I love this: the newest trend in travelling is ‘Literary Tourism’, or making a pilgrimage to the birthplaces of your favorite authors or the sites of their books. As this article from the Atlantic details, it is certainly a gentler way to vacation than doing a bike tour or even schlepping from tourist attraction to attraction. Those who do it probably come away feeling like they are pretty smart too – which is a nice incentive as well.
Literary tourism of a sort has of course existed for a long time. People take a look at the birthplace of Charles Dickens when in Portsmouth in Hampshire, England, or they go to Pont Neuf in Paris to show their kids where Madeline from the chlldren’s book series played on the edge (I’ve done that). Now, however, cities are kicking things up a notch by getting organized.
Boston, a very literary city, is first out of the gate with a ‘cultural district’ that encompasses the homes of Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Henry James, Sylvia Path and David Hughes and others, all of whom apparently lived within a walkable district of each other. Boston hotels are also trying to get in on the act, with one, the Taj Boston, claiming that Tennessee Williams revised a Streetcar Named Desire on the site. The Atlantic article pokes fun at the idea of a literary theme park, which only means that the writer has not been to Prince Edward Island.
Prince Edward Island was of course the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote the beloved Anne of Green Gables series of books. If you go to the Cavendish area of the province where she lived, or really any area of it, you will see Anne everything, from dolls to candy bars. And yes, you can visit the author’s home and the site that inspired the books but you can also partake in a recreation of the town portrayed in the books (complete with dressed up characters), as well as a small Green Gables themed amusement part and waterpark too if I recall correctly. Go in summer and a musical of the book plays every year (highly recommended by the way). Tourists come by the plane full from all over, but especially from Japan where the book is very popular.
Literary tourism is a great idea, and it is one that cities and towns can run with fairly easily. No one may actually make a holiday out of going to Wingham, Ontario to see the birthplace of author Nobel-prize winning author Alice Munro, but the town has hopes they may persuade some to make a side trip from Toronto to visit.