May I take up Foxglove's intriguing reference to the simple pleasure of reading and of books.
It certainly complements my own experiences of how to enrich travel generally - and "leisure" travel specifically. The pleasure to be gained from sitting in a comfortable hotel lounge - or even a bar, though in this context well-intended intrusions may be harder to manage - comes from many sources, of which sheer enjoyment, learning and a heightened sense of perspective are but three. The surrounds do not have to be grand or even particularly luxurious; spectacular vistas can be a distraction. For example, I've spent hours in the lobby of the Amsterdam Marriott turning the pages and idly watching the world pursue its ineluctable path. Sometimes, though, the spectacular undeniably stimulates the imagination: for me, a good example would be the Exec Lounge on the 58th Floor of the Shanghai JW, with its view out over 23 million bustling souls and 2/3000 years of history.
What of content? Well, of course "each to their own", but here's a couple of examples of how I found that books helped me appreciate a location in several different ways. Imagine yourselves in the building shown above - The Prado Gallery in Madrid. A treasure trove in itself, this place is home to what many call the "second most famous painting in the world" - Diego Velasquez's "Las Meninas". Gaze and wonder at its multi-faceted intricacy. And then turn to a book entitled "Everything is Happening" in which the author, Michael Jacobs, "searches for the ultimate significance of the painting by following the trails of association from each individual character in the picture, as well as his own memories of relationship to this extraordinary work." The result: a widened sense of appreciation; a more balanced critical perspective; and enhanced satisfaction. Later, a glass or two to the good, I am close to heaven.
If you are venturing to Munich, take a look at Catherine Hickley's description of Hitler's art dealer and his secret legacy - "The Munich Art Hoard". And then go out into that city's rich resource of art and political history, wander around and imagine how it all happened - moving with the writer from "the street -corner battles of Kristellnacht in Breslau, to modern-day Madison Ave; from the charred ruins of post-war Dresden to the current cosy prosperity of Berne."
Enough: I ramble. Many thanks to Foxglove for the idea.
My best wishes to you all,
Message was edited by: arkwright