A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

An Ordinary Tourist

Note: this blog entry is REALLY about book vs online research. I just always make it about England if I can!

High on the list of things that make me happy would be "Planning a trip to England". I am happy!

The first thing I do upon returning from a trip to England is to begin thinking about the next trip, whether I have any hope of ever going again or not. So when I returned from my 2009 trip with a group of friends, I decided I wanted to spend more time in London and explore East Anglia, but I quite frankly did not expect it to happen. Thanks to a little unexpected windfall and the good graces of my daughter and son-in-law (hereafter to be referred to as 'the kids') I am in the midst of planning my seventh visit to England.

My first trip was in 1986 and it was while planning for it that I began what is now a very substantial collection of books about England. When I came home, thoroughly besotted with England, I collected more books and read everything I could get my hands on...I had already begun thinking about another trip with my daughter for 1989 ostensibly a graduation gift, not that I was fooling anyone.

Overflow from my bookshelves
One of the things that upset me as I did my research was how often during the first trip we had been within a few miles or even a few yards of something I later wished I had seen but didn't know about at the time. The compactness of England, coupled with it's incredible wealth of history and great literature makes this inevitable. Determined not to let this happen again, I began accumulating information in any way I could and - no surprise to anyone who knows me - set up several databases on my new computer. I also began collecting postcards, primarily English views, which also went into a database.
After the 1989 trip it was nine long years before I could manage another and my research in 1997 was almost entirely done on the computer. Countless other Anglo-nerds had spent precious hours and resources setting up websites detailing everything from who is buried where, to the best tearooms or the best fish & chip shops. The big cities all had websites. My trip in 2000 was also researched online, as well as the 2007 trip.

When I started planning about two months ago, I went straight to the computer, but surprisingly, before long I found myself back at my books...many of which I had contemplated getting rid of! Many of the wonderful sites I had used earlier had disappeared or hadn't been updated in years. In their place I found websites for every city, town and even most villages. The problem was, these websites were all about where to stay, eat, or shop. The information on local history or attractions was all about the commercial ventures. I began to suspect that the way to be listed on these sites was to pay for advertising.

So I am back to my books for inspiration. Books like:
     One Thousand Buildings of London
     Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide
     Insiders England
     The English Village
Even a travel series that dates from the 1920's has been tremendously helpful, and browsing my picture books equally so.

Then I take my notes from the books to the computer. Online I find out opening times and entrance fees, parking information and train schedules. I pull up maps and plot our roads from village to village. I zero in and walk the Strand in London. But I never forget that without the books I would just be following in the footsteps of every other ordinary tourist. And I don't ever want to be an ordinary tourist.

My LibraryThing book list (not yet complete) Tere's Books

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