The morning sunrise seems softer and the green leaves are showing hints of red and gold – both sure signs that August is leading us into an early autumn in our corner of the Pacific Northwest. It is the time of lazy afternoons on the deck soaking up the last of summer ~ a time of travel to novel, and not-so-novel, destinations without leaving the chaise lounge.
Armchair, or deck chair, travelers, this post is for you. No packing or security pre-check required. Sit back as we are off to. . .
Jerusalem. . .
“Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgment Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to the 21st century, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of three thousand years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism, and coexistence.” – opening line of Amazon’s description of this book
We visited Jerusalem on one of those one-day-see-everything-you-can cruise ship tours last year. It was the one city of all the magical places we’d visited that didn’t ‘grab’ us. Perhaps we’d seen too much before arriving there, perhaps the crowds were too enormous, perhaps any number of things caused us to be less than ‘wow’ed’ by this place.
The glimpse we had - though hasty - of its historical places left us wanting to know more about it: the conflicts that make up its history, how that ‘real’ history meshes with the Biblical version. . .we needed to fill in some blanks and answer some questions.
And one of the best books we’ve found to do that, is the book pictured to the right by Simon Sebag Montefiore.
At 704-pages it is not a light read in any sense of the phrase. But it is an easy read and a fascinating journey.
Middle East. . .
|Wadi Rum - Jordan|
She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. – Amazon books
Our fascination with the Middle East continues, even now, months after our introduction to it on that Magic Carpet Ride of a cruise last year.
While images of Lawrence of Arabia came to mind while we traveled there, it wasn't until this year that we read about Gertrude Bell. I have to admit that it was not until I was channel surfing for movies aboard a transatlantic flight a few months ago, and landed on one called,“Queen of the Desert”
starring Robert Pattison and Nicole Kidman, released in 2015, had I ever heard of Gertrude Bell and her mark on history.
After reading this book, I don't think the movie does justice to this woman’s amazing adventures and contributions! Before she conquered the desert she climbed a few mountains. Too bad they didn’t have ‘blogs’ back then – hers would have had millions of followers.
Egypt. . .
|Diwa Bookstore - Cairo, Egypt - a must for visitors|
I know many of you swear by your Kindles and electronic books, but for us there is nothing better than discovering a bookstore in a new city and spending a good deal of time there looking at covers, flipping through pages. That was the case with Diwa Bookstore
in the Zamelik district of Cairo
. We couldn’t resist buying three of the oh, so many, titles that tempted. . .many by writers of whom we’d never heard of before but whom we've since found on Amazon (so you don't need to go to Cairo to find the book).
This sweeping novel depicts the intertwined lives of an assortment of Egyptians--Muslims and Copts, northerners and southerners, men and women--as they begin to settle in Egypt's great second city, and explores how the Second World War, starting in supposedly faraway Europe, comes crashing down on them, affecting their lives in fateful ways.
Central to the novel is the story of a striking friendship between Sheikh Magd al-Din, a devout Muslim with peasant roots in northern Egypt, and Dimyan, a Copt with roots in southern Egypt, in their journey of survival and self-discovery. - Amazon books
This book may have been one of the best ‘reads’ we’ve had this year. The other two books, not novels, pictured above, were also excellent. On the left, ‘The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family’s Exodus from Cairo to the New World” (2008) is written by Lucette Lagnado about her family’s relocation to the United States from Cairo. An amazing tale.
“Six Days: How the 1967 War Shaped the Middle East” is an almost hour-by-hour look at the six day war that took place way back when we were too young to understand war or how it would shape the Middle East. Written by Jeremy Bowen, who from 1995 – 2000 was the BBC’s Middle East Correspondent, the book is a must for anyone trying to understand what has led to today’s conflicts there. It doesn't provide all the answers, but it certainly puts them in perspective.
Australia. . .
|Sydney Opera House from our cruise ship deck|
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. – Amazon Books
To tell you much more about this novel than the summary by Amazon would simply tell you too much about the plot. A friend loaned this to me while we were in Greece and I am ever so glad she did.
This has to be one of the most powerful, and yet dark, books – a look at love and at human nature; good versus bad – that I’ve read in a long time. A bit of a tear-jerker as well.
One of the most unusual narratives and the setting so remote. . .you actually could feel the loneliness. . .
Seattle. . .
|Seattle as seen from a ferry on Puget Sound|
Inara Erickson is exploring her deceased aunt's island estate when she finds an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in the house. As she peels back layer upon layer of the secrets it holds, Inara's life becomes interwoven with that of Mei Lein, a young Chinese girl mysteriously driven from her home a century before. -- Amazon books
This book has a 4.5 star out of 5 rating on Amazon with more than 600 reviews, so don’t just take our word for how good this first-novel by Seattle writer, Kelli Estes
, is! Another friend gave me this book for Christmas and again I am so glad she did.
Amazon’s review doesn’t do justice to the book that tells an amazing love story based on real life tragedies in this city’s past. Just as Jamie Ford’s “The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet”
told of the injustices committed her against the Japanese in Seattle during World War II, Estes tells of the treatment of the Chinese immigrants through a narrative that bounces between the present and the late 1800's.
Greece. . .
|Entryway at our Stone House on the Hill|
Sofia’s love life has ended in disaster. Having lost her London home, she now lives with and cares for her Greek grandmother, matriarch of the family, astute business woman, and widow of an English man. Sofia hears stories from the past, of her grandparents’ meeting and life in the remote coastal village of Galini on the Greek island of Tritinos. When her grandmother dies, she bequeaths to Sofia the family house in Galini, with one condition attached. -- Amazon Books
Now you didn't think I could leave out Greece, did you?
Long-time readers of Travelnwrite
will remember the English writer and his editor wife, Bill and Val Kitson
, who we met by chance several years ago on Crete’s southern coast in a tiny village called Loutro. We’ve stayed in touch and since the initial meeting have rendezvoused in that village to celebrate Greek Easter a short time ago.
While Bill has any number of novels to his Bill Kitson name, he also writes as William Gordon. And some of those 'pen name' novels are set in Greece, like Watering the Olives
. Late last year were honored to have him select a photo of mine of our Stone House on the Hill
to be the cover photo of his Greek novel, Sofia’s House
If you just need a bit of romance on a Greek island -- with a plot twist or two thrown in -- this is the book for you!
That’s a bit of our ‘summer arm chair travels'. How about you? Any good novel – or not-so-novel – destinations to recommend to others? Send us an email with the name of the book, the author (where and how to buy it) and why you recommend it. If I get enough responses, I’ll do another post featuring your recommendations for arm chair travels.
Again, we appreciate the time you spend with us. Thanks for sharing our posts on FB! Hope your summer is going well and that your travels continue to be healthy and safe. See you next week – bring some friends and family with you!
Disclaimer: In the beginning I displayed books to purchase from Amazon on this site, then I realized I was simply taking up valuable blog space. I am technically still an Amazon Associate - however, I've never sold a book thus never earned a dime. So I am recommending these books because they are good reads in our opinion - not because I am trying to make a few pennies off a sale of a book.
Linking this week with:
Through My LensOur World TuesdayWordless WednesdayTravel Photo Thursday – Photo Friday Weekend Travel Inspiration