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Pull Up A Chair…

greektaverna.jpgI love to travel, to explore some new place or to find something magical in a place we’ve visited several times before.  There is always a fresh way to see the world around you — and to travel somewhere and see the world from the eyes of the people in the new location is one of my favorite things to do.

When katymine said she was going to vacation in Greece, I had a stabbing feeling of envy while simultaneously being so happy that she was going back to a place she so clearly loved.  Because I haven’t yet been able to go there, although I have always, always wanted to, going from one lovely isle after another and walking in the footsteps of history, drinking in the sweet local wines and tasting the amazing local produce.  Alas, haven’t been there yet.

Unless of course, you count going vicariously through someone else’s travels and writing.  I picked up a book from the sale bin a couple of years ago called “The Summer Of My Greek Taverna,” and devoured it.  The author had me from the very first chapter where I not only learned that he had the same passion for absorbing the culture around him when he travelled — but that he was also a food snob.  Bless him.

One of my favorite travel writers is a seemingly curmudgeonly, selfish author named Paul Theroux (who also writes some good fiction as well), whose arrogance during his travels is matched by his amazing eye for detail and that very soft spot in his heart that he tries so desperately to hide. 

I love his wit, his snark, and his crabby-assed descriptions of American couples in parachute fabric matching track suits.  I probably have close to every travel book he has ever written, and I love them all with the same passion with which Mr. ReddHedd loathes them.  He isn’t partial to arrogance, he would like me to say…clearly I don’t mind it, especially when I can get my travel fix in exotic locales from the piercing distillate ink with which he must fill his razor sharpened fountain pen.  It is heady stuff, to ride on a train across the steppes of Mongolia and through the frozen emptiness of Siberia, or up the side of a mountain in Peru, or most magical of all, paddling a canoe across the open sea in the South Pacific or to the roof of the world in Tibet.

Plus, there is a certain element of cringeworthy amazement when he writes things about his fellow travellers that I might have also thought on some level, but would never be able to say out loud for fear of being thought impolite. 

One of the best books that I ever read about Afghanistan is a book entitled “An Unexpected Light.”  I bought my copy just before 9/11, and then plopped it in my “to read” pile and promptly forgot about it.  (My to read pile is always quite large, because there are so many wonderful books still to be read.  Anyone else have that problem?)  After 9/11, I scrambled around our house looking for it — it ended up being on my bedside table — and I read it start to finish in a day, stopping only for a fresh cup of tea and an occasional tissue.  I needed to understand…while I’m still working on that, this book was a wonderful introduction to a country that has always held some magic in my mind for its history of mysticism and deeply-rooted culture.

I picked up another Afghanistan book not too long ago, called “The Places In Between,” but haven’t gotten it started.  The bookstore clerk in DC who recommended it did so highly, but I’ve been buried in other reading — soon though, I can feel the travel thrall calling me.

Mr. ReddHedd and I have just picked up a copy of “1,000 Places To See Before You Die.”  We’ve been watching a show on the travel channel of the same name, and although the couple who stars in it are awfully young and not so experienced or worldly, the places they have travelled to have been absolutely amazing to watch on our HDTV.   Mr. ReddHedd and I have made a deal:  we each get to pick five places in the book, and we will absolutely, no excuses, go to each of them over the course of our lifetime together.  And if we get to them all early, we get to pick five more each.

So today, while gazing upon the lovely photo above of “a taverna in the square of St. Titus Cathedral in Irakilion,” sent to me by the formerly vactioning katymine who says that “all seating is outside under these lovely shade trees,” I’m wondering what travel books you’ve been reading.  Or that you love.  Or if you are planning a trip and you’d like to share a bit about it.

So, pour yourself another cuppa.  Wish I could offer you one of the lovely taverna seats above, but we’ll have to make do vicariously. 

I have Loreena McKennitt’s “Book Of Secrets” playing on the CD player this morning, to be followed shortly thereafter by “The Mask And The Mirror.”  I see she has a new album which I haven’t yet purchased — guess I know what I’ll be buying myself one of these days soon.  I love how she mixes songs and styles and instruments together in an amazing caravan, dancing aong the silk road toward paradise.  Lovely, heady stuff.

What are you listening to this morning?  I’m always looking for new suggestions.  Here’s another one that I enjoy: “Officium.”  It’s wonderful music to lose yourself in while reading or writing.  And speaking of the Silk Road, this album from Yo Yo Ma and a number of other gifted musicians is pure magic.

It’s always been one of those dreams of mine to someday do some travel writing.  To be that person who brings others along on the journey with me by painting pictures in their minds with my words.  Someday, maybe.  But for now, I’m going to pour myself some more coffee, and see what all of you are up to this morning.  Wherever you are, wherever you may be going later in the day, pull up a chair…

(Thanks so much to katymine for the picture.  What a lovely spot for a good book and something to sip and for watching the world spin by…)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com