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A Visit to Don Otavio

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4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  181 Ratings  ·  39 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 1953)
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Blood River by Tim ButcherThe Trigger by Tim ButcherChasing the Devil by Tim ButcherForeigner in My Own Backyard by Travis CaseyArabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
Best Travel Writing
97th out of 144 books — 213 voters
Send More Idiots by Tony Perez-GieseHoulihan's Wake and other fragments of Mexico by Bryan  MurphyLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelPedro Páramo by Juan RulfoXtabentum by Rosy Hugener
Books Set in Mexico
25th out of 99 books — 67 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 662)
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Buck
Sep 10, 2013 Buck rated it it was amazing
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
Paul
Mar 24, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
4.5 stars
One of the great travelogues and in Bruce Chatwin’s opinion “the greatest travel book of the twentieth century”. It helps a great deal that Bedford can write well and has a gift for observation and description. Living from 1911 to 2006, Bedford had a long and colourful life and is not appreciated as a writer as she should be. Bedford had escaped from France in 1940 and spent the war in the US. After the war she decided that before returning to Europe she would travel for a while in Mexi
...more
Elaine
Dec 23, 2014 Elaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
First of all, a travel writer of yesteryear who is entirely obsessed with food! A woman after my own heart.

Second of all, a frequently laugh out loud book, even as you were learning quite a bit about Mexican history.

Third, a wonderfully idiosyncratic and erudite look at a pre-mass tourism Mexico. A bit reminiscent of that English chap who tromped around Europe on the eve of World War II (Patrick Leigh Fermor, it took me a minute) but where Fermor felt show offy, Bedford just seems smart, wry and
...more
Jaggerjag
Jul 16, 2014 Jaggerjag rated it it was amazing
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
Tony
Apr 23, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it
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
Denis
Nov 23, 2008 Denis rated it it was amazing
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.
Raquel Martin
Feb 20, 2013 Raquel Martin rated it it was amazing
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.
Tuck
utterly funny, informative, historical, picaresque travelogue of two women traveling alone in mexico in 1953. it is sybille bedford's debut and she never looked back don't think.
they start by boarding the train in nyc, training and busing to DF, then by train, plane, bus, taxi, foot and car sweating freezing biting and getting bitten to central highlands, over to colima to acapulco and lake chapala (where they spend many months in idyll and near death) to oxaca to pueblo back to chapala
disasters
...more
Susan
Jul 07, 2016 Susan rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned-books
I think Noel Coward really wrote this.
Sybille and her friend "E" act like they're in a drawing room comedy. I couldn't read the conversations without hearing the plummy tones of upper crust Brits, usually something I would enjoy. I really expected to like this, but found them difficult to travel with.
Rogue Reader
Mar 01, 2015 Rogue Reader rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-mexico
Sybille Bedford's 1953 tale of travel to and about Mexico with a female friend, E, is magnificent and funny as anything. All of the glory, squalor and mystery of Mexico is revealed as S and E travel by train, bus, auto and cart to cities, country palaces and the coastal areas. Their sense of wonder and newness is everywhere, at every stop.

Before hoards of tourists and the commercial development they bring, S and E are quite alone and independent in their wanderings, sometimes without food or wat
...more
Peg
Sep 13, 2012 Peg rated it it was ok
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!
Happyreader
Oct 23, 2011 Happyreader rated it really liked it
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
Mark
Jul 21, 2016 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
A trip to Mexico in the late 40's related by a continental chef's daughter, and fine writer, with a British attitude. Always entertaining. Some Mexican history is summarized in an off-hand way. The introduction by Bruce Chatwin in my edition states that Ms. Bedford is neither ironic nor facetious. Either I misunderstand or he did.
Julie
Sep 14, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
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
Christina Dudley
Jul 20, 2016 Christina Dudley rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
An amusing, understated account of the author's travels in Mexico with friend E after WWII. The funniest bits are the deadpan conversations about absurdities of foreign travel encountered like train and bus rides and schedules. I skipped over some of the history toward the end, and it all went on a little long, but altogether is was enjoyable.
Patricia
Really lovely account of travel in Mexico right after WWII. Thoughtful, intelligent and fun. Lots of historical information peppered throughout.
Kay
Mar 24, 2014 Kay rated it really liked it
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."
James
Aug 12, 2009 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
NancyKay
Jul 04, 2016 NancyKay rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly delicious page by page by page.
Paul
Aug 06, 2009 Paul rated it really liked it
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.
Marge
Jan 16, 2009 Marge rated it it was amazing
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!
Leigh
Jan 02, 2010 Leigh rated it it was amazing
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.
Michael
Nov 17, 2015 Michael rated it it was ok
this book could have done with an editor, it's dialogue sections are winding but the potted observations on Mexico worth the read
Taina
Oct 25, 2007 Taina rated it liked it
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...
Jennie
Jan 05, 2008 Jennie rated it really liked it
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
Oct 15, 2013 Tom Leland rated it it was ok
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
Nov 10, 2011 Marea Sergeeva rated it really liked it
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.
Michael
Sep 02, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing
A perfect piece of writing. Travel to Mexico in the late 1940s. Truly one of the best books ever.
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NYRB Classics: A Visit to Don Otavio: A Mexican Journey, by Sybille Bedford 3 20 Jun 23, 2016 12:16AM  
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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.

Works

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