The kids' eyes lighted up upon finding their books, and they began reading in the Waterstone's window alcove. The teenager also found an Artemis Fowl graphic novel and two more Terry Pratchetts he couldn't live without.
At this point, you might be wondering when exactly did we find time to read while touring Amsterdam, Paris, Bruges and the Belgian countryside. I
Well, admittedly, the kids have way more time than we do.
My husband and I always seemed to be negotiating maps or driving or packing the suitcases for the next leg. Or just gazing dreamily at the sights. We read on planes and at night before going to sleep.
The kids, however, read all the time. They read on the plane. They read on the Paris Metro. They read in carved wooden chairs at the 600-year-old Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, where we dragged them to a Bach organ and oboe recital. (At least the glorious sound washed over them).
They read in all the interstices of dead time that beset travelers as they wait for flights, in security lines, hotel lobbies and car rental counters. They read at cafes while we dawdled over a glass of wine or the amazing yeasty beer the Belgians call Gueuze.
Driving to the Haute Fagnes National Park in eastern Belgium, we asked the teenager to close his book and feast his eyes on the emerald landscape, the picturesque stone houses, the pointed church steeples.
"It's just fields and cows," he muttered, lifting his eyes reluctantly.
He was deep into "The Eye of the World" by then, having finished all his own books, including the new ones.
"You have to experience this," I said. "It's so gorgeous and green and pastoral, the exact opposite of Los Angeles."
"Mom, I'm trying to read!"
I know, I know, I asked for it. I got exactly what I deserved.
Still, I confiscated the book until we got to Durbuy, a medieval town with cobblestone streets, slate roofs and papier-mâché pigs in store windows happily advertising charcuterie.
"Doesn't this remind you of Rand's world in the Jordan novel?" I asked the teenager as my husband navigated past the River Ourthe, a castle and a fragrant fromagerie toward our 500-year-old inn.
Perking up, he looked around and admitted that it did.
"Can I please have my book back now?" he said.
After 17 days in Europe, we packed to head home. Luckily, Delta didn't charge for the extra suitcase that held our new books and souvenirs.
On the plane, I did a quick inventory. The tween had finished all his books and several of his brother's. The teenager was halfway through "I, Claudius." The New Yorkers were gone but my husband was still communing with Bertrand Russell.
I'd read several books. But I hadn't cracked "Sacred Games."
I'm going to San Diego next month.
I think I'll pack it.
Hamilton's latest crime novel is "The Last Embrace." She is the editor of the short-story anthology "Los Angeles Noir."