Travel Tales: A Literary Trip (Guest Post)

travel tails feature with rather be reading, alexa loves books, and novel soundsGuys, I am so excited to introduce you to Mary and Elizabeth, the sisterly duo behind My Sister’s Bookshelf. They rate and review an eclectic collection of books, which lead to healthy discussions in their comment section — which is so awesome. I’m so happy to have them take part in our Travel Tales August event. I hope you enjoy hearing about some of their book-related travels. I know I did!

My Sister's Bookshelf

When Estelle reached out to us to participate in this travel-themed month, we were so excited! First, we love Estelle and Magan’s blog. Theirs is just the sort of blog that we are working towards being!

Second, we love travel. And we’ve done a lot of it. This theme is right in our wheelhouse! Totally inspired, we thought we’d each tell a few reading and travel related stories for y’all…


When I graduated from college, I asked our parents to send myself and Elizabeth on a trip as a graduation present.

The trip started in a country that is just begging to be mentioned here: Ireland. Here ye book lovers! Ireland is the place for you!

My Sister's Bookshelf

(It’s really beautiful too!)

I generally try to coordinate my reading with my destination when traveling. I bugged Elizabeth by getting all excited by everything James Joyce when we visited Dublin, toting Dubliners along with me the entire time. And get this: Ireland has a national holiday – that people actually celebrate! – devoted to James Joyce! It’s called Bloomsday. I swoon for the entire country even though we missed the holiday!

Dublin also has a pretty cool statue of him. I regret that neither of us posed in this picture!

My Sister's Bookshelf

Other times, I’ve been inspired to visit places because I’ve previously read about them in books. Again in Ireland with Elizabeth, I made sure we visited Connemara because I had just read A Skull in Connemara by Martin McDonagh in a Modern Drama class I had taken in college. It was cold. And windy. But it was also gorgeous!

My Sister's Bookshelf

Our brand new scarves, goofy hats, and umbrella (always the umbrella!) were no match for Connemara. But it was still a lot of fun!

Ireland is just the tip of the iceburg in terms of fabulous places we have been lucky enough to visit together. But I would be remiss if I ignored two recent trips I’ve taken, sadly without my sister! Both involved authors’ homes…

This spring, I went on a small pilgrimage to visit The Orchards, Louisa May Alcott’s home in Concord, MA. And it was so great! Totally fascinating and definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.*

Orchard House (photo taken from the Orchard House website)

*We also visited Walden Pond. A great literature-inspired travel site except… I haven’t read Walden! I’ve only read “Civil Disobedience” and, though I believe it has similar elements, it’s not the same!

I was more disappointed by a visit to Hemingway’s home in Key West, which I had long wanted to see. The house is very cool – don’t get me wrong – and the six-toed cats are unique indeed. It’s neat to see exactly where Hemingway sat to write classics like A Farewell to Arms. But the visits aren’t structured to be educational – they are more for entertainment. Entertainment is perfectly satisfactory for most people, but I am annoying! I like information! Hemingway’s house is still a must-see if you’re in Key West, but it mostly left me frustrated and in major need of a good Hemingway biography. (Can anyone suggest one?)

Hemingway House in Key West (photo from the Hemingway House website)

 All of these small trips are really just filler as I wait for my dream literary-inspired vacation: Prince Edward Island! Yes! I’ve been trying to convince various and sundry friends and – let’s face it – bare acquaintances, to go there with me for what feels like forever! I think Elizabeth will be up for it, right?



Mary makes it sound like she’s dragged me to all these places, but this is simply not the case. 🙂 I’m always up for travel, especially when it connects with things from my daily life such as books and movies.

I can even remember the first time a book and trip coincided for me. I was about eleven and reading a book set in Canyon de Chelly for school over spring break (reading homework was the only homework I ever did ahead of time). As a family we were doing a road trip in the southwest, seeing Arches National Park, the Grand Canyon, and, of course, Canyon de Chelly. We could see ruins from afar, and I imagined my protagonist living there and seeing what I saw (though I probably didn’t know what the word protagonist meant at that age I will admit). I can’t say that this sparked a love of travel or of reading in me though, because those loves were already much ingrained. I really wish I could remember the name of that book though, because I really enjoyed it. Any guesses?

Ansel Adams photo of Canyon de Chelly (via Wikipedia)

What Mary did not mention earlier about our trip to Dublin is that it also involved a trip to the Dublin Writers Museum AND a literary pub crawl (which was awesome!).

My Sister's Bookshelf

Mary should have known better than to take me to the Writers Museum because I’m really slow at going through museums. She says I’m the only person she knows who has to read everything in a museum, and that’s just in an art museum. She practically had to drag me out of there. I loved it!

We visited Dublin in 2006, which just happened to be the 100th anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s birth. Needless to say there was Samuel Beckett stuff everywhere and especially in the Trinity library, which is an absolutely gorgeous library!

Pic Mary surreptitiously snatched at the library…

I have a friend studying at Trinity and she apparently got to go behind the ropes somewhere in the library to get to the Manuscript department for some research she was doing. I’m so jealous! Of course she also has to walk past a crypt of some sort to do her laundry…

Another thing Mary did not mention before is that Hemingway bought our great-grandmother a drink. Actually, he bought her two. The story goes that Momsey and Gramps were in Cuba on vacation. One afternoon, Momsey went down to a bar near the docks to wait for my grandfather to return from fishing. Hemingway struck up a converstation with her and bought her a drink while she waited. And liked her enough that he did so again the next day when she came back to wait again. We’re also pretty sure that she didn’t recognize who he was, though she knew he was a writer from their conversation.

Ernest Hemingway in the cabin of his boat Pilar, off the coast of Cuba (via Wikipedia)

I totally agree with Mary though that our next literary trip should be to Prince Edward Island!! I’m totally dying to go! How about Labor Day?


 Much thanks to Mary and Elizabeth with providing such an awesome guest post! Now go find them!

My Sister’s Bookshelf | a shared obsession with reading | website | twitter

Don’t forget to stop by Alexa Loves Books & Novel Sounds for their Travel Tales posts as well!

9 thoughts on “Travel Tales: A Literary Trip (Guest Post)

  1. Leah says:

    Oh my gosh, they both sound lovely! Yay for Hemingway, yay for traveling, yay for literary pub crawls!

    Mary: not sure where you guys are from, but if you enjoy visiting authors’ homes (especially when they’re informative!), I’d definitely recommend stopping by the Poe House & Museum. Luckily for me, Baltimore is only a few hours away (Pittsburgh native!). Although the house is extremely teensy, there’s lots to look at and the curators are always more than happy to chat. 🙂 I actually just got back from a visit last week.

    Elizabeth: That makes two of us who need to read everything in museums!

  2. Mary @ My Sisters Bookshelf says:

    Leah- Poe’s house is on the list! Ive also been assured Hemingway’s can be more informative – it’s very guide dependant apparently. I still think LMA’s is the real winner! Ive seen Poe’s room at UVA and Baltimore is on the east coast, just like me! This obviously needs to happen…

    Perhaps instead of watching the new John cusack Poe movie which is kind of freaking me out?!

    When she is listening to an audio guide in a museum, not only does Ebeth go through every entry fully, she always clicks through to the supplements. It’s ridiculous. And has become a part of family lore. Never let Elizabeth near an audio guide!

    Thanks for the sweet comments guys! We really appreciated them!

  3. Kristen Evey says:

    Take me with you P.E.I.!!! And then leave me there so I can live out my days in that beautifulness. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your travels with us, Mary & Elizabeth! That’s so awesome that you got to travel together. I love, love, love Ireland so much! It’s a place I’ve been wanting to go since I knew about different countries as a child, and I was so fortunate to be able to do that a few years ago. I went to Belfast and the countryside in that area. SO pretty. I’ll definitely cherish those days forever.

    Sigh. I love these travel posts, but goshdarnit, now I want to go to ALL THE PLACES!

  4. Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books says:

    This has got to be one of the most fascinating posts in our Travel Tales series and thank you for sharing girls! I am SO JEALOUS that you’ve been to Ireland – it’s one of my dream places to visit. I love the stories you both shared and I wish you many more happy travels to come!

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