Archive for the ‘Travel books’ Category

The Travel Writer’s Handbook will take you there

October 18, 2012

I’ve written a bit about what it takes to be a so-called travel writer. As I tell people, I’m a writer who travels and writes about it. I write about a lot of other things, too. For an upcoming trip to Greenville, SC, I’ll be working on a travel story, an arts story, and a bicycling story, or, more specifically, a profile about a women-centric bike shop.

But of course it’s the “travel” part that appeals to most people. I’ve taught several classes on the topic, mostly about how to find outlets and pitch ideas more than how to write, and I’m often approached by people who want to know how to “be a travel writer.” I have one all-time favorite book I recommend, and am thrilled that it was again updated – “The Travel Writer’s Handbook: How to Write – and Sell – Your Own Travel Experiences,” by Jacqueline Harmon Butler and Lousie Purwin Zobel. (Agate Publishing, $19.95) The seventh edition came out this year (last update was 2007). I’m sure we’d all get a good laugh comparing the first edition, in 1980, with the current one, as the markets and the technologies continue to change with lightening speed. Louise, who created the book, passed away in 2008 at the age of 86, but so much of her writing is relevant that she remains an author, at least for this edition.

Jacqueline Harmon Butler

Jacqueline takes readers step-by-step through pre-trip research and planning, marketing strategies and story approaches. She includes information on background research, query writing, finding new angles for tired subjects, and interviewing techniques. If you really want to be a travel writer, follow the tips in this book and you have a darn good chance of succeeding. If, on the other hand, you just want to write for fun – start a travel blog! If you’re more interested in getting paid to go on vacation, as so many people seem to be, I have no idea how that’s done. When you figure it out, please, please share the answer with me!

Restaurants not to be missed in the NC mountains

October 9, 2012

If you love going to the North Carolina mountains and good eatin’ (and who doesn’t?), you need this book: “Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants & Recipes from Western North Carolina” (John F. Blair, $19.95), by food critic John E. Batchelor. John doesn’t know it, but he helped me with researching my guidebook, “Farm Fresh North Carolina,” because I learned about tons of restaurants in the Triad region from his stories in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem papers. Thank you, John!

The book came at the right time for me, as I’ll be in Boone in a month and haven’t been there for several years. I think I’ve picked out the place, thanks to John: Vidalia. We’ll see. If you happen to be in the state already, John will be promoting the book – with chefs in tow – at several bookstores around the state. Check out the schedule here and keep in mind you’ll probably be treated to some nibbles, too, but no guarantee.

Author John E. Batchelor

 “Chefs of the Mountains” is part of a series started by my friend Ann Prospero, who wrote “Chefs of the Triangle.” Like Ann did, John gives us tasty morsels about each chef’s personal and professional life, followed by several recipes. There is a big difference: color photographs grace this book. Lucky John! The only thing missing is a price key. Maybe next edition?

John says all 40 chefs use fresh, local ingredients, and in sidebars in highlights some of the farmers and artisanal producers, such as Imladris Farm in Fairview and Sunburst Trout Farms in Canton. You can learn more about visiting those farms in my guidebook. Geez, we’re so complimentary and complementary!

My one word of warning: don’t traverse the twisting, turning NC mountain roads on too full of a stomach!

 

Dining guide points the way in North Carolina

September 17, 2012

My pal and busy “Durham Foodie” blogger Johanna Kramer just birthed her first book, and it’s a great one for food-minded locals and visitors to the  Triangle region of North Carolina. (And, really, who isn’t food minded?)

Food Lovers’ Guide to Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings” (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95) is chock full of information on restaurants, markets, culinary events, cooking classes, wine and beer spots and more.  You’ll find the books at the usual places, in stores and online.

Johanna Kramer signs her new book at the launch party in Durham, NC

Skimming through the 254 pages of listings, I’m transported to some of my favorite spots (Pie Pushers food truck, Guglhupf bakery and restaurant, especially the outdoor patio) and reminded of all the places I still need to visit (I’m too embarrassed to confess which ones I’ve yet to check out). Even Johanna’s book launch party on Sunday introduced me to a new spot — G2B Gastro Pub, a sleek but friendly bar/restaurant tucked away in the back of a small office complex in Durham.

In the back of the book you’ll find 18 recipes to whet your appetite, including Macaroni au Gratin from chef Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Downtown Diner in Raleigh; Market’s Ketchup, by Chad McIntyre of Market, also in Raleigh; and Raw Vegan “Pad Thai” from Triangle Raw Foods.

As I told Johanna, I’m even impressed by the index and appendices, making it easy to find what you’re looking for.  So come for a visit and see for yourself!

‘Making an Exit’ around the world

October 12, 2011

Just back from New Mexico, where we found the cemeteries there to be strikingly similar to those in indigenous northern Argentina — colorful and lively. They draw reverent yet celebratory crowds on certain days, especially the Day of the Dead. (In Taos, we hunted for and found the grave of Dennis Hopper.)

Those visits got me in the mood to read Sarah Murray’s new book, “Making An Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre — How we Dignify the Dead.” I’m ready to sign up for a worldwide death tour. (I’ve already done the Chapel of Bones swing through southern Europe.)

I first learned of Sarah’s work through her book “Moveable Feasts: The Incredible Journeys of the Things We Eat.” Sarah, a Brit and a longtime Financial Times writer now based in New York City, is a quintessential journalist — curious about everything and a terrific researcher and story teller.

In Ghana, you can have the fantasy coffin of your choosing (photo Sarah Murray)

In her introduction, she writes of her father’s death and wonders how she would like her own handled. “Writers often tell us about places we must see before we die. I want to explore some of the ones we end up in when we’re dead.” Her research took her to Hong Kong, Mexico , Ghana, the Philippines, the Czech Republic, Iran, Sicily, and Bali. So this is as much of a travel book as a survey of funerary practices, all the way down to its souvenirs — Sarah ordered a coffin from Ghana, famed for its wild vessels of death. Hers is in the shape of the Empire State Building and rests in her living room.

Check out her book and her blog (with death-themed photos that are full of life) and if you’re in New York, she has events on Oct. 20 and Oct. 30. Wish I could be there, dead or alive.

When ‘slumdog’ isn’t a millionaire

September 18, 2009

The Weight of Silence book cover

Fellow freelance writer Shelley Seale, of Austin, Texas, writes about traveling with a purpose. Her recently released book, “The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India,” chronicles the lives of some of that country’s 25 million orphans and the people, mostly volunteers, working to better the children’s lives. “Weight” is a more accurate version of the “Slumdog Millionaire” story.

Because virtually everyone I’ve spoken with who has traveled to India mentions the poverty and especially the young children begging for money, I asked Shelley if she would write something for this blog about what we travelers should do when we encounter young beggars.

Her reply came in the form of this thoughtful essay. As you can see, there are no easy answers. But, then, you didn’t really expect any, did you?

In Plain Sight but Invisible (written by Shelley Seale)

Sitting on my backpack in the Rourkela railway station at ten o’clock p.m., I am waiting with my group of four other volunteers for our train. We hover around our amassed baggage, far more than the five of us need because many of the bags contain art supplies, games and treats for the children at the Miracle Foundation orphanage in Choudwar we are on our way to spend a week with.

In Plain Sight but Invisible

Young faces of India

Two boys suddenly appear beside us. They look about eight years old and are alone. Silently they hold out their hands, then bring them to their mouths, then hold them out again in the universal language of begging.

There are millions of such children in India; waves of people step over and around them every day without ever really seeing them. Of all the vulnerable children they are the least hidden – yet they are perhaps the most invisible of all.

Shelle Sheale (left) with the invisble children of India

Shelley Sheale with some of the children she got to know in India

When brought face to face with them, it becomes impossible for me to ignore them, to say no. A struggle invariably begins inside my soul. No matter how many times the situation happens, that struggle never lessens and is never resolved. The truth of the matter is that giving money to these children will not have any significant impact on their lives beyond a few moments. It might even worsen their circumstances; many of these children turn the money directly over to parents or other adults who are either exploiting them or simply trying to stay a step above starvation.

Child advocates will tell you over and over that if you really want to make a difference for children like these, or in fact anyone in desperate need, supporting legitimate holistic programs that address the root issues and long-term solutions is the only way to make a lasting impact.

Author Shelley Seale

Shelley spent years researching her book

I agree with this. In my head, I know it is true. I donate thousands of dollars and volunteer hundreds of hours every year to groups that work with vulnerable children. It’s the reason I’m in India in the first place, volunteering in this orphanage. But in my heart it is another story every time I’m approached, every time children like these boys look up at me with their haunted or, even worse, vacant eyes. It’s so hard to look away, to wave them off, to pretend not to see them.

A few minutes later, the station alert sounds as our train approaches the platform. I grab my backpack and a team suitcase. Just before we start down the platform to where our car will board, I pull several candy bars and two bottles of soda from a plastic bag and set them on the ground. We begin to walk away and I look toward the boys. Amazingly, they do not grab the snacks and run. They just stand there, not taking their eyes off us. I look at the candy, then at the boys, and nod my head. Hesitantly the older one questions me with his eyes and looks at the pile on the floor for the first time. I nod again and like a shot, the boys quickly snatch it up and dart off at a blazing run.

Within moments after we board the train, there is a knock on the window. Two boys are standing on the platform, now with several other boys. They’re all grinning from ear to ear. “One more, auntie!” they shout. I smile and wave at them, but the train is already pulling out of the station.

As little as it seems, I’m glad we left the candy and I hope it makes them happy even if it is only for a moment. I wonder how they ended up there, what their life is like, where they will be tomorrow.

She can’t believe it’s accessible

June 30, 2009

I share my blog today with Candy B. Harrington, a fellow member in the Society of American Travel Writers, who is an expert on accessible travel, from people using wheelchairs to slow walkers. Her slogan: Have Disability, Will Travel, and she’s giving us a Top-10 list of little-known accessible places. I haven’t met Candy, who writes from California, but for years I’ve been impressed with her work and uncompromising dedication to her topic. In the world of travel, staying uncompromised is a major feat. She recently released the third edition of her classic book “Barrier Free Travel: A Nuts And Bolts Guide For Wheelers And Slow Walkers.” From the book site, you can check out Candy’s own blog. Photos (except Lake Powell)  are by Mr. Candy, aka Charles Pannell.

Heeeeeere’s, Candy:

Candy Harrington with her favorite chicken Agnes

Candy Harrington with her favorite chicken, Agnes

During the past 16 years I’ve traveled the world in search of appropriate vacation choices for my readers. Although they have a wide range of tastes, preferences and budgets, my readers all have one thing in common; for the most part they are physically disabled — slow walkers to wheelchair-users.

Over the course of my travels I’ve seen a good number of accessible hotels, attractions, resorts, spas and even bus tours, but I’ve also discovered some unconventional accessible finds along the way. These are the things, that really made me step back and say “Wow, I can’t believe they made that accessible.” And although I keep adding to my wow list, here’s my current Top 10.

View of Yaquina Head Tidepools

Walkways lead to Yaquina Head tide pools

Yaquina Head tide pools

Located just three miles north of Newport, Ore., this Bureau of Reclamation project features barrier-free access on paved walkways down into the Quarry Cove tidepool area.

 

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

These gardens in Richmond, Va.,  feature a cool treehouse with ramped access to all areas. Think Swiss Family Robinson on steroids.

White Water Rafting

In Northern California, everyone can enjoy white water rafting on the American River, thanks to the folks at Environmental Traveling Companions. This San Francisco based company can accommodate wheelchair-users (even folks who use a power wheelchair) and slow walkers on their exciting white water rating trips.

Aerial view from Lake Powell (photo Wikipedia)

Lake Powell (photo Wikipedia)

Houseboating on Lake Powell

Forever Resorts  offers a wheelchair-accessible houseboat on Lake Powell, in Utah. You can rent the houseboat for a few days or a week. The accessible model features level boarding, a bathroom with a roll-in shower, an oversized master suite complete with a portable hoyer lift, elevator access to the top deck and a beach wheelchair.

C&O Canal Boat

Docked at the Great Falls Tavern, near Potomac, Md., the replica Charles F. Mercer canal boat features incline lift access to both decks and an accessible restroom on the lower deck. The canal boat is pulled along by mules and offers passengers a colorful look at 1870s canal life.

Baja Sport Fishing

Larry Cooper designed his En Caliente  sport fishing boat with access in mind. Docked in Los Barriles, Mexico, it features removable lockdowns, hoist access to the flying bridge and custom tackle designed for anglers of all abilities.

Wheelchair-accessible back country lean-tos at John Dillon Park

Accessible lean-tos at John Dillon Park

Adirondack Camping

John Dillon Park , near Tupper Lake in upstate New York, features wheelchair-accessible back country lean-tos.

African Safari

Endeavour Safaris  offers wheelchair-accessible safaris in a ramped Toyota Landcruiser, through Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa.

In a Cavern

Billed as America’s only ride through caverns, Fantastic Caverns  features ramped access to their tour vehicles. Just roll-on and enjoy this cool site near Springfield, Mo.

Bungy Jumping

If you want a little adventure, the folks at Taupo Bungy  in New Zealand can accommodate you. It takes very little adaptive equipment, but a whole lot of guts!

Thanks, Candy. The world of travel (and beyond) needs you and your advocacy work!

Can strawberries earn dividend miles?

January 13, 2009
Moveable Feasts paperback cover art

"Moveable Feasts" paperback cover art

I’ve been meaning to write about “Moveable Feasts,” for, um, more than a year. This wonderful book recently came out in paperback, so there’s my hook. It’s a travel book, food book, history book, and transportation book all stirred into one sophisticated stew. Subtitle: “From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat.” The author, Sarah Murray, a regular Financial Times contributor, has a longtime fascination with shipping containers and the transport of goods. While that may sound odd, think of it this way: look around you and consider how probably everything within your sight was shipped in from somewhere. Now can you understand her fascination? She said she wrote about the shipment of food because it’s a tangible thing everyone can related to.

Moveable Feasts by Sarah Morgan

Murray’s book coincidentally came out when the notion of “food miles” — that is the distance that food is shipped — was starting to be talked up. Two beliefs that have come out of that movement are that having food shipped in instead of locally grown is a modern concept, and that the miles food travels is of the utmost factor in regards to environmental issues. While Murray wasn’t out to counter those arguments, two points she makes in her book in effect do. Food has been transported for centuries, including the ancient Romans shipping in olive oil from other Mediterranean areas. And individuals driving their cars to farmers markets, for instance, potentially produce more carbon than one large food-filled shipping container crossing the ocean. I’m not asking you to buy that one without more information, but it’s an interesting point to ponder.

Sarah Murray; photo Paul Morgan

Sarah Murray; photo Paul Morgan

But what I love most about “Moveable Feasts” are the stories Murray shares from around the world, from the crazy and efficient lunchbox distribution system in India to the harvesting of strawberries in space and the travels of Norwegian salmon to China for deboning before being shipped back to Norway for eating. I also enjoyed the chapters on grain elevators and modern design, old Soviet planes being used to deliver  UN aid food to southern Sudan, and airplane food in general. An aside in the airline chapter really resonated with me — an observation by flight attendants that passengers, whose palates are dulled by flying, break out of their normal drinking habits, often by drinking Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice. Indeed, on every flight, Wessel orders tomato juice. I’ve not seen him drink it anywhere else, and we’ve never had it at home. I’ve always thought that was so weird. Now I discover that his quirk is hardly unique. Too funny.

I attended a reading by Murray in Durham at the Regulator and was riveted by her show-and-tell presentation. She started with a “tiffin tin,” the Indian lunchbox, and I was hooked from there. She told us her next project is a book on funerary customs around the world, which includes not only funerals but the set of beliefs and practices a culture uses to honor and remember the dead.

I emailed her about her progress not long ago and got this reply: “I’ve been doing a lot of travelling for the new book — Mexico for Day of the Dead, Bali for the most spectacular royal cremation; Palermo, Sicily, to a macabre catacomb of fully dressed 19th-century Italian mummies! And next, to Iran for the Ashura mourning festival and the ancient Zoroastrian Towers of Silence.” OK, Sarah, get that book finished so we can read it!

North Carolina parks, from mountains to sea

November 13, 2008
NC State Parks, a niche guide

NC State Parks, a niche guide

I’m very impressed with a new guide to North Carolina’s state parks and recreation areas, the first comprehensive park guide in almost 20 years! “North Carolina State Parks: A Niche Guide,” ($14.95), written by Ida Phillips Lynch and Bill Pendergraft, is a high-quality paperback with detailed info on the state’s more than 50 parks, recreation and natural areas. The most amazing thing about this guidebook is its photos — 185 full color and gorgeous photos, most taken by the authors. (I’m very envious because my guidebook, “Farm Fresh North Carolina,” will have only black and white photos.)

The greatest thing about my great state is the diversity, starting with the Appalachias to the west and ending at the Atlantic Ocean to the east, with the foothills, piedmont and inner coastal areas along the way. The book is organized similarly, from the mountains to the coastal plain, and each chapter includes a general description of the site and detailed information about the park’s location, amenities, unique features, and contact and visitor information.

Wessel and Diane on top of the highest peak east of Mississippi River (6684 ft) in Mount Mitchel State Park, NC

Wessel and Diane on top of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River (6684 ft) in Mount Mitchell State Park, NC

According to the authors, in 2007 a whopping 13.4 million people visited our parks. It’s wonderful to know that so many folks are interacting with the great outdoors here. We had Dutch visitors last month who spent their entire two-week vacation in North Carolina, spending a week in the mountains and a week on the coast, mostly outdoors. They were surprised at how beautiful and interesting North Carolina was, and said their only regret was they didn’t have enough time to experience more of the state. Way back when, the NC tourism slogan was “Variety Vacationland.” I think the state needs to bring that one back.

India: love, hate, and avoidance

October 1, 2008
The Taj Mahal in Agra, India was built by Shah Jahan as memorial to wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India was built by Shah Jahan as memorial to wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“Have you been to India?” asked an acquaintance who was soon to visit her husband, who’s teaching in southern India for a few months. I told her that I hadn’t. I also confessed that I have mixed feelings about traveling there, or to any country that is chaotic and has unsafe tap water.

It’s not that I don’t travel outside my comfort zone. I do. Such as to Morocco, Ecuador, Argentina, Indonesia. OK, yes, those places are pretty tame. See what I mean? I absolutely celebrate the rich diversity in all countries. But the older I get, the lower my “ick” threshold falls. My overly sanitized American standards interfere with my sense of adventure. I say this with shame, not pride. Of course the easy way to get around this is to stay in luxury hotels, eat in westernized restaurants, and stay off the ground and away from the common folk. But what fun would that be? What reality would that offer? I’m either going to travel sort of like a local, or stay home. So I remain torn.

Wanderlust and lipstick by Beth Whitman

Wanderlust and Lipstick: for Women Traveling to India by Beth Whitman

Someone who doesn’t shy away from India is Seattle writer Beth Whitman, whose book “Wanderlust and Lipstick” addresses women traveling solo. Beth recently published “Wanderlust and Lipstick: for Women Traveling to India,” a country she’s visited several times since 1989. Beth has seen many changes there over the years and says travel is now easier and more reliable. But still challenging. The challenges are what make it memorable, of course. Beth reports that the number of travelers to India rose from 3.5 million in 2004 to 5 million in 2007 (wow!), and that the government has launched a campaign to train hospitality industry folks about such things as hygiene, manners, integrity and safety. Of course if things get too hygienic, polite, and safe, there go the bragging rights. You can buy the book at Beth’s website, www.wanderlustandlipstick.com.

One of my favorite travel stories offers a different take on the country. In “Trying Really Hard to Like India,” writer Seth Stevenson starts his award-winning 2004 story in Slate.com with this: “It’s OK to hate a place. … Because my girlfriend wants to come back – I’m back. I’m giving this dreadful place a second chance. And this time I vow I will try really hard to like India.” And here’s the ending: “As they say in really lame travel writing: India is a land of contradictions. A lot of things to like and a lot of things (perhaps two to three times as many things) to hate. It’s the spinach of travel destinations-you may not always (or ever) enjoy it, but it’s probably good for you. In the final reckoning, am I glad that I came here? Oh, absolutely. It’s been humbling. It’s been edifying. It’s been, on several occasions, quite wondrous. It’s even been fun, when it hasn’t been miserable. That said, am I ready to leave? Sweet mercy, yes.”

Civil rights beyond MLK weekend

January 18, 2008

If you’re interested in the Civil Rights movement, including information on visiting historic sites, there’s a wonderful book just out called “On the Road to Freedom: A Guide Tour of the Civil Rights Trail,” by Charles E. Cobb Jr. (Algonquin, $18.95). The sub-sub-title is: “The Marches, the Book cover On The Road To FreedomStruggles, the Triumphs, Speeches, Profiles, 150 Photos, Maps, Web Sites, and 400 Historic Sites.” Unfortunately, there’s no accompanying website, but the book is absolutely worth buying to learn about black history and civil rights sites in DC and the South.

Author Cobb will be touring in DC and the South almost daily through February and a bit beyond.

It’s funny. Folks talk about how racist the South is, but I’ve lived in the Tampa, Fla., and Boston areas, and now Durham, NC, and Durham is by far the most integrated place I’ve experienced. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, that the majority of Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Ten Best Cities for African Americans” are in the South. (None are in the north!) This makes me proud.

Absolutely, the South has had more than its share of atrocities. Like the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot, where riots broke out after blacks registered to vote and some 22 people were reported dead, all black. Only this year did our state leaders express “profound regret” about that awful chapter in history. Growing up in Raleigh in the ’60s, I remember how segregated we were. I was bussed to an “inner city” junior high school, which for me was an eye-opening experience.

After moving back to North Carolina in 2003, and especially since living in racially mixed Durham, I’ve been much more aware of the fight for black equality here, and have visited many sites, including the former Woolworth department store in Greensboro, where on Feb. 1, 1960, four students held one of the first sit-ins; and Parrish Street, aka “Black Wall Street,” the commercial strip in Durham that was home to many black-owned enterprises. There’s now an advocacy group working on the Parrish Sreet Project to commemorate its history and spur economic revitalization along a central downtown corridor. You can learn all about it during Preservation Durham’s free walking tours April through November.  So y’all come on over for a spell.


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