Top Travelogues

There is a seemingly endless number of travelogues to choose from to inspire your journeys. Let’s be honest, it’s the best topic to write on. Travel transforms people, so it’s no wonder that it makes for such good stories. Plus, from time immemorial, tales of faraway lands have captivated the human imagination. Here are a few we love to read for your next flight.

The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain


Chronicling Twain’s trip around the Mediterranean in 1867 with a group of Americans aboard the chartered ship Quaker City, the book is cobbled together from newspaper columns Twain wrote about the journey. Twain contrasts the attitude of America, where everything is new and history is being written in real time with the focus on the past he encountered in Europe and the Holy Land. He also critiques tour guides, recognizing what makes a good one and what doesn’t, something we all can learn from. He does it all with the humorous insight only he possessed.

Travels with Myself and Another, Martha Gellhorn


Perhaps most well-known as the third wife of Ernest Hemingway, Gellhorn was a talented travel writer and war correspondent in her own right and has a journalism award named after her. She and Hemingway (the titular other) fell in love while covering the Spanish Civil War, and Gellhorn covered conflict from then to the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. This memoir highlights some of the not-so-great aspects of travel — the tediousness of getting from Point A to Point B, the havoc travel can wreak on the digestive tract — along with the awe: “I saw, drugged with sleep and shivering, the great African sky which I have been seeking — a riot of stars, velvet black, felt as an arch, and the air seeming to glint with starshine,” she recounts.

A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle


Mayle and his wife moved to Provence, and this book details the first year. For every beautiful meal washed down with the perfect wine pairing, there is a cold wind or a harsh lesson in the relatively lax work ethic of handymen. All in all, it’s a lighthearted fish-out-of-water account that conveys the lesson that life is better when you take it easy, even if your projects might never get completed. There are more important things than working your fingers to the bone to meet the constant deadlines of the modern workaday world.

West With the Night, Beryl Markham


Markham grew up in colonial Kenya (then British East Africa), where she began her flying career as a bush pilot and befriended Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa. In 1936, she became the first woman to fly solo westward across the Atlantic, after several predecessors had died in the attempt. The westward transatlantic flight is harder because the wind is against you. When her fuel tank vents iced over, she crash-landed in Nova Scotia. West With the Night details these experiences in lively prose. A telltale anecdote about Markham’s rebellion against social norms, an ex-husband of hers tried to claim he wrote most of the book, despite evidence that Markham submitted a partial manuscript to a publisher before meeting him.

The Travels of Marco Polo, Rustichello da Pisa


If you have to be imprisoned, hearing some good stories to pass the time is as good as you can hope for. As cellmates go, Marco Polo might have been the best. While they were locked up together in Genoa, Polo shared tales of his travels with the author Rustichello, who wrote them down. While there is likely some embellishment, the book is a vivid account of Polo’s journeys through Asia, including service at the court of Kublai Khan. It went as viral as anything could in the days before the printing press, inspiring countless explorers.

Must-See Spring Blooms

Depending on where you live, it might not yet be evident, but it is officially Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Soon enough, birdsongs will fill the air and everything will be in blossom. While there is an abundance of festivals celebrating the renaissance of greenery, these places’ blooms are among the best.

 

Washington, D.C.

Peaking near the end of March, the famed cherry blossoms turn the Tidal Basin into a dazzling canvas of pink and white. Gifts from Japan more than a century ago, the cherry trees have come to symbolize the start of spring in our nation’s capital. There are nearly 4,000 trees in 11 varieties near the National Mall, and peak bloom is expected this week. The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs until April 15.

 

Japan

The ancestral home of D.C.’s cherry trees, Japan has several areas throughout its islands that are great for viewing sakura. Utilizing the bullet train system, visitors can make their quickly from south to north as the warm weather and blooms spread in late March and early April. Set against the backdrop of a 400-year-old, the blossoms in Hirosaki are particularly worth checking out. Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo is a reliable spot thanks to its proliferation of early- and late-blooming trees. Chureito Pagoda in the shadow of Mount Fuji is among the most picturesque spots.

 

The Netherlands

Obsessed with the flower since the Tulip Mania of the 17th century, the Dutch have cultivated the world’s finest tulip garden at Keukenhof in Lisse, South Holland. About 7 million bulbs are planted across 79 acres and pop up in a variety of bright colors. The park opened last week and remains open until May 13. The best time to see the bulbs is usually mid-April, during which time river cruises designed around tulip viewing are in high demand.

 

Morocco

High in the Atlas Mountains, a 6-hour drive from Marrakech lies M’Goun Valley, aka the Valley of Roses. Between April and mid-May, the valley yields 3,000-4,000 tons of wild roses. Used in the production of perfumes, oils, soaps and rose water, the plants have also inspired an annual Rose Festival in May. According to legend, the flowers were introduced to the area by a Berber trader from Damascus, and the sweet-smelling Damask roses are now a highly sought-after prize among France’s top perfumers.

 

France

The lavender fields of Provence aren’t in full bloom until mid-June, but they are more than worth the wait. The Luberon countryside erupts in purples and blues until harvesting is complete in mid-August, filled with gorgeous sights and smells. Charming hill towns such as Aurel and Sault make for a beautiful staging area for a driving tour, and the fields around the Abbey of Senanque are the perfect setting for a photo, so long as you arrive early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the throngs.