Tag Archives: travel literature

Strolling on Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is one of my favorite places.  Fabulous art, Native American crafts, great food, shopping, music, and outdoorsy pursuits abound.  If you’re traveling with a group, it’s hard to keep everyone together because everything you see makes you want to stop and stare, from the wisteria draped adobe architecture to the fabulous Native American jewelry and even the distinctive high desert sky.

Adobe and wisteria, Santa Fe
Adobe and wisteria, Santa Fe

Santa Fe’s sky and special light–clear and stunningly bright–is one reason Santa Fe and nearby Taos have attracted writers and artists for decades.  Author D.H. Lawrence fell in love with the place.  He wrote in “New Mexico,”

The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend… In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the old world gave way to a new.

Willa Cather found a similar fascination with the New Mexico sky.  In Death Comes for the Archbishop she says

The plain was there, under one’s feet, but what one saw when one looked about was the brilliant blue world of stinging air and moving cloud.  Even the mountains were mere anthills under it.  Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky.

While Lawrence and Cather painted New Mexico with words, stroll through Santa Fe and you’ll see how countless artists have portrayed the area in oil, clay, bronze and more, which has made Santa Fe the second or third largest art market, depending on who you’re talking to. The city was designated a UNESCO Creative City in 2005, the first U.S. city to be so honored and currently one of only a handful of Creative Cities in the world. In 2009 the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Santa Fe one of the Trust’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations.

You’ll find a concentrated dose of art on the city’s famous Canyon Road, with over one

Truffles the Pig on Canyon Road
Truffles the Pig on Canyon Road

hundred galleries, specialty shops, and restaurants. It’s a visual fiesta at just about every turn, and if you look carefully you’ll find something for every budget. Though the galleries would love to have you purchase a work of art, you’re welcome to come in and simply savor what you see for a while.

Cowboys and Indians Santa Fe
Cowboys and Indians Santa Fe

Just looking? Santa Fe is also a city of museums with more than a dozen different facilities including the Museum of International Folk Art, The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Art, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe Children’s Museum, New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors, and one of my favorites, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.

Read more about Santa Fe in Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways.

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For San Francisco Travel, Armistead Maupin’s “Tales” Are Still Relevant

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The first volume of Armistead Maupin’s many tales of San Francisco

Author Armistead Maupin was in the Twin Cities last week speaking at the wonderful Pen Pals, an author lecture series that raises funds for the Hennepin County Library system. I’m sure that when they booked him for the event no one knew that it would coincide with the passage of the bill that made Minnesota the twelfth state to legalize gay marriage, but his appearance last week couldn’t have been more timely.

Maupin is the author of the beloved Tales of the City series that began as a newspaper column in the 1970s, first in a Marin County paper and then in the San Francisco Chronicle.   Much the way Charles Dickens’s work appeared in serial installments, each Tales of the City column delivered a new episode in the lives of a quirky and sometimes bizarre collection of transsexual, straight, and gay characters who reside at the fictional 28 Barbary Lane, San Francisco. The series grew into eight best-selling novels, a television miniseries, a film and a musical.

Maupin was one of the first openly gay authors and his stories were ground-breaking in a time when there were no gay people in popular culture. I was thinking as he spoke about how much things have changed, particularly in light of Minnesota’s new marriage law. His conversation was peppered with a few “motherfuckers” and some colorful comments about his sexual behavior. I wondered if such in-your-face speech seemed a bit dated, unnecessary in the era of Ellen Degeneres and “Modern Family” when gay people are more part of the mainstream. That was Friday. Then Saturday night in New York’s Greenwich Village, a gay man was murdered in what was clearly a hate crime. So, that answered my question. Maupin’s attitude and his stories are as pertinent as ever. When he started writing there was the homophobic Anita Bryant.  Now we have Rep. Michelle Bachmann.

Maupin’s groundbreaking stories incorporate the politics of the 1970s but also focus on universal themes of love and longing that have made the “Tales” endure over the decades with broad appeal. Maupin says, “We read to feel less alone, to find our experience reflected in that of others.” I would add that reading opens our minds to the the experience of others even if it isn’t the same as ours. The best thing about reading: it fosters empathy.

For anyone traveling to San Francisco, the Tales are a must read and Maupin’s web site offers a great map to the real places that you read about in the books. That reading and travel combination gives insight into the city’s history not only as ground zero in the gay rights movement but also its position as the America’s foremost place for iconoclasts–the Beats, hippies, immigrants from around the world, and cultural and spiritual seekers of all sorts who have changed the way we think and influenced our culture.

Though he will forever be associated with San Francisco, Maupin and his husband Christoper Turner, have decamped for Santa Fe, for what Maupin says is a new adventure in a place that has amazing vistas, adobe homes, and wide open spaces.  But, he says, “San Francisco is still in my heart.”

Off The Beaten Page Interview on Minnesota Monthly Blog

Minnesota Monthly recently posted an interview that Joel Schettler did with me about

Off the Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways is now on sale everywhere.
Off the Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways is now on sale everywhere.

Off the Beaten Page and literary travel.

“Designed for lovers of literature and travel, Off the Beaten Page: the Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs, and Girls on Getaways, written by Edina resident Terri Peterson Smith, turns the power of a great story into a travel experience, taking readers on a tour of America’s most literary destinations. From a Mark Twain-inspired steamboat cruise on the Mississippi, to a walking tour of New York in the shoes of Holly Golightly from Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, detailed travel ideas and itineraries are crafted for 15 destinations across the United States that are featured in the works of famous writers—including an entire chapter on Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“I had opportunity to ask the author about her inspiration for the book, which will be published next week. Hear her speak in person on May 28 at Barnes and Noble at the Galleria in Edina beginning at 7 p.m.”  Read the rest of the article.