Destination: Europe

A Street Corner in Paris

A Street Corner in Paris Photo: tibchris, Flickr, (Creative Commons)

Jeffrey Tayler had all but given up on the City of Light. Then he sat down at a Left Bank cafe.

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R.I.P. George Whitman, Shakespeare & Company Owner

It’s hard to imagine Paris without Shakespeare & Company, and George Whitman, who died yesterday at the age of 98, owned the famed Left Bank bookstore for years.

He took its name from the original shop owned by Sylvia Beach.

“For decades,” the New York Times notes, “Mr. Whitman provided food and makeshift beds to young aspiring novelists or writing nomads, often letting them spend a night, a week, or even months living among the crowded shelves and alcoves.”

Travel writer Erin Byrne profiled Whitman several years ago, noting that he had “fashioned a life for himself that brings together the two things he loves most in all the world, books and people. It is this combination that makes him tick. Old age without loneliness is unusual; George always has a house full of friends. Fragility without weakness is seldom seen; this man is thin and frail, but his presence is noble.”

His daughter, Sylvia, discusses her father and the store’s history in this terrific video:


Interview with Henry Rollins: Punk Rock World Traveler

Jim Benning asks the musician about his new book of photographs and how travel has humbled him

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The Not-So-Endless Summer

Biarritz, France Biarritz, France (Abbie Kozolchyk)

Parting with beach season is especially sweet sorrow in Biarritz, France, as Abbie Kozolchyk discovered

See the full audio slideshow: »


Greek Paradise, Lost

Greek Paradise, Lost Photo: Dan Saltzstein

In the Aegean isles, Dan Saltzstein went in search of a mysterious cave. He found it -- and a dose of danger.

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R.I.P. Notting Hill’s Travel Bookshop

Despite a last-minute campaign by editors and even celebrities, London’s Travel Bookshop has closed.

USA Today’s Laura Bly received an email from the founder yesterday: “The shop is currently closed—but I am going to open it and be there myself this Saturday 10th - for a final day’s sale. Then sadly, that’s it for the Travel Bookshop.”

The store was featured in the 1999 Hugh Grant movie “Notting Hill.” As we noted recently, Alec Baldwin, who appeared in the film, was among those Tweeting his support for efforts to find a buyer.


Travel Movie Watch: ‘The Loneliest Planet’

The Loneliest Planet premiered at the Locarno Film Festival last week. It’s an adaptation of a travel-themed short story, “Expensive Trips Nowhere,” by World Hum contributor Tom Bissell, and it stars Gael Garcia Bernal of “The Motorcycle Diaries” fame. The story follows a pair of young backpackers on a guided hiking expedition in the Caucasus Mountains, and judging from this Variety review, it’s a must-see:

Much of the pic’s first hour unspools through continuous handheld shots of the threesome trudging along with backpacks, telling stories when they’re not silently concentrating on navigating treacherous terrain. At regular interludes, long-distance shots observe them dwarfed by the landscape as Richard Skelton’s haunting, rhythmic, ethnically inflected score intones in the background.

An encounter on the trail turns into a near-life-threatening test of manhood that Alex [Bernal] arguably fails. Thereafter, none of the characters discuss what happened, but it casts a profound pall over the adventure, shifting allegiances and sympathies among the threesome. ...[V]iewers may recognize a core emotional truth about how deeply travel tests relationships, how a single instinctive action can shift the ground irrevocably between people, and how no words can make things right.


Bad ‘Carma’

Bad ‘Carma’ Photo: ciccioetneo via Flickr, (Creative Commons)

David Farley wanted to drive only occasionally during his stay in Italy. So why did something always go wrong?

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Meet Heathrow Airport’s New Writer in Residence

Novelist Tony Parsons is the latest writer to sign up for a week at Heathrow. According to the Evening Standard, Parsons will “roam around the airport, among passengers and staff, as inspiration for his 13th book which will be a collection of short stories based on his experiences there.”

“The Art of Travel” author Alain de Botton was the airport’s first writer-in-residence back in 2009. We interviewed him about the experience.

(Via @johnleewriter)


The ‘I Ate at El Bulli’ Genre of Food Writing

Famed Spanish restaurant El Bulli closed Saturday. Among its many legacies, the Telegraph notes, it created a new genre in food writing:

Over the years, however, hundreds of restaurant critics from all over the world made the pilgrimage to northern Spain, establishing a distinct genre of review that has become known in the trade as the “I Ate At El Bulli Piece” (IAAEBP).

A pioneering example appeared in the New York Times Magazine: “Welcoming cocktails of a frozen whisky sour and a foam mojito were accompanied by popcorn that had been powdered and reconstituted as kernels, and a tempura of rose petals. A ‘Kellogg’s paella’ consisted of puffed Rice Krispies to which the waiter added an intense seafood reduction; on the side were a small, flash-fried shrimp, a piece of shrimp sashimi and an ampoule containing a thick brown extract of shrimp heads that you were instructed to squeeze into your mouth.”

Anthony Bourdain’s April blog post about his El Bulli meal would have to stand as a masterful example of an IAAEBP.


Tonight: Bourdain Goes to El Bulli for ‘Greatest Meal’ of His Life

The Spanish restaurant many critics considered to be the best in the world served its final meal Saturday night. Travel Channel host Anthony Bourdain visited Ferran Adria’s El Bulli recently, and his show about it airs for the first time tonight.

Bourdain called the meal he had there during that visit “the single greatest restaurant meal of my life.”

I don’t know if Monday’s episode is the best depiction of what the Adrias did at El Bulli-though I’m pretty damn sure it is. I do know that our producers and camera people and editors and post production people went all out-did their very best work. This show was a labor of love and much gratitude. We were determined to get it right.


Tales of a Travel Chaperone

Funny story concept well executed by the man doing the chaperoning of fifth graders to Spain: Dave Barry. 

Our group consisted of four dads, 18 moms and approximately 27,000 children. There was no way to get an exact count: They move too fast.

Our group assembled at Miami International Airport (motto: “Our Motto Has Been Delayed”). All of us wore identical ill-fitting T-shirts with our group name printed on them. That’s how you let everybody know that you’re a group of sophisticated world travelers.

The Washington Post Magazine covered similar ground this weekend. John Kelly joined a group of junior high students touring Washington D.C.

I began to recognize the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome about four hours into my day touring Washington with the eighth-graders of Centreville, Mich. I was starting to identify with my captors.


Stilettos in Paris

Eva Holland did the Bohemian backpacker thing in Paris. Paris Las Vegas gave her the chance to act out a different role.

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If Hemingway Were Alive, Which European City Would He Go To?

Eight writers and academics make their pitches in the New York Times’ Room for Debate. The leading cities? London and Berlin.

Josef Joffe, the editor of Die Zeit in Hamburg, picks London:

By way of elimination, it is London—Europe’s global city, in the way New York, L.A. and Mountain View are global cities. London has the money (coming mainly from financial services). It is a city of a myriad nationality. It leaves you alone even as it offers a thousand points of distraction. Though no longer the capital of an empire, London draws the best and the brightest from all over the world—which highlights another critical condition: language.

When Paris was queen in the 18th and 19th century, every educated person in Europe spoke French, a trait that lasted into the 20th century. Today, everybody speaks English, or at least Bad English, which is the world’s fastest growing language. But who now has a command of German, let alone Dutch or Italian? If the rest of the world ever takes to Chinese as it has taken to English, Shanghai might join the roster. But the 3,000 signs of Chinese are a bit harder to master than the 26 letters of the English alphabet.

Writer and journalist Slavenka Drakulic makes a case for Berlin:

In more than two decades after the collapse of Communism, a flood of eastern Germans as well as citizens from other eastern European countries (refugees from the Balkan wars, Russian Jews), young Americans and other Westerners have moved to Berlin. Together with the old “guest workers”—Turks from Kreutzberg—they turned the city into an exciting mixture of people of which real Berliners are but a few.

But this alone would not be enough to make Berlin the center of cultural life. So many artists flock to Berlin because living there is cheaper than living in any other big city in Europe. It also helps that Germany is one of the few countries left that cares about the arts and sponsors culture through various institutions, grants, awards, festivals and conferences. Imagine, writers there get paid for their readings!


‘Europe’s First Travel Guide’ Missing From Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

The Codex Calixtinus was reported missing Wednesday by distraught staff at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. The 12th century illustrated manuscript was “compiled as a guidebook for medieval pilgrims following the Way of Saint James,” according to the BBC.

This is the oldest copy of the manuscript and is unsaleable on the open market.

Only a handful of people had access to the room in which it was kept.

This edition of the Codex Calixtinus is thought to date from around 1150.

Its purpose was largely practical—to collect advice of use to pilgrims heading to the shrine there. It also included sermons and homilies to St James.

The Guardian adds:

The local Correo Gallego newspaper reported that distraught cathedral staff spent hours searching for the manuscript before contacting police late that night.

“Although security systems have been improved considerably it is true to say that they are not of the kind one might find in a bank or a well-protected jewellers,” the newspaper reported.

Only five security cameras were used to watch the archive area, according to the newspaper, and none were pointing directly at the safe where the priceless manuscript was stored.