Trippin’ Out From Paris to London to Florence, these books brim with urban European dreamscapes.

By Jessica Anya Blau



There are many ways to take a trip: in your head, your heart, via airplane. You can trip on the sidewalk, you can trip on drugs, you can trip up your friends … you can trip out on just about anything. My favorite trips are the ones where I am so absorbed in where I am, my regular life can’t possibly boot itself in.

Here are four wonderfully trippy books that will take you far and deep in your search for the perfect trip.

Dream Cities by Wade Graham (Harper Perennial, 352 pages, $16 paperback) takes you on a trip of design, form and intellect. Starting with my hometown of Santa Barbara, California, Graham explores the cultural history of modern cities by examining the movements and architects that drove them into existence. From the baroque to the modern to infotainment-driven shopping malls and sustainable green spaces, Graham gives the reader a whole new perspective on seeing and understanding the places we go.
My don’t-miss suggestion: Graham’s field guide to monuments.

 

 

 

 

Artist Cat Seto’s Impressions of Paris: An Artist’s Sketchbook (Harper Design,176 pages, $20 hardcover) is an illustrated tour of my preferred European city. The artwork is both whimsical and sumptuous—so beautifully done, I wanted to buy a second copy of this book and rip out the pages so I could frame them. Along with the famous standards (Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, etc.) Seto visits some of my favorite Paris spots—small insider niches that were introduced to me by my brother during the years he lived there. If you follow the path of this book, you won’t find yourself exhausted by the over-trodden tourist haunts. Rather, you’ll be invigorated through the small joys of quotidian Parisian life.
My two don’t-miss suggestions: Le Comptoir General, and Merci Used Book Cafe.

 

 

 

Journalist Rachel Felder’s Insider London: A Curated Guide to the Most Stylish Shops, Restaurants, and Cultural Experiences (Harper Design, 288 pages, $27 hardcover) is just that. You don’t need to have family living in London when you have Felder’s book in hand. Packed with richly colored photographs, Felder directs you to the kind of cozy nooks cherished by nutty people like me who are prone to panic attacks in crowded public spaces. Everything from record shops (yes, vinyl) to a vintage furniture store housed in an old movie theater is covered in this encyclopedic volume of where to eat, sleep, shop and what to see in London.
My two don’t-miss suggestions: Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street, and Pharmacy 2, the Damien Hirst-conceived restaurant above his gallery.

 

 

 

 

If you need something great to read as you jet off far and wide across the world, I’d recommend Johns Hopkins graduate Jessie Chaffee’s debut novel, Florence in Ecstasy (The Unnamed Press, 246 pages, $16 paperback). This is literary fiction that takes you deep into the heart and soul of Florence, Italy. Did you know there’s a rowing club sitting below the Uffizi gallery? Neither did I, and it’s only one of many richly drawn settings in the story about a Bostoner, Hannah, who runs off to Florence where she follows her heart, her stomach and the lives of many saints. When Hannah takes day trips to Siena, Cortona and Orvieto, I found myself actively jealous of this fictional character whose life is even messier than my own.
My don’t-miss suggestion: the novel’s exploration of Italian saints. Google up a Roman Catholic calendar, because you’ll definitely want to plan a trip to Italy around the celebration of one saint or another.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *