Travel to a Lighthouse and Take a Book
Between the poetic act and a massage of the imagination, this exercise is a beautiful invitation that we should all accept.
Trips are ideal moments for reading. There is nothing like taking advantage of the distance from work and having a weak Internet connection to procure perfect moments of solitude and silence for concentration and memory. Books read during a trip impregnate the places we visit, and vice versa. They will always be associated in our minds with the space and the story. One way of strengthening that link between reading and traveling even more is to read about the places we visit.
In recent decades, lighthouses have become popular tourist destinations. Located beside the sea, the landscapes that surround them are usually at the very least interesting, if not beautiful and even sublime. For that reason, and for their historical value, many of them have been turned into hotels or museums.
The noble function that they perform by guiding lost seamen, warning of dangerous zones and giving refuge to shipwrecks, the landscape that surrounds them and the solitude they represent have also made lighthouses a literary motif. There are ghost stories, of sea monsters, of adventures and pirates that take place around lighthouses. Here are four real lighthouses that are worth visiting and reading about at the same time; four long novels that would be best read in trips without a clock, for those who travel like in the old days, departing without a fixed date of return.
1. To the Lighthouse and the Cornwall lighthouse
When she was a child, Virginia Woolf traveled to a seaside retreat at Uptown Beach from where she could see the Cornwall lighthouse. Today the view is very similar to what Woolf observed in her childhood. The area, with small shops and cafés, receives many tourists every year.
Any of these cafés, with their view of the lighthouse, or a deckchair on the beach, are the perfect places to read To the Lighthouse, the story of a failed trip to the beacon. It is also the story of a painter and her family, of memory and the passing of time. Woolf’s words have an oceanic rhythm and describe with precision, imagination and poetry the areas around the lighthouse, the green hills, the waves and the wind.
2. The Lighthouse at the End of the World: San Juan de Salvamento
Head south, as far south as you can imagine. There, at the end of the world, is the San Juan de Salvamento lighthouse. Enjoy the landscapes of Argentine Patagonia, of the frozen sea and the green hills. Look at that strange lighthouse, which is wide and stocky, with its blue roof and white walls, and which inspired Jules Verne to write The Lighthouse at the End of the World. Between the crashing of the almost Antarctic waves one can perfectly imagine Verne’s story of pirates and adventures, action and cunning at the edge of civilization.
3. Moby Dick: Eddystone Lighthouse
Nantucket, one of the main locations of Moby Dick, was once the US’ most important whaling station. Today it is a protected port that still conserves its character of that dark time in which men sailed the seas and risked their lives for the precious oil of whales. The port is full of houses belonging to elderly seamen at the edge of the ocean, and of boats and lighthouses. “How it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse.”
4. Ulysses: Howth lighthouse
Ulysses is one of those novels that are inseparable from the landscape in which they are set. Dublin has never been the same since it passed through James Joyce’s imagination and he completely reinvented it. The lighthouse, which appears more than once, is essential in one of the book’s most touching episodes, when Leopold Bloom lies on the beach and watches a beautiful girl while the sun goes down and the Howth lighthouse flickers into life. The reading of Ulysses, dense and, despite what it seems, is full of humor and very enjoyable, deserves a long trip, a trip to Ireland, and preferably by ship.
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