Where on Earth would you like to go this winter? You can start your search at the Nelson Public Library.

Where on Earth would you like to go this winter? You can start your search at the Nelson Public Library.

Something tropical at the Nelson Library

Take a trip around the world and start it at the library

And then there’s the day, not long after Christmas, when you wake up and find that the fridge is empty. Turkey leftovers are history, and the last cookie is gone. You open the door and there it is, in your face: January.

The snow that was soft enough to shovel last week — when you were still working through leftovers — has hardened into the Berlin Wall. Your car is out there somewhere, but it’ll take a jackhammer to chip the ice from the windshield. Standing there in your doorway, with the cold blowing around your ankles, who could blame you for thinking  about someplace warmer than this?

When I step out of my office (assuming I’ve chipped and shoveled my way to work), the first thing I see is our new geographic reference centre. Thanks to a grant from Areas E and F, we were able to purchase beautiful laminated topographic maps for the whole region. They’re wonderful for hikers and snowshoers, hunters and prospectors, and I know they’ll get a lot of use.

But it’s January, and so my eye is drawn to our new  large world map, all warm colours and blue seas, surrounded by a square dance of happy little flags. The hottest parts just happen to be eye level, and I find myself imagining soft sand and aqua waves. Mmmmmm.

It’s not far from the reference centre to the travel section, where writers such as Bill Bryson, Michael Palin, and Will Ferguson tantalize and entertain. Paul Theroux offers an adventurer’s viewpoint; Karen Connolly paints pictures with words. I am seduced. Assuming money is not a barrier (it’s always more fun to pretend-travel under those circumstances), where should I go?

According to Statistics Canada, the top travel destinations for Canadians are the USA (which, in terms of proximity, stands to reason), followed by Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Warm places, all, which tells you something about our climate from October to April. I’m not one to run with the pack, necessarily, but I have to say I’ve always had a thing for Cuba. The notion of the only ice being the cubes in my glass is pretty attractive, too.

Luckily, the library has a full complement of Lonely Planet guides, as well as Fodors, Eyewitness, Rough, and Moon guides, in print and downloadable e-book. We have multiple guides to Cuba, and for background, there’s BC Bookworld publisher Alan Twigg’s Cuba: a concise history for travelers.

We’ve got great complimentary literature, from Isadora Tattlin’s The Cuba Diaries: an American housewife in Havana to David McFadden’s An Innocent in Cuba and Loving Che by Ana Menendez. To get in the mood, I can watch Buena Vista Social Club on DVD, or a documentary on Fidel Castro. I can download books like Havana Heat by Darryl Brock to listen to while I sweat it out, try to get in bathing-suit shape on the cross-trainer.

When I’m not dreaming of sand and sun, old cars and music-making, I can practice my Latin American Spanish with tutorials on CD or brush up using Rocket Languages, e-lessons accessible free from our website. I can peruse phrasebooks and pocket guides, rifle dictionaries and check out Spanish for Dummies.

The honest truth is, I can’t afford to go to Cuba. But who cares? With all this reading, watching, listening and learning, I’m already feeling warmer. And whether or not I take a pick axe to the snowbank, it’ll all be gone by May. So I’ll stoke up the fire and crack another book, and maybe pour myself something tropical — with ice cubes.

Anne DeGrace’s library column is featured every second Friday in the Nelson Star