Politics & Prose Launches New Literary Travel Company

The beloved local bookstore wants to make your next vacation a thoughtful one.

By: Ayesha Venkataraman

Imagine cozying up with a copy of Joyce's Dubliners in the heart of Dublin. Or finding yourself in the very same hotel on the French Riviera as the one Fitzgerald mentions in Tender Is the Night. These kinds of literary experiences are the goal behind Politics & Prose Travel, a new travel program to be launched in October by one of Washington's great independent bookstores. 

"People think of the store as a community center. It seemed like a natural venture for the store to take that sense of community on the road," says Susan Coll, the programs director at Politics & Prose. 

In an effort to merge the community's love of books with travel, each trip is led by a literary expert who will guide 30 participants to various literary sites, while also hosting discussions based around a specially curated reading list.  

The program's first scheduled trip heads to Ireland, with two nights in Galway and four in Dublin led by Folger board president Gigi Bradford. The itinerary includes stops at the Dublin Writer's Museum, the James Joyce Museum, and the birthplace of George Bernard Shaw, along with a walking tour of famous literary sites. But the trip isn't entirely book-focused--it coincides with the Dublin Theater Festival to offer other opportunities for the participants to soak up the arts and culture of the city. 

The second scheduled vacation goes to France, and includes visits to Nice, Antibes, and Juan Les Pins as well as a Left Bank tour led by Heather Hartley, the Paris editor of the literary journal Tin House. Sightseers will get to traverse the streets where Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Ezra Pound lived, and visit Père Lachaise cemetery, where Oscar Wilde, Alice B. Toklas, and Marcel Proust are buried. 

Although the trips aren't exactly budget (the two scheduled tours currently cost between $4,000 and $6,000 per person), Coll is banking on customers being drawn to the trips' one-off experiences, such as a private poetry reading with award-winning poet Paula Meehan, or an exchange of ideas with Scottish writer and historian William Dalrymple. With independent bookstores facing more and more challenges thanks to the rise of Internet-based retailers, it could prove to be a winning venture for the much-loved Cleveland Park institution.

For more information on Politics & Prose Travel, visit the company's website.