Any bibliophagist (literally, a devourer of books) worth his envy-inducing library, can attest to that fact that the world of fiction is often as, if not more, thrillingly bona fide as real life itself. Exploring a world-class city through the eyes of an iconic author adds a never-before-seen perspective to what would otherwise be just another romp.
Steeped in imagination and futuristic vision, a handful of skilled wordsmiths have long defined our geographical landscapes. From Ian Fleming’s London to Larsson’s Stockholm, we recommend you ‘pause’ to view some of the world’s most vibrant cities through the lens of these great writers, with our two-part feature on handpicked literary trails…
IAN FLEMING’S LONDON
Notoriously gloomy weather and grim skies hardly keep London from topping lists of the world’s greatest cities. As a playing ground of intellectuals and statesmen, London was never a stranger to literary greats. From Charles Dickens and Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Oscar Wilde and George Eliot, it has been home and muse to the greatest of minds.
Carlyle Mansions in Chelsea has been home to several famous writers, including Ian Fleming.
Image Credit: telegraph.co.uk
The Inside Track: Simon Rodway is a London walking-tour aficionado and a memorable raconteur. His Ian Fleming tour through London’s Mayfair district is the stuff of every Bond fan’s secret fantasies. Book a bespoke tour with Rodway, to dip into the hangouts of the fictional British spy and his creator Ian Fleming — men who, unsurprisingly, shared similar interests. Both were intelligence agents and bon vivants with a penchant for gambling and a jet-setting lifestyle. London featured in their exploits regularly, and so Rodway includes all the essential stops: Fleming’s birthplace (just around the corner from Marble Arch at 27 Green Street); the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve’s Club (of which both Fleming and Bond were members); and the Bentley and Rolls Royce showrooms where their legendary wheels were bought. Lesser known is a residential street in Chelsea where 007 lived!
Pit Stops: Across the street from the famously private gentlemen’s club, White’s (where Fleming was a member), is a slate grey building (50, St. James’s) that was once home to the casino believed to have inspired ‘Casino Royale’. Next door is the Beretta Gallery, home to Bond’s trusty firearm — the Beretta 418.
Pause In Luxury: Bond wasn’t one to skimp on the swish things in life. Channel his aura by booking a suite at The Athenaeum on Piccadilly, with stunning views of Mayfair. You’ll be parked in luxury amidst all the action — Buckingham Palace, royal parks and a hop away from hip Soho.
JAMES JOYCE'S DUBLIN
A UNESCO City of Literature, dotted with writers’ museums, galleries, universities and everything a bookworm desires, Dublin is where the ‘Romantics’ were born and thrived. James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats walked its streets and worked and bonded with other greats in its iconic watering holes.
The James Joyce Center is located in this Georgian townhouse.
Image Credit: gardinerstreetdublin.com
The Inside Track: Log on to www.visitdublin.com to discover literary tours of Dublin and beyond; taking you from James Joyce’s life and times to the dreamy landscape of Yeats’ poetic inspiration. You can also opt for a trail at the James Joyce Center located in a Georgian townhouse in the city, which includes stops such as Joyce’s alma mater, Belvedere College; The Gresham Hotel, the setting of the final and most memorable scene of the short story ‘The Dead’; and the James Joyce Statue on North Earl Street — affectionately known as the ‘Prick with the Stick’!
Pit Stops: The Dublin Writers Museum chronicles the city’s 300-year-old literary heritage through the books, letters, portraits and personal items of authors. Further down, a Trinity College tour is de rigueur, to marvel at the illuminated 9th Century manuscript Book of Kells. Stop off at Sweny’s Pharmacy to hear one of the daily readings from the works of James Joyce and then catch a play at The Abbey Theatre, founded by Yeats in 1903. Although Joyce’s work stamps the identity of Dublin and vice versa, the author spent most of his life outside the city, which should encourage you to undertake a day trip to Sandycove, to visit the James Joyce Tower and Museum. Joyce spent six nights in the tower in 1904 and it is the setting for the first chapter of ‘Ulysses’.
Pause In Luxury: The 192-year old Shelbourne is as plush as it gets. Overlooking Dublin’s grandest square, St. Stephen’s Green, this is one of the most distinguished addresses in the city — not to mention the place where the Irish Constitution was drafted in 1922.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY'S PARIS
It seems every fabulous writer of the 20th century — from Marcel Proust and Truman Capote to Gabriel Garcia Marquez — has a strong Paris connect. Whether it was the heights of the Roaring Twenties or the rebellion of the Bohemian Seventies, there’s nary an author or book-lover who hasn’t dreamt of scribbling his magnum opus at a chic Parisian café or under the chandeliered opulence of a city hotel.
Les Deux Magots Café, where Hemingway sat and wrote for hours!
Image Credit: wikimedia.org
The Inside Track: Book a Hemingway trail with Peter and Oriel Caine’s www.paris-walks.com. American author Ernest Hemingway was a vicarious globetrotter and literary trails are dedicated to him in Key West, Florida and Pamplona in Spain, besides other cities. However, it was Paris which fuelled his best work and immortalised the city’s Latin Quarter as a ‘Moveable Feast’. He also fostered a formidable ‘Lost Generation’ of expat artists in the city, which included Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Picasso and James Joyce. Starting at the pastel-hued Hotel d’Angleterre in artsy Saint-Germain-des-Prés where Hemingway and his first wife Hadley stayed when they landed in Paris in 1921, the tour plunges you into the city’s most iconic cafés and watering holes; surfacing on the hoary shelves of Shakespeare and Company near the Seine (a historic bookstore that the author described as a “warm, cheerful place on a cold windswept street”).
Pit Stops: Les Deux Magots Café (beloved of literary elite like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre) located in Saint-Germain-des-Prés was on Hemingway’s writing radar — he wrote here for hours over his favourite daiquiris and martinis — and he featured it as a meeting place in ‘The Sun Also Rises’. He also frequented another café in the same district, Café de Flore, where Quentin Tarantino and Robert DeNiro are known to have dropped by. Moving out to Montparnasse, where his second apartment was located, La Closerie des Lilas was said to be where Hemingway devoured F. Scott Fitzgerald’s manuscript of ‘The Great Gatsby’! Yet another of his many haunts, Harry’s New York Bar on the Right Bank, is said to be the birthplace of many famous cocktails including the Bloody Mary.
Pause In Luxury: Where else, but at the five-star icon that inspired Hemingway to drop bon mots like, “When in Paris, the only reason to not stay at the Ritz is if you can’t afford it,” and, “When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz”! Along with Coco Chanel, Hemingway has a suite in the Ritz dedicated to him — besides a bar in his name and an ode to French gastronomy which was fuelled by the author’s love for fishing!
Pause for more: Read all about Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm and Haruki Murakami’s Tokyo in the second instalment of this two-part feature on the world’s most illuminating literary trails…
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