Travel reading: Swamplandia! in southern Florida

One of my favorite ways to deepen the experience of a new destination is to immerse myself in a book set in that place while I visit. I first experienced the magic of layering fiction and real-life exploration with the book/destination duo of The Glass Room by Simon Mawer/Villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic in 2013. Like a properly paired wine and cheese, a book and a trip can enhance one another into an experience that neither could be alone. This post is about one such blended experience, when I explored the southwestern tip of Florida while reading Swamplandia!.

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Left: photo taken by me in Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Right: Swamplandia! book cover.

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London broke my eggs.

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Sometimes, I don’t understand London. It’s not one thing in particular, it’s just that I’ll go out and come home feeling exhausted and frustrated. Most of the time I chalk it up to being American. I just don’t understand what to expect in some situations.

Like today, for example. Nothing big went wrong, yet I came home with wet socks, holding a raw egg in my hand, and wondering why I couldn’t manage a simple day’s itinerary. If you understand this city, please leave tips in the comment section. If London bewilders you, too, perhaps you’ll relate to this sequence of events: Continue reading

Getting out of Dubrovnik

If you’re traveling from north to south in Croatia, your last stop might be Dubrovnik. Mine was. And after two weeks of crystalline Adriatic seawater and minimal cruise crowds, Dubrovnik shocked me. Yes, the walls are beautifully preserved. Yes, it has a historic and aesthetic Old Town. DubrovnikBut the place is crammed with tourists. If you’re looking for clean beaches, reasonable accommodation, or even elbow room while walking around, Dubrovnik might disappoint you.

However, I am not writing this to tell you not to go. I am here to tell you where to go when you’re there. Because it is hard to not go, even people who don’t plan to go back would find it difficult discouraging you to visit at least once. And when you run, sweaty and panicky, away from the Old Town crowds there are some amazing day trips to take. Here are the two I recommend, one to a gorgeous and haunting beach and one to a wonder-filled arboretum. Continue reading

The Cardamom Building

London simultaneously steeps you in cosmopolitan bustle and historical intrigue. At the end of June, I spent a week reveling in both worlds. My apartment was along Shad Thames, a street formerly host to wharf commerce, that trails southeast away from Tower Bridge along the Thames River.

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I was across the street from Butlers Wharf, an old warehouse district that housed incoming goods, notably spices, from the Thames. The wharf opened in 1872, closed in 1973, and sold for redevelopment a decade later.

I could look down from my bedroom to see tourists stop and stare at the iconic iron bridges suspended between buildings, once avenues for trade, now home to flower pots and patio chairs. The bridges that used to guide spices into London are now inspiration for passersby to wonder: who is lucky enough to live here?

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