Your Literary Dream Vacation

road trip, map, travel

(photo: rabi w, creative commons license)

Need an organizing principle for your next vacation? Here are four literary-themed travel ideas, heavy on the mystery element:

See the U.S.A.

I’ve written before about Esotouric’s fun mystery/literary tours of SoCal. They scout out the locations of sites in classic books by Raymond Chandler (and other authors), researching “the mean streets that shaped his fiction” and inspired such lines as “There was a sad fellow over on a bar stool talking to the bartender, who was polishing a glass and listening with that plastic smile people wear when they are trying not to scream” from The Long Goodbye. Next Raymond Chandler tour: 8-22-15.

Not available that day? The following week the possibly even juicier “Hotel Horrors and Main Street Vice” tour covers the history of the “ribald, racy, raunchy old promenade where the better people simply did not travel.” Something always cooking there.

Atlas Obscura has created an “obsessively detailed map of American Literature’s most epic road trips.” Follow in the footsteps (or the oil pan drips) of such non-fiction bushwhackers as William Least Heat Moon (Blue Highways)—I’ve read this book, and it’s great—Jack Kerouac (On the Road), Mark Twain (Roughing It), and nine other classics that describe “this quintessentially American experience.” Literature AND a map. Can’t get much better.

And NYC by neighborhood from the New York Public Library.

Across the Pond

In case you want something a little more, ahem, Continental, the San Francisco Chronicle has created a map that marks literary highlights of Paris’s Left Bank and includes classic book shops as well as author pilgrimage sites. You can spend a day’s worth of shoe-leather on this one, easy.

Prefer a more sedentary mode of travel? By bus, perhaps (the big advantage of which is all that reading time and three beers at the pub, no problem!). The Smithsonian offers “Mystery Lover’s England,” which explores “the lives and settings of famous detective novelists”: Colin Dexter, Andrew Taylor, Simon Brett, Agatha Christie, and the like, plus the haunts of the characters they wrote about in Devon, the Cotswolds, Oxford, and London. But why anyone would want to risk going to Oxford, with its astounding murder rate—which the Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, and Endeavor have shown on the telly—is beyond me.