Armchair Travel Guides

The way I figure it, if I can’t physically travel, I’m going to do it virtually, and that means reading and, re-reading some of my favourite, travel books. Armchair travelling, if you like.

It began with this one by Ann Mah, which left me with a yearning for more France.

Okay, here’s where I digress. As much as I try not to keep too much “stuff”, I can’t apply the whole Marie Kondo thing to my bookcase – at least not my travel bookcase (or my cookbooks, but that’s another story). My travel bookcase lives in my home office as a constant reminder of the reason why I work; it contains travel memoirs and guides to everywhere I’ve been. 

Anyways, the yearning for more France had me pulling this one out of the bookcase: A Year In Provence.

Now, my copy is falling apart – as, indeed, it should be given that I bought it in, wait for it, 1990. Am I really that old? And that was the paperback. The original was published a year earlier.

Peter Mayle wrote a couple of sequels to A Year In Provence. Both are enjoyable reads, but there’s just something about the original that has me reaching for it every few years. 

Another of Mayle’s that I’ll be re-reading this month is a novel,  A Good Year.

Now, I’m going to say this really quickly – A Good Year is one of my absolute favourite movies. Russell Crowe is in it – yes, I know, but he’s great in this, as is Marion Cotillard – and it’s set in Provence. That’s all that you really need to know.

Also on my reading list this month is Bill Bryson’s From Neither Here Nor There. I bought this one from a second-hand bookstore in Armidale when we were on a road trip one time and have never read it. 

One that I’ve been meaning to read, and it’s been on my to-be-read pile for goodness how long is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Another on my list for this month is The Angry Island, by the late great A.A. Gill. And, if I don’t run out of days,  From Here To There, by Jon Faine.

If you’re looking to do some armchair travelling of your own, here are a few of my favourites – in no particular order:

Anything by Bill Bryson, but especially Notes From a Small Island, Downunder, A Walk In The Woods, and The Road To Little Dribbling.

Anything by John Baxter, but especially The Most Beautiful Walk In The World, A Paris Christmas, A Year In Paris and, The Perfect Meal.

Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, Under The Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes, Five Ways To Carry A Goat, Ben Groundwater, and One More Croissant For The Road, Felicity Cloake.

For a laugh, you can’t go past the Jetlag Travel Guides. There are three in the series (four if you include the guide to Molvanian Baby Names) and they’ve all been written by the Working Dog crew – the writers behind the Aussie classic movie The Castle. The story is that one night over dinner they started talking about writing a satirical version of a Lonely Planet Guide, the country of Molvania was invented, and the rest is hilariously history. 

They’ve written them in a way that unless you read the words they could be mistaken for a serious travel guide – right down to the author biographies in the back of the book. It must have been so much fun.

Enough from me, what are your favourite books about travelling or far-away places?