10 'novel' travel ideas

10 'novel' travel ideas

Follow in the footsteps of your favorite literary characters with these fictionally inspired trips

Instead of taking a novel with you on your vacation, why not take your vacation to the novel?

Whether it's Anna Karenina on a train from St. Petersburg to Moscow, or Jake Barnes in the dining car from Paris to Pamplona, here are 10 fictional journeys you could easily embark on yourself.


1. Paris to Pamplona, France and Spain

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Pamplona bull runProbably best to be an observer once they let the bulls out in Pamplona.

Jake Barnes enjoys some dissolute Parisian pavement life with his friends before hopping on a train bound for Spain.

You can mimic this with a few glasses of pastis in the Latin quarter before heading to Gare d'Austerlitz for an overnight journey from Paris to Irun or Hendaye on the French-Spanish border, where you will be able to get a connection to Pamplona.

Remember to dine extravagantly on the train, washing down all you eat with several bottles of crisp white wine.

The trip: From Paris to Pamplona on the Lunéa sleeper train.


2. Los Angeles to Las Vegas, United States

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

las vegasGet intoxified, the healthy way, with the sights and sounds of Vegas.
Hire a red Chevy on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, jump in and make for Highway 15, which will take you all the way to Las Vegas.

The drive will take about four hours -- or possibly more if you get into the true spirit of Thompson and his travel companion "the Samoan," who detoured to buy large quantities of alcohol and illegal substances. Of course we don't recommend doing that.

The trip: In a red Chevy from Sunset strip to Las Vegas.


3. Tonomine Highlands, Japan

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

norwegian woodThe love story begins here and proceeds up the Tonomine Highlands.
Head for the Tonomine Highlands in Hyogo prefecture near Kobe, where the wind-swept silver grass makes for an atmospheric backdrop to the tortured love story of Toru and Naoko.

Despite its name, which was inspired by a Beatles song, this novel unfolds in 1960s Japan. Grieving for their mutual friend who has killed himself, Toru and Naoko fall in love but their relationship becomes complicated.

Taking time out from their heartbreak, they get back to nature. 

The trip: From Tokyo's campus life to the wild highlands outside Kobe.


4. Palermo to Bari, Italy

The Ruby in her Navel by Barry Unsworth

the ruby in her navalMagnificent architecture of the Royal Palace of Palermo.
For a journey into 12th-century Sicily, a time when the Normans ruled over a multi-ethnic population on the island, try treading in the footsteps of Thurstan Beauchamp, the administrator to King Roger II who travels from Palermo to Bari and back. 

Along the way he meets the mysterious dancer Nesrin, as well as his childhood sweetheart Lady Alicia, but in this treacherous society, who can he trust?

The trip: From Palermo to Bari via Messina. Don't miss out on the historical streets of Barivecchia and the fantastic Norman architecture at the Royal Palace of Palermo or the Cathedral at Monreale.


5. Changsha to Zhangjiajie, China

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

ZhangjiajieFollow Dai Sijie and soak in the breath-taking scenery of Zhangjiajie.
Two students from the city are sent for re-education by Mao's Communist government, ending up in a remote village in the Pheonix Mountains in the Sky.

There they fall in love with the local tailor's daughter, while also keeping in touch with forbidden culture through a stolen suitcase full of Western literature (including a novel by Honorè de Balzac).

Sijie went on to write and direct the film adaptation of his novel -- filmed in some of the most breath-taking scenery of unspoiled China in the Zhangjiajie Mountains in Hunan province.

The trip: Journey into 1970s Communist China from Changsha, provincial capital of Hunan, to the city of Zhangjiajie from where you can visit the spectacular scenery at UNESCO World Heritage site of Wulingyuan.

6. St. Petersburg to Moscow, Russia

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna KareninaThe train ride that separates rural Russia and high society in Moscow.
Unhappily married Anna first encounters the charismatic Count Vronsky as she steps off a train from St.Petersburg to Moscow.

The couple are eventually consumed by their passion for each other but the train journey between the two Russian cities remains a motif in the novel, symbolizing the distance between Russia's rural muzhiks and the decadent, cruel, high society in Moscow at the end of the 19th century.

The trip: Take an overnight train like Anna, or cut the journey to around four hours on the Sapsan express train.


7. New York to Massachusetts, United States

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Bell JarYou don't need a breakdown to travel from New York to Massachusetts.
This is an exploration of the mind of a young woman suffering a breakdown but there is also a strong sense of place.

New York landmarks such as Madison Avenue, Bloomingdale's and the Barbizon Hotel for Women feature in Esther Greenwood's summer months in the capital.

Back in her home town near Boston, as her condition worsens, Esther visits other East Coast landmarks including Boston Common, Cambridge and Point Shirley.

The trip: Take a drive from New York up the coast to Massachusetts.


8. Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, Vietnam

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Ninh BinhFowler visited Ninh Binh and its spectacular rice fields.
From the atmospheric labyrinth of canals and clubs of old Saigon, where British journalist Thomas Fowler dances with his Vietnamese girlfriend Phuong and becomes involved with an idealistic but misguided American, to the north-Vietnamese town of Phat Diem, a town south of Hanoi, where Fowler goes to report on a massacre during the war in Vietnam.

In between Fowler travels through the country, escaping an attack against a spectacular backdrop of Vietnamese rice fields.

The trip: After exploring Ho Chi Minh City, catch the Reunification Express train northwards to Hanoi or Ninh Binh.


9. Cobham to Bristol, United Kingdom

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

TewkesburyFollow the eccentric Pickwickians to Tewkesbury.
For a taste of old England before the railways were built, follow the route taken by Samuel Pickwick and his three fellow Pickwickians, who visit various towns in England during the 1820s.

The band of eccentric gentlemen stop off at coaching inns, several of which are still in business, such as the The Leather Bottle Inn in Cobham, the Royal Hop Pole in Tewkesbury and the Bush Tavern on Bristol's Corn Street. 

The trip: You won't be able to ride in a horse-drawn coach like Pickwick, but many of the locations are on the mainline railway.


10. Istanbul to Guzel, Turkey

The New Life by Orhan Pamuk

IstanbulEmbark on a new bus journey to a new life.
The narrator is a 22-year-old Osman, who picks up a book that changes his life; he leaves his native Istanbul and travels on provincial buses in search of his friend Janan's lover Mehmet, who has mysteriously disappeared. 

The bus journeys take the pair through small Turkish towns until they end up in Guzel. But along the way they learn about the state of their nation: its conflict with the Kurds, its relationship with Western culture and the extremes of poverty and religion.

The trip: Board a provincial bus in Istanbul and see where your journey takes you.