Monterey Public Library Blog

FEBRUARY 13, 2008
Vacation Reading from England and Scotland

Coming back from vacation last week I was really excited to share my experiences with my friends at the Library. I was surprised to realize how many literary experiences I had. It gives me the opportunity to share some of my favorite authors on the blog:

Some fellow travelers at our Bed and Breakfast pointed out that there is a special walking tour in Edinburgh just for Ian Rankin, and Inspector Rebus mystery fans. I had not read any of his books, but, influenced by the evocative atmosphere of Edinburgh, I picked one up at a bookstore there. Fleshmarket Alley is set in an actual "close" right off of the Royal Mile.

One of my favorite suspense novels, Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, was based on Deacon Brodie, a furniture maker in Olde Edinburgh. I discovered this when wandering down the "Royal Mile" between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace and saw a plaque with a story about him. He apparently designed the scaffold by which he was eventually hung.

"the elephant house" coffee house

During the same walk, we ran across a plain-looking coffee shop, which had an intriguing sign on the front: "Birthplace of Harry Potter." It turns out, the Elephant Coffee Bar was where J.K. Rowling spend cold days writing the Harry Potter novels before she was well-off enough to afford the heat for her apartment. I could certainly see the attraction of the place which overlooks a landmark graveyard, the Greyfriars Kirkyard, and has a prime view of the Edinburgh Castle right out the window. A newspaper article on the wall explains that J.K. Rowling also completed the very last pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the expensive and palatial Balmoral Hotel across town. That was very satisfying to me since I am a big fan and believe she has earned and fully deserves to be staying in the gorgeous Balmoral Hotel.

England was the setting for more Harry Potter adventures. In Durham, England, we saw Severus Snape’s classroom from the films, and Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station in London. They are part of the everyday scenery there and many are proud to show it off to tourists.

When we visited Durham England in Northumberland, we discovered another one of our favorite authors enjoys being there, too. Bill Bryson is, in fact, Chancellor of the University of Durham. He wrote one of his books about England, Notes from a Small Island.

Taking along the book Pillars of the earth by Ken Follett, enriched my sightseeing when I visited many cathedrals and churches in various styles in England. It also made me appreciate the lives of people who built these impressive buildings without modern machinery. It also helped make the multi-hour plane trip go by a little faster. There’s a sequel, too, which just came out last year, World without end

Seeing places from some of my old favorite books and authors and learning about some new favorites made me want to check out something on my list to prolong my vacation as soon as I got back.

 

Add a comment  (2 comments) posted by Mariann

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Comments

PG Mom said, on Feb. 15 at 9:20PM
Lucky traveler! Thank you for making feel like I was on your trip, too. Do you know why JK Rowlings writing place is called the 'elephant' coffee bar? were there elephants in the decor or is that one of those words that means something else completely in another place?

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Mariann said, on Feb. 18 at 12:34PM
No, it doesn't mean anything special, that I know of. There were cool elephants decorating the coffee house, but the best thing there was a beautiful view out the window of the Edinburgh Castle and the Greyfriars Kirkyard, a graveyard with very old stones where they buried the brothers from a nearby monastery. It also includes a special dog who slept on his master's grave for 12 years. "Bobby" is commemorated by the statue outside the churchyard near the Elephant Coffee House. THanks for asking!

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