Sometimes books other than travel books guide us in trip planning
I recently wrote about how my use of guidebooks has changed over the years as the Internet has blossomed. Guidebooks, travel articles, and Internet information are generally primary resources for trip planning. But sometimes resources are little less orthodox. Think of people who follow the footsteps of fictional characters when visiting the setting of a favourite novel.
As I plan my upcoming trip to England, I am reminded of a resource that served me well on the trips my family and I made to England in the late 1980s and early 1990s: The Good Beer Guide. The guide is published by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). CAMRA was founded in 1971 by four men who were disillusioned by the domination of the United Kingdom beer market by a handful of companies they felt were pushing low quality products of little flavour. In the 1960s and early 1970s, many brewers moved away from traditional methods. “Real ale”, a term coined by CAMRA, is defined as “a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub through a process of secondary fermentation.” CAMRA campaigns to promote real ale and pubs. Ale includes several beer styles: bitters, milds, stouts, porters, barley wines, golden ales, and old ales.
Although I appreciate finding a good English bitter I’ve not tried before, it wasn’t the beer that made the book so useful. It was the character pubs and historic villages we discovered via the book.
On visits where we stayed with friends, we explored the area around them during the day while our friends were at work. We often sought out one of the pubs in the book for a lunch stop. On trips touring the country, we turned to the books to locate pubs near us as possible lunch or dinner destinations. Because we had young children, we looked for pubs with a garden (if the weather permitted) or a family room. Through the process, we discovered scenic and historic places.
We visited the Prince of Wales pub in the picturesque village of Shere, Surrey. The Church of St. James in that village is believed to date from 1190. It has a Norman tower. Our hunt for one 14th century pub led us to the village of Wylye, which we learned had been featured in the Doomsday Book. (The Doomsday Book was commissioned in December 1085 by William the Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066. The first draft was completed in 1086 and contained records for 13, 418 settlements in English counties south of the rivers Ribble and Tees.) We ate a delicious curry while looking out over the shoreline of the English Channel in Seatown, Dorset.
We found an ivy-clad 18th century freehouse on country crossroads. We ate at an old mill converted to a pub and restaurant. The mill’s water wheel was a focal point at the centre of the pub. The children loved the family room at a more modern pub in a suburban area with its Lego tables and supply of Lego building blocks.
It was fun to discover the pubs and the areas they were situated in. But I did feel a little embarrassed back home in Canada when my daughter’s teacher asked her what she liked best about England and my daughter, aged six or seven at the time, replied, “the pubs.”
The Good Beer Guide was not the only guide I used to explore England. Other guides helped me find other historical sites, castles, museums, gardens, parks, and scenic drives. But it was a trusty enough companion that now, as we prepare for a trip to England to reconnect with old friends, visit some familiar places, and explore new territory, I have the latest edition of The Good Beer Guide to take with me.
What’s the most unusual book or resource you used in trip planning?