August is slowly winding down, and with it the lazy days of summer. But there’s still time for one more staycation!
How about a bookworm’s visit to Holland, on a bus tour? With a bunch of delightfully cantankerous and strong-willed seniors? Tulips, bicycles, windmills, Amsterdam’s Red Light District and those “coffee shops.” It all makes for great sightseeing, is easy on the wallet, and is all very comfy when spent in your favorite armchair.
Added plus: “A surprising number of homicidal maniacs treat themselves to really nice holiday tours.” So says Emily Andrew-Miceli, a former kindergarten teacher turned professional tour guide.
Catch up with Andrew-Miceli in Dutch Me Deadly (2012), the seventh in the Passport To Peril Mystery series, as she escorts her usual gang of Iowans (including granny) on an eight-day drive-a-thon.
Dutch Me Deadly is a bit of a triumph for author Maddy Hunter, who bases her murder mysteries on her own miserable – but in hindsight, rather funny — travel disasters. The book’s a triumph because the series was cancelled in 2007 – but then a new publisher came acalling a few years later, resurrecting the series because of reader demand.
Dutch Me Deadly features a body (and then a few more), plus a visit from the amateur sleuth’s ex-husband (who has, in the meantime, become her ex-wife), plus a cast of tourists and locals, all of whom might have done it. And visits to landmarks that will warm the cockles of a stay-at-home tourist.
Nature lovers and camping fans may prefer Discovering Eden: A Lifetime of Paddling Arctic Rivers (2003), narrated by a devoted environmentalist who takes paying customers on two-week-long xtreme canoeing trips in Canada’s far north. No one has died so far, writes Alex M. Hall, no doubt crossing his fingers as he jotted down those words. There have been close calls: “The Barrens will keep you young or kill you before your time,” he writes. You’ll drop at least a pound a day on Hall’s gruelling trips.
Hall began his professional life as an academic, then fell in love with the North and has never looked back. He canoed rivers that no one had travelled for decades, fuzzy unknowns on maps (“although no rapids were marked… we encountered them by the dozens”), skimming across lakes that have no names.
A huge spiral of smoke turns out to be millions of flying gnats – perhaps a reason that thousands of caribou migrate every year. Hall has walked along with them.
Discovering Eden is a nature lover’s travelogue. As his company takes off, Hall folds in stories of tourists (both good and bad) and how they coped with enforced close quarters while surrounded by grizzlies, wolverines and merciless black flies.
There’s also some history, both Native and European. John Hornby starved in 1927, a victim of his own incompetence. As for Hall’s travels, “Along one series of rapids I found some canoe-patching material – two rolls of birch bark that had probably been dropped by some party of Dene in the 19th century. It was possible I was the first canoeist to pass this way since.”
Hall ends with an environmentalist’s lament over the state of Canada’s North – mining, climate change and increased tourism (to which Hall has contributed, of course), plus political disinterest, have combined to damage the ecosystem in ways that may not be repairable.
No one said that all vacations are perfect.
For something even closer to home – down the street! – flip through Les Noms De Rues De Sherbrooke (1825-1980). Andree Desilets’ guide to the city’s neighbourhoods is paved in history.
Some 800 street names are explained.
Naming streets gives insight into what movers and shakers considered important – whose politics, money and achievements mattered. And, when names were changed, who had fallen out of favour.
In fact this is a Quebec government agency publication, which shows how important naming is to the modern Quebec psyche. Wander through your ‘hood – whether in real time or in your mind’s eye – and discover who mattered, when, and why.
Les Noms Des Rues is filed in the Eastern Townships Reference Collection. Dutch Me Deadly is in Adult Fiction (filed by author); Discovering Eden is in Adult Non-Fiction at 797.1.
Can’t find something? Just ask!
– Eleanor Brown, August 16, 2013