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Your Own Private Paradise in Key West / The Hemingway Retreat at The Suite Dreams Inn

January 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

Great Key West Suite Near The Beach With Private PoolIf you are coming to Key West inspired by Ernest Hemingway, then you should look into getting the Hemingway Retreat at the Suite Dreams Inn in Key West. The Inn is run by a wonderful couple Andy and Jaime Laba. There are six gorgeous suites and they are impeccably clean, convenient and original. The Hemingway Suite was perfect for all we needed. A great living room in the style of Hemingway and with large kitchen and dining area along with plenty of room to sleep 6. One of the great aspects of suite was the private heated pool with mini waterfall. Perfect for relaxing and reading Hemingway or resting in Key West. And even better for writing in the spirit of Ernest Hemingway! This is the Ideal Key West Vacation Suite!

The Suite Dreams in is on Von Phister Street, close to the beach and close to Duvall street. contact Jaime Laba today at (305) 292-4713

Key West, Day One: An Overview

January 8, 2012 in Florida Feature, Hemingway in Key West, Key West Travel, Uncategorized

Arrive approximately 7:00pm at apartment/hotel. Clearly people live in this building full-time (“I’ve lived here five years and never taken the elevator,” one resident confessed), but we pickup our key from a “concierge” in another building; the one across the pedestrian bridge from the Sunrise Suites, our temporary home. The apartment smells like a hotel and the distinctly Floridian odor of sun-baked mildew.

As we head out for dinner, we weave through a parking lot full of white vans decorated with competitive messages and symbols. Each one ends up looking the same. The relay-race from Miami to Key West supports the Florida Special Olympics and hosts hundreds. Many of the runners at the Sunrise Suites wear tall striped socks and mill aimlessly. In addition to the literary conference going on, the tours, cruises and themed retreats, a 199 mile race stops here. Key West is full to the brim with visitors who want to have a good time.

On nearly every downtown corner, large groups of strapping young lads built like Hemingway roam like big cats, and I wonder, is everyone here to do something? Has anyone come to Key West to relax, or is it the kind of place fun looks tiring? The “rummies” look a wee bored, cigars fashioned listlessly in their lips. And fun-havers everywhere, stepping over obstacles, have their eyes fixed upon the next bar. Occasionally I witness a tourist stop to sniff out a particularly gorgeous scent in the air (which is where Key West gets truly interesting): ocean air, roasting meat, cigars rolled in the Cuban tradition. These are the real charms of Duval Street. The lights and shops are only a glint in her vast sparkling eyes.

The Many Metamorphoses of Prague

November 6, 2011 in Classic Writers, Uncategorized

Sitting in a beer garden atop the ancient Vyšehrad courtyards, my host, Radka took a swig of pilsner and began, “A friend once asked me, ‘What are the Czech people like?’ And I said, ‘Czechs, we just don’t bother.” She laughed before elaborating. “We work hard, but all we want is a home and a happy life. We don’t think bigger than that, usually.”

But Radka thinks bigger than that. She’s restless and wants to see the world, which marks another change in a country that has seen so many: a growing generation of dreamers. She is learning Arabic in an effort to learn more about a culture that she believes is grossly misunderstood, and I had to agree.

We peered down at central Prague from across the Vltava River. Punk-rock hippes and young families mingled together on the grass along the cliffside. It was nearly sunset, and night and dreams, like the vivid fantasies of Kafka, would soon arrive.

A bronze statue of Franz Kafka sitting on the shoulders of a headless, limbless man stands in the city of Prague. It represents a dream that he had, which is described in one of his earliest short stories, “Description of a Struggle,” published in 1909, six years before The Metamorphosis.

Critics often dismiss Kafka’s “Struggle” as one of his lesser works – unpolished and adolescent. But Prague went through many stages as well before the city reached its bright, shiny state. From the first settlements in the Paleolithic era to the iron fist of the Soviet Union, Prague has survived many dynasties, dukes, and kings. Now it is a lovely tourist sight, but that was certainly not always the case. Perhaps this is why the “Struggle” statue so well represents both Prague and Kafka.

In 1924, Kafka died at the age of 40 from a combination of tuberculosis and starvation at a sanatorium in Vienna, but his body was returned to his true home in Prague, where it remains inside the New Jewish Cemetery, with so many others.

Prague, though, lives on. And Kafka’s “Struggle” is now intrinsically a part of it. He sits on the headless man’s shoulders, witnessing the changing world.

Radka and I left the beautiful Vyšehrad and returned to her apartment 20 minutes from the center. There the buildings shot up from the flat ground in identical cubes with small windows and dull paint – the remnants of communism. Shops and restaurants were rare, not like the vibrant neighborhoods of other cities I’d seen. But inside the apartment, Radka whipped up a delicious regional stew and opened a bottle of Moravian wine. Stories and laughter followed. We weren’t bothered.

Key West Fridays

October 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

Key West FridaysI am very excited to announce Key West Fridays at Literary Traveler. We are taking a trip to Key West in January. To celebrate that fact we are launching a new tradition of Key West Fridays.  We are going to share ideas and thoughts and the great stories of Key West to help get you excited about visiting Key West.

Why Key West? In the spirit of Key West – Why not? One of the first literary trips we took involved a long drive to Key West. It was one of the experiences that inspired us to start the website. Key West just has a unique blend of natural beatuy, spirit and literary history that few places possess. And this January, the editors of Literary Traveler will be traveling on a tour with Ann Kirkland of Classical Pursuits to Key West to discuss great books, shoot video and have fun.

Key West is one of the islands that make up the Florida Keys, a tropical coral archipelago known for its beautiful geology and fossil life. It has a fascinating history of politics and immigration, literature and innovation, arts and language. And we hope to bring it to you on Key West Fridays.

Literary Traveler Talks to Bill Bryson

October 27, 2011 in American literature, Behind The Article, Bill Bryson, British literature, Contemporary Literature, Uncategorized

There are few writers who can so seamlessly marry information with a strongly absurdest sense of humor. Bill Bryson is one of those rare authors. Unlike the dry, factual essayists we read in school, Bryson’s books are not only sidesplittingly funny, but also deeply authoritative and observant.

As you might be able to tell, we have been reading Bryson for years, and admiring his singular style and voice. From the first book we picked up on the Appalachian Trail, the 1998 A Walk in the Woods to his wildly popular A Short History of Nearly Everything.

In 2010, while traveling across the Atlantic on the Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, Literary Traveler got to meet the famous writer. Bill was taking the cruise as a special guest for their Liners & Literature series. During this time, he had a few duties: relax, enjoy himself, and speak to the other passengers about his impressive career, his thoughts on Britain, and his unique views on writing and reading.

“Everybody likes books that are about them,” he observed during our interview. “My book about growing up in Iowa seemed to really resonate with Americans. The other book that did very well in America was A Walk in the Woods… but the book that sold in Britain was Notes on a Small Island. I suppose it’s natural that people are most attracted to something about them.”

He also revealed the genesis of his writing career. “My dad had a great collection of hardback books from the 1930s and 40s, and he had a lot of books by PG Wodehouse. He had books by people like James Thurgood, Robert Benchley, and S.J. Perelman—four really, really funny writers. I picked up these books when I was thirteen and fell in love with the idea of being able to use language as a way of making people laugh.”

To learn more about Bill Bryson, take a few minutes to watch our full interview with the author, shot on board the Queen Mary 2. Covering everything from baseball to the Brits, it’s the perfect way to get to know one of the most beloved humor writers living today. See the clip at Literary Traveler TV here.

Queen Mary 2: A Transatlantic Literary Tour

October 26, 2011 in Queen Mary 2, transportation, Travel, travel books, Travel Writers, Uncategorized

Courtesy of Cunard

Last summer, your editors at Literary Traveler were lucky enough to cross the Atlantic on the majestic and elegant Queen Mary 2. The week-long Transatlantic cruise offered most everything we overworked writers need—excellent food, plenty of rest and relaxation, and of course, a bit of literary stimulation.

The trip we attended on the grand old liner wasn’t your average cruise. Literary Traveler was invited to attend one of their Cunard Insights enrichment programs, the 2010 Literature and Liners trip, alongside influential authors like Kate Atkinson, John Berendt, Bill Bryson, and Joanne Harris. During our stay, we were able to attend Q&As with the authors, panel discussions, and book signings.

In order to better document the journey, we also brought our camera. To learn more about the Queen Mary 2—including details about its history, the various amenities available onboard, and the surprising attractions that draws thousands of passengers each year—take a look at our video on YouTube. And stay tuned for further details about the author discussions with Bill Bryson and Joanne Harris.

Site of Iconic Wyeth Painting Named National Landmark

July 18, 2011 in American Art, Famous Artists, Famous Museums, Great Artists, Maine travel, Uncategorized

Andrew Wyeth’s art is quiet. In contrast to many of his contemporaries, whose works scream out for attention through bright colors and bold shapes (Rothko and Mondrian), or seduce with lush layers of paint and incomprehensible abstractions (Pollock and de Kooning), Wyeth’s paintings are subtle. They whisper their intention to the viewer. Muted colors and barren landscapes mark Wyeth’s most recognizable works, but all of his paintings share a common sense of stark intimacy.

I’m not the only one who feels this way about Wyeth’s art. Earlier this month, the house in Maine depicted in his most famous work, Christiana’s World (above), was named a national landmark. “It’s now affirmation that it’s an American icon,” said Christropher Brownawell, executive director of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, in an interview with the Associated Press. On July 1, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced that The Olson House, along with 14 other locations, is now officially recognized by the U.S. Government.

The news shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with American art. Though he didn’t fit into any of the major artistic movements of the 1940s, Wyeth was an exceedingly popular artist; something about his pieces felt recognizable in that post-depression era. I like to think it’s because his scenes are so touching and instill an immediate familiarity in the viewer: we can’t help but feel as though we’ve been there. His style may not have been as flashy as that of his contemporaries, but Wyeth’s work has long been recognized as different, respected in its own right. Quietly, it captured the era.

Painted in 1948, Christina’s World was titled after the woman who inspired the image, Wyeth’s neighbor, Christina Olson. But while the painting is ostensibly about her, Wyeth did not use Olson as a primary model. Instead, he called upon his wife to pose for the scene, recreating the moment he looked out the window and saw his neighbor, who suffered from polio, making her slow crawl across the yard. Looking at this painting, I believe I can see the love he had for his wife, and the sad respect he had for his subject. The landscape is bleak and muted, but there is a tenderness in the way Wyeth depicts Olson. I feel instinctively, as many have before me, that this piece captures something essentially human, something even bigger than the scene, more important than the farmhouse.

Though I’ve seen the painting in person—it hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York—I haven’t yet visited the location in Cushing, Maine. But somehow, I feel as though I have been there, as though the moment he depicted is not in a place or a time, but happening constantly. It’s an ineffable thing, but one I’m not quite ready to mar with a visit to the actual location. But despite my personal reluctance, I’m happy to know that no matter what, the Olson House will be there when I’m ready to see it.

Upcoming Exhibitions: Andy Goldsworthy at the DeCordova Sculpture Park

July 7, 2011 in American Art, Andy Goldsworthy, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Massachusetts Travel, Uncategorized

Image courtesy of Andy Goldsworthy

I was introduced to the art of Andy Goldsworthy when I was eight years old. I was staying at a friend’s house overnight for a giggly, girly sleepover that we expected to last all night. After my friend fell asleep earlier than anticipated, I began looking through the books on her parent’s coffee table. I was a little bit restless and slightly homesick, but quickly forgot such pressing issues and focused on the pages in front of me, which were covered with familiar items arranged in entirely unfamiliar ways. I may not have remembered the artist’s name, but I can recall those images vividly. The book was unlike the science books my parents owned, unlike the big encyclopedias we had lying around. Even as a kid, I could tell the photos in it were something special.

I find it unsurprising that my first foray into contemporary art came by way of coffee table, especially considering Goldsworthy’s massive popularity. The Boston Globe’s Sebastian Smee recently called him “one of the most popular artists alive,” and wrote about the very same glossy pages I once poured over in the quiet hours of the night. “Goldsworthy’s works are known to art lovers — and millions who would never willingly go by that description — largely through his handsome books, which reproduce sumptuous photographs of his installations in picturesque natural settings. You find these books on the coffee tables of bankers, lawyers, journalists, farmers, and teachers all over the world. They are ridiculously seductive, disarmingly emotional.”

Seductive is the right word for Goldsworthy’s work. While beautiful, it also carries a touch of the uncanny. According to Freud, the uncanny is that which we can recognize, yet still feel is slightly off. Many translators have given a literal interpretation of the German word as “unhomely,” and though they don’t carry the connotations of Freud’s recognition, Goldsworthy’s installations are often un-homey. They exist in situations we can easily recognize—beach, woods, lake—but reveal patterns and a sense of artistry that does not truly belong in nature. While the artist’s interference is visible in every piece, it always feels slightly disguised by the natural materials and simple shapes. Undeniably lovely, Goldsworthy’s works also contain elements that are at once eerie and dramatic.

While I’ve admired his pieces for years, I have never had the chance to see them in person until this spring, when the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, opened their new exhibit Snow. Featuring a small cross-section of Goldsworthy’s work, including a collection of the aforementioned photographs, two large snowball drawings, and the video, the collection serves as an introduction to the upcoming large-scale Sculpture Park installation. The massive granite structure, aptly-titled Snow House, is still in its beginning stages, but the deCordova Museum hopes to have it on view by winter 2013.

Though we have some time before we can see the permanent structure, it sounds as though Snow House will be worth the wait for Goldsworthy’s fans. The piece will be interactive and continually changing, much like the natural phenomena that inspire his work. “Andy’s going to create in our sculpture park — sort of dug into the hillside — a granite-lined chamber, big enough to walk into,” Capasso described in an interview with WBUR, “and every winter when it snows our staff and various community groups will create a nine-foot diameter snowball inside this piece of architecture.”

The deCordova is still seeking help funding the project. Interested parties can donate to the artistic cause online or by calling Catalina Rojo, the museum’s Development Coordinator.

Museum of Fine Arts Recognizes Nazi-Seized Piece in Permanent Collection

June 28, 2011 in Dutch Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Uncategorized

On Monday, the Museum of Fine Arts announced plans to make restitution to the heir of a Jewish art dealer killed in the Holocaust after determining that a 17th century Dutch painting housed in the permanent collection at the Boston museum was seized by Nazis in World War II.  The image in question is an oil portrait of a wealthy couple seated in their living room, created in the late 1600s by Eglon van der Neer. Though the MFA Boston acquired it for $7,500 back in 1941 from a New York art dealer, the painting is now valued at nearly $550,000.

Though stories like this always carry a tinge of sadness and unease—considering the bloody history of such a simple object—it seems like the MFA handled the circumstances in best way it could: with complete transparency. Unlike several other institutions, including the Leopold Museum in Vienna and the MoMA in New York, the MFA Boston was proactive in making the truth known. According to an article in The Boston Globe, the MFA Boston published an image of the painting online back in 2000, along with six other pieces, asking for additional information about the work and divulging their own questions about its history. With a little help from Google, a heir of the original owner, Walter Westfeld, found the piece and began working with the MFA Boston’s curator to discover exactly where the 29-by-27-inch canvas came from.

With the help of Westfeld’s relatives, the MFA Boston has been able to piece together certain bits of information to form a (somewhat) complete picture. As it turns out, the van deer Neer was most likely seized from Westfeld before he was taken off to Auschwitz. Back in 1941, when they first acquired the piece, the MFA Boston was told only that it was “brought to this country by a refugee some time ago.” However, in 1943, the museum became aware of the possibility that it was not what it originally seemed. A French dealer named Robert Lebel contacted the museum and explained that he had sold it to Westfeld a few years prior, and that the rightful owner (Walter Westfeld) was seized shortly thereafter, along with all of his possessions. Though there is no way to be completely certain that Westfeld didn’t sell it of his own volition, museum officials concluded that it was extremely unlikely.

Anyone who reads this recognizes the inherent sadness in the painting’s violent past, but it is important to remember how much it means to the family that the MFA Boston was willing to be open and honest about its collection—and open and honest with its pocketbook. The descendants of Walter Westfeld (now known as Westfields) have had a difficult time locating Walter’s original possessions. In recent years, they have tried everything from suing the German government for restitution to appealing to American lawyers for aid. Though there really isn’t a “happy ending,” it seems that everything is finally as it should be. The art will continue to educate generations of viewers, and the Westfeld family will finally have some small form of justice granted to them.

“We feel very good and very thankful for how the museum dealt with us,’’ Fred Westfield told The Boston Globe. “We had a lot of help from some of the people at the museum over the years, once we started to claim that the painting really did belong to us.’’

Fall Rituals: Apple Picking In Stow, Massachusetts

October 12, 2010 in Massachusetts Travel, New England Travel, Uncategorized, Weekend Getaways

Image via canong2fan's Flickr streamFor as long as I can remember, autumn has always been my favorite season. I love Halloween, the lengthening evenings, and the way dead leaves crunch underfoot. I love the colors of New England fall, all blazing reds and oranges and the clear blue of the October sky. I love back-to-school shopping and donning wool scarves. But what I love most is the smell.

Fall air smells like nothing else in the world. Somehow, the fallen and decaying leaves and the growing cold conspire to turn the atmosphere into something wonderful. Something that smells not of death, but of rebirth.

In my opinion, the best place to experience the scents of fall is in an apple orchard. Apple picking has become something of a fall tradition for me. Every year as September draws to a close, I throw on my jacket and head to Shelburne Farm in Stow, Massachusetts.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of introducing my boyfriend to Shelburne Farm. The orchard seemed seeped in the spirit of Autumn as we wandered among the manicured rows, stopping occasionally to pluck some imperfect specimen from the branches (several of which we ate immediately, in a violation of orchard rules). We climbed into the trees on the spindly ladders, pulling down fruit that ranged from under-ripe and sour to sweet and crisp. For $17, we went home with a giant bag of Macintoshs, Cortlands, and Royals, which Garrett promptly baked into pies and crumbles. We also picked up some cider donuts at the Farm Stand, where they doled them out in half-dozens, piping hot out of the fryer. Before we left, we even made a quick pit stop to visit the sheep at the small but smelly petting zoo.

We went home happy and full. It was one of those perfect New England days–and a wonderful way to ring in the new season. It never truly feels like fall until I’ve bagged that first batch of local apples.

So that’s my fall ritual, but I’d love to hear: What’s yours?

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