Armchair travel

One of my favourite aspects of reading is being able to travel without leaving my chair, but sometimes a book’s setting is so evocative that I find myself idly scanning the local travel agent’s window for flights on the way to the supermarket.

Cover of My Real ChildrenSometimes I even get a bit obsessive, flicking through guide books at work and investigating the history of whatever country has captured my interest. I’ve always been this way — a tour through the UK as a child was filled with trips in search of Swallows and Amazons, Beatrix Potter‘s cottage, and A. A. Milne‘s Hundred Acre Woods. I’m a total nerd about literary landscapes.

My most recent obsession was sparked by Jo Walton’s My Real Children. Patricia Gowan, slowly succumbing to dementia, can remember two life histories: did she marry Mark, have four children and an unhappy marriage, but live in a more peaceful world than our own? Or did she meet Bee, have three children and a wonderful relationship, but suffer setbacks and a world filled with war?

I’m always a fan of alternate histories, and the experiences and choices Patricia makes are certainly thought-provoking, but the holidays Patricia spends in Florence were what really grabbed me. In her timeline as a travel writer Patricia and Bee spend a lot of time in Italy, and the descriptions of their summers there — eating gelato from Perché No!, drinking vino bianco in the sun — well, it makes me drool. I’ve even started learning Italian with Mango Languages. Un centinaio di gelati, per favore? And the Art Lover’s Guide to Florence has me trawling the Uffizi Gallery online. I have it bad! Luckily my next read, The Borgias, should cure my Italy obsession.

Are there any books you’ve read that get you filled with wanderlust? Let me know in the comments — especially if flights are cheap!