Anthony Bourdain’s World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, Part III

Walking Into a Bookstore

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Thank you for joining us for this last post reviewing Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever’s book, World Travel:  An Irreverent Guide.  In parts I and II we covered about ¾ of the alphabetically organized book.  This post will take us to the end.


World Travel: An Irreverent Guide was published in April 2021.

Bourdain had been a life-long traveler and just may have been everywhere!!!  However, the book covers only 89 places in 43 countries (still an amazing journal of experiences).  Oh, the places he did go!!!

Anthony Bourdain at the Maxwell Food Centre, Singapore in March 2006.
(Cheryl/miss bake-a-lot. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Let’s continue the photographic journey.

Peru and Machu Picchu:  Bourdain described Peru as “…a country that’s historically driven men mad:  mad for gold, for coca, for its magical ancient, history.”  He went on to say, “Born of an uneasy mix of Spanish and indigenous influences, today it’s a land of extreme contrasts:  present versus past; verdant jungle, snow-capped mountains, vibrant cities; the assimilated and the not.  It’s often those very contrasts that draw people here.”  Bourdain, himself, was drawn to the cocoa plantations after investing in a high-end chocolate business.  He wanted to meet the people and view the process at the beginning of the supply chain.

There are three main varieties of cocoa. Criollo, Trinitario and Forastero. Forastero is the most widely used.
(Wikipedia photo)
Pods at various stages of ripening
(Wikipedia photo)

And of course, he also visited Machu Picchu.  A visit to Peru just isn’t complete without experiencing the ancient wonder and beauty of this “Lost City of the Incas.”  But first, you must get there!!!  And that involves a journey-to and layover-in the beautiful, high-Andean city of Cusco.  “And, why?” you may ask.  Ahh, because of the altitude.  As Bourdain explained, “In its streets, tourists rub shoulders with traditional Andean people, while gawking at Spanish colonial buildings built atop Inca stone ruins.  It’s a great place to introduce oneself to both the beauty and the uneasy contrasts of Peruvian history—and to the uneasy breathing at high altitude.”  Oh yes, you really must arrive about 24 hours early to acclimate.  Interestingly, for an additional fee, you can arrange to have oxygen pumped into your hotel room!!!  By all means—do it!!!  The altitude at Cusco is about 11,000 feet.  That makes the lower, 8,000-foot altitude at Machu Picchu feel much better.  And roaming the ruins is, after all, what it’s all about!!!

This may be the most iconic view of Machu Picchu, Absolutely everyone takes a photo from this spot!!! And why not, isn’t this spectacular?
Once the capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. Plaza de Armas is the central square, with arcades, carved wooden balconies and Incan ruins. The Cathedral was built in 1724.
Bourdain stayed in the Belmond Hotel Monasterio which is probably very convenient when taking Belmond’s Hiram Bingham Train to Machu Picchu.
Your RovingRaconteurs stayed at the JW Marriott where we, too, opted to have oxygen pumped into our room. Both the Marriott and Belmond are located adjacent to Incan ruins and will provide tours!!! Both are also within walking distance of the plaza.
Although we did not stay at Belmond’s Hotel Monasterio, we did travel by Belmond’s extremely comfy Hiram Bingham Train to Machu Picchu.
The view was fabulous.
Do you see the overnight shelters on the mountainside? Many climbing enthusiats hike to Machu Picchu. These shelters provide overnight accommodations!!!
Really, would you ever???
Arriving in Machu Picchu, the views are amazing!
The Llamas are too cute for words!
Llamas roam freely through the area.
And so do the tourists!!!

Portugal, Lisbon and Porto:

Portugal is one of our favorite countries to visit.  It is the westernmost sovereign state in mainland Europe—right there at the very end of the Iberian Peninsula.  It is bordered on the north and east by Spain; but most importantly, on the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean.  That vast open sea lured Prince Henry the Navigator to set out on a course of exploration.  The Age of Discovery was born.  Here’s what Anthony Bourdain had to say about Portugal, “…sandwiched between Spain and the Atlantic Ocean, and tiny as countries go, [Portugal] has had an outsize impact on the world.  During the Age of Discovery, the Portuguese went to sea in great numbers, gained fame as navigators, shipbuilders, explorers.  They conquered a large part of the world, their empire stretching from Brazil to Africa to the East Indies.”  Consequently, the Portuguese dominated the spice trade.  So, it’s no wonder Bourdain, while in Lisbon, had this to say, “Lisboetas, as the locals are known, like their food.  They talk about it a lot and have strong ideas about what visitors should eat and where.”  Having eaten all over the country, including the territories of Madeira and the Azores, we can agree:  The Portuguese know food!!!  Whether in the markets, sidewalk cafes or fine restaurants, the food is delicious.  The seafood is outstanding!!!

It took Woolever more than half the book to finally get to one of our favorite destinations–Portugal. This is a close-up of the detail on The Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon, a tribute to the explorers who spurred the Age of Discovery
The Portuguese love their food. Markets, food stalls, restaurants are everywhere!!! This is a photo of The Mercado dos Lavradores in Funchal, Madeira.
A typical Fish Market–this one is in Madeira.
Fabulous aromas at Lisbon’s Mercado da Baixa.
Outdoor dining at Brasileira Restaurant in the Chiado
High Tea at Reid’s Hotel Funchal, Madeira
Pasteis de Belem is Lisbon’s “go to” place for the national pastry, Pastel de Nata–an egg custard tart spriknkled with cinnamon.
The famous Pastel de Nata has been made by Fabrica de Pasteis de Belem since the Heironymites Monastery closed in 1837. The recipe is kept in a secret room!!!
By popular vote in 2011, the Pastel de Nata was declared one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders of Gastronomy !!!
(Mon Œil Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)
In 2019, our favorite port was available from the bakery cold case for only 9.50 Euros!!!
This is a view of Porto. The colorful Ribeira (riverbank) is filled with cafes. The old city wall is visible under the bridge.
And this is the riverfront on the Gaia side of the river lined with lots of “rebelos,” those Portuguese river craft used to transport the port wine from the vineyards to the “caves” where it was stored and, later, marketed.
I may have mentioned, our favorite port wine is Ferreira! This is the oldest, continuusly-operating, family winery. They’ve been producing superior ports since 1751.
When in Porto, purchases just happen…..port pairs well with nearly everything!!!!

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is a teardrop shaped island just southeast of the Indian subcontinent.  Colombo is the capital.  In 2008, Bourdain stated: “There’s a quote somewhere, describing the old days of exploration and empire, that ‘all Europe has fallen in love with Ceylon.’  The Portuguese thought they discovered the Garden of Eden, the crown jewel of the spice trade—cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, pepper, mace, ginger—the object of desire of many empires.”

The Galle Face Hotel was Anthony Bourdain’s hotel of choice when staying in Colombo.  He described it almost poetically, “The Indian Ocean crashes against the seawall just outside the windows of the Galle Face Hotel.  There’s a crack of thunder, and lightning lights up the horizon.  In the distance, the dark silhouettes of oil tankers from Indonesia and points east scud slowly toward the Persian Gulf and beyond.  This is where I wake up every morning; this is where I come home to every night.  This hotel is a little creepy, but in a cool, Graham Greene, ‘grand colonial hotel in a postcolonial wartime’ sort of a way.”  Woolever went on to explain, “Each evening, at sunset, a bag-piper plays while the Sri Lankan national flag is ceremonially lowered from its pole between the veranda and the sea; it’s a tradition worth witnessing over a gin and tonic from the excellent bar.”  We concur.  We have enjoyed lunch and drinks in the Traveler’s Bar many times.  But we have never experienced the Galle Face Green mobile food stalls.  Woolever described them this way, “…stretched out between the beach and the street, the Galle Face Green, a historic promenade-like park, is home to a long line of mobile food stalls.  Offering the likes of fish samosas, isso wade, …grilled seafood, spicy crab…”  and the like.  Next time, we’ll have to give it a try!!!

The Galle Face Hotel, founded in 1864, is not only a fine hotel, but also an automotive museum of sorts.
The one and only car in the Galle Face Hotel Car Museum is a 1935 Standard Nine. It was the first automobile owned by Prince Phillip of Greece, the future husband of Queen Elizabeth. He purchased it in 1940, while working in Ceylon.
The Traveler’s bar at the Galle Face Hotel is our “go-to” place for lunch or a libation after a day of touring!!!
Galle Face Hotel sits along Galle Face Green.
A happy photo of vendors lined up along the Galle Face Green.
(Surangi Kasturirathne, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

Hoi An, Vietnam:

Anthony Bourdain had a special affection for Vietnam.  He wrote, “Vietnam:  it grabs you and doesn’t let you go.  Once you love it, you love it forever.  I’ve been coming here since 2000, the first time I’d been in this part of the world, and it’s held a special place in my heart and my imagination since.  I keep coming back; I have to.”  There is a lot to see in Vietnam and one of our favorite places is the ancient city of Hoi An.  Bourdain agreed, “Hoi An, in Vietnam’s central region, managed to mostly escape destruction during the war, surviving much as it was before the dawn of the twentieth century.  Picturesque streets and ancient shophouses date back to when it was a shipping and commercial capital for wealthy Chinese and Japanese traders.  There is a peacefulness here that is really specific to the central region.  This is the real thing.  There is no ‘improvement district’ here, there is no effort; this is it, and that’s the beauty of it.”

Hoi An was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Center in 1999 because it retains the architecture and original street plan of the traditional townscape from the 17th and 18th centuries.  It is an exceptional example of the trading ports active in the region since the 15th century.

The coastal city, Hoi An, is a charming city built along a series of canals.
This wooden Japanese bridge dates from the 1700s and is still in constant use.
The houses of old Hoi An are tiled and arranged side-by-side in tight unbroken rows along narrow pedestrian streets.
Traditionally, the old Hoi An buildings front the streets for cutomer access while the backs open to the waterway for easy deliveries from boats.
Old Hoi An may retain the charm of ancient times, but it also provides the amenities of modern day living. This is not Starbuck’s—it’s actually much better!!!
The dining options in Hoi An are numerous–from fine and slow-paced….
…to everyday and speedy.
Shopping is a joy along the narrow pedestrian streets.
Banh mi is the iconic Vietnamese sandwich. And Anthony Bourdain particularly enjoyed eating one at Banh mi Phuong in Hoi An.
((Baoothersks, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)
This, however, is probably not considered a well balanced lunch!

And so, we come to the end.  What does it all mean?

In the chapter dedicated to Peru, Bourdain says, “A prophet once said, ‘Don’t tell me what a man says, don’t tell me what a man knows.  Tell me where he has traveled.’  I wonder about that.  Do we get smarter, more enlightened as we travel?  Does travel bring wisdom?” 

Interesting thoughts, arent’ they?  Bourdain thought it all came down to people, food, and the memories created, “So many of the good times traveling this world relate directly to finding a human face to associate with your destination, the food you eat, and the memories you’ll keep with you forever.  The best times are when its impossible to be cynical about anything.  When you find yourself letting go of the past, and your preconceptions, and feel yourself and your basic nature, the snarkiness and suspicion, the irony and doubt disappear, at least for a time.  When, for a few moments or a few hours, you change.”

Those are words worth pondering. 

Just what are the “take-aways” of travel?

Don’t know—it’s been so long, one forgets!!!!

Time to get out there and travel again.