Outlandish

January 15, 2021

While my incurious nature has gotten me off the hook from having to drag myself through some of the most renowned and beloved tourist attractions in the world, the one exception is any site related to my favorite authors I’ve read or movies I’ve seen. Thus, in Paris, have I sat in the Brasserie Lipp making notes (Hemingway worked on edits to A Farewell To Arms there), leaned against the façade that was the actual location of Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company and sat on the steps of the Saint – Étienne du Mont Church, where Gil Pender waited for the taxi to take him back to the 1920s in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

When we visited Oxford, UK, I was excited to see my old academic stomping grounds, which – ahem and harrumph – were happened to be the hallowed halls of Oxford University (it was a six-week grant I received back in 1971, ingratiatingly offered me by the egregiously credulous gatekeepers of the English Speaking Union of New Orleans). But I was also utterly captivated by the walking tour of the filming locations of both the Inspector Morse and Endeavor detective series that not only included the pub crawls of the dramas’ main characters, but also the background scenes shot at the very Oxford college (Exeter) that I had attended in ’71 (and referred to as “Lonsdale” in both shows).     

Things got a little thin literarily in Trieste, when I took a walking tour of the haunts featured in Italo Svevo’s Senilità, a novel even his Italian countrymen ignored, but that James Joyce, himself no stranger to driving away readers, had championed. I enjoyed the tour, thinking the whole time, so this is what it’s like to be an obscure writer. Not bad.

But all this has been overshadowed by what is continuing to become the biggest literary/film series miss of all time.

I enjoyed the tour, thinking the whole time, so this is what it’s like to be an obscure writer. Not bad.

Our last trip to Europe before Covid included a stop in the storied Scottish highland city of Inverness. I say storied, because it is the setting for the wonderful Starz series Outlander, currently running on Netflix. Carol and I found it while looking for things to watch during Covid. We were oblivious to the show’s connection the whole time we were in Inverness, even to the apparent many Outlander bus tours that were running there, all of which we had blinded ourselves to.

Carol had a perfect alibi, never having known of the series at the time of our visit. But your intrepid celebrity stalker here had watched the first two seasons on Starz back when it first aired, and then had evidently quickly forgotten how much it had to do with Inverness.

And so it came to pass that we so obliviously passed on the Nordic Visitor’s itinerary through the Kingdom of Fife and on to Doune Castle that was the setting for “Castle Leoch” in the series, as well as the Clava Cairns that inspired the magic portal through time that was Craigh na Dun.

As you may have guessed, given how enthralled we both are by Outlander, Scotland is down for a return visit just as soon as Operation Warp Speed makes Covid as magically disappear as did Clare Fraser upon touching one of those Operation Warp Speed rocks.

And I’m getting used to Carol’s look of askance every time the subject of our past trip to Inverness comes up.

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