This is the real life story of Dina and Bernard Bennett driving in a road rally from Beijing to Paris in 2007.
The closest books I can compare this reading experience with is Paul Theroux’s “The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia” and Tom Carter’s “China: Portrait of a People“.
The big difference is that Theroux rode the rails, and Carter walked for almost two years across China. In Peking to Paris, Dina and her husband drove a 1940 Cadillac-LaSalle Series 52 Coupe that Dina called Roxanne.
On page 79, Dina says, “China is full of surprises.” Then she dives into a description of a café that specializes in Mongolian hotpot, and said, “Behind me is a full wall of shelves and bins stuffed with vegetables, fish, poultry, pork, lamb and beef. I count four sections, each easily five feet wide, divided by eight shelves reaching the ceiling. Every shelf is crammed with ingredient bins …”
With this description, Bennett shows us that China is an eating culture, and that food is very important to the Chinese.
In another chapter, she discovers that the Chinese and Americans have more in common than she had thought when they stay a night at a rustic Chinese dude ranch where urban Chinese come to rough it on vacations spending time with Mongolian herders.
While driving across China, the roads were smooth, but once they crossed the border into Mongolia, a band of boys exercising their democratic freedom, threw rocks at Roxanne and shattered the driver’s side of the windshield helping to explain why China built the Great Wall.
In addition, a few hundred yards into Mongolia, the smooth, paved roads they had enjoyed in China ended and the rest of the trek across this landlocked country was mostly on dirt and sand taking a heavy toll on the mechanical health of Roxanne. And in Russia the biggest challenge was avoiding potholes capable of swallowing whole cars.
Because of their road trip from China to Paris, Dina and Bernard were bitten by the travel bug and they have now completed more than a dozen road trips all over the world. After reading this true life adventure, you might want to follow their road trips at Dina Bennett.net
The LaSalle in the above video is not the one that Dina and Bernard drove in the 2007 rally from Beijing to Paris, but the video gives you an idea of the car they drove 7,800 miles across China, Mongolia, Russia to Eastern Europe and eventually Paris, France — a journey that took thirty-five grueling days.
I think reading Peking to Paris was an adventure, and I highly recommend this book as a safer way to travel without the risk of flat tires and breakdowns.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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