Travels with…

So, this week, we’re going slightly off piste. Rather than it being about a book per se it’s going to be about book locations I have visited.

I’m sure this may have limited appeal to some but it really won’t take too long so do bear with. It all begins with a journey.

This past weekend I was treated to a few days in the Highlands. I do like a train and the entire trip was all by train – from the Kent coast to London, and then from London to Fort William in the Highlands. In total a trip that took the best part of 15 hours. I imagine that some of you had no idea Britain was so big. Rest assured (or not, bearing in mind the current climate!) sea levels haven’t changed too much but the vast majority of that part of the journey was on the Caledonian Sleeper.

The next special part of the trip was on The Jacobite. This is a charter service that runs from Fort William to Mallaig and back. In total it takes about 5-6 hours. So, what’s so special about this service? Well, first of all, it’s a steam train with rolling stock from the 1940s or so (although I’m unable to check this and the carriages may be earlier). Secondly it goes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This is quite a magnificent feat of engineering constructed about 100 years ago. And it may be a construction you’re more familiar with than you thought because, thirdly, this train is The Hogwarts Express. Yes, I went on the Harry Potter train. Obviously the popularity of the location owes more to the movies than to the books, but it certainly encourages a substantial tourist trade. The number of Gryffindor scarves and stuffed toy owls I saw was quite something. Despite the weather it was still worth the visit and to see the enormous amount of people standing above the viaduct to see the train go over was also an impressive sight.

The Jacobite Steam Train (The Lancashire Fusilier 45407) taken by Sarah
For those who have never been to Scotland then this weather is not uncommon. To the right of the picture some of the 21 arches of the viaduct can be seen. Glenfinnan Viaduct, Inverness-shire, taken by Sarah

To continue the Harry Potter theme a little further, it’s rather fun to visit the Old Town in Edinburgh and, in particular, Greyfriars Kirk. Take a walk around the graveyard and see how many familiar names you can spot on the tombs and headstones. And if you take a look through the gates at the back then you’ll see George Heriot’s School, apparently the inspiration for Hogwarts and, incidentally, my father’s alma mater.

Now the next part of this post is more inspired by one of my favourite movies (although it is a book). Some years ago I travelled through Europe with my son when he was about 12 or 13. Poor kid never got taken to Disneyland but got dragged around old European cities. So, this particular trip took in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Austria. Ahh Vienna.

I never knew the old Vienna before the war….

That immortal opening line from the 1949 movie The Third Man, directed by Carol Reed, the screenplay and book written by Graham Green. We got to Vienna and spent the next 24 hours tracking down film locations. And then I made the poor boy reenact scenes whilst I photographed him. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to find The Doorway where Harry Lime is first spotted from a window by Holly Martens. What’s rather nice is the boy still recalls the trip fondly.

Photo of The Harry Lime doorway, Vienna, Austria, taken by Sarah

Finally, let’s head over to America for a final trip down this literary memory lane. I think John Steinbeck has pretty much got central California wrapped up. On a drive from San Diego to San Francisco, we drove up through Soledad before heading to Salinas to visit the National Steinbeck Center. It was great to see many personal effects and hear stories from people who knew the Steinbeck family. From here we, of course, went to Monterey. This was a very memorable part of the trip and I’m so glad I got to do this. For a long while Of Mice And Men was on the school curriculum in the UK before it was decided there should be a more English-centric focus (I think this may have been a decision made by the same chap who said that prisoners shouldn’t have access to books). Anyway, I digress somewhat, but I’m happy to say I shall be revisiting Of Mice and Men with one of my students this year.

Photos taken by Sarah when in ‘Steinbeck Country’

It’s always quite special to visit a place that has a link to an author in one way or another and I’m always on the lookout for these gems.

11 thoughts on “Travels with…

  1. This is a lovely post, Sarah. I really enjoyed reading about your travels and the places you’ve visited linked to authors and movies. “Poor kid never got taken to Disneyland but got dragged around old European cities.” This made me laugh as my boys are the same. They spend all their holidays looking at castles, battle scenes and such like. They think this is normal holiday fare. Hehe. Luckily for me, our holiday activity choices are very fair and equitable and go boy choice, girl choice. Seeing as I am the only girl out of four that means I get every second choice.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! It’s nice to hear that it resonated with you. I like how your boys now think this sort of holiday is normal! I think it, in part, gave my son the confidence to travel to more out of the way places as he got older.
      You have an excellent deal there if you get to chose every second trip – it does seem very fair indeed! 😀 I imagine you must have quite a list stored up now – hopefully you can start ticking off those destinations very soon!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Sarah, our planned trip to Glasonbury to see the medieval kitchen at the Abbey, and all the other nice places, to Bath, and to London for 2019 was cancelled. I am hoping for next year … My older son is also applying for Edinburgh University which would be nice. I loved Edinburgh.

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      2. Will keep fingers crossed that you’re able to make your planned trips! And good luck to your son for his uni application. What a fantastic place to continue his studies!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah, I really enjoyed your post combining travel and literature (triterature? lavel?). The Harry Potter train? OMG — fantastic! Great photos, too!

    One of my travel/literature highlights was visiting the Herman Melville house/museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and seeing the room in which he wrote “Moby-Dick.” The mountain visible out the window was shaped sort of like a whale…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I like the names you’ve coined for this type of post!
      I must admit to a little artistic license. The actual locomotive, so I understand, is kept at Warner Brothers studios just outside London, but some of the carriages on the train were used in the filming – although I wonder how long they had to wait for good weather! It’s definitely a lovely part of the world!
      That’s a great memory to share about Melville’s house! A mountain shaped like a whale just outside his window…hmmmm…I wonder what his inspiration was to write his most famous of stories..? I’m sure it was a great trip!

      Liked by 2 people

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