Trips for Booklovers & Writers

P7180025-1024x768Close your eyes and imagine the perfect way to spend your summer holidays! Does it include beaches and a hammock? I bet it does includes books! Here are some of my favourite book places across North America to visit this summer.

1. Vancouver Kidsbooks is Canada’s largest bookstore entirely devoted to children’s books. I love to browse titles from the very latest award-winning books to the classics. Situated in trendy Kitsilano, not far from the University of British Columbia and owned by two local women, this is one of the rare children’s bookstores that has been expanding over the last few years. They have several locations in and around Vancouver, BC, Canada. Check the website for details:


2. The Sylvia Beach Hotel. Without TV, radio or telephone, this is truly a place for book lovers to spend the night. Situated on a 45 foot bluff above the white sand beaches of Newport, Oregon this rustic hotel is a great place for storm watching or fair weather beach walking. But staying inside to read is almost better. Rooms are divided into ‘classics’, ‘bestsellers’ and ‘novels’. You can spend the night in the Agatha Christie room or the Mark Twain room. The Dr. Seuss room includes Cat-in-the-Hat posters, a goldfish bowl on the table and, of course, volumes of his work. If you are not afraid of spiders, choose the E.B. White room or the ruffles of Jane Austin’s room. A library and gift shop add to the reading pleasure while The Tables of Content offers family style dining in an oceanfront dining room. Their website seems to not work but try this:


3. From humble storefront beginnings in 1971 on a derelict corner of northwest Portland, Oregon, Powells Books has grown into one of the world’s great bookstores, with seven locations in the Portland metropolitan area. To roam through its endless levels and rooms of floor-to-ceiling books is the ultimate book lovers’ treat.

Toll Free: (800) 291-9676,

2014-08-26 19.56.034. If you have any time to spend in Denver, Colorado be sure to head for one of 3 locations of the famed Tattered Cover Book Store. With lots of nooks and crannies offering the intimacy of a smaller bookshop, and an ample supply of sofas and chairs, readers are sure to feel at home.

6. If you are a fan of Little House on the Prairie, you can visit Independence, Kansas where an exact replica of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s parental cabin is surrounded by many original places and artifacts from her childhood. The rustic one-bedroom cabin has been furnished exactly as described in her books. The Sunnyside School still boasts desks that were originally used in the 1870’s.

7. Stepping into Once Upon A Time, in Decorah, Iowa is like stepping back in time. Owner Marlys Lien, dressed in ruffles and apron as Mother Goose, will read books to visitors in her rocking chair. At other times, she will greet her book browsing audience as a witch or other book character. Lien calls hers
lf a facilitator of books, helping grown-ups to choose the right titles and helping young customers to discover a love of reading.

8. Ken and Mary Lou Harris-Manske, owners of The Book Look in Stevens Point, Wisconsin followed their heart and opened a bookstore in 1992. Ken remodeled an old Cape Cod house and the couple had custom oak book shelves installed by a local craftsman. It has become a Wisconsin wide attraction with possibly the widest selection of children’s books in the state: about 10,000- 12,000 titles by an estimated 5 -6,000 different authors. 

2724 Post Road, Stevens Point Wisconsin,

9. Picture a reader’s as well as a writer’s paradise on earth: a village of picturesque, Victorian homes by a lake; home cooked meals that you didn’t have to prepare; lectures by the best writers and editors available; personalized editorial feedback and still time to attend an early evening concert or eat ice cream. All this happens at the annual Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop in Chautaugua, New York.

10. Another fairy tale writers’ workshop takes place each summer in Oceanside, Oregon. The Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers’ Workshop draws participants from around the world and has a faculty of seaside authors of different genres, an agent and publishers. Five days of intense lectures as well as manuscript critiques leave you ready to write a bestseller. You can book a motel, shared home or cabin while staying in this gorgeous location.

11. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is a must for all lovers of children’s books and art. The mission of museum is to inspire, especially in children and their families, an appreciation for and an understanding of the art of the picture book. The 40,000 square foot building is the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art. This summer special exhibits include A Celebration of African American Illustrators and the art of Leo Leonni.

125 West Bay Road | Amherst, MA 01002 | (413) 658-1100,

12. The Kansas City Public Library is worth a visit for any booklover. No explanation needed:


And, last but not least, I want to tell you that you can always come and stay with us! We run BETWEEN THE COVERS, Booklovers’ B & B on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada. We have the Fiction Room and the Poetry Room, each suite with a private entrance and private bathroom. The rooms are full of books, which you can take with you if you get into one. Our furniture is book shaped and the art is all from books. We are one of the most reasonable priced B & B’s on our scenic island: 110.- for one night or 95.- for more nights, including breakfast.  We really are a B & B & B: Bed, breakfast AND books!

Island Time: Northern Vancouver Island

IMG_1142IMG_1190We have a week and a half to explore close to home. Often our trips take us across the world. This time, we don’t need to content with carry-on luggage or airports. We simply load up the car and leave home.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, we are close to some of the world’s most beautiful natural areas. We have seen much of it but have never been to northern Vancouver Island.


Most visitors come to the large island, about the size of The Netherlands, to visit Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. And while this is a gorgeous, friendly city with lots to do, the island has so much more to offer. On a previous trip we took our Westfalia camper through Victoria to Sooke and around the southern tip of the island to Port Renfrew and back to Cowichan. On this trip we saw stately rain forests, bears and isolated beaches.


Cable ferry

We’ve driven through Port Alberni across the island from east to west to visit the small, quaint towns of Ucuelet and Tofino on the breathtaking west coast where surfers roam white beaches and hippies inhabit the coffee shops in town.


Qualicum First Nations Campsite

But this time, we drive north through Nanaimo and Qualicum to our first camping spot on the shore of the Salish Sea: the Qualicum First Nations Campground. This beautiful piece of land along the east coast of Vancouver Island offers many RV sites right along the water. Each site had water and a picnic table, several had sewer service. There were no toilet buildings but a few very clean, odourless port-a-potties did the job. We enjoyed staring over the water and listening to the waves as we fell asleep in our tent.


Only on the islands…

The next morning we packed up and drove north to the ferry to Denman and Hornby Islands. I hadn’t, until then, realized that you need to go to Denman first to get to Hornby. The brand new cable ferry ride took about 20 minutes. The fee of around 40.- was for two people and a car and allows us to stay on either island for as long we like, return fare included.

We decided to work our way back and scooted straight across Denman to Hornby. There we were surprised to find much still closed, even on the last day of May. The pub/restaurant by the ferry landing was closed. The bookstore was closed. And several signs along the way said ‘closed’. We drove several of the few roads on the island and liked what we saw: pastoral farms, very green, forests of tall evergreens and ferns. We found an eclectic cluster of Coop store, coffee shop, craft and clothing shops.



The detailed (free) island map showed a B & B, which did not seem to exist in reality. But a resort which, according to its website, was closed turned out to be open. Moral: don’t believe it until you see it.


Sea Breeze

The resort where we ended up staying two nights because it was so wonderful, is called Sea Breeze:

It offers spacious cottages right along the coast line. We sit on our porch in adirondack chairs to sip our morning coffee. The cottages are very private. Ours has a kitchen and fireplace. At $145.- this was not cheap but the kitchen allowed us to make all of our own meals, which made it the same or less expensive than a B & B room plus having to eat out.

There’s even a very good hot tub to soak in. And on the blustery nights we spent here, we sure enjoyed the fireplace. IMG_1164

We managed to go for a wonderful hike during the only time it rained while we were on Hornby. We did the return Ford Cove to Shingle Spit Trail, about 2.5 KM one way. Gorgeous setting, relatively level and a well maintained trail along the coast, amid towering cedars, ferns and gleaming arbutus. Nice to spot lots of fossil rocks along the way. But no cafe, no patio, no pub on either side. Just a marina at Ford Cove with a little store.

From Horny we drove back to Denman, which is apparently nicknamed ‘Hornby’s speed bump’ since most visitors race across it to reach the ferry to Hornby. To us Denman did indeed seem less attractive. Many of its roads were unpaved and we saw a plethora of signs telling us to “keep out” and “no trespassing”. There were not many services on the island – we did’t find a patio on the water, nor a cute little pub. We did discover a very good coffee shop, well hidden inside the local hardware store! In the back, a secret garden with brand new adirondack chairs invited us to linger. The bookstore next door was open and well stocked with good titles.



A 15 minute ferry ride took us back to the main island and we drove north to Comox, where we had booked a perfect AirBnB: the ground floor of a brand new house. A small living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom offered luxurious bedding and towels and everything we needed in a kitchen including muffins, fruit and coffee. For 75.- this was a perfect find and highly recommended.

Next blog: Port Hardy, Alert Bay and Telegraph Cove



Turkey: From Bazars to the Bizarre

Friday, March 28, 2014

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

My favorite quotes:
• From a taxi driver: “Trust everything on a stick!” 
(he meant food, like kebabs).
• From 4 year old Nico: “You’re going to Turkey? Will you send me a postcard with turkeys on it?!”
Turkey means good food.
Even before you get to the country, the clues are there: Turkish Airlines serves a meal and freshly squeezed orange juice, even on a short three hour flight (take note United Airlines!). More than that: when you walk onto the plane there are regular flight attendants but also one dressed like a cook, in white apron and tall white cook’s hat. The airline magazine sports recipes.
Everyone is Israel who heard the word ‘Turkey’, said “Food!”, rubbing their bellies and licking their lips. Apparently Turkey means good food. “Eat! Eat! Eat!” said our last taxi driver in Tel Aviv. He didn’t speak much more English than that.

We arrived at one of Istanbul’s two airports: Sabiha Gökçen. It is about an hour out of town and in Asia. Our hotel had quoted us 70 euros for airport transportation. I just about choked. But after some internet research (Trip Advisor) I found a hotel shuttle for 10 euros p.p. I booked this via their website (
They even met us upon arrival with a large name sign and brought us to our hotel. It is good to know, when traveling to Istanbul, that the OTHER airport, Atatürk, is 20 minutes away and in Europe. Be sure to double check at which airport you will arrive and depart. In our case we arrived at one but will depart from the other. Tricky.

City walls

Halfway between the airport and the city we crossed a large bridge over the Bosporus. I spotted a sign along the road saying “Welcome to Europe!”
Again, we are thrilled with the hotel we booked via the internet. It is often a gamble and difficult to judge but we lucked out again. Angel’s Home is in the old city: Sultanahmet. Its crooked, narrow streets and hills remind me of Mont Martre in Paris but its atmosphere is distinctly Middle Eastern with many cafe’s and patios along the streets, fruit stands, water pipes, and twinkling lights.

Cats. What’s with cats in this part of the world? We must have seen thousands of cats, all over Israel, Jordan and now Turkey. Cats around apartment buildings, cats outside stores, cats in garbage cans and along the water front. Cats have inundated the Middle East, it seems. There are more cats here than there are bunnies on Salt Spring…

Mosques dominate the skyline and the call to prayer twirls out of many minarets, swirling its haunting tunes over the rooftops.
Tonight we obliged those who told us to “Eat!”. We had traditional Turkish food in a roadside restaurant, served on beautiful white tablecloths, under colorful lights made of gourds.
A sizzling stone dish held chicken and veggies and mushrooms and rice. We had chestnut puree in a type of corn pastry for dessert, with Turkish coffee and Turkish tea… Then we rolled home to our hotel to watch the lit up skyline and freight ships on the Bosporus. 

Bathing in History

 Today I decided to be brave and experience something unique.
Did you ever laid naked on a slab of marble, covered by 4 inches of foam and then they bring out the sandpaper to work on your body?
Today I took a Turkish Bath!
They advertised everywhere and, since I love Asian massages, I decided to give it a try. The bath people even offer a free ride from and back to your hotel. When the van picked me up, there were already two British ladies on board. I figured correctly that we would get to know each other intimately. The first half hour was spend stuck in traffic in the narrow streets of Sultanahmet, or old Istanbul. Fruit carts, delivery van and buses were stuck in a solid knot while drivers snoozed, honked or swore in Turkish.

The bath house, or hamam, built in 1475, was shaped like a mosque with many domes. The marble entry hall had two storey-high wooden change room structures for men. The women’s bath was off through another hallway under another marble dome with similar change rooms. The two English ladies and I were ushered into a very small room and told to strip naked. We were each handed a cotton strip of fabric, which I hoped to be the size of a table cloth. It actually was the size of a small table runner.
We tried to pull and tug but it stayed the size of a small table runner.
We were then led into a sauna. A small, very hot sauna with cedar benches and a glowing fire. At first I didn’t think I could breathe. But once I relaxed it was fine. I sat until sweat poured freely from my spontaneously opening pores.

‘My’ masseuse summonded me. I tried to look dignified, but all sweaty and wrapped in a handkerchief, this was hard to do. She instantly unwrapped me, spread my cloth like a place mat on a huge marble slab in the center of the room, and ordered me to lay down on it, much like a turkey on a dinner table.

She proceeded to pour warm water over me, before bringing out the heavy artillery in the shape of a sandpaper glove. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared and actually felt quite invigorating. 
More warm water was followed by about 6 inches of foam, spread all over me. Soap crawled into my ears and mouth as I had a massage that was not as good as an Asian massage, but not bad. I flopped around on the marble slab like a slippery bar of soap, trying hard not to slide off and onto the floor. Then I was ordered through an arched doorway, up the steps and into another arched dome with a small pool.

“Swim, lady, swim!” my masseuse ordered. I flopped into the water like a slippery trout.
Cold! It was cold water. But once I decided to endure a Turkish bath, I think I resigned myself to accept my fate lock, stock and barrel – without complaining. So I swam.
After this I was invited back into the sweat sauna, or to take a nap on the slab of marble. I decided that clothes and tea sounded like the most attractive next step.
On the way back to the hotel, and once again stuck in traffic, cars honked, tourists shopped for leather shoes and the driver mumbled many Turkish swear words.
But I just sat there, gloating. I felt very clean.
And very serene.
I had just had a Turkish bath!

I’m sure you will appreciate the fact that there are no accompanying photos for this story. 

Bizarre Bazaars

Sultanahmet or old Istanbul is a medieval city centre, a mixture of Asia and Europe. And it is full of shops. The best place for shopping: the Grand Bazaar which is more than than just little shops. The enormous, ancient bazaar is all indoors – covered by arched ceilings. Its little alley ways crisscross into a labyrinth where you can get lost for hours. Vendors sip tea from tiny glasses in their doorways. Their displays include sparkling silver, hand painted china, woven rugs, cheap t-shirts, dangling blue eyes made of glass that are supposed to bring good luck. There are water pipes for sale and for rent. You can eat fresh bread or drink fruit juice, Turkish coffee or Turkish delight. The market’s stone floors have been worn smooth over the ages, stone steps even hollow out by the millions of feet that have shuffled here.
Across town, past the many mosques, minarets and domed roofs of palaces, is the Spice Market. In this similar labyrinth of alleys, all covered, you can find baskets and mountains of cinnamon, curry, peppers of all color, dried rosebuds and sage. There are many different kinds of tea, cumin and rosemary. You can buy, and smell, dried apricots, dried octopus and
dates. After a while: sensory overload. Add to this the fact that the vendors yell and praise their wares. They invited you to come in, try this, buy that! And you have to barter. It’s exhausting…

We strolled back to our hotel along the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara. A long walk along ancient city walls, ferry terminals and one of the busiest waterways in the world. We watched little tug boats plowing alongside huge freighters.

Formerly known as Byzantium, then as Constantinople, and now as Istanbul, the city lies half in Asia and half in Europe. And it shows. With its roasted chestnut stalls and coffeeshops, Istanbul sometimes feels like Paris. Its narrow streets with patios and trams feel like Amsterdam. While its forest of minarets, shoarma stands and water pipes give it a distinct Middle Eastern feel. Women wear burkas or tight pants, hiking boots or high heels. You can buy roasted corn or a Starbucks. Istanbul is a meeting place of east and west.

I’m sure you can spend an infinite amount of time in this city, but to us three days were good. We walked all over the cold city, got a good sense of it and visited its icons: the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace and the bazaars. We walked and walked and walked, but also lounged on patios. 

Monday, March 31, 2014:

Kees, Margriet and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

 We set our alarm for a 7 AM airport pick up. But when we got to the hotel lobby, it was only 6 AM. I still can’t fully explain it, but apparently several countries changed to daylight saving time last Sunday. Except Turkey. Apparently the government decreed that the change in Turkey would happen on Monday, not on Sunday. So it was confusing. When we searched for ‘current time in Istanbul’ the internet said it was 7 while the clocks said it was 6 AM. All we could do was wait for the shuttle and hope that the airline knew what time it was.

The driver drove like a bat from hell. He actually did 110 KM in a 30 KM zone… By far the craziest drive we had this month.
It was going to to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
We’ve not often seen an airport that was slower than Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. The passport line alone was over an hour of standing and shuffling.
The flight was delayed for an hour. They said it had something to do with loading luggage. Not ours, as it turned out.
It was to be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
It got worse when a Dutch guy across the isle from us boarded and started bossing people around, shouting and pushing. He swore and became quite violent. We expected the flight attendants to call in the police but that never happened. All we could do was hope he calmed down, once we were in flight.
But a second guy drank enough to turn violent, very loud and verbal. This time the swearing and yelling was in Turkish. We have never quite experienced anything like it. At one point, during landing, he took his seat belt off and nearly attacked the flight attendants. Still no police was called.
When we finally made it into Schiphol Airport, shaken and tired, we discovered that our luggage had not accompanied us to the Netherlands. Even after a 2 hour wait – no backpacks. It was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
We filled in paperwork and left. At least I had the presence of mind to ask for a toiletry kit, which includes a clean t-shirt and socks. But all we can do is hope our clothes and other things show up tomorrow. A beer and croquettes helped.
And, as Alexander knows, some days are just like that. Even in Istanbul.*
* referenced to Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.