I've always been an avid reader, and as a kid I would easily plough through 20 books in the 2 week school holiday period. As I grew older, I found it harder to find books that I loved, that is until I found travel memoirs. To my absolute delight, travel memoirs enjoyed a relative boom in the early noughties so there are plenty to choose from. I love reading these true stories about adventure, exploring new places and of course, food. These are some of my recommended reads, they would be perfect for weekend reading or to take on a holiday.
When in Rome: Chasing the Dolce Vita
When in Rome is an honest account of a single Australian gal who packs up her life to go and live in the ‘Eternal City’. I love Penny’s vivid descriptions of the places she visits, the people she encounters and of course the delicious food she enjoys! This book was the metaphorical kick up the bum that I needed to book my own solo Europe trip in 2012 and I felt as if I already knew my way around Rome when I arrived, thanks to Penny’s wonderful evocative writing. Penny taught me a lot about having the guts to back yourself, the courage to spend time alone and be totally ok with it, and made me realise that travelling solo perhaps wasn't as scary as I first thought. This book is followed by two more sequels, See Naples and Die and Girl By Sea. In the latter two books Penny delves further into the culinary spoils of each region she visits and also focuses a lot more on the history and political climate of Italy due to her working as a journalist for an Italian media outlet. These books have a lot more depth to them than your average ‘Girl Gives Up
Everything to Chase the Dream’ novel.
Lunch in Paris
Lunch in Paris is my favourite kind of memoir; it's pretty much a hybrid of a travel journal and cookbook with some romance thrown in for good measure. The novel follows the story of an American journalist Elizabeth Bard and her big move to Paris, the home of her French husband, Gwendal. Throughout the book, Elizabeth shares her struggles to learn the language, interactions with the colourful people of her new locale, and of course, recipes she picks up along the way. Elizabeth Bard has an honest outlook on the world and I enjoyed her dry and witty take on French culture and cuisine. I was intrigued by the way in which she let French food take her on a journey of understanding, immersing herself in the local tradition as a means of settling into her new life in France.
Under the Tuscan Sun
Under the Tuscan Sun is a book that gives me hope. It shows you that when you are doing what you are meant to be doing, and therefore are truly happy in yourself, the rest takes care of itself. It's a story that could really take place anywhere, but is made all the more beautiful with the backdrop of Tuscan scenery. Under the Tuscan Sun tells the true story of American writer Frances , who, while recovering from a messy divorce, buys a Villa in Tuscany on a whim while holidaying in Italy (I know right, I hate it when I accidentally buy a house in a foreign country, happens to me all the time too!). Frances embarks on a mission to rebuild her ancient and crumbling house, and the house seems to become a metaphor for the life she is attempting to re-build. She forms wonderful friendships and learns the art of Italian cuisine, creating a whole new community around her as she goes. It's the type of book that makes you cry along with Frances as she faces moments of despair, jump for joy with her triumphs and smile until your face hurts as she recounts some of the hilarious and charming stories of her new found family in Italy. Side note: I watch the movie about twice a year or when I need a pick me up, it's up there with Notting Hill and The Holiday.
A Trip to the Beach
Melinda Blanchard & Robert Blanchard
I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but tell me you don't feel relaxed just looking at this one! A Trip to the Beach really was the book that started my addiction to travel memoirs and especially those that involve food. I picked this book up at a book exchange while living and working on a tropical island, and as I returned said book to the exchange, I am sad that I no longer have my own copy (although this post has inspired me to hunt one down). A Trip to the Beach is the true story of Melinda and Robert Blanchard, American restaurateurs who sold their restaurant in Vermont and moved to a small island in the Caribbean to open a beachfront bar and grill on the island of Anguilla. The reason I love this book is that it doesn't sugar coat. It tells the truth about how hard it is to move to a foreign country, set up a business while operating on what some of us affectionately refer to as Island Time and the reality of living in tropical paradise (Hurricanes). I am also pretty sure this book was what inspired my interest in rum punch and what led to what could only be described as the near-death experience of my 30th Birthday hangover.
A Story of Seven Summers: Life in the Nun’s House
Hilary Burden is totally my kind of lady. She swapped her London flat and Jimmy Choo's for a weathered old nunnery and a pair of gumboots in rural Tasmania. A Story of Seven Summers is almost like a gardener's journal, following Hilary around her ever-growing garden as she tends to her seedlings, learns about how the seasons affect life in her little neighbourhood, and discovers the joy of growing your own everything. This book speaks to me as it's all about the things I love - living simply, enjoying quiet moments of solitude, cooking from scratch using only the things you have, sharing meals with others, making new friends and making a career doing the things you love. There are some fantastic recipes in this book that are now in my repertoire, including Barn's Chicken Curry and Isis' Chocolate Beetroot Cake. A Story of Seven Summers makes me want to rent out my little Townsville apartment, pack my wooden spoons and catch the next flight to Launceston. Maybe one day...
These are just some of the many travel & food books I have read over and over again in the past few years. I am always on the lookout for more so don't be surprised if you see further posts about travel memoirs in the future!
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links, and I will earn a small commission if you make a purchase using them. I personally have read all of the books listed and recommended them because I think you will enjoy them too! Thank you for supporting my blog, and please let me know if you have any questions about anything I’ve included!