BRONTË COUNTRY: West Yorkshire, England
The picturesque town of Haworth in Yorkshire, England, was home to the Brontë sisters — Emily, Charlotte and Anne — and the surrounding moors served as the setting for some of their fiction, most notably Wuthering Heights. The Black Bull (above left) was a watering hole favored by their wayward brother, Branwell. We stopped here for a pint after a literary walking tour of the town and a visit to the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
The following day, we braved the misty weather for a 2.5 mile hike out in the beautiful heather moors to a spot favored by the Brontë sisters, known as “the meeting of the waters” due to its gushing waterfall. (Though when we visited, the waterfall was really more of a trickle!) Pictured is the famed Brontë chair, where Emily used to recline while playing with tadpoles in the water beneath her feet.
LONDON: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
At the Globe Theatre in London, waiting for a production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors to begin. For £5, “groundlings” can stand next to the stage during performances, although we opted for seats in the gallery.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
The Dashiell Hammett Suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco, CA, is where Shannon slumbered before heading south to uncover Steinbeck’s haunts in Monterey and Salinas. This atmospheric guest room is an homage to crime fiction scribe Hammett and his characters, notably The Maltese Falcon‘s Sam Spade.
MONTEREY PENINSULA, CALIFORNIA
The Steinbeck House (left) in Salinas is the writer’s birthplace and now a luncheon restaurant serving delicious fare made from Salinas Valley produce. Shannon dined in its Victorian ambiance before paying a visit to the National Steinbeck Center located nearby. (Oprah Winfrey once taped a segment of her show on the house’s front lawn when her book club discussed Steinbeck’s semi-autobiographical novel East of Eden.) Tours of the house are given on Sunday afternoons during the summer.
DON QUIXOTE TERRITORY, SPAIN
Remarkably, the huge windmills that Don Quixote valiantly battled still stand — more than 400 years after the errant knight mistook them for oppressive giants. Joni followed in the footsteps of Quixote and his creator, Miguel Cervantes, in the sun drenched La Mancha region of central Spain. A cluster of ten windmills sit atop a scenic hillside in Campo de Criptana, a cultural heritage site.
Another important site on the Quixote trail is the picturesque university town of Alcala de Henares, just 20 minutes north of Madrid by train. This is the thought to be the place of Cervantes’ birth, and the author’s traditional Castilian-style home has been recreated on the site where the original is believed to have stood, at the Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes. That’s Joni in front of the museum having a conversation with Quixote and his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza.
KEY WEST, FLORIDA
Shannon was inspired to visit laid-back Key West after reading Joni’s chapter about the island in Novel Destinations. The main draw for literary travelers (and cat lovers) is the Spanish colonial-style Hemingway Home and Museum, where the writer lived from 1928-1939. It was his first home on U.S. soil after living abroad for most of his adult life.
Two notable buildings on the property are Hem’s office (bottom right), where he spent some of the most productive years of his life and produced all or parts of several works including To Have and Have Not (set on Key West), and a feline-size replica of the main house. About 50 cats, some of them six-toed and descended from one Hemingway owned, live on the property.
The charming burg of Hay-on-Wye, Wales, is known as the “Town of Books” thanks to its ratio of 15 bookstores for a mere 1,800 residents. As Joni found out, it’s a bibliophile’s heaven any time of the year. But especially so during the famous Hay Festival held there annually each May. Pictured is an honesty bookshop (take a book, leave 50 pence) on the grounds of Hay Castle.
On a road trip through Alamaba with her friend Erin Hennicke, Shannon paid a visit to the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery — where she channeled Jazz Age glamour by posing with Zelda’s cigarette holder (the flapper looks on in the portrait hanging on the wall). The museum, housed in a residence the Fitzgeralds once occupied, is the only one in the world devoted to the couple.
The Southern adventures continued in Monroeville, hometown of Harper Lee, where every spring a production based on her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird is staged. Part one is set on the grounds of the Old Courthouse Museum, and the second half takes place inside in the courtroom Lee used as the model for the one in the book. In addition to the courtroom, restored to its 1930s appearance, the museum has an exhibit devoted to Lee and another to her childhood playmate, In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s author Truman Capote.
The mysterious mansion in Salem, Massachusetts, that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables beckoned to Shannon, who paid a visit during a summer weekend. Colonial-style gardens border the abode, which is picturesquely situated on Salem Harbor.