A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller

A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller

Frances Mayes

Bantam Books, 2007

Travel Writing, Bahasa Inggris, 462 hlm.

An exquisite travel writing book! I bought this book way back in 2007, but just had a mood to read it in the end of last year. What a beautiful travel writing book it is! I was so glad that I had found it and so far this piece has been my best travel book ever read.

Frances Mayes, with her husband Ed, took a year off travelling to some exotic places in some parts of the world. They travelled to Andalucia, Portugal, Naples, Taormina, Italy, Fez, Burgundy, The British Isles, Islands of Greece, Crete and Mani, Scotland, Turkey’s Lycian Coast, Capri, and Mantona. One chapter for each destination. Each is told in graceful details, either they are about the place, the people, the history, the architecture, the arts, the poems and poets of that place, the books and litterature, or the cuisines. When it’s about the cuisines, it’s just so Mayes!  I felt like I was travelling with her all the way, not just like common tourists who visit and see the places, but more as a half resident, who stays there at the place and be in touch with the very root culture and traditions.

In Spain, Mayes brings us to Andalucia’s history and its beautiful mosaic patterns. In Portugal, she stayed for a month, enjoyed the famous lisbonian pattiserie and visited some tranquil distant villages. In France, she got in touch with the wine and food region of Burgundy. In England, she explored some lush english gardens. In Greece, she attended a traditional greek wedding and learnt a traditional proverb saying that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. Quite agreed with that! In Turkey, she sailed to some distant coasts and hiked to some long lost archeological sites.  Those are among other things.

At first, seeing the titles of the chapters, I was thinking that I might not find some of the places so interesting, some even I did not know where they were in precise. But I ended up liking all the places so much, as Mayes is so capable in revealing the beauties of a place, whether in the form of history, people, cuisine, colors etc, however dusty or poor the place might seem at first. The type of travelling that Mayes did was more of a lay-back one, stay for quite long time in one place and explore from that base, and not move around hecticly like most travellers might do. For instance, rather than moving around some famous cities in Maroco, she prefered staying for quite some time in Fez, and made it as a base, while doing short trips to other cities. By doing that, she could capture the culture and “experience” the day-to-day living of the Marocan life.

This book is more of a memoir. If you look for some pragmatic information on doing travel, you will get disappointed. This one is far from that. Woven together between her personal perceptions and commentary on art, architecture, history, landscape, social and culinary traditions, this book has become a beautifully written travel memoir.

Frances Mayes lives in Cortona, Italy, and in North Carolina. She is the author of four books about Tuscany: Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany, In Tuscany, and Bringing Home Tuscany (the last two are illustrated books). She is also the author of the novel Swan, six books of poetry and the book The Discovery of Poetry.

Paris, Januari 2010