Reading around the subject

5 Mar

I’ve always been a big fan of reading books as part of the travel planning process.  A great book set in a location you plan to visit can help you get a feel for your destination.  It can also suggest an itinerary to you, which can be especially helpful in a large city. 

William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns is a fascinating book about the history of Delhi, which also includes his account of living in the city for a year.  When we visited Delhi, we visited a few of the sites he wrote about and got a great overview of the city’s history, as well as seeing a different side of the city to the one tourists usually encounter.  One of my highlights was standing on the roof of a mosque in Old Delhi at sunset watching local men flying their pigeons, a tradition that stretches back hundreds of years.

Books can also be a great way of keeping your travel bug in check in between trips.  I’ve lost count of the number of travelogues and novels set in countries I’ve visited, that I’ve read over the years.  A truly atmospheric novel like ‘Leo the African’ can immediately take me back to Fez and remind me what it was I loved about the city.

I find books are also a great way for children to engage with a destination.  A trip to see Buckingham Palace has some appeal, especially looking at the soldiers, but it is essentially just a big building.  But a trip to Buckingham Palace once you have read ‘Paddington at the Palace’ takes on a whole different dimension.  Is that the window Paddington saw the Queen at?  Is this where Paddington had his picture taken with the soldier?  

Books can also help children to enjoy a venue that might not normally be seen as particularly ‘child friendly’.  The National Gallery in London can be a daunting place for adults, let alone children, due to it’s sheer scale.  However, having read ‘Katie’s Picture Show’, a story set in the Gallery, our children had a great time when we visited.  They were delighted that they recognised some of the paintings and we had a lovely time talking about what Katie did in the book.

There is a great thread on the Bootsnall travelling with children site which lists hundreds of books for kids who travel.  If you have children and you like travelling, it is well worth a look:

As we prepare for our trip we will be doing plenty of reading ourselves and also trying to find relevant books to read to the children.   For me, reading is an integral part of travel, and one of the things I love about it.


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