The Next Travel Book You Should Read

I’m a voracious reader.  I always have been.  On a daily basis, I read two newspapers, ESPN.com’s front page numerous times, dozens of blogs and whatever book I happen to have hiding in my Kindle app on my iPhone.  I read fiction and non-fiction alike.  A few weeks ago, I received a new book that was in the travel genre.

The book was written by someone I met a number of years ago.  Stephanie Rosenbloom is an accomplished New York Times journalist who calls the travel world her “beat” nowadays.  I was excited to read a book written by someone I know.  My first impression when I saw the title was that it might not be a good fit for me.  I was wrong.

Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities and the Pleasures of Solitude, by Stephanie Rosenbloom covers much more than solo travel.  The book puts you in a place, peering out at a city that you may or may not have visited.  You see through the eyes of the observant author, taking in Paris, Florence, Istanbul and New York as she sees it.

Stephanie paints us pictures with her words as she visits each city on her own:

Alone at a sidewalk table in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, just after a June rain, I listen to the low hum of French being spoken around me, breathe in the scent of coffee, feel the breeze across my cheek, in my hair, carrying away the last of the storm; all the things I’ll miss when I’m back home.

To sit outside a Paris cafe at breakfast is to observe the city as it wipes the sleep from its eyes: the soft clink of a cup and saucer, the turning of newspaper pages, the passerby with a cigarette who asks for a light, and me at my little round table, nibbling a speculoos, sipping my cafe creme.

I can even see the man sitting his boxers on the balcony across the way, smoking a cigarette.  Her words take me there.

In Istanbul, we venture with Stephanie as she seeks out the Basilica Cistern:

Steps lead down from the sunbaked streets, plunging visitors into exquisite darkness beneath vaulted stone arcades on the banks of a subterranean sea.  Hundreds of ancient marble columns extend on into the abyss, illuminated only by small lamps at the base that gave the effect of candlelight.  It was as eerie as I’d hoped.

The author even admits her own faults, detailing how in her private moment in a Florence museum, she finds herself staring through the lens of her smartphone to get a picture as opposed to taking in the silent moment.

But, the best lesson of the book comes when she returns to her hometown of New York.  She makes a promise to herself:

Once a week, during routine errands, I would try something new or go someplace I hadn’t been in a long while.  It could be as quick as a walk past the supposedly haunted brownstone at 14 West 10th Street.

Want to know why it’s consider haunted?  Grab a copy of the book.  I can only hope Stephanie will share these moments as she rediscovers New York City through the eyes of a first-timer.  I love New York and always enjoy returning home to see the city, especially through the eyes of my children. I’m counting on Stephanie to share a memory or two with us as she reconnects with New York.

The Final Two Pennies

Travel is such a great educator.  My children are more informed from their travels across the world.  Alone Time has plenty to say to the solo traveler.  Yet, folks who travel in a group will miss an important message if they take a pass here.  Alone Time reminds us that travel is to be treasured; that experiences are more valuable than things.  Stephanie trained my eye back on the details of travel.  Why is a building a certain color, a flag hung a certain way?  Where are the people heading when you see them rushing through a crowd in a new city?

Stephanie is the catalyst in one of my favorite personal tales of discovery.  With Alone Time, she leads another journey for us to follow.  You don’t even have to leave your living room to take part.  But, I hope you do.  After all, there’s a whole world out there.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this lovely article. Breakfast at an outdoor café in Paris evokes memories for me. I love Paris and go at least once a year. However, my favorite memory of breakfast in Europe is in Venice. Staying at the Starwood property, on points of course, on the Grand Canal the breakfast cafe was right on the water. Although one hears about the romantic gondola rides, I was pleasantly surprised to find that early in the morning, the commerce of the city navigates the waterway. In front of our eyes were boats laden with fruits and vegetables, cases and cases of wine, and even garbage. Although Starwood has several magnificent properties in Venice, I think that one is no more.

    I travel alone most of the time. I enjoy it. I rarely eat steak but I usually eat a top steakhouse. There is always a good bar where you can eat, friendly bartenders and well-made drinks, they usually have an extensive appetizer menu from which you can make a meal, and it is not difficult to open a conversation with the other patrons.

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