When you explore a new city you probably visit a long list of must-see tourist attractions. During the pandemic many of those spots have moved their services online, which is great, but virtual visits only give you the destination, not the journey. Travelling is as much about the subway rides and strolls on the sidewalk as it is the famous architecture and historical sites.
That’s why I love these five illustrated travelogues. They give you the real flavour of some of our favourite West Coast sites, with enough detail to ground you and enough space to spark your imagination. Revisit a city you’ve already seen, check out your hometown through an artist’s eyes, or armchair travel some place new!
Hand Drawn Vancouver by Emma Fitzgerald
Wander the rainy streets of Vancouver with Emma Fitzgerald, and catch the snippets of conversations she heard while sketching top-rated tourist attractions and hidden gems. Fitzgerald grew up in the city but has also travelled around the globe, so she brings the best mix of local knowledge and starry-eyed wonder to every sketch. Hand Drawn Vancouver is a follow-up to her bestseller Hand Drawn Halifax, and rumour has it there’s a Hand Drawn Victoria in the works.
Meanwhile in San Francisco by Wendy MacNaughton
You might recognize MacNaughton’s doodle style from her work with chef Samin Nosrat on Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Here, she documents the places, people and fashions of the City by the Bay. You may not be able to people-watch at a sunny San Francisco park or lively cocktail bar, but you can flip through MacNaughton’s annotated illustrations and see the city like a local.
The Portland Book of Dates by Eden Dawn and Ashod Simonian
Portland prides itself on being one of North America’s weirdest cities, so you can’t pretend to understand it if you only visit museums and restaurants. That’s why Eden Dawn and Ashod Simonian put together this creative collection of more than 130 outings around the city. The pandemic has totally changed not just travel, but also dating. So cruise along with these locals for a bit of both.
The Best Coast: A Road Trip Atlas by Chandler O’Leary
Maps are nice, Google Street View is realistic, but a real-life road trip is about more than that. O’Leary captures the roadside plaques, decaying motel signs and car ride meals that populate the most memorable road trips. If you want to know turn-by-turn directions or a list of spots to spend the night, buy a guidebook. If you want to daydream about visiting every Spanish mission in California, O’Leary’s Road Trip Atlas is for you.
RED: A Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
OK, so it’s not quite a travelogue and it’s not about a modern city, but this graphic novel from Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas still gives you a pretty good sense of Haida Gwaii, past and present. Yahgulanaas (whose art hangs at the MET, and other renowned galleries) hand-painted a traditional Haida story in his signature mix of Haida imagery and Japanese manga. That cultural mix gives you a pretty good idea of what it’s like to visit Haida Gwaii today: steeped in rich history, innovating in our modern world.
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