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Books Can Take You To Far Away Places, For Real

Ed Ronco
Ernest Hemingway's "hunting study," as described during a 2015 tour of his former home outside Havana.

They say reading a book can take you far away. That’s usually a metaphor.

But for many, books inspire literal travel, to follow in the footsteps of great authors or stories.

“Literature is a really big pull for travel,” Brumley said. “Just think of the impact [Ernest] Hemingway has had on Havana. People are visiting his bars, and his house is stunning.”

Near Havana, you can peer into Hemingway's windows and see his desk, his living room, and his bedroom, complete with his war correspondent’s uniform hanging in the closet.

Credit A very nice docent / For knkx
Hemingway's typewriter? It's inside the top level of a tower at his former home outside Havana.

You can even climb the stairs of a tower where he wrote, and look at the typewriter inside the top level. On some days, a docent minding the rope line across the door will take your camera inside and get a close-up of the keys. She winks at you, and suggests you keep it quiet, as if you’re special and she’s not supposed to do this. Then you see her do it for the next visitor. It’s still cool, though.

That said, it’s important to do your research. For Hemingway, and so many other authors, lots of places claim to be a famous site where they wrote or drank or slept. Some are not.

“Every city you go to in Europe, there’s a bar, sandwich or drink named after Hemingway,” Brumley said.

By sticking to official sites such as homes, museums, well-known locations, Brumley says you’ll find a rewarding experience.

“It gives you insight into not just their literature, but how they lived,” he said. “You get to see their furniture, the magazines they collected, the books they read, and it’s very gratifying.”

Pablo Neruda has homes across Chile. In Rome, at the bottom of the Spanish steps, you’ll find the Keats-Shelley Memorial House. Across from Circus Maximus, you’ll find the Protestant Cemetery of Rome, with many author graves. Try Victor Hugo's house in Paris, too.

“Grab a couple books before you go, then build a trip, or at least part of a day, around your passion for a particular author,” Brumley said. “It brings not just a destination to life, but another era to life.”

Bonus points, Brumley says, if you re-read their book on location, with a good bottle of Chianti.


"Going Places" is 88.5's weekly exploration for travel. Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small-group travel to clients including knkx.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.

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