From iconic spots in Maine to quiet spots in London, and markets of New England to railway maps of the world, here are four books to help plan your travels.
Maine Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Pine Tree State
Globe Pequot Press, $16.95
To be considered a true Mainer, or so goes the consensus, not only must you be born in Maine - you must have roots in the state for at least three generations. Otherwise you will be branded "from away."
Undaunted, two fearless nonnatives, Jennifer Smith-Mayo and Matthew P. Mayo, have put together descriptions of what they consider the 50 iconic symbols that best epitomize the state. They range from the expected (lighthouses, lobster, chowder) to the unexpected (Maine's female senators: Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and the late Margaret Chase Smith) to the delightful (the comical little birds known as puffins).
Some of the choices are just plain fun, such as the inclusion of Stephen King, the Portland-born best-selling author. The Wyeth family is included, too - Andrew Wyeth's famous painting, Christina's World, was set in Cushing, Maine - as are famous historic figures, such as Civil War Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Of course, L.L. Bean is included; its flagship store in Freeport remains open 24 hours a day.
Markets of New England
Little Bookroom, $15.95
From Maine to Connecticut, author Christine Chitnis profiles the best markets in New England. To be included in this lovely little book, the markets must be conveniently located near a town, have to be operated by a local organization, and should benefit the farmers and craftspeople who are selling the products.
It's not all veggies, though. In addition to produce, the Belfast Farmers Market in Belfast, Maine, for example, also sells such items as blueberry tea, pastries, and fresh seafood. One of the more unusual gatherings, the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival, held in early October in Tunbridge, Vt., celebrates the fiber arts.
Farmers markets in the big cities are here too, such as the Boston Copley Square Farmers Market. Also included are arts festivals that welcome local artists and craftspeople, plus food festivals, including the Farm Fresh Rhode Island Local Food Fest. Sustainable Nantucket's Farmers & Artisans Market makes the lineup. Sponsored by Sustainable Nantucket, a company whose mission is to preserve the character of the community, the vendors live there at least part time, and all items are grown or produced on the island.
Frances Lincoln, $16.95
There are more people living in London - about 7.5 million - than in any other European city, which raises the question: Where can you find peace and quiet in this overwhelmingly noisy and overcrowded metropolis? The answer, rather surprisingly, is most everywhere - if you know where to look.
Siobhan Wall guides you on a search for peace and quiet all over London. She ranges from restaurants that don't play background music and quiet gardens, parks, and nature reserves to libraries, small galleries, and retreat centers and small shops, cafes, delicatessens, and bookshops. Wall focuses on mostly unknown yet delightful places. She includes stops at the houses of famous writers and statesmen (Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Johnson, and even Benjamin Franklin) and at places of worship (chapels, synagogues, Tibetan peace gardens, Quaker meeting houses, Buddhist centers).
The book is full of pleasant surprises. The Saison Poetry Library, for example, is hidden in the famous Royal Festival Hall. Little known except by locals is Hilly Fields, a park in south London that features a small stone circle intended to recall the area's ancient past.
Among other unusual sites is Waterloo Body Station, a small center that offers massage and complimentary health-related therapies near the Waterloo station, one of Britain's busiest railway stops. Similarly, the London Centre for Spirituality is housed in a church designed by the great English architect Sir Christopher Wren. She also features quiet places to stay, including small and independently owned hotels.
She discusses not only some of the most civilized (read: quiet) places to have afternoon tea, but also where to enjoy quiet time in pubs and wine bars, where piped-in music, television, jukeboxes, and cellphones are not allowed. A must for anyone who prefers the quiet side of London.
Railway Maps of the World
Mark Ovenden, author of Transit Maps of the World, is at it again, this time with a handsome, richly illustrated book that is a loving homage to railways and the art of mapmaking.
Ovenden covers the evolution of the railroad from the Liverpool and Manchester Railway of 1820 to the proposed high-speed rails in China set to begin operation in the 2020s. Given the sheer number of railroads around the world, the author acknowledges that the book cannot include every rail map that ever existed. Instead, he includes a representation of the variety of railroads in the most "prolific" countries, namely Canada, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia.
He includes at least one map from each country where passenger rail services operate, noting his bias toward maps with "aesthetic appeal." He discusses how the rails shaped continents and even how cartographers misrepresented the world for political gain. The volume reprints gorgeous ads, travel posters, and surveyors' maps while presenting some of the world's greatest rail routes, such as the Orient Express.
The concluding section is an atlas with the official national railroad map of every country where passenger rail service operates, from Africa ("the least connected continent") and the Americas to Asia ("tracking across the largest land mass") to Europe ("the crisscrossed continent") and finally to Oceania, where just two rail networks survive. He also discusses how so many railroads in the United States and other countries were wiped off the map, victims of the power and popularity of the auto industry.
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June 12: Online Traveler
June 19: Game Traveler