While they say that books can take you far and wide without you moving, it is only because those who wrote them travelled to faraway corners in search of exciting stories. From Cartagena in Colombia to Tokyo in Japan, many cities—big and small, famous and not—have set the stage for literary greats to base their tales on. And reading about them and getting to know them through the characters’ lens has always been regarded as a more intimate way to learn about the city. If you have already travelled to these destinations before or want a unique guide tailored perfectly for a slow and senior travel-friendly journey, read on:
Dublin, Ireland, for James Joyce
For senior readers, Dublin is a mine of incredible experiences, especially if James Joyce still holds the top rank in your list of favourite authors. Add to that the sleepy, picturesque localities that make Dublin, and you’ve found just the correct destination for a relaxing literary getaway. First published in 1914, there’s no better guide to the city than “Dubliners.” The short story series combines the city’s best and worst between its pages and paints Dublin’s image in its most accurate colours. After discovering the city through this novel, a trail planned around the spots mentioned in “Ulysses” (1922) only completes the experience. From both these pertinent works, some notable places around Dublin are the Howth Head (a peninsula located northeast of Dublin), the National Library of Ireland, O’Connell Bridge, and almost every pub you visit while taking the city on foot. With so many museums and libraries to visit, Dublin makes for a culturally immersive experience for senior travellers.
Tokyo, Japan, for Haruki Murakami
Tokyo has enough to make travellers want to head there already. But if you love Murakami’s books, you have one extra reason to plan a trip there. The neon-washed city, which perfectly blends old and new, has been extensively discovered by Murakami in his novels—from hidden bars to unknown gardens, he’s found them all. If you begin bookmarking all the places he mentions in his different books, you will end up with the best offbeat guide to the city. In Shinjuku City, spend a slow evening with a drink of your choice at the Dug Jazz Cafe and Bar, frequented by “Norwegian Wood” protagonist Watanabe and his friend Midori Kobayashi. For a quiet day out, head to Inokashira Onshi Park in Kichijōji, a serene location perfect for senior travellers to spend a pleasant day amidst nature. The garden found a worthy mention in “Sputnik Sweetheart.”
Naples, Italy, for Elena Ferrante
Italy’s romantic coast is fascinating in its own right. But author Elena Ferrante’s description of it in “My Brilliant Friend” and the following three books imbue it with brighter colours and more charm, especially in the Rione Luzzatti neighbourhood. Following Elena Ferrante’s trail through the island of Ischia is best suited for senior travellers who want to travel slowly, soak in the sun, or simply spend the day people-watching. Around Naples, set in the protagonist’s footsteps and head to Piazza Trieste e Trento and Piazza dei Martiri for a bite of some timeless creations. Via Mezzocannone’s Dante & Descartes bookshop is a must-visit for senior travellers and readers who are fans of classics.
Cartagena, Colombia, for Gabriel García Márquez
While Bogota gets a lot of attention, book lovers and, more essentially, fans of Gabriela García Márquez, or “Gabo” (as Colombians call him), should stop in Cartagena. The best way to explore Cartagena for senior travellers is to do what Gabo did–aimlessly stroll through the pastel-coloured and laidback city. Cartagena didn’t simply inspire the fictional town of “Macondo” in his most notable work, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” but it was also the revered author’s home.
He was known to idle away evenings sitting at many public plazas, especially around Ciudad Amurallada, Cartagena’s colonial part. While visitors are not allowed inside, you can take in the minimal beauty of Gabo’s house, located on Calle del Curato. You must also stop by the Watch Tower Square, which was vaguely referred to in another notable work, “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Next, head to Cartagena’s Cathedral for its beauty and significance in the novel. There’s no better way to end a tour around Cartagena inspired by the great than to dine at La Vitrola, the author’s favourite dining spot.