The title of this post comes from “Silver Ships,” whose author, Mildred Plew Meigs, lived 1892-1944. Since the copyright status isn’t clear, I won’t paste the poem here: instead, I’m sending you off to the website of the 100th Bomb Group Foundation, which seems to have it it on their site because Meigs sent it to one of their members.
“Born with Wings”
Thanks to Bryan Larsen, one of my favorite contemporary painters, for permission to include this wonderful painting of a woman who clearly knows all about “floating down like a petal, / roaring up like a flame.”
Not silver, but spectacular
Travel books to quench (or whet) your Wanderlust
- I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away. Series of hilarious and perceptive essays on what Bryson noticed when he returned to the U.S. after decades abroad: the Postal Service, ordering in fancy restaurants, baseball, computer tech support, much more.
- The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America. I’m particularly fond of this one because Bryson devotes half a page to a town next door to where I grew up: “It’s a college town, with a decidedly sleepy air. You feel at first as if you should be wearing slippers and a bathrobe.” (p. 134, paperback)
GOLD, Herbert. The Best Nightmare on Earth: A Life in Haiti. Somewhat meandering and now and then repetitious, but good for getting a feel for the country to 1990. I read this when I was writing a report on Haiti back in 1994, when the U.S. sent troops there.
- Baghdad Without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia. Horwitz, a freelance journalist with a thoroughly Western outlook, traveled to the Middle East in the 1990s and produced an informative, well written, and lively set of essays on Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Libya, the Sudan and Lebanon. Focusing on culture, he nevertheless displays an unusual ability to select details that illuminate politics and economics.
- One for the Road: An Outback Adventure. Horwitz travels 7,000 miles across the Australian outback.
- Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. A ten-state tour from Gettysburg to Vicksburg, and Charleston to Tennessee, looking at Civil War sites and Southerners’ devotion to the Lost Cause. Horwitz is not only witty but, as in Baghdad without a Map, picks details that make his stories come alive.
HULER, Scott. No-Man’s Lands. Retracing the steps of Odysseus.
HUNT, Christopher. Waiting for Fidel. Hunt traveled across Cuba talking with anyone who was willing about Fidel, jobs, food, clothing, transportation, etc. He constantly juxtaposes socialist propaganda, painted all over Cuba and mouthed by some of those he met, with the typical Cuban’s struggle just to survive – which often includes prostitution, black-market trading, and theft. By the end of the book it’s quite clear that Castro and his socialist policies are to blame for Cuba’s horrendous condition, but most of the argument for that position is made by the concretes Hunt presents, rather than by explicit political-philosophic commentary. I can’t remember when I’ve seen this technique done so well.
HUNTFORD, Roland. The Last Place on Earth.
Gripping account of the race between Amundsen and Scott to reach the South Pole.
- A Year in Provence. Mayle, an Englishman who moved to the south of France, describes the first year there.
- Encore Provence
- Toujours Provence
- French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew. Mayle on escargots, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, the most pungent cheese in France, black truffles, and more. Mouth-watering.
- Acquired Tastes. Chapters on hand-made shoes, stretch limos, custom tailors, truffles, cashmere, caviar, antiques, servants, cigars, private jets, Christmas tipping … The man’s so persuasive that reading the book may cost you a couple thousand dollars.
McCULLOUGH, David. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. Another great read from McCullough. From the publisher’s blurb: “Between 1830 and 1900, hundreds of Americans–many of them future household names like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Samuel Morse, and Harriet Beecher Stowe–migrated to Paris. McCullough shows first how the City of Light affected each of them in turn, and how they helped shape American art, medicine, writing, science, and politics in profound ways when they came back to the United States.”
O’ROURKE, P.J. Holidays in Hell: In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World’s Worst Places and Asks, “What’s Funny About This?” P.J.’s acerbic comments on Lebanon, Seoul, Panama, Warsaw, the Philippines, El Salvador, South Africa, Nicaragua, Mexico, Jerusalem, Harvard, Disney World, the 1987 Reagan-Gorbachev Summit, and the America’s Cup.
- French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France. Why don’t they smile at us? Perceptive comments on French “rudeness,” and on sense of space, shopping, education, business protocol, etc. Fascinating, well written, and correct as far as my knowledge goes: the sort of information your French textbook will not give you.
- Savoir-Flair: : 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French. Tips on airports, hotels, bathrooms, speaking French, transportation, dogs, information-gathering, customer service, shopping, dining, rural living.
ROGERS, Jim. Investment Biker: Around the World With Jim Rogers. Ideal for armchair travelers, economists and motorcycle fanatics; written by a predominantly capitalist occasional commentator on CNBC. In 1990-92 Rogers and his girlfriend traveled on motorcycles from Anchorage, Alaska to Cape Horn at the tip of South America, from Great Britain to Japan, and from Algiers to Capetown in South Africa, with a side trip to Australia and New Zealand. Rogers gives specific, fundamental details about the economic workings of the countries he visited, which makes up for occasional flaws in interpretation.
TRILLIN, Calvin. Travels With Alice. Trillin’s travels with his wife and daughters in Sicily, the South of France, Spain, the West Indies, and elsewhere; hilarious comments on people and cuisine.