Okay, let’s get this out of the way first: in Tangled Autumn (1971), Sappha Devenish and Rolf van Duyren visit Uithuizen in the Netherlands, Betty von Susie’s family’s ancestral homeland. That’s right: Uithuizen! In the Netherlands! Where Betty von Susie’s ancestors lived! They look around Menkemaborg Castle in UITHUIZEN. Uithuizen, Uithuizen, Uithuizen.
Moving, one hopes, right along, I am pleased to note that Betty Lulu guessed correctly that the #2 most-toured country in The Canon is England, whether or not combined with Scotland to form (most of) the United Kingdom. Others nominated a host of worthy candidates, all shown in my Bettyworld-view:
Or, put another way:
Note that the pie is sorted first by number of visits, and then in vaguely chronological order (that’s right, France, yes, FRANCE, is the first one-visit-only country to get a Betty visit), while the table is rigorously alphabetical.
So we’ve looked around the Netherlands with Emma Serena Cresswell-Creswell, and we’ve toured England and Scotland with Katrina Philomena Dowling-Downing. If you’d care to join me, we might now take a jaunt around other European beauty spots with Francesca Matilda Culpepper-Crump. And, oh, if only Sister Wise had been more fair and less airy about duty hours, we’d have had a peek at Africa! Honestly, if I ever make it to Alexandria (the one in Egypt, not the one right down the parkway in Virginia), I am so totally bringing my copy of Never While the Grass Grows (1978) and, whilst standing atop the Qaitbey Fort, opening the pages wide and rotating 360 degrees to give Octavia a good, long look around.*
But for now I shall compose myself in patience, and enjoy the myriad delights of... Norway! Norway is Betty’s number-four most-toured country, with four visitors between 1979 and 1981, one in 1986, and a final sixth visitor in 1997. Those six tourists comprise 4% of the 135 Neels heroines, and begin with Becky Saunders in The Promise of Happiness (a/k/a, if you’re on board with the Founding Bettys, Becky and the Baron – the Hot, Hot Baron), who trots around Trondheim, when not seeing to the worldly comforts of her imperious but lovable patient, and expands her horizons through visits to the Folk Museum, cathedral and other points of interest. Plus popping into the shops to achieve the very gradual expansion of her very scanty wardrobe.
If I’ve got the geography right (not offering odds on that), Annis Brown makes it furthest north when she moves in with Dr. Jake van Germert and the motley crew staffing the Spitsbergen radio station, way up above the Arctic Circle, to be entranced by the Midnight Sun’s Magic (1979). Spitsbergen is also, I believe, the geographically farthest any heroine gets from home, whether home is the West Country or the Highlands or London. Back on Norway’s mainland, Tromso and Bergen get the most visitors; Oslo, the capital, gets just one (Two Weeks to Remember, 1986). Betty sticks mainly to the coastline – as most Norwegians do, I suspect. It’s not like you’re going to eat really well off the local flora and fauna during a rough winter inland, after all; and besides, Norway is one of those long, thin countries that boasts a strong coastline-to-inland ratio.
Northern Lights over Spitsbergen, or Spitzbergen
Portugal is next in our hit parade, with five tourists, or 4% of the books, one in 1974 when we Cruise to a Wedding, and the remainder in the early 80s. That same cruise also takes us on our first of four visits to Madeira, which ties with Germany for the sixth-most-popular tourist destination in Neelsland, with 3% of heroines each. Our Madeira visits are a bit more spread out chronologically, with that first 1974 visit followed by trips in 1977, 1980 and 1994. Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal, but since that autonomy includes its own legislature and its own flag, I’m counting it as a separate country. If you prefer otherwise, Portugal squeaks in just ahead of Scotland, which becomes our fourth most-toured country – unless you count Scotland as part of the UK, in which case Portugal is third and Norway fourth. Gracious, you’re picky, aren’t you?
Henry the Navigator – you know why.
In Madeira, Funchal is a must (probably literally; it’s not a large island), with each of our four heroines visiting. You can borrow or rent a car in that small city, and then drive out of town through the winding mountain roads and along the glorious coast to Camara de Lobos and all the other semi-tropical beauty spots. Madeira is my favorite Betty-destination, and writing this has brought it back up on my must-visit-someday list.
None of the pictures of Madeira I found were as brilliant with colorful flowers as I thought they would be. Still, rather attractive, don’t you think?
Now, tied for seventh, with two visits each (1.5% of heroines): the Canary Islands (officially part of Spain?), Greece, Italy and Spain. I think the most memorable of these has got to be Katrina and Lucius’s fake-engagement tour of Greece (Roses and Champagne, 1983), which included not only Athens, Piraeus, Sounion, Lavrion, the Mesogeia plain, Marathon Bay, Kophisia, Thebes, Levadia, Hosias Loukas, and Delphi, but also an earthquake!
Some of the same pictures came up when I searched on “Canary Islands” as when I searched on “Madeira.” But they are different places – probably both worth visiting.
Then we have our ten eighth-place destinations: Austria, Belgium (!), Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland. Much as I enjoy all the fiacre-riding and torte-eating that Cordelia does in Venice, and adore though I do Sarah Ann’s dancing on the Avignon bridge (Fate is Remarkable, 1970), surely you will agree that Iron-Curtain Poland is Betty’s pièce de résistance amongst this group. Honest to goodness, Isobel, Thomas and Nanny’s lighthearted-on-the-outside traipses through Gdansk, Sopot and Oliwa must be strong contenders for Best Betty Travel Scenes Ever (Never Say Goodbye, 1983).
Not a part of the Sopot Music Festival that Isobel and Nanny attended.
Finally, let us note that ten of the Novels Neels contain no tourist tips of any real significance. That’s actually just 7% of the books, but if Damsel in Green and Roses Have Thorns and Henrietta’s Own Castle weren’t three of them I’d be tempted to demand a refund.
Unlike Georgina, Sarah and Henrietta, Beatrice Browning manages to tour five countries (England (Cornwall), the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Belgium) in the course of one short novel. Sadly, while her visit to Polperro inspires a desire to emulate her, her European travel, as noted above, is heavy on the shopping and lousy on the local color. Cordelia Gibson (Hungary, Germany, Slovakia and Austria) and Octavia Lock (Italy, Greece, Malta and the Netherlands) each hit four, both helped by cruise ships. Five heroines tour three countries each, 25 tour two, and 92 see a single country (Netherlands, Netherlands, Netherlands...). Anyone interested in sharing your own favorite itinerary?
*Please forgive me if Madeira and the Canary Islands are African. Given their political affiliations with Portugal and Spain, I’m calling them European, regardless of latitude. Or do islands not get continental status, and that’s why all those Britons insist they’re not Europeans?