Since we can't pack our bags to go out and explore the world right now, we will pack our books instead!
Every day we will add a new literary location to our #packyourbooks map. Together we will explore the beautifully described locations in our favorite books from the comfort of our own home.
Update: After visiting 30 literary destinations in 13 different countries, our journey has ended. Thank you for joining us and be sure to visit some of these wonderful locations when you are able to travel again!
Lots of bookish love,
The Squirl Team
... and keep exploring!
GO TO MAP
Cafe Brasil, Houston, USA
I began going to the weekly Houston expatriate wives’ meetups. Carina had moved too far away to be involved in these, but I met a lot of other seemingly nice ladies, and initially, things appeared to be going well. I would take Isaac to the café, and he would play with the other children while I sat, ate lunch, and talked. It was a large group, so I didn’t get much opportunity to go into more juicy topics, but I was doing okay with the small talk, or at least I seemed to be acting the part well.
Asperger's on the Inside - Michelle Vines
Plan to join a new meetup group or club in your area.
Mount Bonnell, Austin, USA
He came to a vantage point near the summit and turned to have a look. The distant city was a cluster of low buildings beside the river, with few notable landmarks on the skyline. That would change when the new capitol was built. The great dome would tower above everything else, a man-made mountain of dusky pink granite.
A Twist at the End - Steven Saylor
Make a list of notable landmarks in your city/area. Dig a bit deeper into their history and plan to visit at least three of them before the end of the year.
German Bakery, El Paso, USA
Midafternoon, Reba parked out from of Elsie's German Bakery on Trawood Drive. The shop was smaller than she'd imagined. A carved wooden sign hung over the door: Bäckerei. The smell of yeasty brads and honey glazes hovered in the air despite the blustery wind sweeping round the Franklin Mountains. Reba pulled her jacket collar up under her chin. It was a chilly day for El Paso, a high of 63 degrees. The bell over the bakery door chimed as a dark-haired woman and her son tottered out. The boy held a pretzel, studded with salt and half chewed...
The Baker's Daughter - Sarah McCoy
Randomly pick a country on the map and bake one (or two!) of the nation's delicacies.
Moonstone Beach, Cambria, USA
Starting the car, he drove toward the little strip of beach where the motels were lined up, watching until he saw the inviting hand-carved sign, then pulling into the parking area. Pumpkins and gourds decorated its small porch. But with its seasoned wood, blue and white paint, and cobblestone walk-way, the Belhaven could have been in Nantucket or Monterey, Nova Scotia or Wales. Opening the front door, Zack was greeted by a whiff of aromatic pipe smoke, a gas fireplace, and the lilting tones of the proprietor. “Afternoon,” said a gray-haired gentleman. “Looking for a room, are you?”
What the Heart Knows - Marla Purl
Design a personalized (hand-carved) sign for your house or apartment.
Tom's Diner, Denver, USA
Across the street a restaurant materialized before their eyes. Tom's Diner. "Let's eat," said Chas. The blast of cool air felt refreshing against their skin, and the smell of bacon frying was tantalizing. Big, old-fashioned, over-stuffed booths, the bright color of taxi cabs. Eighties music filled the room. Foreigner singing, "I wanna know what love is" --that's just how they felt! "Breakfast is on me, my friends," Chas said largely. "Have whatever you want."
Looking for Redfeather - Linda Collison
Create a playlist and invite your friends to a back-to-the-80's video call, headbands and big earrings included!
Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, Wichita, USA
As the brothers entered the improbably named Siena Tuscan Steakhouse in Wichita's Ambassador Hotel, the flood of late-afternoon light ignited the silverware and multiple crystal wineglasses elegantly laid out on the tables. Brightly colored pieces of modern art and dark wood paneling gave the restaurant an air of sophistication unique in Wichita.
Heels Over Head - Clay G. Small
Finally shine up your silverware and wineglasses like you own a Michelin star restaurant.
Confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, Cairo, USA
We judged that three nights more would fetch us to Cairo, at the bottom of Illinois, where the Ohio River comes in, and that was what we was after. We would sell the raft and get on a steamboat and go way up the Ohio amongst the free States, and then be out of trouble.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
You probably don't have a raft to sell, but which items in your home could you get rid of?
Adluh Flour Building, Columbia, USA
ADLUH A thin slice of cinderblock, seven stories high squares against the sky, a downtown silo with what is left of the working wage. Harvest rains within windowless walls of whitewashed ads, which flash neon on and off again in an Amen cadence slowed to pace the rails and Congaree canals that once mapped coastal plains. Reapers' fruit goes crushing, grinding, gristing. Who set it flowing, this nourishing dust sitting in the middle of time, no plains, no past? What talk was wrought in the wheat stalk fields? And the dusk yields ADLUH ADLUH
What Comes from a Thing - Phillip Barron
Write a poem about a landmark in your area.
Monticello, Charlottesville, USA
BRITISH! BRITISH!" These words flew with blood and spittle from the gasping mouth of our late-night visitor, a rider who awakened our household with the clatter of horse hooves and the pounding of his fist upon the door. "Leave Monticello now or find yourself in chains." Still shaking off the fog of sleep, my eight-year-old heart could've kept time with a hummingbird's wings as I stared down from the stairway to where my father greeted our late-night guest wearing only a pair of hastily donned calfskin breeches and a quilted Indian gown of blue. "Are you certain the British are so near?" Papa asked.
America's First Daughter - Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Who are the famous historical figures from you neighborhood/city/country? Dig a bit deeper into their stories and accomplishments.
Tower Theater, Upper Darby, USA
Kids had been lined up most of the day at a wooden shed painted with bright spring flowers in front of Woolworths to talk to a costumed Easter Bunny. The box was locked up now. The Easter Bunny was cooling off with a Pabst at Reilley’s Bar and Grille on Marshall Road. The two movie theaters, The Tower, at the bottom of 69th Street, and the 69th Street Theater, a half block from the Upper Darby Township police station, were filled. The Tower was showing “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” The 69th Street was showing “Sayonara” with Marlon Brando.
Uncommon Glory - James Hugh Comey
Turn back time and watch the first movie you remember seeing in the theater.
The Algonquin Hotel, New York City, USA
Something darted out in front of my feet at floor level, breaking me from my pondering. I reacted quickly enough not to trip over it, but still stumbled. And I didn't have to glance down to know that it was Matilda, the Algonquin's house cat. Though she mostly moved around like she owned the place and didn't bother much with the staff or clientele of the hotel, she and I had a unique relationship. I could tell that she understood my animal nature, and so she liked to play with me, her fun little game of predator vs predator."
A Canadian Werewolf in New York - Mark Leslie
Adopt a cat!
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, France
Hedge Parker sauntered through de Gaulle Airport with a small black leather carry-on and a hard-side rolling luggage case. While tourists marveled at the snaking tube-designed terminal, he scanned the faces around him for out-of-the-norm expressions and found none. The security guards appeared relaxed. Checkpoints ran smoothly. Public announcements sounded in a clear multi-lingual feminine voice. All was well in this corner of Paris.
Little Black Dress - Kim Black
Now is the perfect time to prepare for your next trip! Make separate travel packing-lists for your top 3 dream destinations.
Bourges Cathedral, France
The house squeezed itself between the stone arches of two flying buttresses, the cathedral soaring above them to a dizzying height. Wolfe’s attention, however, was caught by the stained glass window that was set into the gray stone and rose to a graceful apex forty feet above his head. It depicted the massive feathered breast of a pelican, her graceful neck curving above and around, bent to the young who nestled at her side. The sun was melting into the western horizon, and the dying light imbued the colors of the window with a deeply incandescent glow.
Killing the Bee King - PJ Royal
The Cathedral of Bourges is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Discover more World Heritage sites HERE.
Mer de Glace, Chamonix, France
It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent. For some time I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice. A mist covered both that and the surrounding mountains. Presently a breeze dissipated the cloud, and I descended upon the glacier. The surface is very uneven, rising like the waves of a troubled sea, descending low, and interspersed by rifts that sink deep. The field of ice is almost a league in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it. The opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where I now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league; and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recess of the rock, gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene.
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
The idea for Frankenstein came during a horror story contest while Mary Shelley and her friends were stuck inside on a stormy night. Write your own horror short-story and compare with your friends.
Milan Cathedral, Milan, Italy
There were streetcar tracks and beyond them was the cathedral. It was white and wet in the mist. We crossed the tram tracks. On our left were the shops, their windows lighted, and the entrance to the galleria. There was a fog in the square and when we came close to the front of the cathedral it was very big and the stone was wet. " Would you like to go in?" "No," Catherine said. We walked along. There was a soldier standing with his girl in the shadow of one of the stone buttresses ahead of us and we passed them. They were standing tight up against the stone and he had put his cape around her. "They're like us," I said. "Nobody is like us," Catherine said. She did not mean it happily.
A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
Reading Hemingway is an adventure on its own. Now is a great time to grab one of his classics.
The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
However the mind of the young man might be absorbed in these reflections, they were at once dispersed at the sight of the dark frowning ruins of the stupendous Colosseum, through the various openings of which the pale moonlight played and flickered like the unearthly gleam from the eyes of the wandering dead. The carriage stopped near the Meta Sudans; the door was opened, and the young men, eagerly alighting, found themselves opposite a cicerone, who appeared to have sprung up from the ground, so unexpected was his appearance.
The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
Take this amazing virtual tour through the Colosseum.
Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Italy
By years end of 1919, the Canestrelli Circus arrived in Naples, Italy. The circus was set up just a few blocks away from the world-famous Teatro San Carlo, which was built in 1737, and is now a music school and home to a major opera company. The San Carlo Theater is the site where my grandfather met my grandmother, Giovanna Genoveffa Lentini. The Lentinis were a performing arts family, and they were trained as ballerinas, musicians, and vaudeville performers. My grandmother was trained as a ballerina, but she was also an accomplished singer. On the fateful day that Ottavio met Genoveffa she was coincidently performing the lead role in the opera “Carmen.”
The Grand Gypsy - Ottavio Canestrelli
Go back into your family's past. Ask your parents/grandparents about their youth or explore your family tree online.
Maggie stared out at the Aegean Sea, an expanse of peacock shades, punctuated by white sails and wakes, the cliffs stretching away to their right and the harbour barely visible to their left. Distant misty calderas lay on the horizon like hump-backed whales. Sunlight sparkled from every angle, an omnipresent sprite banishing ill-will. Vast sky, endless sea and more shades of blue than she knew words for.
Cold Pressed - JJ Marsh
Describe what you see out of your window as if you were writing for a travel magazine.
Galata Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey
Along the bridge railing, old men with fishing poles crowded over the edge, sending their lines down into the Golden Horn, which—true to its reputation—was beginning to ripple gold in the afternoon light. Every block of cement was saturated with the pungent smell of nervous squirming bait, smoky fried mackerel, and fresh caught sardines. Taxi drivers muttered through bumper-to-bumper traffic and tourists angled around bait buckets for panoramic shots of Istanbul. The stunning backdrop also attracted newlyweds, who wouldn’t be able to smell a mackerel sandwich for the rest of their lives without thinking of wedding photographs.
No Baggage - Clara Bensen
Prepare a dish that reminds you of a fun trip you once made.
The drive to Meteora was a sight to behold. I was looking at a series of tall sandstone rock cliffs with monasteries sitting at the very top. The buildings almost looked like they were part of the cliffs themselves. “The cliffs you see before you are about 1300 feet tall,” began the tour guide. “The monasteries were built during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.” After what seemed like an eternity, I arrived at the top of the steps. I was thirsty, sweaty, and my legs were killing me.
Time Stands Still - Stacy Froumis
(needed: stairs) Complete the 140 steps that lead to the monastery on your own stairs at home.
Belgrade Train Station, Serbia
The Simplon Orient Express arrived at Belgrade at a quarter to nine that evening. It was not due to depart again until 9.15, so Poirot descended to the platform. He did not, however, remain there long. The cold was bitter, and though the platform itself was protected, heavy snow was falling outside. He returned to his compartment. The conductor, who was on the platform stamping his feet and waving his arms to keep warm, spoke to him. “Your valises have been moved, Monsieur. To the compartment No. 1, the compartment of M. Bouc.” “But where is Monsieur Bouc, then?”
Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie
The journey is the destination. Find a (near) real-time video of one of the world's magnificent train journeys and play it in the background as you go about your day.
The Carpathian Mountains, Ukraine
Lyuda breathes out the bitter vodka with her sleeping breath and turns her head, her mouth heavily open, her mind closed to the spring morning. She is in a far-gone place on a late summer’s afternoon, and her cheek is resting lightly against Volodiya’s shoulder, the forests and peaks of the Carpathian Mountains stretching out before them. A wind is blowing here, at the top of the hill, and Volodiya reaches his arm around the shoulder of his divchyna, his seventeen-year-old girl, and bends his head and kisses her on the neck, where the pale gold hairs rise to meet his lips.
The Woman Behind the Waterfall - Leonora Meriel
Look around you and try to see your surroundings with new eyes. Imagine that you just moved in and write down the things that you like about your 'new' place.
The scene was beautiful, a panoramic of the Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery, as reported by the site. It came from a webcam installed too high above and offered little to no street view. Some white smoke slowly rose up from in between distant buildings. No visible movements, even around the few stopped cars; too far away to tell if they had crashed or if they were simply parked.
Daimones - Massimo Marino
International webcam hunt: define a target (e.g. a red car) and start the clock! The first one to spot a target on a city webcam wins!
St. Petersburg, Russia
"The taverns on the lower floors, the filthy and putrid yards of the houses on Sennaya Square, especially the establishments selling alcohol on tap, were all swarming with various sorts of merchants and ragamuffins... The ragamuffins did not attract anyone's contemptuous attention and you could walk about dressed as you liked without scandalizing anyone."
Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Decide on a dress-up theme for your next video call with your friends, family or colleagues.
"Their destination stood on the north side of Esplanade Park. Despite the near constant light of Midsummer, the Hotel Kämp glowed yellow in the mist."
Sukulaiset - Mark Munger
Find your inner butler. Pick a day of the week to run a bath, prepare a hotel style breakfast and offer turndown service for your housemates... or for yourself!
The whole of Södermalm district seemed to have been drained of all colour. Not even one tiny bright autumn leaf flew through the air. With this head bent forward and his arms crossed over his chest he continued past Maria Magdalena kyrka to Slussen, all the way until he turned right onto Götgatsbacken and as usual he slipped in between the Monki boutique and the Indigo pub, then went up to the magazine on the fourth floor, just above the offices of Greenpeace. He could already hear the buzz when he was in the stairwell.
The Girl in the Spider's Web - David Lagercrantz
Create your own weekly quarantine magazine/newsletter to send to your friends and family.
"What an unexpected joy it was to see my beloved city through newly-opened eyes...across the wide boulevard, the long-necked swans pecked at the icy surface of Sortedams Lake, & all around, the merry Christmas lights strung between the gas-lamps, and the little Jul candles that flickered in every window, high and low!"
My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time - Liz Jensen
Secret Santa quarantine version: draw names with your friends/family and gift a compliment instead of a present.
Scrabster Harbour, Scotland, United Kingdom
While some in the party boarded a pair of minesweepers, Churchill, Clementine, Hopkins, Ismay, and Halifax transferred to a destroyer, HMS Napier. The ship moved through a tormented seascape of opaque snow squalls intermixed with brilliant sun, the sea a striking cobalt against the gleam of the snow-covered shore.
The Splendid and the Vile - Erik Larson
The Scots are proud of their accent (which is actually a language on its own!). Communicate only in your local dialect/accent for 24 hours.
The Wellington Testimonial, Dublin, Ireland
"How cool it must be outside! How pleasant it would be to walk out alone, first along by the river and then through the park! The snow would be lying on the branches of the trees and forming a bright cap on the top of the Wellington Monument. How much more pleasant it would be there than at the supper-table!"
Dubliners - James Joyce
List ten places you want to visit in your own city/state. Compare your list with a family member or a friend to discover matches. Make plans to visit every place that is a match.
Box Hill, United Kingdom
"It was settled that they should go to Box Hill. That there was to be such a party had been long generally known: it had even given the idea of another. Emma had never been to Box Hill; she wished to see what every body found so well worth seeing, and she and Mr. Weston had agreed to chuse some fine morning and drive thither."
Go to the #packyourbooks map
Emma - Jane Austin
Prepare a picnic basket for yourself and for your housemates. Push your table and chairs aside and create your very own little 'Box Hill' in the middle of your living room.