Travelogues

Overview

Since about 1962, I made it a practice to send my friends postcards from my travels. But by 2008 there were so many people on the list it was becoming burdensome to write the postcards. Also there is just so much you can say on a postcard, and it was boring to have to copy it out dozens of times. So on a trip to India in January 2008, I experimented with sending an e-mail instead. I could write much more, and would only have to write it once; the same keystroke could send it to as many people as I liked. I wrote three letters from India that month, from Bombay, Rajkot and Udaipur. They were quite short compared to later ones, and had no pictures. I wrote them in Internet cafés and sent them out on the spot. I enjoyed writing them and people enjoyed reading them, so I wrote similar letters from New York in October 2008 and April 2009, using the computer in my brother Christopher’s New York apartment. The October letter was the first one to have a picture, taken from the Internet as I did not then travel with a camera. By August 2009 these letters had taken on more or less their present form. I no longer sent them from the road, but wrote them after I got home. They all now had pictures. And I was finding them very useful, not only to entertain my friends but as a way of remembering my journeys. A lot of my early travels have kind of faded in my memory. After I began a series of pocket notebooks in 1983, details became easier to remember and more reliable. Now I take notes for the letter about whatever trip I am on, and consciously look for details that will fit in well. As the trip unfolds, the structure of the letter I will write about it takes shape in my mind. The actual writing, besides being fun to do, helps me integrate my experience. Since my July 2011 trip to flooded areas of Wyoming and Montana, I have carried a camera with me on my trips, and now at least half the pictures in the letters I have taken myself. Reviewing hundreds of pictures after each trip, and selecting which ones to include, also help me integrate the trip and fix it in my memory. All the letters are accessible from this website. Below I give a short squib about each letter; clicking on the heading or on the associated thumbnail image will bring up the letter in pdf format. All the links are gathered here, without commentary.

Note: Because the travelogues were composed on Microsoft Word, and because translating them into HTML disrupts the embedding of the images, I have posted them as pdfs which must be downloaded. Once a pdf is downloaded, clicking an icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen will reveal advanced index and navigating tools. Although I hold the copyright to all the letters, anyone may send links to individual letters to individual people, and publish links to them on the Internet. If you publish a link on a website, please let me know. Actual republication of any of the letters, in electronic or printed form, requires my permission, which will be liberally given but must be asked for. After my death the copyright to this work will pass under my will to Yale University; inquire of the Phillips Family Papers archive at the Yale Library.

1. Three letters from India, January 2008

The first letter is from Bombay. The second was sent from Rajkot, about halfway through my automobile tour of the Kathiawar Peninsula in Gujarat, and relates how I visited seven royal palaces and had tea with the maharajahs. The third, sent from Udaipur in Rajasthan, tells about my trip there from Gujarat on some isolated back roads, and about the sights of Udaipur.

2. Two letters from New York, October 2008 and April 2009

New York 2 New York is my home town and one of the most beautiful cities and greatest cultural centers in the world. I go there at least once a year to wallow, but I am always glad to get home too.

3. Letter from Wisconsin, August 2009

wisconsin This was the first letter from a county-collecting trip, part of my project to go to every one of the 3133 counties (or equivalent jurisdictions) in the United States. There is a page about the County Project on this website, and also a subchapter on it in my Autobiography. On this trip I finished the counties of Wisconsin and the Northern Peninsula of Michigan, and took a substantial bite out of the remaining counties in Minnesota.

4. Letter from Italy, November 2009

italy I drove through dramatic Italian mountain country from Florence to the independent Republic of San Marino, which was also my base for visits to Urbino and other hill towns, and to Rimini on the Adriatic Sea. Then I moved on to Ravenna, site of the justly world-famous mosaics, and after that to the Renaissance capital of Ferrara, before ending up back in Florence.

5. Letter from Panama, January 2010

panama I flew down to Panama to visit an old school friend, who now lives in Boquete in the misty and temperate Province of Chiriquí. But I spent some time in Panama City, too, and transited the Canal. The trip also includes visits in Miami and elsewhere in Florida, on my way to Panama, and an excursion to Grand Bahama Island.

6. Letter from Virginia, April 2010

Appomattox This was a trip to the mountain and piedmont country of western Virginia, to finish the last of the counties there, with lots of tourism including Appomattox Court House, where Lee surrendered to Grant, and two houses by Thomas Jefferson.

7. Letter from New York, May 2010

New York 7 I came here from Washington, where I ended my Virginia trip (see previous letter), and wallowed again in culture and hometown nostalgia, taking time out for an excursion into Pennsylvania.

8. Letter from Texas and Montana, August 2010

texas-and-montana I went to Texas for the county-collectors convention in Arlington, and while I was there collected some more of the hundreds of counties in this ill-favored state. It was a pleasure to leave Texas for the lovely scenery and cooler weather of Montana.

9. Letter from Ethiopia and Rome, November 2010

ethipia-and-rome2 I made a visit to the Ethiopian highlands, including Addis Ababa, Gonder where the castles are, and Lalibela with the famous rock-hewn churches, and explored the countryside in a car. On the way back I spent some time in Rome, where Ethiopian Airlines has its European hub, and saw the Pope (from far away, but still).

10. Triple Feature Letter (Dixie, Cabbageville, New York and the Midwest), May 2011

triple-feature I took a county-collecting trip to Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, but began having chest pains. As soon as I got home I went into the hospital for a bypass operation, called a cabbage in the trade (CABG, or coronary artery bypass graft). The first part of this letter is about the southern trip; the second part is about the cabbage and my recovery. The third part is about my maiden voyage after recovery, to New York with a stop on the way back in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

11. Letter from Wyoming and Montana, July 2011

wyoming-and-montana2 On this trip I finished the remaining counties in both these remarkably beautiful states. Some of the rivers were flooding at the time of my visit, which was dramatic but didn’t slow me down very much.

12. Letter from Washington DC and North Carolina, August 2011

Washington DC and North Carolina I went to Washington in the heat of August to attend the flag-scholars convention in suburban Alexandria, Virginia. Afterwards I drove through the remaining counties of neighboring North Carolina, visiting barrier islands, swamps, fields and towns by car and ferry, and eating many dozens of delicious raw clams.

13. Letter from Iceland and Paris, December 2011

Iceland and Paris After four days of tourism in Reykjavik. Iceland, I paid a long visit to Paris, where I marinated in the sights and atmosphere of one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world.

14. Letter from the Mississippi Valley, March 2012

Mississippi Valley This trip made a long wandering loop (for county-collecting), beginning in Memphis, Tennessee, and continuing through Kentucky, southern Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. Highlights included the still and enchanted-seeming cotton fields of the Kentucky Bend enclave, and the scarily zombified decayed city center of Cairo, Illinois.

15. Letter from New York, May 2012

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I went back in New York for two high school reunions as well as some culture. How did everyone get so old?

16. Letter from Britain, June 2012

Britain After my high school reunions in New York, I continued on to Britain to spend some time first in Wales, and then in London. I happened to be in London during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

17. Letter from Alaska, September 2012

Alaska I flew to Ketchikan and then went through the Alaska Panhandle by boat and smallish plane, finishing about half the boroughs (not called counties in Alaska).

18. Letter from Poland, October 2012

Poland I went to Poland for a heraldic conference in Cieszyn, and stayed for a while both in the lovely city of Krakow and in the capital Warsaw. I also visited Auschwitz and motored around in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and southern Poland.

19. Letter from China and India, February 2013

Chiuna-India2 This letter tells about my return to the pilgrimage center of Varanasi, with its spectacularly colorful and intensely used Ganges riverfront. I stopped for tourism in Beijing on the way out (Great Wall, Forbidden City), and in Shanghai on the way back.

20. Letter from Turkey and Central Asia, September 2013

central-asia This letter tells about my trip to Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, including visits to Istanbul on the way there, and later across Kyrgyzstan’s borders into Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

21. Letter from Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, November 2013

Iowa horse I started this county-gathering trip in Omaha, finished the last of the counties in Iowa, spent some time in Springfield, Illinois with the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, crossed the Mississippi on a ferryboat, and returned to Omaha through the hills of northern Missouri.

22. Letter from Michigan, June 2014

detroit I return to Michigan to finish the state’s last 39 counties, and encounter the desolation of Detroit.

23. Letter from Norway, September 2014

viking figurehead I went to Oslo to attend a convention of heraldic scholars, and continued past dazzling fjords and foggy glaciers to Bergen on the sea.

24. Letter from France and Benelux, November 2014

delft canal I went back to Europe to visit my cousin on a French Atlantic island, and my brother by a Dutch canal, and buy 100 pounds of heraldry books.

25. Letter from Texas, March 2015

oil well I go to Texas, do some research in a great library, visit the childhood homes of two Presidents, and plow my way through 36 counties of sand and scrub.

26. Letter from Australia and New Zealand, November 2015

maori fence I went to Australia to give a lecture, attend a conference, be thrilled and astounded by this remarkable country, and see kangaroos. Then I went to New Zealand, because it was close to Australia, and was thrilled and astounded again.

27. Letter from Greece and Cyprus, January 2016

27. Greece and Cyprus index pic This letter tells about my trip to Greece, for tourism but also for a big family Christmas party in Thessaloniki, and my visit to Cyprus afterwards.

28. Letter from Paris and Prague, July 2016

The Repentant Peter This letter tells how I went to Paris and Prague and found them still beautiful, despite pouring rain and transitory palsy.

29. Letter from Scotland, September 2016

Hairy Highland cattle This letter tells how I went to Scotland for a heraldic conference, met the Lord Lyon King of Arms, almost saw the royal family at church, ate bowl after bowl of smoked fish soup, drove back and forth amid the mist and the heather, and then came home again.

30. Letter from Georgia and Armenia, December 2016

Amenian Alphabet The story of the trip my nephew Noah and I took to Georgia and Armenia in the distant Caucasus, and how we encountered exotic alphabets there, but returned to tell the tale.