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Armchair Travel

Reader`s Club presents "Armchair Travel" - a virtual "trip" that you can take from the comfort of your favorite easy chair! Printer Friendly Version


Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure

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Palin, Michael(1999)
Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure

Hold onto your hats, Monty Python fans, for Michael Palin's likeable, unassuming personality shines through in this romp through the world of Ernest Hemingway! Exactly one hundred years after the birth of this distinguished writer, Palin visits the foreign locales favored by Hemingway - to the sun drenched beaches of Key West and the once loved cafe haunts of Paris, to the infectious hilarity of the "carnivales" of Venice and witnessing the ferocity of bull fighting in Spain, and onward to the exotic beauty of the Kenyan savannah. Throughout, Palin's self deprecating humor offers a decidedly different twist to this very novel travel log. With gorgeous photographs and vibrant design, Michael's heartfelt tribute brings to life the vision and scope of an American giant of literature.

Reviewed by Rosanne L., Matthews Branch

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Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy

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Mayes, Frances(1996)
Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy

With ancient Tuscany as a backdrop, the author takes us through a sensual panorama, and for the armchair traveler, it is pure delight. Frances and husband Ed buy a run-down house and transform it into a place of beauty. The book brings to life the Italians' gusto for daily living. There are luscious descriptions of olive groves, plum orchards, and sunflowers. You can smell the aroma of hand-picked tomatoes and fresh peas, softening raspberries, and freshly baked "pane" (bread) - let's all run to the nearest agent for a one way trip! Mayes' sweat of brow and strength of vision offers a glimpse of "La Dolce Vita," the sweet life. (recipes included)

Reviewed by Rosanne L., Matthews Branch

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The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel

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Piven, Joshua and David Borgenicht(2001)
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel

"The statistics are against you: more than 50 percent of all travelers run into problems . . . always be ready for the worst,” advises this unique travel handbook. Included are instructions for such travel disasters as “How to Survive When Lost in the Jungle” or “How to Control a Runaway Camel.” Even more useful might be “How to Survive an Airplane Crash” or “How to Survive a Hostage Situation.” Also included for the more practical traveler, are strategies for packing and flying, foreign emergency phrases, and gestures to avoid. Whether informative or entertaining, this book should be on every armchair traveler’s reading list. And, as the author reminds us, pages in this passport for survival can always be used for toilet paper if needed.

Reviewed by Kim W., University City Regional

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French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew

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Mayle, Peter(2001)
French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew

Warning! Do NOT read this book while hungry; or else be prepared to reserve a seat on the next flight to France! With his customary wit, the author of A Year in Provence here relates his pursuit of a gastronomic education, by participating in various festivals dedicated to one or more elements of French cuisine. From the truffle mass in Richerenches, and the cheese fair in Livarot, to the "greatest wine auction in the world" in the heart of Burgundy, Mayle proves time and again that food reigns supreme in French culture. No need to simply take his word for it. He has kindly provided addresses and telephone numbers of festival organizers and restaurants he frequented along the way. Bon voyage and bon appetit!

Reviewed by Neily T., Mint Hill Branch

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Highroad Guide to the North Carolina Mountains

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McDaniel, Lynda(1998)
Highroad Guide to the North Carolina Mountains

This delightful guide, written in an easy-to-read journalistic style, is the perfect book for summer excursions in the Carolinas. It is organized into seven geographical sections utilizing North Carolina's major mountain ranges. Additional chapters cover an introduction to the natural history of the mountains and a description of long trails of North Carolina. Each section is chock full of useful information, including state parks, gardens, folk art centers, recreation areas and hiking trails. Creative orginal etchings of plants and animals invoke a personal touch. Inserts provide offbeat information related to the geographical area being described, such as a discussion of Wedgwood Pottery or songbird migration. Colorful maps complement the narrative being described. Useful appendixes provide lists of special events, selected attractions, addresses and phone numbers of outfitters. A good addition to the travel literature for North Carolina mountain areas.

Reviewed by Mady K., Morrison Regional

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Hot Flashes From Abroad:  Women's Travel Tales & Adventures

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Gould, Jean ed.(2001)
Hot Flashes From Abroad: Women's Travel Tales & Adventures

Feeling old? Need some excitement or a new experience? What about dodging polar bears and icebergs in the Arctic, bird-watching in the Galapagos Islands, touring the Egyptian pyramids by camel, or floating down the Amazon -- just a few possibilities from this collection of travel stories by 28 courageous older women. Each contributor, who is over the age of fifty, has a thirst for adventure as well as a voice for vivid and eloquent prose. Edited by Jean Gould, who spent her fiftieth birthday hiking in the Everest foothills, these remarkable tales will inspire and captivate travelers of any age.

Reviewed by Kim W., University City Regional

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Sacred Waters: A Pilgrimage Up the Ganges River to the Source of Hindu Culture

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Alter, Stephen(2001)
Sacred Waters: A Pilgrimage Up the Ganges River to the Source of Hindu Culture

An ancient current in Hinduism is the sacredness of rivers and mountains. Pilgrimages to the source of the Ganges in the Himalayas remain as popular today as they were in the epic times, when heroes journeyed to the abode of the gods to seek absolution for their negative karma. With extensive scientific knowledge of the Indian subcontinent, as well as insight into its mythology and legend, Stephen Atler takes the reader along with him on a sacred trek in the Indian Himalayas. He demystifies issues such as the environmental impact of road construction, pollution, and deforestation on indigenous communities. Against a dramatic backdrop of breath-taking mountains and glaciers, encounters with both man and the elements transport the reader back to mythological times and places.

Reviewed by Lydia L., Main Library

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Stuck at the Airport: A Traveler's Survival Guide

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Baskas, Harriet(2001)
Stuck at the Airport: A Traveler's Survival Guide

Baskas' handbook is a unique and useful guide providing tips for modern day travelers stranded at the airport with too much time on their hands. Fifty-four airports are discussed and for each airport there is a section on food, where to relax and refresh, business centers, shopping, sightseeing, play areas for children and how to go into town. This is the place to look if you want to know which airports offer massages and health clubs, barbershops, gambling facilities, museums, observation decks and art and photography exhibits. Written in easy-to-read prose, Baskas has filled a gap and provided a wonderful public service for all future travelers.

Reviewed by Mady K., Morrison Regional

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A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal

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Bourdain, Anthony(2001)
A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal

When New York Chef Anthony Bourdain reluctantly signs on with the Food Network in search for the perfect meal adventures abound. Like no other culinary travel series this one really heads way off the beaten path of fancy cuisine. Russia serves up vodka & dried sausages from a backwoods cabin followed by a hot sauna and massage, then a quick dip in the frigid waters of an ice covered lake. In Tokyo, the poisonous puffer fish is very carefully prepared by licensed cooks. Bourdain also dines on "chanko" the sumo-wrestler's meal consisting mainly of chicken, fish, vegetables and tofu soup. From the farm in Portugal where the New York chef is witness to the slaughter of the "fattened pig", and then feast on an array of pork delights to his trip to Saigon for a dish of cobra heart claiming to make you strong. For what would send most running in the opposite direction-this chef/writer is quite brave, funny & adventurous. Beware vegetarians!

Reviewed by Alice A., Independence Regional

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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

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Bryson, Bill(1998)
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Travel writer/adventurer Bill Bryson takes the reader on a humorous hike along the Appalachian Trail in his book, A Walk in the Woods. Setting out in North Georgia and hiking through North Carolina and Virginia, Bryson’s account is full of laugh-out-loud observations on hiking, the Trail, and the people he encounters along the way. Written from the perspective of a casual, weekend hiker, A Walk in the Woods will educate and amuse anyone from the armchair adventurer to the rugged outdoorsy-type. In fact, after reading the book, don’t be too surprised to find yourself driving west, in search of your own adventures on the AT.

Reviewed by David S., University City Regional

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Tiger Ladies: a Memoir of Kashmir

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Koul, Sudha(2002)
Tiger Ladies: a Memoir of Kashmir

The Tiger Lady is not only a euphemism for the Hindu mother Goddess Durga, patron deity of many Indian devotees, but for the unquenchable fire that resides in the women of Kashmir. Like a fine pashmina shawl fit for a bride’s trousseau, Sudha Koul lyrically weaves together the lives of her ancestors across four generations, against Srinagar’s sublime Himalayan beauty in The Tiger Ladies: A Memoir of Kashmir. Follow grandmothers, mothers, and daughters through their rich and textured lives in the coveted valley they passionately love in the foothills of northern India. Despite the fact that Kashmir is now a disputed state, Koul’s tale illustrates the fact that Hindus and Muslims have traditionally co-existed there for generations, leading happy, normal lives.

Reviewed by Lydia L., Main Library

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Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

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Potts, Rolf(2003)
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

This is an off-beat, irreverent travel guide that tells you everything you need to know about vagabonding, "taking an extended time-out from your normal life to travel the world on your own terms." Potts includes tips on getting started, learning, keeping it simple, creativity, meeting your neighbors, growing spiritually and handling problems along the way. Each chapter contains annotated booklists, useful websites, quotes, anecdotes and a brief profile of individuals who have epitomized the vagabonding life, such as John Muir and Annie Dillard. A wonderful and much-needed addition to the world of travel guides.

Reviewed by Mady K., Morrison Regional

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Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe

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Bryson, Bill(1992)
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Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe

Here is another one of Bryson`s highly amusing, sometimes rude, but always thought-provoking non-traditional travel books. This book explores his random travels throughout Europe, and, once again, he manages to expose the quirks of other countries with a rye sense of humor while at the same time making fun of his own crude American gaffes in each city he visits. If you`ve ever been to Europe you will enjoy Bryson`s good-natured expose of a wide variety of European stereotypes: the pervasive overall rudeness of the French and the Swiss; the orderly stinginess of the Germans; the reckless noisiness of the Italians, etc. Bryson also explores numerous Scandinavian cities, and countries that are lesser known to the average American. I would recommend this book to anyone who has the urge to venture forth into the great expanse of Europe as long as they keep an open mind and a full (and well hidden) wallet.

Reviewed by Julia S., University City Regional

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In Tuscany

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Mayes, Frances(2000)
In Tuscany

You’ve already read Mayes’ phenomenal bestseller, Under the Tuscan Sun, and you crave more of sunny, serene Tuscany in the ancient hills of Etruscan Italy. Flipping through the sepia and vividly colored photographs, we experience La Piazza, the center of Italian village life, where the locals sell wares-- prosciutto, croissants, and cheese--while casually passing by the signore sipping their early morning coffees with freshly baked pane. “Buon giorno!” they shout. Onward to La Festa, where a medieval carnivale is deftly performed, then to La Cucina where Mayes thrills the senses with an eye-catching array of scrumptious foods, with recipes! Gorgeously photographed, historically accurate, and a traveler’s dream book– are you ready to book your next flight to partake in La Dolce Vita?

Reviewed by Rosanne L., Matthews Branch

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Kinky Gazpacho:  Life, Love and Spain

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Tharps, Lori(2007)
Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love and Spain

From the time she was very young, Lori Tharps sensed that her destiny would involve the country of Spain, its culture and its people. This love affair with all things Spanish begins in third grade, continues through her stint at Smith College and continues into her adult life. Her story concentrates on her years living in Spain where she perfects the language, meets her Spanish husband and falls in love, learns about racial identity, and ultimately develops her sense of self. Part coming of age story, part love story and part travelogue, this well-paced, insightful and humorous memoir is sure to satisfy anyone looking for a light, yet thoughtful and personable read.

Reviewed by Staci F., South County Regional

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At Home: A Short History of Private Life

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Bryson, Bill(2010)
At Home: A Short History of Private Life

"Houses aren't refuges from history. They are where history ends up" writes Bill Bryson. In his latest adventure, Bryson takes readers on a room by room tour of an 1851 Victorian house in Norfolk, England where he and his family lived for one year. This year long experience becomes more than just a house tour. For Bryson, every room is a discovery into the everyday life of those who lived before, not just in this house but throughout history. Agriculture, food storage, and piping are examined in the kitchen. In the bedroom, mattress construction, sex and cremation are discussed. With his usual humorous and anecdotal style, Bryson entertains and educates. Readers will enjoy an amusing yet all-inclusive trip through history without having to forgo the comforts of home.

Reviewed by Kim W., University City Regional

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The Walk

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Richard Paul Evans(2010)
The Walk

Alan Christoffersen feels compelled to walk from Washington State to Key West, Florida as a means of escape from dealing with his new life . . . a life with no wife, job, house, or friends. Along the difficult walk there are some unexpected encounters that give Alan hope to live for the future. Travelers at heart will enjoy the eclectic people and small town oddities that Alan discovers. The delicious food will make readers wish they could walk each day with Alan to enjoy all the scrumptious food he eats. With several unexpected dangers and twists on this journey, readers will not be able to wait long before reading book 2 in the series to learn if Alan succeeds in making it to Florida.

Reviewed by Emily N., South County Regional

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The Last Promise

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Richard Paul Evans(2002)
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The Last Promise

Eliana moved from the United States to Italy to start a new life with her husband. Her life is very different than she expected including the relationship with her husband. Her young son, Alessio, has severe asthma so they cannot travel to America to visit her mother and are prevented from attending some local events. Ross Story, an American, serves as a tour guide in Italy. How will Eliana and Ross cross paths since they both have a love of art? Fans of Richard Paul Evans will enjoy this tale of unexpected friendship.

Reviewed by Emily N., South County Regional

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The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

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Larsen, Reif(2009)
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

Young Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet is a map making genius. Merely twelve years old, his maps have been published by the Smithsonian and other well-respected science magazines. In fact, his work is so impressive that the Smithsonian awards him the prestigious Baird Fellowship and wants him to come speak in Washington, D.C. The only problem is, of course, they don`t know he is just 12. And his parents are unaware that he has been publishing his maps in important science journals as they no longer communicate since the tragic death of T.S.’s younger brother. So T.S. decides to indulge his romanticized love of the rail system and hitch a ride on a train to D.C. alone. Utterly delightful.

Reviewed by Kristi M., Mountain Island Branch

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Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life

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Klein, Daniel(2012)
Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life

Now in his seventies with a suitcase of philosophy books and one question, writer Daniel Klein returns to the Greek island of Hydra. He hopes that this setting and its people can help him discover the most satisfying way to live this stage of his life. Klein`s quest parallels with that of Greek philosopher Epicurus, who pondered that the best possible life is a happy life and fulfillment best found in old age. Born in 341 BC, Epicurus believed that one must free the mind from `the prison of everyday affairs and politics` with a learned self awareness and attentiveness to life`s simple pleasures. An entertaining observation of everyday Greek life and a witty philosophy lesson from Plato to Heidegger and beyond, Klein offers a fun and enlightening journey for readers of any age.

Reviewed by Kim W., University City Regional

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Better than Fiction:  True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers

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George, Don, editor(2012)
Better than Fiction: True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers

Take a trip around the globe with your favorite fiction authors! Lonely Planet editor George Don has compiled an entertaining collection of 32 true travel tales from popular fiction writers. Authors included are Isabel Allende, Joyce Carol Oates, Alexander McCall Smith, and Peter Matthiessen, just to name a few. Shared are descriptive, emotional impressions taken from their own travel experiences to such exotic places as the Solomon Islands, Rome, Argentina, India, and the Antarctica. Included in the collection are also tales from seemingly ordinary, closer to home locales such as Alaska, Montana, California and the American highway. Regardless of place, these stories share the love of travel and self-discovery, delighting fans of travel literature as well as short fiction.

Reviewed by Kim W., University City Regional

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All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey With Jane

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Smith, Amy Elizabeth(2012)
All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey With Jane

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of good sense enjoys Jane Austen. Professor Amy Elizabeth Smith decided to put this truth to the test and take Jane through six Latin American countries. Even though Smith didn’t speak Spanish and had no idea who her book clubs would be, she decided to explore and follow wherever her answers would lead her. Would all the readers find a connection between Austen’s world and their own? Through adventures and appreciations of new cultures, Smith learns surprising truths, makes good friends, and unexpectedly discovers her own Mr. Darcy. Travel along with Smith, or as Jane says, `The person, whether it be a gentleman or a lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.`

Reviewed by Amanda D., University City Regional

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Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean : How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom--and Revenge

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Kritzler, Edward(2008)
Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean : How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom--and Revenge

Who knew there were Jewish Pirates? I always associated the early New World with Spain and Portugal and the Catholic Church, or England and the Protestants, not Jews. The Inquisition created a huge population of `conversos`, Jews who pretended to be Catholic to prevent being tortured. `Everyone` knew it was a pretense. Some of them left for the New World, islands. They hoped that distance would allow them some religious freedom. The New World had gold, slaves and trade goods that were bought, sold and stolen. The Jews provided manpower and trade knowledge. Read about the gold mines, privateers and lots about the islands we now go to on vacation.

Reviewed by Thea J., South County Regional

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A Visitor's Guide to the Literary South

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Foxwell, Trish(2013)
A Visitor's Guide to the Literary South

If you love literature, you might enjoy Foxwell’s guide to literary sites in American’s southeastern states. When making your next travel plans, consider places where a favorite author resided. This book’s contents are arranged by state with cities where noted authors walked, lived, and went about daily life. As you explore these places, you experience the sights, sounds, and scenery surrounding the author’s life. Each entry about the city has a quote from a noted author setting the stage for a brief biography of the domestic life of the author and information about the places recommended to visit. The next section has excursions and diversions of the area, plus suggested literary lodgings. I loved Foxwell`s vivid descriptions.

Reviewed by Gay Ann L., Independence Regional

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Paris Letters

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Macleod, Janice(2014)Recently Added Review
Paris Letters

Janice Macleod was miserable working as a copywriter in L.A. She drastically cuts her spending and within a year she has enough money saved to quit her job and go to Europe for a few months. On her first stop in Paris she meets Christophe, even though she doesn’t speak French and he doesn’t speak English, they have a whirlwind romance. Macleod thinks this may just be a fling, so she continues on with her other travel plans in Europe. But when Christophe calls and asks her to come back to Paris “to see,” she decides to come back and the rest is history. Macleod’s story of going from corporate drone to living as an artist in Paris is an inspiring read!

Reviewed by Jessica B., Mint Hill Branch

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