Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Betty by the Numbers: Touring the Rest of the World

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:

The Netherlands
Canary Islands



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.*


Alexandria – not the Qaitbey Fort, but seems worth a visit...

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?

Anyway, Loveday Pearce (CtaW) and Annis Fothergill of All Else Confusion (1982) both visit Lisbon, which is roughly southwestern, coastal Portugal.  And that is the area for all our other explorations as well – the Algarve (southernmost province) and the Lisbon region, with named towns to explore including Sintra, Cascais, Estoril, Ponte de Piedade, Sagres, Monchique, Silves and Caldas.  If you’re planning a visit, I suggest a chat with Eugenia Smith.  Before her Heidelberg Wedding (1984), Eugenia does a good bit of touring in Portugal, with the help of the knowledgeable Gerard Grenfell.

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?

So Germany, tied for sixth.  Of course there’s Heidelberg and its castle, for Eugenia and Gerard’s eventual wedding.  Before that, Alethea Thomas van Diederijk finds time to explore Hamburg By Sun and Candlelight (but mostly sun – just trying to be clever) (1979).  We also have two visits that are more like drive-bys:  Cordelia Gibson – okay, she’s a sail-by – hits Altotting on her way down the Danube (Magic in Vienna, 1985), and Beatrice Browning and her fake-fiancé Oliver visit Zons and Cologne in 1989’s Hilltop Tryst.  Be warned:  my notes for the latter include, “but mostly just shopping,” and “lousy European travelogues.”


 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.

I believe they didn’t get to see the city from this perspective – just above the Baltic – either, but clearly they could have had an enjoyable look around Sopot.

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?


  1. I was shocked to see a visit to Belgium. I don't think I have the Beatrice Browning tome, so:

    Question: Does she survive? 'Cause it seems bad things always happen in the Belgium of Neelsdom --if, in fact, it happens off camera in other volumes--(I've always had a soft spot for Belgium myself--hanging tough at start of WWI, Hercule Poirot, NOT being France, The Heir's geography project [the result being that after hearing it a mazillion times I can identify the Belgian national anthem in only three notes!]).

    The pie chart is, Betty van den Betsy, the Eighth Wonder of the World! (Hey, that's kinda extra funny since it is a pie chart of Betty World--I make myself laugh....)

    1. Beatrice and Oliver (and the dumpy but kind and efficient Miss Ethel Cross, secretary and right-hand) go to Belgium:

      They stop on the German-Belgian border for lunch, and walk about for half an hour; we never learn what they might have seen on that walk, nor on which side of the border it occurred.

      They get to Brussels and make plans for the next day.

      Beatrice spends the morning buying chocolates, ties, brooches and biscuits for everyone she's ever met, while Oliver lectures and Ethel takes notes.

      They have a delicious lunch over which she gets to exercise her French, which was really quite good.

      In the afternoon, Beatrice packs, then refreshes herself with tea and a bath, while Oliver lectures and Ethel takes notes.

      In the evening, they have dinner in the hotel, and after that go out -- Oliver knows just where to go for drinks in a fashionable cafe, a little walking, coffee in another hotel, and then the stroll back.

      The next morning, they leave Belgium in the rain to return to rainy England.

      So the museums (fine arts, Matisse, chocolate and more), the architecture, the cathedrals, the atomium, the statue of a little boy misbehaving himself into a pool in public -- apparently, Beatrice is not interested. (In her defense, in one of her shopping trips in Cologne or someplace, she decides not to go into a museum as she would be loathe to tear herself away after just a few hours.)

    2. Yikes, gotta this one. Maybe since after his project The Heir now loves all things Belgian, he'll read a Betty.

      Okay, maybe not....

  2. I'm confused. Is there a work in the Canon that takes place entirely in The Netherlands? It seems to me that they all have at least one scene in the U.K. So wouldn't all 134 constitute a visit to the U.K.?

    I gather, then, that you're only counting touristy scenes, right? How did you identify a scene as touristy?

    It's a fabulous post--worthy of an entire tab at the top of the blog just for Betty by the Numbers posts!

    1. Magdalen, here's how I 'defined' my 'system' when we toured the Neth:

      "Plus, 60% of Betty’s books offer tourist tips for the Netherlands to at least some degree. That’s 81 of 135, and doesn’t include the ones where heroines like Georgina Rodman or Henrietta Brodie, just as for-instances, visited or even lived in the country, but without getting driven through the Veluwe in a socking great Bentley, and amiably comparing it to the New Forest of England, or at least poking her pretty nose into the Rijksmuseum. (Essentially, not offering any suggestions a visitor might follow; perhaps even, as in Henrietta’s case, living in a fictional village.)"

      And this is my 'explanation' of my 'methodology' from the UK edition:

      "A full 100% of the 135 Novels Neels are set, at least partially, in the U.K. – more specifically, in England or Scotland or both. However, as in real life, while the heroines and heroes acknowledge the beauty and richness of their immediate environs, they’re sadly disinclined to tour like the guidebooks do. Only 43, or 32%, do any serious tourist-type attention-paying to the country around them in England, and another eight, or 6%, give us insight into the riches of Caledonia. ...

      "The usual caveats: 1) Eliza Proudfoot spent half a book in Scotland without exploring any notable landmarks, so she doesn’t count; similar examples abound. 2) Sometimes I don’t count so good myself. 3) Sometimes I don’t count five words (“They drove through Middle Carnage”) as ‘proper’ touring, and sometimes I do. This whimsy is part of what keeps me young at heart."

      So, yes, only counting touristy scenes although with grave arbitrary-ness.

    2. Re.: Is there a work in the Canon that takes place entirely in The Netherlands?
      The Final Touch is, I believe, entirely set in the Netherlands. Charity's life in England is mentioned, but she is never there, if you see what I mean.

  3. You ladies astound me with your statistics and wealth of knowledge of Betty trivia. Keep it up!

  4. We didn't get to go there with her but, in "The Little Dragon",
    She had had a variety of patients during the last six months, spending the first few weeks in a Scottish castle miles from anywhere, followed by a mercifully brief period in a remote Welsh cottage with no telephone, a very sick patient and only a deaf old woman for company.

    The Welsh tourist board does NOT approve this message.

    I would be insulted about the Uithuizen comments, but I'm too busy laughing.

    B von S (I let my haters-be my motivators)

    1. All said with love and admiration, Betty von Susie. Consider it a shout-out, with flowers flung about.


  5. BOSNIA! Wherefore art thou, BOSNIA!

    I actually have pictures from my tour to find them and scan them.....could take a while.

    1. Betty Barbara here--
      But, but, but--Army Betty, there was no touristy activity re: Bosnia. We were treated to no cathedrals, markets, castles, museums, etc.
      I don't think field hospitals count!

    2. You must not be a M*A*S*H* fan, or you would know, field hospitals are where the very best and handsomest doctors work! :)

      B von S

    3. But Betty von Susie--we aren't talking hunky doctors (sigh!), we are talking tourist-y activities!
      Betty Barbara

    4. Eugenie and Aderik do go into a once-lovely courtyard garden in Bosnia, if I recall correctly, but since for security reasons we're not told where it is, we couldn't really replicate the visit. Pity.

      And while a hunky-doctor tour of Neelsland has its temptations, I'm not sure how well it would work. Our heroines being old-fashioned girls to a woman, they typically have eyes for only one true hunk. (Never mind that big-brotherly houseman who needs a babysitter, or that slick-weasel registrar who'll run at the first sign of danger -- they're not truly hunky.)

    5. Of course....bombed out Olympic stadiums and field hospitals are only touristy in the eyes of off-duty soldiers.

      The NATO compound nearest the airport was a former Yugoslav resort and spa, built for IOC bigwigs during the Sarajevo Winter Olympics, then used as a resort villa for the dictator, Party leaders, and visiting Soviet dignitaries/oppressors. I forgot the basecamp name, my merry band of contracting officers called it Kellermans. (One of the few movies in the rec center was Dirty Dancing.)

      Originally, the field hospital was in the bombed-out remains of Zetra Stadium, where Scott Hamilton, Katarina Witt, and Torvill and Dean (Brits!) won gold medals. Somewhere I have a photo of my buddies and me standing in a spot our translator claimed would have been mid-rink. Zetra was used as a makeshift morgue during the Siege of Sarajevo. Unfortunately, during its time as a morgue, it attracted a lot of rats. We never could control the rats, who for generations had considered humans who weren't moving to be dinner. This was not great for patients, even though patients didn't stay there long, they were patched up and evacuated. It was not great for sleeping soldiers billeted at Zetra, either. Rat bites are not pleasant, nor are the rabies shots that follow them.

      So the hospital was moved to an old ballroom in the Kellermans compound, and the billets in Zetra were moved to the hotel-ish rooms. There was a lovely courtyard with a "disused" fountain and some scraggly but blooming rosebushes near the hospital.

      I do wonder if Betty got a description of that layout from someone who'd been there.

      They wouldn't have flown in a specialist to do surgery on site unless it were for a local national, and that would have been in one of the relatively undamaged civilian hospitals. Soldiers were stabilized (oops, stabilised) and medevaced out to the American military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. I imagine Betty would not have approved of medevacing patients who weren't "fit to be moved".

      We were allowed into the historic quarter of Sarajevo during off-duty as long as we wore our Kevlar, where there were lots of interesting items. I brought home a coffee set made of tin, steel, and copper salvaged from the plumbing and support beams of bombed buildings, and a coffee and spice grinder made out of a 50 caliber brass shell casing. The locals filled mortar craters in the sidewalks with white epoxy if no one was killed by that particular shell, and red epoxy if someone was killed. They looked like big red and white flowers scattered around the sidewalks -- pretty yet icky. I saw the mural of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand overlooking the spot where the deed was done.

      I also got to tour an ancient Turkish fort on the edge of the city, used as a fire control center by NATO and staffed by an American fire direction locator unit and the Italian carabinieri. The Americans located the source of any gunfire in the city, and the Italian carabinieri arrested the shooters.

      We also drove up to see the ski slopes and the remains of the bobsled run. The Serbs mined the ski slopes. Perfect demining is impossible, as the mines shift and slip downhill constantly. No one will ever ski Sarajevo again unless they blow up the entire slope and rebuild it. A Serb sniper on the other side of the Zone of Separation decided to fire on us because he found Americans treating the Olympic sites as tourist destinations were irritating. He missed -- he did NOT want to hit one of us and earn a life sentence in Bosnian jail, but it had to be a deliberate miss given the number of shots he fired that came nowhere near us. We heard the carabinieri's sirens as they charged off to arrest him.

      And that is a tourist view of Sarajevo in the 90s.

    6. Oh my....

      I, for one, am pretty excited to meet Army Betty on Delayed Bettysday. I think this qualifies Army Betty as a real Betty Betty since The Venerable Neels served as a nurse during WWII--no stranger to consequences of war either.

      Doesn't the courtyard described by Army Betty seem to be THE courtyard?

    7. Wow, Army Betty, thank you for that. As I read your description of the real courtyard, I did indeed flash back to the last time I read A Secret Infatuation; they sound very similar. I do think Mrs. Neels did some of her best work in detailing Eugenie and Aderik's Bosnia trip -- the lighthearted romance gets real for those pages, as they often do when she describes patients in trouble, and to a degree they don't with many of the fires and bombs and demonstrations. Your vivid descriptions of rats, mines and people adapting to horrifically, bloodily and radically changed circumstances really bring the scene to life.

      I know it's a cliche and all, but thank you for your service.

    8. Wow. Thank you for sharing that, Army Betty. The Sarajevo Olympics were wonderful to watch because Sarajevo was so beautiful. I will never forget Torvill and Dean and Bolero.

      Betty AnoninTX

    9. Whenever we are feeling brave at work, we pick on our (Marine) boss. He puts up with it about 5 minutes, then cocks one eyebrow, fixes a beady eye on us, and says "Payback is a medevac". Humor in Uniform is my favorite part of Reader's Digest, and you are fast becoming one of my favorite TUJD bloggers.
      Keep the stories coming ArmyBetty, you're awesome.

      B von S

    10. All of your kind remarks are inflating my head a bit, and it is never cliche and always deeply appreciated when anyone thanks a vet for his/her service!

      For me, Betty and Bosnia are inextricably entwined because I discovered Betty in the Balkan USO system -- first a big pile of them in the Sarajevo USO trailer, and another pile in the USO tent in Taszar, Hungary (our staging base). I never knew why there was such a collection of Betty there. The books moved about from Hungary to Croatia to Bosnia and back in the rucksacks of various soldiers and airmen - you'd grab a book waiting for your flight, and return it to the next USO facility you happened to be near.
      Had it not been for this blog, I might never have found the Bosnia book, did not realize she'd ever set a scene there.

      Very much looking forward to Saturday!

    11. Adding my thanks for your wonderful, descriptive insights and for your service, Army Betty. Welcome, welcome!!

  6. While re-reading this post, I enjoyed a late "international" lunch consisting of a donut, a Danish - which the Danes call Wienerbrød = Viennese bread, [ˈʋiːˀnɔˌbʁœːˀð] audio, scroll down for the Danish version - and a Cadbury Wunderbar for afters which was made in Ireland!, where only heroes get to go in Neeldom (to perform surgery on victims) and the scientist parents of one of the Aramintas.
    The travel pie is really neat. Very impressive, Betty van den Betsy. I had forgotten some of the countries, that the heroines visited. How many countries did you count for Becky in The Promise of Happiness? I remember that during her journey with the Baroness they stopped in Hamburg, where they were driven around (along the Binnenalster and the Aussenalster) and she bought some chocolates. She did "see something of Norway" with the Baroness and later with Tiele and his sister. On their way to the Netherlands they passed through Denmark where they stopped for one night, but they were only passing through so that does not count, does it?

    Canary Islands officially part of Spain.

    I have read this post several times and I am still amazed. All those place names! I will look for them as we continue to read our way through the Canon. There is one place name, however, —
    Hey! B v S, give me back my red pen!!!

    1. I chewed on the cap you don't really want it back now, do you?

      B von S

    2. Er, no, thank you. You may keep it.

    3. My evil plan to overthrow the world, phase one completed!

      B von S

  7. Ohmywow! Ramaa here from India, and I am a huge Betty Neels fan. Didn't realize (though I should have) that she has such a huge and dedicated fan base, and this blog has just made my year.
    I have nothing of value to contribute, just sheer excitement.
    All twinkly eyed

    1. Welcome Betty Ramaa! If you love The Great Betty like we love The Great Betty (and it sounds like you do) then you have loads to contribute!

    2. Excitement is a marvelous contribution, Betty Ramaa. You might also bring Mrs. Betty Fife back out of hiding -- she's Indian also, and occasionally comments. Where did you discover Mrs. Neels?