Sunday, March 08, 2009

Well-read Weekend #2

It's another well-read weekend.  Of course there's something special about curling up in a blanket next to a fire when it's snowy outside, sipping a hot-chocolate and reading a good book.  There's something even better, though, about sunbathing on your private deck, the long-awaited spring sun warming you, reading a good book.  

So that is what I did today.  Now that the sun is once again out, the snow, come on Monday, was gone by Sunday, ao I had another chance to enjoy being outside.  I hopped the bus to "Rahsi," what the locals apparently call my new favorite hood, Roslindale.  I've become a regular at the cheese shop.  I did my grocery shopping at the Village Market and picked up a fresh loaf of bread at the bakery.  While I waited for the bus I finished my latest travel read:

A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveler by Frances Mayer. (go ahead, pick it up on Amazon used for $.01)

Frances is the author of several books about travel, including Under the Tuscan Sun, which catapulted herself, and the rustic region in Italy to fame.  It must be strange to have a movie made of your memoir, with the leading character using the same name.  The fame has gone a bit to her head.

The book is a straightforward, poetic account of a year of her travels through Europe, Morocco and Turkey.  Her rich, vivid descriptions of the luxurious meals tantalize my tastebuds and her dramatic rendering of the landscapes and water surrounding far-away lands take my soul's eye there.  I skip her just as lengthy descriptions of English gardens, one of which is enough to give me a picture of what the dozen or so flowerbeds she visits might look like.

I sympathize with her drive to find the local, the authentic, the back-door experiences, that any traveler seeks out, but her fame and wealth taint the authenticity of the experiences.  How many of us can stay at a different British country-side cottage every other night, taxi around Greek Islands, go shopping for 3 Turkish rugs to ship home, or get comped into a Mediterranean cruise to lecture on travel?

It's not so much that it's wishful thinking, but rather, I'd rather skip the lofty tourist experiences.  Mayes looses most likability when, during her most stressful part of her journey, she misses all the taxis back to her cruise ship, being forced to walk 3 miles and take a bus back to the ship. 

Her passion wins you back over when she recalls lines from Greek Poet, Alexander Matsas as she stares out over the sea on the island of Crete or richly-details the cooking of food in Lisbon.

All in all, an enjoyable read for foodies, history and poetry enthusiasts, and gardeners.  Skip it if you're looking for adventure.

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