If a trip to France, Fiji or some other far-flung locale isn’t possible, armchair adventure is always on the itinerary. At A Traveler’s Library, Vera Marie Badertscher explores the world through “metaphorical guidebooks” — books and movies that transport readers to different landscapes and cultures. Today we talk with Vera about her favorite destination, atmospheric mysteries and, of course, some of the literary landmarks she has visted on her travels.
NovelDestinations.com: The slogan for A Traveler’s Library is “Read today, gone tomorrow.” What destinations have you been inspired to visit after reading about them?
Vera Marie Badertscher: So many, and not always in books. My favorite destination is Greece, and I started to get the travel itch to go there from reading, believe it or not, the philosophy of Plato and Socrates. They made me realize that Greek civilization underlies all of Western thought, and I wanted to walk on the paths of that history. Just last year, on my fifth visit to Greece, I walked on the path to Plato’s academy (left), which winds, symbolically, I think, through the ancient Kerameikos Cemetery in Athens.
As for specific destinations, I HAD to go to Mycenae after reading the plays of Euripedes as a theater major in school. And I had an itch to go to Cambodia that wasn’t scratched for about 40 years. I saw a Life magazine article that showed Jackie Bouvier (before she was Kennedy) clambering over the roots of trees that crumbled the ruins of a temple and I HAD to go to Angkor Wat. I finally did.
ND: You’ve said that mysteries are terrific for armchair travelers because the authors must create a strong sense of place. Can you tell us about some of your favorite mystery novels and where they’re set?
VMB: Fairly recently, a friend got me hooked on Donna Leon as I was preparing for a trip to Venice. I read every book she had published up until then. Her kindly, interesting police detective and his feminist wife and two very normal children live in old Venice and as you follow him walking to work, stopping at a coffee bar, crossing a bridge, you become familiar with Venice as a place of residence rather than just a tourist stop.
I seek out mysteries to feature at A Traveler’s Library, and a few months ago I read one set in Yosemite, written by Nevada Barr, who writes a series set in National Parks. Since she was once a park ranger, she knows the territory well. I loved her middle-aged park ranger/detective and would like to read a lot more of her books.
ND: What literary landmark made the greatest impression on you?
VMB: When I read the question, I immediately flashed on the desk of Emerson at the Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts. For some reason, seeing his stand-up desk, looking out on grass and trees, just made me feel as if I was right there with him. It somehow explained the combination of an influence of nature and an austerity that pervades his writing.
Another favorite author-related destination is the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, which was a haunt of Tennessee Williams and other writers. I also enjoyed lunching alone at Napoleon House Bar (New Orleans) and imagining I was dining with Tennessee in one of his favorite haunts.
I also stayed in the Dashiell Hammett Suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco, surrounded by authentic D.H. memorabilia, and as you can see (at left), a replica of the beginning of The Maltese Falcon movie on the window. Spade and Archer is lettered on the window overlooking the place where the trolleys turn around. My husband and I waited until just the right moment and got a shot of the shadow on the floor, just like in the movie. This must have been the most atmospheric night I’ve ever spent in a hotel.
See Vera Marie’s writers site (www.pen4hire.com) for
samples of her articles for magazines such as National Geographic
Traveler. And visit A Traveler’s Library for articles mentioned here
on Greek Theater, Cambodia, Yosemite N.P., New Orleans, the Monteleone and Tennessee Williams. She has also written about Venice for Your Life Is A Trip, and other destinations at Girls Getaway and iExplore.
[Photos ©Vera Marie Badertscher]