January 20th, 2012

Broad request for information about multiple countries

Hi, all! I’ve got a really broad question for all you lovely folk here. It’s to do with the places in which y’all live. =D

A little background: I’m writing a fic where my main character (35-ish years old, ex-military) winds up accidentally travelling around the world (it’s complicated). Essentially, he comes into some money at the same time that something happens to make home (modern-day London) unpalatable. He gets it into his head to do a spot of travelling – within England at first, then other parts of the UK, and then somehow he finds himself heading overseas. He’s going to wind up going on pretty much a world tour in his quest to reconcile himself to recent events.

My problem is that I’m not what you’d call a seasoned traveller. I want to write my character taking the less-beaten path. He might start out at tourist hot-spots, but he’d rather people-watch than do the typical tourist thing. He’s one for walking, and taking buses and trains and things, and just watching the world around him. He’s equally at home in urban areas (he’d especially love places he can just sit and people-watch) and out in nature (any kind, and here he’d probably prefer solitude… or at least fewer people). Money is not a problem, though he is by nature frugal. I’ve found that looking online and checking out my local library doesn’t really give me much in the way of these insider details I’m looking for, so I’m turning to you guys in hopes of help.

So! I’m throwing the field wide open here. What are the places you’re familiar with? Where might my character wind up going? Any little, out-of-the-way shops he might visit? What kind of people/food/events might he encounter? Where might he stay (he’d prefer cheaper places – motels, backpacker hotels, etc)? Also, probably an odd detail to look for – what are the policies on people sleeping overnight on a park bench or something? Would the local police kick him out/arrest him/leave him be? – because I might want him to do that for a night or two occasionally.

I welcome both broad details/suggestions for places he might go, as well as intimate details that will help me really get a feel for the place he’s in. Share personal experiences or point me to blogs/books/etc that might be helpful – anything goes. Thanks in advance to anyone who can help!

[Special thanks to kutsuwamushi for allowing me to post such a broad request!]

ETA: You guys! You are all so very, very awesome. Thank you for all the great comments you've left; I have so many new things to research now, which fills me with so. much. glee. *happy dance* (No, not ironic - I love research.)
RL is getting progressively busier, so I may not be able to respond to everyone who's commented, but I just wanted to say that I've read and treasured every last comment and I adore you all. ♥ THANK YOU!

Choice/free will in Jewish thought

The scenario involves two Potterverse wizards intervening, in a far-reaching way, in the lives of a whole town of Muggles, in order to save their (the Muggles') lives. However, the wizards don't offer the Muggles a choice in the matter: they magically cut them loose in space and time. The citizens have no idea that this is happening. Then, several years later, one of them returns to repair the spell and explain to the baffled townspeople why the world into which they are now being tossed is not the world that they didn't even know they left, just over what they think was a week ago.

I had imagined one of the townspeople pointing out that the wizards' intervention deprived the townspeople of a choice in their own fates, even if the only choice open to them was a choice of deaths, and so, while noble in intention, it is not wholly righteous.

The speaker is Jewish, a melamed. Is this point of view one that is consistent with Jewish thought? Is there a passage in the writings of one of the Jewish sages or scholars, or in the scriptures, that he could refer to? Or is this simply something that a Jewish scholar would not say--especially if he had been saved from a terrible death?

I'm not even sure what search terms would work here. Googling "Jewish perspectives on choice" got me a page of articles about abortion. "Jewish perspectives on free will" was a little more helpful, but not much.