A Visit to Don Otavio
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A Visit to Don Otavio

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  106 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Before returning to the Old World after World War II, Sybille Bedford resolved to see something more of the New. I had a great longing to move, she said, to hear another language, eat new food, to be in a country with a long nasty history in the past and as little present history as possible. And so she set out for Mexico--and, incidentally, to write what Bruce Chatwin cal...more
Paperback, 370 pages
Published March 21st 2003 by Counterpoint (first published May 28th 1986)
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After açaí berries and recycling, travel’s one of the most overrated things around. It’s just one long pain in the ass. There’s the expense, the indignities of airport security, the further indignities of economy class, crowds, sand in your crotch, very large people with very small fanny packs, and Two and a Half Men dubbed into Portuguese. And what do you get out of all this? A gnawing sense of disappointment and the realization that there’s just no escaping yourself, that your sagging spirit i...more
Apr 23, 2012 Tony rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: travel
A VISIT TO DON OTAVIO: A Traveler’s Tale From Mexico. (1960). Sybille Bedford. ****.
Ms. Bedford (1911-2005) was an interesting person of many talents. She was born in Berlin, Germany, as Freiin Sybille Aleid Elso von Schoenebeck. When she was fourteen, she went to live in Italy and later studied in England. In the 1920s, she and her mother settled in the south of France – living near Aldous Huxley. During that time, many German writers also settled in the area, including Thomas Mann and Bertolt...more
Raquel Martin
Feb 20, 2013 Raquel Martin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Raquel by: Read an excerpt in A Reader's Guide to Mexico
Shelves: read-in-2013
I'm reading this for the second time and it is still a delight. This is the best travel book I've ever read. Sybille Bedford is incredibly intelligent, extremely witty, and really GOT Mexico. Her insights are as true today as they were in the 40's when she visited Mexico and wrote this book. A must-read for anyone who loves Mexico.
I first read this book years ago,and on reading it again I still enjoyed it. Certainly Sybille Bedford came from a privileged class, but I find so many of her 'complaints' about Mexico to be very tongue in cheek and funny, proving beyond doubt that the disasters of travelling make for the most entertaining anecdotes.
More than this, though, her travels were done in a time that was just ending completely. When most people still crossed the Atlantic by liner, and continents by train. A time before...more
Deliciously entertaining, funny, intelligent travel book about Bedford's adventures in Mexico. Her style here is as perfect as in her novels, and she describes the country she discovers with a fascination that is compelling. It actually reads like a novel - her description of the landscapes and the culture, the characters she meets, the places she goes, the adventures and misadventures she encounters: everything makes for a terrific read, and it makes you wish you had been travelling with her.
I had higher hopes for this one. Two privileged women go to a 3rd world country and complain about everything except their stay at Don Otavio's, where they are treated like queens. They don't like the food, they don't like the traveling, they aren't interested in the lives of the people. Sorry, I'm not impressed!
Wanting to get into a Mexican state of mind, I chose this as my plane read to Mexico City. Unsurprisingly, my Mexico City was much more cosmopolitan than her post-WWII Mexico City yet her account left me with a strong desire to follow her into the Mexican countryside, especially if I had the opportunity to be hosted by such a hospitable country gentleman on his vast family compound of villas. I will say I did experience the same high level of hospitality while in Mexico but I didn’t get to visit...more
Non Fiction, Mexican travel diary
Another "if only I'd read it before visiting Mexico!!!!"

Just loved it! It is so hard not to be boring and cliched and write that this was "charming" ... but it charmed the socks off me. Her observations were unaffected and personal, sometimes insightful, sometimes naive.

This was travel writing at it's best. You visit Mexico (early 1950's) through her eyes and see the colour, taste the food, feel the hospitality and become immersed in the history. And all with a l...more
Sybille Bedford is a master of observation and wit. I marked so many passages, many hilarious. Have a look, too, at her wonderful memoir "Legacy."
Interesting book…even in the memoir style it's written a little disjointed and there are certain passages that could be used as a textbook for info-dumping (middle of an account of a train ride to a particular city and you get 4 pages of the history since Spanish conquest of that area inserted into the text and then boom you're back into the train ride). But a very amusing account of travel during, one must assume, the late 40s (it's never specifically stated), but the original version was publi...more
A Mexican travelogue. Bedford, who died three years ago at 94, was an aristocrat in the best sense of the word. Her prose is delicious, her eye is keener than a jeweler's, and her sensibility sublimely comprehensive. Tragedy or comedy, outrage or sympathy, she misses nothing and she feels everything. Her many other books are also wonderfully entertaining, but this one stands out. A masterpiece of the genre.
I happened upon this book in the library in San Miguel de Allende, and I was immediately unavailable for anything but reading. I loved the feisty narrator, the world she traveled through, and her insights. Much has changed in Mexico, but, then again, much remains very much as she describes it. I want to read more of Sybille Bedford!
My kind of travel memoir: personal, idiosyncratic, but informative. It tells the tale of the author's trip to Mexico of the 1950's, detailing both the warm personalities of Mexicans,the tragic history and hilarious daily life of a country that doesn't seem to have actually changed that much.
Mexico apparently hasn't changed that much. Or perhaps it is us Europeans' way of viewing a totally different culture that hasn't changed at all? Still, a great read for anyone with any knowlwdge of Mexico, its inhabitants...
This is not the way we travel anymore--I can't imagine living in Mexican luxury for weeks as a guest of Don Otavio. It's a nice combination of a traveler's experiences and Mexican history and an enjoyable read.
Tom Leland
Some interesting parts, but overall had trouble following, and/or just couldn't get interested in anyone involved. Dry clipped English style didn't help. Really thought I'd enjoy this more.
Marea Sergeeva
Великолепный, высокохудожественный путеводитель, исчезнувшая натура - эстетика долгих путешествий и любовного отношения к жизни.
В русском переводе "Мексиканская одиссея. Визит к дону Отавио".
Les Dangerfield
Parts of this book were interesting and told me a lot about Mexico, but others a bit trying - especially those parts staying with Don Otavio!
Matt Brant
Aug 15, 2008 Matt Brant is currently reading it
Her writer's voice is delightful. I can see why this book pops up on many Top 10 Travel Books of All Time.
A perfect piece of writing. Travel to Mexico in the late 1940s. Truly one of the best books ever.
Except for being jealous and wishing this was my life, I enjoyed this immensely.
greatly entertaining, not about Mexico only but about travel generally
Apr 23, 2008 Etanouye marked it as to-read
Abandoning this one for now. It wasn't as good as I'd been led to believe.
Tom Lawson
Hugely entertaining account of a trip to Mexcio. beautifully written
Sybille Bedford is fantastic, a hilarious narrator
Wonderful, unique travel book
My favorite book on Mexico.
Sep 03, 2007 Margo rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Expats in Mexico
What Mexico was like in 1953 ... only 4 million people in Mexico City ... having to cut through jungle trails to reach the undeveloped beaches in the south ...

Eerie similarities in a foreigner's impression of Mexico in 1953 compared to today.

Enjoyed the writer's ironic view of the world and character descriptions.

VFreie added it
Sep 03, 2014
Tülin marked it as to-read
Aug 31, 2014
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Sybille Bedford, OBE (16 March 1911 – 17 February 2006) was a German-born English writer. Many of her works are partly autobiographical. Julia Neuberger proclaimed her "the finest woman writer of the 20th century" while Bruce Chatwin saw her as "one of the most dazzling practitioners of modern English prose.


The Sudden View: a Mexican Journey - 1953 - (republished as A Visit to Don Otavio: a T...more
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