Anna Devie explores a different style of travel: retracing the steps of novels and those who wrote them.

The Ernest Hemingway Museum

Different people choose different holiday destinations for different reasons.  There are fans who like to visit the places that are related to particular writers or their books. By visiting the places where the favourite writer lived, worked or wrote about, one can seemingly get closer to him and his literary creations. Some people also go to the places where movies, based on famous books, were filmed.

A very popular destination is in New Zealand: the setting of Hampshire, from The Lord of the Rings. Another movie, that has a lot of fun, is Harry Potter. Many Colleges in Oxford proudly show the places where Harry Potter was filmed. There are even organised tours around the town that lead the tourists to all these places and explain which scene was filmed where. Seeing the setting in the real life and making connections with the movie is exciting. Also, in Oxford, there is a little shop opposite Christ Church, called Alice’s shop. It was formerly frequented in Victorian Times by Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. This shop was featured as an Old Sheep Shop in his book Through the Looking-Glass. Now the shop sells gifts and souvenirs based on Alice. For example a mug with the Cheshire cat, who disappears when the hot water is poured into the mug, but his grin stays.

For the lovers of American literature there are various places to visit. There is a museum of Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum located on the West bank of Mississippi, in Hannibal, Missouri. This is a small town, 160 km northwest of St Louis. The town is a boyhood home of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, and it is a setting for his The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The whole town enjoys the revenues from the tourism. Furthermore, of the Key West there is the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. It is a house in which he lived and wrote from 1931 to 1939. It was in this house that Hemingway did some of his best works, including the short story classics The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy life of Francis Macomber, the final draft to A Farewell to Arms and To Have and Have Not, the novel about Key West and Cuba. Now the house is populated by six and seven toed cats. They are claimed to be descendants from the Hemingway’s cats despite the fact that Hemingway owned cats in Cuba, not in Key West. Flocks of tourists from all over the world visit the place. Ironically, Hemingway did not like the place. His sons who inherited the place did not know how to split it so they sold it. With a bit of entrepreneurial thinking the lady opened a museum there.

Hemingway's Books

One of the many (related?) cats

Surely, there are so many iconic places that people visit to get closer to the works of literature. But does it worth it? Probably seeing a place depicted in a book and feeling its atmosphere can give a better understanding of the writer and his work. But I wonder what would the writers though if find out how many people took photos in their studios and bedrooms. It is also doubtful, that those writers were trotting globe in order to see the habitats of their colleagues. It seems like these museums are simply commercial exploitation of the names that live off the tours and souvenirs selling revenues.


Anna Devie