Category Archives: Books

Frommer’s Guides at 70

Lapsed lawyer’s travel guidebooks defined American travels.

An edition from the early ’70s. I think this was the one I toted around.

While Arthur Frommer was stationed in Europe during the Korean War, he published a slim guide to help nervous GIs navigate the mysteries of foreign travel with its mysterious money, food and customs.

The book sold out, and the inspired Arthur Frommer, a recently minted lawyer, returned to Europe to research and write what became Europe on $5 a Day. It was published in 1957, making this the 60th anniversary. When a college roommate and I toured Europe for three months several years late, inflation had not yet struck, and we managed on close to a $5 daily budget. That trip fueled my lifelong desire to cross oceans to see and experience new places.

There followed more guidebooks a magazine, a television show and a blog. In recent years, he has teamed up with his daughter, Pauline, to keep the iconic brand going. Thank you, Arthur, for kindling the travel lust in millions of Americans.

Lonely Planet Adds Food-Forward Guides

With food a major part of travel, publisher debuts titles.

lonelyplanet-logoLonely Planet, now the world’s largest travel guidebook publisher (and my favorite line of titles), is launching the Lonely Planet Food imprint. Food is a key way in which we experience a place when traveling. Out on October 18 is Food Trails: Plan 52 Perfect Weekends in the World’s Tastiest Destinations ($24.99), promising “a gastronomic tour of the greatest, most memorable food experiences worth planning a trip around – from barbeque in Texas to patisserie in Paris, fine dining to cooking classes.”  Also coming this fall are Food Trails (October), From the Source: Spain, and From the Source: Japan (both September). Coming in May 2017 is Lonely Planet’s Global Beer Tour.

The new imprint is launched with impressive ambitions. Associate publisher Robin Barton says, “We will be publishing a wide range of titles, including recipe books that feature food in its place of origin, and travel companions to food and drink trails around the world. We show chefs cooking, customers eating and ingredients being bought in markets, giving readers a true sense of place. A huge part of the food experience is the surroundings, atmosphere and people – our aim is to bring the complete package to people at home who are keen to experience world food at its most authentic.”

In Lonely Planet fashion, the publisher says that its “experts scoured the globe to create a comprehensive guide to a year’s worth of weekends in food heaven. Both practical and inspirational, Food Trails features culinary experts, reviews of restaurants, cafes and markets, and maps and information on where to go when and how to get there.” And did I mention that the food and ambiance photography promises to whet travelers’ appetites?

Cross-posted to Culinary Colorado.

‘Skiing The Edge’ a Collection of Good Reads

Fine new E-anthology captures the good, the bad and the questionable of the ski life

Like fly fishing, skiing is a sport, an avocation, a way of life that has spawned fine writing. Editor/writer/author Jules Older, himself one of the most talented scribes about the lifestyle that has grown around the activities of sliding on snow, assembled an anthology of essays by, as he put it, “the people whom I consider the finest snow writers in North America.” He published them as an E-book called Skiing The Edge.

The writers whom he chose and who in turn chose to contribute poured their articulate hearts out about a range of very personal skiing and ski-related experiences. There are memories of making those first tentative (and sometimes painful) turns. There the obligatory odes the steep, deep and/or narrow runs that most people would consider too perilous to contemplate — of avalanches and white-outs and other situations that cause non-skiers to head for a palm-studded beach but make skiers’ hearts beat faster at the thought of the challenge and the thrill.

Some of the true stories in Skiing The Edge are set in places where millions have skied (Stowe, Whistler, Snowbird) and others in places few of us have visited, let alone skied (Bolivia, Lebanon). Fear, courage, exhilaration, addiction are some of the emotions that skiing evokes, and I loved reading every well-crafted word — some twice.

As I read essay after essay, I wondered what I would have written if Jules had invited me to submit something. Would I have written about having had to “audition” to be permitted to ski Chamonix’s epic Vallée Blanche? Perhaps “skiing” Snowbird before a single lift had been installed — an Easterner who had never seen powder, bottomless or any other kind, before being deposited atop Hidden Peak by helicopter? Or the sweet parental joy of having my three-year-old son display the enthusiasm for skiing that he usually reserved for He-Man, Skeletor and other “Masters of the Universe” figures?

The book can be previewed free and purchased for $3.99 through iTunes to be read on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with iBooks and on a computer. Books must be read on an iOS device. The Kindle edition is available from for just $3.39. Since I don’t have an iAnything, I downloaded to my computer, printed it out and stapled the pages. It makes for great bedside reading — a story or two a night before lights-out.


Around the World Through the Lens of Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Aerial images from a masterful photographer and environmental crusader

Yann Arthus-Bertrand at work.

My friend Dick Needham sent me a link to “Earth from Above,” a collection of stunning images by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Do yourself a favor, click on the link and take a look. Arthus-Bertrand, whom I knew little about until I saw these images and read more about him, is one of those rare people whose life has been a succession of experiences, causes and accomplishments, any one of which would be the high point of a person’s life. His accomplishments are matched by the many honors bestowed on him. Among his numerous accomplishments, he…

  • …founded the world’s first press agency and images bank specializing in aerial photography
  • …undertook a photographic inventory of the world’s most beautiful landscapes as part of a UNESCO study on the state of the Earth (it became a book, Earth from Above in French La Terre vue du ciel) that sold over 3 million copies, was translated into 24 languages and inspired a free exhibition that traveled to 110 cities.
  • …founded GoodPlanet, an international environmental organization and set up Action Carbone to offset his own greenhouse gas emissions generated by his helicopter transports and since then has evolved to help people and companies to reduce and offset their climate impact by funding projects on renewable energies, energy efficiency and reforestation.
  • …created a television documentary series called Vu de la ciel, four two-hours documentaries focusing on the world’s main environmental stakes. Shown in France in prime time, we can only hope it comes to the US television.


Book Blog for Armchair Travelers and Otherwise

A Traveler’s Library finds and reviews travel books, films and more

A lifetime ago, I read Helen MacInnes’s The Salzburg Connection while in Salzburg and the lake region called the Salzkammergut. I re-read Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises in Spain and A Farewell to Arms after returning from Slovenia. Peter Matthiesen’s The Tree Where Man Was Born came to Tanzania with me, and Peter Hessler’s River Town and Simon Winchester’s The River at the Center of the World provided insights to life on the Yangtze in particular and China in general. And I’ve happily slogged through many a James Michener tome when traveling in places he wrote about. After returning from Easter Island, I rented “Rapa Nui.” Loved the island. Hated the movie. And so my reading and my reading, and occasionally film watching, run in parallel chairs, often intertwining like a braided river, with the experience and the book merging and diverging.

In truth, because I work with words all day, I don’t read nearly as much as I once did — except when I am traveling. So when my friend Rosemary recommended her friend Vera’s blog, A Traveler’s Library, I found a kindred spirit. I enjoyed roaming through it, and I hope you will too. And while you’re at it, check out Feast, Rosemary’s eZine, which celebrates travel and also food, films, literature and art.

Tour de France Travel Guide

Illustrated guidebook to the Tour’s routes, climbs and towns

Every July, my husband and I are gripped by the human drama, athletic competition and sheer scenic splendor of the Tour de France, now cheerintelecast daily in the US by Versus. Especially that it’s now in high definition, we watch the crowds in achingly charming cities and towns, the scenic rural roads past farms and vineyards, the cheering fans that choke down the mountain climbs and the fast descents from the alpine zones into the greenery. Every year, we talk about how fine it would be to follow the Tour in person, and every year I enter the online contest on the longest of shots that we’ll win a trip for the following year.

We probably will never get there, but now there’s a vicarious way to get the inside info. Graham Watson’s recently published Tour de France Travel Guide provides insider’s access based on 31 years of following and photographing the race. According to the publisher, VeloPress, “Watson has mastered the Tour’s daily challenges—where to eat, where to sleep, how to get around, how to see and photograph the race, and most of all, how to enjoy the greatest show on two wheels.”
This beautifully illustrated guidebook features hundreds of Graham’s stunning photographs, full-color maps, travel tips, checklists and travel resources, plus such special features as clever menu decoder, tips on how to meet the riders, a glossary of French cycling terms, some history historical on each region of France visited by the Tour and even a chapter on how to photograph the Tour like a pro. I guess my trusty little digital camera won’t cut it. Again according to the publisher, “this book presents a fresh and unique strategy for getting around the Tour’s many daily obstacles to find a front-row seat for all the action.”

The price is $24.95, which is a lot less than actually being there.

Route 66’s Detour to Colorado

Charming and nostalgic exhibition of America’s “mother road” closing soon at Longmont Museum.

“Return to Route 66” ends its three-year national tour at the Longmont Museum & Cultural Center on March 9. The show features black-and-white and color photographs by Shellee Graham, who lives not far from the storied highway that linked the Midwest, the Plains, the Southwest and southern California. Graham photographed iconic motels, drive-in theaters, gas stations, roadside attractions, cafes and other eateries and, of course, the people who ran them. Some still exist, most in a state of decay, and some are gone completely. The show also includes four vintage automobiles, a Texaco gas station display (with the price at the pump permanently set at 24.9 cents a gallon), a pyramid of oil cans, chrome hood ornaments, postcards, maps and more memorabilia.

Graham lives in Missouri, so many of her images are from there and from Illinois. I remember a long-ago trip from Connecticut, where I grew up, to Albuquerque that included many miles on Route 66. Other than crossing the Mississippi, virtually nothing stuck in my mind from Illinois or Missouri, though surely we stopped to refuel in the kinds of places Graham documented. All I remember about Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle was the occasional sign saying “Stuckey’s 90 Miles” or some similarly imposing distance, at the end of which was a pecan log roll. The brilliant neon lights of Amarillo, which we reached at sunset, and Tucumcari, which we passed through late at night, are etched in my memory more enduringly than the Art Deco and funky, folksy businesses they promoted.

But for the rest of what I value now that I’m an adult and increasingly dismayed by the chains that dominate the landscape, I was then too young and too ignorant to appreciate what I saw along Route 66. Oh, how I longed for Howard Johnson’s, with its familiar fried clams and 28 ice cream flavors. I missed New England, with towns that were just a few minutes apart not many miles apart. I wan’t used to driving for what seemed like hours between places to stop. I had no sense of the the importance of those vast, flat stretches, knew nothing of the Dust Bowl except for its name and couldn’t really understand why the road had been so important in American migration.

Now, whenever my husband and I take an east-west road trip in New Mexico or Arizona, we always escape from Interstate 40 to explore what remains of the old Route 66. Grants, Gallup, Holbrook, Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams and Seligman are my particular favorites, and these towns have worked to resurrect their Route 66 heritage.

It serves as downtown Albuquerque’s main drag, but in smaller towns, remaining landmarks have proved to be enduring attractions along the way. In fact, Route 66 is the destination and not the detour for many travelers, including many Europeans, who seek out Historic Route 66, as its remaining sections are now signed.

For an armchair road trip, get Graham’s evocative book, Tales from the Coral Court: Photos and Stories from a Lost Route 66 Landmark. For a real trip along the proud old road, I recommend the Route 66 Traveler’s Guide and Roadside Companion by Tom Snyder, one of numerous guidebooks. Historic Route 66, dedicated to providing information to travelers, maintains a current list of useful books.

Admission to the Longmont Museum is free (donations welcome). It is located at 400 Quail Road, Longmont (just east of Main Street and south of downtown and Ken Pratt Boulevard); 303-651-8374.

Rick Steves Coming to Colorado

Noted author and TV travel show host is on the American book tour circuit.

Rick Steves really is a guru. When he ambles genially about Europe on his Public Television travel program, viewers want to follow. And when Americans do pack their bags, they often take a Rick Steves travel guidebook.

He is on a book tour now to promote Europe Through the Back Door 2008 ($21.95 from Avalon Travel) and Europe 101: History and Art for the Traveler ($24.95 from Avalon Travel). He will be at the Tattered Cover in LoDo on Wednesday, February 27 at 5:00 to answer questions and sign books. Free tickets will be handed out at 4:00 p.m. Seating for the presentation prior to the book signing is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis to ticketed customers only.

"1000 Places to See…." Author on Tour

Patricia Schultz, a television producer for The Travel Channel and author of 1000 Places to See Before You Die, is coming to the Boulder Bookstore on November 28 to promote her new book, 1000 Places to See in the USA & Canada Before You Die. Not coincidentally, she produces a television show bearing the same title as her first, phenomenally successful book, which has topped the prestigious New York Times bestseller list. She will speak and sign in Boulder at 7:30 p.m. The bookstore is at 1107 Pearl Street; 303-447-2074. Before she arrives in Boulder, the following stops are scheduled for her November book tour (call the venues or check local media for times):

Travel Vicariously with Pilgrim’s Tales

Pilgrim’s Tales Publishing is a small individually owned imprint that puts out unusual and very personal travel books aimed at the vicarious voyager in us all. Brandon and Cheryl Wilson are intrepid travelers indeed, accomplishing daunting long-distance treks — often the first Americans to do so — and putting their experiences into words.

Yak Butter Blues (right) by Brandon Wilson is the tale of the couple’s 650-mile trek across Tibet. Walking from Lhasa to Kathmandu, in neighboring Nepal, they crossed the wild Himalayan plains, accompanied only by their Tibetan horse, Sadhu. They faced Tibet’s challenging weather (blistering winds, extreme temperatures, sandstorms, blizzards, high altitudes and thin air), as well as what the author describes as “exhaustion, hunger, illness, inflexible bureaucrats and trigger-happy soldiers.” It’s a tale of faith, of the human spirit and human connections, as well as an ancient culture that has changed after half a century of Chinese rule.

Dead Men Don’t Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa, also by Brandon Wilson, documents their 10,000-mile overland odyssey Morocco on the Mediterranean to Cape Town, South Africa, on the continent’s farthest tip. Interactions with clueless tourists, uninformed guides, people and animals are the fodder for this travel adventure book.

Walking on the Templar Trail, Wilson’s next book, covers Wilson’s trip “in the footsteps of history.” With an he embarks on a 2,620-mile trekking pilgrimage for peace across two continents and countries along an ancient trail followed by Templars, Romans, pilgrims, and traders on their way from France to Jerusalem.

I have never met Brandon or Cheryl Wilson, but I’d like to. When it comes to travels of this ambition and treks of such magnitude, vicarious works for me.