For the Love of Literary Landmarks

Literature and travel.  They’re as good together as chocolate and peanut butter.  Thanks, Reese’s!  One of my favorite things to do while traveling, is visit an author’s home.  I find it inspiring and motivating to be in the presence of greatness, and I often leave a visit with a renewed commitment to my writing.

I’ve seen many homes already and plan to keep going, but one of the challenges in planning a visit like this, is that there’s no clearing house of information on these homes.  They’re not exactly Disney (to some), so tourism guides often overlook them.

A.N. Devers, a writer with an obsession similar to mine (the literary/travel one, not the chocolate/peanut butter one), found the same thing.  In response, she created Writers’ Houses, an online travel guide to writers’ homes in the U.S., with a sprinkling of homes around the world.  The homes are searchable by author, city, state, or country.  Each listing includes links, photos, hours, addresses, and other details to help make trip planning easier.

The website, launched in July 2010, is a work-in-progress, and Ms. Devers hopes to expand it with contributions from other literary travelers.

If armchair travel is more your speed, Writers’ Houses is a fun place to visit.  Just point and click to visit Walt Whitman’s birthplace, Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home, or the F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.

To get your trip started, here are a few of the literary landmarks I’ve visited:

William Faulkner’s office at Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi.

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Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England

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  Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s home in Grasmere, Cumbria England
Resources: Writers Houses, The Daily Post

Beyond The Edge: Waterfalls

Waterfalls are among the most beautiful, peaceful, and powerful of nature’s phenomena.  What constitutes a waterfall varies depending on whom you ask, but what is certain is that it is water flowing over an area, falling over the edge, and dropping onto the surface below.

That’s a pretty dry (pardon the pun) description of a waterfall, and while pictures bring them to life a little bit more, they don’t begin to do them justice.  I’m often disappointed when I look through my pictures after a waterfall hunting trip because I have yet to take a photo that translates the experience strongly enough.

Still … they’re fun to look at.

Photos © Olivia Tejeda.  All rights reserved.

To hunt down a few waterfalls of your own, check out the U.S. Waterfall Map from

Resources:, The Daily Post

Have Book, Will Travel

One of the many joys of travel is that it allows us to break away from our busy schedules and gives us more time to read.  How often have you saved a special book (books, in my case) to read on vacation, on the beach, on the flight?  Reading and travel are a natural go-together.

Author and RVer, Brad Herzog takes the irresistible pairing a step further on his blog You Are Here. In “Great Books, State by State,” Mr. Herzog writes not just about reading on the road, but about “the wonders of reading the right books in the right locales.”

He goes on to list 50 books for 50 states, citing both the obvious (“A River Runs Through It” for Montana, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” for Missouri) and the obscure (“American Pastoral” for New Jersey, “My Sister’s Keeper” for Rhode Island).  Even with the more tenuous links, it’s not much of a stretch to see how location plays a part in the story.  Reading a novel while traveling its setting can only improve the experience of each.

“As long as there have been travelers, there have been attempts to put the experience into words. But sometimes what has already been written can improve the ride,” he writes in the earlier post, “Pages and Places,” which inspired this list.

To see the entire list, please visit: GREAT BOOKS, STATE BY STATE.

Resources: The Daily Post

It’s All About ME (Maine)

As a kid, I spent just about every summer vacation at the beach on the southern coast of Maine.  My family rented a house in the tiny hamlet of Pine Point and every August, we’d indulge in as much sand, sun, lobster, and relaxation as we could possibly take in.

As years passed, the summer trips grew less  frequent, but my love of the aptly nicknamed Vacationland kept growing.   I’ve gone back to visit every time I had the chance, which hasn’t been nearly often enough.  When I yearn to “get away,” it’s Maine I want.

Here’s part of the reason why:


Yosemite National Park: Near and Far

In October, Hon and I visited Yosemite National Park in California.  It was my first visit, and I can’t wait to go back.  These pictures might explain why.

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All images by Olivia Tejeda.  Some rights reserved
Resources: Yosemite National Park, The Daily Post

A Thousand Words: On the Rocks

Image courtesy of  Jason Rogers on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

A Thousand Words is a weekly photo prompt posted every Sunday.  Maybe the images will inspire you to write a short thriller, a haiku, a blog post, a travelogue.  Maybe you’ll just sit back and enjoy the photo.   Whatever your response, I hope you enjoy the picture and that it inspires you to creative zen.

If you write something based on the image, feel free to share a link in the comments section.   Also feel free to use the photo on your blog, just be sure to give proper credit, which I will always include in the post or the caption.

Resources: Creative Commons, Flickr, The Daily Post


For a full list of all travel posts, please click here: Away with Words – Travel, or select Travel from the Categories list on the right.

This map of the U.S. shows the states I’ve visited, so far. I’ve seen 74% of the country. That’s 38 states. 12 to go.

A world map is more like a picture of the places I haven’t been! I’ve visited 17 countries, that’s just 7% of the world. There’s still so much to see!

Create your own personalized map
or write about it on the open travel guide, World66.

Cruising: The Panama Canal & Mexican Riviera

NCL Star, originally uploaded by oliviatejeda.

Fourteen days, nine ports, two people, one tiny cabin, and the Panama Canal.

I don’t know what that sounds like to you, but to me it sounds like the ingredients for a fantastic trip. I might be a little biased, though, because the memories of that very trip are so fresh that I’m still wandering around the house looking for the buffet.

Hon and I just returned from a two-week cruise aboard the Norwegian Star. We boarded in Los Angeles and sailed south to Mexico (Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, and Huatulco), Guatemala, and Costa Rica. After passage through the Panama Canal we headed north with a stop in Columbia before ending our trip in Miami. We flew home weary, happy, and ready to board another cruise soon.

We both love cruising, and I get the sense that we could easily spend weeks at sea, but we picked this particular cruise based on itinerary. We both wanted to see the Panama Canal, so that was the deciding factor in this case, but there were some added bonuses, too.

Bonus #1: Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

A stop in Guatemala allowed us to explore more of this country that is so dear to me. My father, who passed away in 2003, was born and raised there. He moved to the U.S. with his parents and lived here for nearly 50 years, never returning to his homeland. He talked about Guatemala from time to time, sharing his love for the country called the Land of Eternal Spring. The first time I visited, like this time, was via cruise to the east coast at Santo Tomas de Castillo. We hiked into a rain forest and swam at Las Escobas, a waterfall near Puerto Barrios.

This visit took us to the west side where we docked at Puerto Quetzal and took a tour inland to Antigua Guatemala. This was a wholly different experience from the last one. We didn’t go through any rain forests and stayed in more densely populated areas. It was still a rich experience, and I felt my Dad close by the whole time I was there. Antigua was once the capital of Guatemala, but after a series of earthquakes in 1773, the capital was moved to its current location in Guatemala City. What remains in Antigua has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bonus #2: Puntarenas, Costa Rica

I’ve never been to Costa Rica but have always heard so much about its beauty. In high school, my family hosted an exchange student from Costa Rica, and that’s when my interest in that country was piqued. Our quick visit (a seven-hour stop) didn’t allow for much site seeing, but it was enough to let me know that I want to go again and spend more time.

There isn’t a lot to see right at the port in Puntarenas, so we booked a tour to Sarchi, a region known for its brightly colored, hand-painted crafts and in particular its ox-carts. Las Carretas seemed quaint and rustic to me, but I understood their importance once I learned about the role they played in Costa Rica’s history. In the late 1800s, when coffee plantations started to develop, oxen pulled the coffee over rough and muddy terrain to the ports. Nowadays, the carts are a symbol of Costa Rica’s history and its artistic heritage.

Bonus #3: Cartagena, Colombia

It truly was a bonus that we got to see Cartagena again. This was our second visit and this time we toured the city on our own. When we were there last, we learned that there’s nothing to be afraid of in Cartagena. Everything you hear about crime and drugs, etc., did not infringe on our time there. I’m not naive enough to say it doesn’t exist, but Old Town Cartagena was as safe as any city in the U.S., perhaps more. 

I’ll be writing more in depth about all the stops on our cruise, but dinner is waiting so it’s time to say good night. Thank you for reading!

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia, originally uploaded by oliviatejeda.

Our cruise through the Panama Canal took us to Cartagena, Colombia. It was our second visit and there’s still so much to see.

I’ll be posting more about our trip soon, but in the meantime, if you click on any of these pictures they will take you to my Flickr site with the rest of the pictures.

Here’s a few you’ll see there:
The Bridge of the Americas at the beginning of the Panama Canal
Panama Canal

A Costa Rican Spider
Costa Rica

Catedral de San José in Antigua Guatemala
Antigua Guatemala

Gut Bombs and Glitz, Life at Elvis Presley’s Graceland

Graceland's kitchen. Home of the Gut Bomb.
Graceland's kitchen. Home of the Gut Bomb.

Question: What do you get when you combine a bunch of bananas, a jar of peanut butter, a pound of bacon, and a big, soft loaf of white bread?

Answer: You get an Elvis Presley Gut Bomb, and that’s what I kept thinking about when I stood in Elvis’ kitchen during a tour of Graceland.

Sure, he’s the King of Rock ‘n Roll, and, yes, he had a tremendous impact on our music and pop culture, and it is true that all these years after his death, thousands upon thousands of loyal fans still make the pilgrimage to his Memphis home. I don’t disagree with any of that, but as I stood in his kitchen, looking at the dark wood cabinets, the linoleum countertops and the stained glass overhead lamps, I thought of Elvis in his pajamas, frying up a Gut Bomb for himself and whoever happened to be hanging out with him.

Visiting Graceland didn’t put Elvis Presley up on a pedestal for me. It took him down from one, and made him accessible in a very endearing way. It wasn’t just the Gut Bomb that did it, either. The house itself, did, and the property around it.

Continue reading “Gut Bombs and Glitz, Life at Elvis Presley’s Graceland”