnacht in Breslau, to modern-day Madison Ave; from the charred ruins of post-war Dresden to the current cosy prosperity of Berne."
Enough: I ramble. Many thanks to Foxglove for the idea.
My best wishes to you all,
Message was edited by: arkwright
arkwright - and many thanks to you for such a vivid and captivating explanation of the enrichment attainable by learning more about fascinating places before visiting them. I now so want to read "Everything is Happening" and return to the Prado! But I think pluto77 will get there first. Yours is some of the best travel advice provided we have received.
Great idea, and I hope others will post books that complemented their travels. I tend to enjoy contemporary, humorous travelogues.
Ones I've read recently:
Hong Konged by Paul Hanstedt
Lost on Planet China - J. Maarten Troost
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven - Susan Jane Gilman
I plan to read Troost's Fiji book as well as Bill Bryson's Australia book soon, too.
PS - I should add that reading a travel book is a great conversation starter. When I was reading "Hong Konged" I took it everywhere with me and snuck in a few minutes reading whenever I could. I was at a hotel in Minneapolis reading it by the pool and was approached by a guy about my age with two daughters adopted from Asia, and they came over and wanted to talk to me about China and Hong Kong. He's lived in Asia for years and had a lot of great advice. I also had the book at a hockey game and got into a great conversation with another fan who'd been all over Asia and Oceania and had lots of great commentary (our team was losing anyway, so why not?). There is nothing like a shared love of travel to bring people together (like this website).
Believe it or not, in spite of my offbeat posts, I too enjoy reading, including while traveling and especially with great vistas (and for me, an urban rat, a great vista can just as well be the corner room I was lucky to land on the 64th floor of the NY Residence Inn or a high floor at the Marriott Grand Chateau in Vegas as it is the views I got in Park City Utah and Newport Beach).
I usually read early morning before the papers arrive and post dinner before the wildlings come out (winter is coming). I enjoy all aspects of marketing and decision making (any Michael Lewis books) and try hard to keep up with technology advances, if for not other reason than consumer self defense.
Although also is in the back of my mind. Take it from me, NathalieF and Big Thom are some sharp competitors when it comes to getting inside your head and wallets, we must stay on our toes or they will crush us like a bug on the windshield of life (with a sincere and warm smile on their face). They know their stuff and get smarter everyday based on their exposure to cutting edge ideas. They're clever lil' rascals .
Books of late;
Nicholas Carr - The Shallows - What the internet is doing to our brain (I'm a believer)
Siva Vaidhyanathan (Vaboys colleague at UVa) - The Googlization of Everything (and we worry about the NSA!)
Daniel Kahneman - Thinking Fast and Slow - Intuitive vs. Logical Thought
Scott Adams - How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big - Dilbert's creator is refreshingly thoughtful about life
Doug Van Pelt - Unconscious Branding - The Neuroscience of Marketing - Whew baby, we be talkin' Marriott and their innovative ways!
Great to have the big boys back on the board, they're what I'm hoping to be when I grow up .
Thanks for the erc, I was just sitting here one day thinking of those Insiders who have kind of disappeared and thought, where has my grillin pal foxglove gone? And speaking of the "Original Insider Grill Master" Mr. jerrycoin have not seen much of him around either, another of the II Team (Insider Intellectuals)?
Thank you, arkwright. Terrific topic.
It's been out for a couple of decades now, but whether you've already been or are contemplating a visit, John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil provides a great backdrop (and an intriguing non-fiction tale) for Savannah, GA. Having been to Savannah many times prior to it's release simply made the book all the more entertaining for me. (And the book's much better than the movie.)