Considering that literature and travel are two of my favorite things in all the world, it might come as no surprise that I love visiting places or witnessing sights mentioned in novels. For instance, every time I spy a Lucky Dog vendor in the French Quarter, I can’t help but think fondly of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), a posthumously published Pulitzer-prize winner (say that five times fast!) that features the inimitable Ignatius J. Reilly, who, during the course of the novel, briefly sells these ubiquitous hot dogs in downtown New Orleans.
Of course, the Big Easy and its environs frequently appear in popular literature, from classic plays like Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) to horror novels like Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (1976). More than an atmospheric backdrop, New Orleans and the rest of southern Louisiana often become characters of sorts. How could they not – with such rich scenery, history, and personality? And I must admit that I do adore spying some of my favorite haunts within the pages of my favorite books. Cafe Du Monde, for instance – which I mentioned last Monday – shows up in many a James Lee Burke novel, from Burning Angel (1995) to The Tin Roof Blowdown (2007).
Now don’t get me wrong – New Orleans isn’t the only literary locale that gives me a teeny thrill when I spot it in a novel. I remember feeling pretty tickled by the appearance of Chicago’s Field Museum – one of my all-time favorite museums – in Audrey Niffenegger’s debut The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003). And the same thing happened every time I encountered a familiar Roman sight in Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons (2000).
So, when one of my colleagues at Avalon Travel asked me to feature a Washington, D.C., itinerary based on Brown’s latest thriller, The Lost Symbol, on my American Nomad blog, I was more than willing. Admittedly, she made the suggestion over a month ago, when the novel was first released. But, since I don’t feel comfortable featuring books, movies, restaurants, and so forth that I’ve never experienced myself, I naturally had to read the book first. Well, I finally finished it yesterday – which means I was finally able to post a Langdon-tailored D.C. itinerary. Check it out if you have a chance!
In the meantime, I’m eager to know if you’ve ever felt a little thrill upon recognizing a locale in a novel. Or, better yet, have you ever planned a whole trip around your favorite book or series – as some die-hard Harry Potter fans have done in merry ol’ England?
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