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5 trips inspired by renowned female authors

Explore the cities that shaped the works of some of the world’s most influential female authors. | By Jessica Poitevien | March 9, 2023

From ancient times to modern days, storytelling — like travel — has always been an innate part of the human experience. Words can spark change and shape societies. So, with that in mind, let the works of five renowned female authors inspire your next transformative getaway.

  • Culinary adventures in Paris: Sign up for a cooking class at the famous Le Cordon Bleu

  • Beautiful bookstores in Tokyo: Browse an impressive collection of over 30,000 vintage magazines

  • Historic homes in Massachusetts: Tour the 1800s home where an American classic was written

Edinburgh, Scotland: Muriel Spark

Born and raised in Edinburgh, Muriel Spark is a prime example of an author who knows how to add a sense of place to their writing. Scotland and its capital city are more than just passive backdrops for Spark’s characters — they’re front and center, transporting readers and sharing details about the Scottish way of life in details big and small.

“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” Spark’s most famous work, is a perfect example of this — so much so that The New York Times recently recommended it as the one book you should read before visiting Edinburgh. The short but powerful novel follows Miss Brodie, an unconventional and sometimes problematic teacher, as she takes her preferred group of students around 1930s Edinburgh, molding their young minds along the way. Like Miss Brodie, you can still stroll across the Meadows — the city’s large public park — or visit Cramond village to spend a peaceful afternoon at the beach or exploring Roman architecture.

Paris: Julia Child

Julia Child may be known as a lovable TV chef, but it was her writing, particularly her cookbooks, that introduced French cuisine to the world. Child didn’t start cooking until her early 30s after she and her husband Paul moved to Paris. Luckily, being a late bloomer never deterred her as she studied at the world-famous culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu.

Child describes her cooking adventures, along with the ups and downs of American expat life in her memoir, “My Life in France,” making it easy for readers to experience the City of Light from her perspective. Visit some of her favorite places to eat and drink, like Cafe de Flore, with its rich hot chocolate, and Chez Georges, a dining institution since 1926 and the epitome of a Parisian bistro. Follow in her footsteps with an afternoon workshop at Le Cordon Bleu, where you can learn to craft the perfect éclair or bake a delectable baguette.

Tokyo: Yūko Tsushima

Tokyo native Yūko Tsushima is often praised for her works of autofiction, blurring the lines between her characters’ storylines and her own life experiences. Readers get a unique glimpse into the real lives of Tokyo residents, especially marginalized women like Tsushima, all while examining larger societal issues in Japan.

One of Tsushima’s most popular translated works is “Territory of Light.” Pick up a copy for an elegant and page-turning peek into 1970s Tokyo through the eyes of a recently divorced woman trying to rediscover herself and build a new life as a single mom. It presents a different side of Tokyo that you won’t find in the guidebooks.

Literary lovers shouldn’t leave Japan’s capital without exploring one of its many beautiful bookstores. Daikanyama T-Site is one of our favorites thanks to its unique architecture built around the theme of A Library in the Woods. Head upstairs to the Anjin Library & Lounge to browse its collection of over 30,000 vintage magazines.

St. Louis, Missouri: Maya Angelou

It’s impossible to forget iconic lines from one of Maya Angelou’s most famous poems, “Phenomenal Woman.” It’s just one of many writings by this author, poet and civil rights activist that focuses on uplifting women.

Long before she became a household name, Angelou was born in St. Louis and spent a few years of her early childhood there. Her short stint in the city fueled her first autobiographical novel, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which earned her wide recognition and was the winner of the Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation.

Today, St. Louis honors Angelou by keeping her birthplace as a city landmark. If you’re looking for a cozy place to read some of her work, head to Protagonist Cafe, a literary-themed watering hole with a 27-foot-tall bookcase full of pre-loved books for sale. St. Louis’ Central Library is also a great choice, and in between chapters you can admire its ornate neoclassical and Beaux Arts architecture. After all, there’s a reason this St. Louis institution is often cited as one of the most beautiful libraries in the U.S.

Concord, Massachusetts: Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott's novel, “Little Women,” became an instant classic. Over 150 years later, the story touches on universal themes that many readers today can relate to, so it’s no surprise that there’s still such a large fan base for the book.

To immerse yourself in all things “Little Women,” you’ll have to head to Concord, Massachusetts, just 30 minutes outside of Boston. The small town is not only the author’s hometown, but also the setting for the novel loosely based on Alcott’s life there.

For a step back into the 1800s and a tour around the place where the novel was written, be sure to reserve a timed-entry ticket to Orchard House, the Alcott family home. Concord is also where the 2019 film adaptation of the famous novel was filmed, and there is plenty to explore around town.

With the enduring power of storytelling sparking curiosity and wanderlust, allow the written works of these female authors to inspire both your reading list and your next vacation.

Jessica Poitevien is an international storyteller with more than a decade of experience in writing and editing. When she’s not traveling, you can find Jessica enjoying her other obsessions: baking cookies, befriending strangers and exploring nature.

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