Writing prompt – travel

Twin Blue and Green Lakes, Sete Cidades cr Judy DarleyI often find myself moved to write strange and dreamy fictions while travelling. For instance, my story Two Pools of Water, inspired by a trip to the Azores, and published this week by dear damsels.

Think of a place you’ve visited far from and as unalike home as possible, and use that as the setting for a story. If you can weave in a bit of local legend, so much the better!

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

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Green Island

Logoa do Fogo, Sao Miguel by Judy Darley

Logoa do Fogo, Sao Miguel

My travel feature on the tranquility of Sao Miguel, one of the Azores islands, was recently published by In The Moment magazine. It provided a wonderful chance for me to re-live the beauty of that Portuguese isle.

You can buy back issues of In The Moment here. My feature appeared in issue 10.

This is my third feature published about that trip, the previous ones being published in Wedding ideas magazine and A Year In Portugal journal.

I’ve also had a piece published about a somewhat chillier visit to Iceland in Balance magazine. Love getting out to see the world and sharing my discoveries!

Icelandic Thrills feature by Judy Darley

Book review – Elephant Tales by Mark Shand

Elephant Tales by Mark ShandGiven to me by my sister as part of a boxset of Penguin 60’s miniatures, this small volume has been travelling with me everywhere recently, and aptly so as it’s one of the finest examples of travel writing I’ve encountered.

In Elephant Tales, Shand is learning to drive Tara, a female elephant of great dignity, stubbornness and, intermittent whimsy. Like an eccentric great aunt and errant toddler in one, she ambles her way through the pages and into your heart.

The fondness and respect Shand feels for this pachyderm. Carrying him on her back and occasionally, though more often not, doing his bidding, Tara offers the author, and us, an uncommon view not only of the atmospheric Indian landscape, but also of the people and wildlife that populate it.

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Learn travel writing

Manukan beach, BorneoIf, like me, you’re prone to keeping travelogues whenever you skip out of town, why not have a go at turning your holidays into magazine features?

Tina Walsh is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years’ experience of writing about travel for publications such as TIME, the Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Express and many more.

She’s leading a five-week online travel course, providing an insight into what travel editors are looking for from freelance journalists and offering tips on how to sell your stories.

What does it cover?

* How to find engaging story ideas
* How to write a pitch
* How to structure your story
* How to get invited on press trips and organise your own trips

The course is suitable for beginners and more experienced travel writers looking to brush up their skills.

Start dates are ongoing, so you can sign up whenever you’re ready and complete the course in your own time.

Taking part costs £250 (inc VAT) for five individual one-hour sessions. It could be the start of a brand new career, or at least add a new string to your writing bow.

Find full details at tina-walsh.com.

Travel workshop hosted by cruiseline Noble Caledonia

Hanseatic Noble CaledoniaTravel writing is definitely one of those pastimes that blurs the boundary between work and play, making it one of the best ways to make a living. Beyond that. it’s also a wonderful way to store up memories of some wonderful experiences!

If you’d like to hone your ability to write travel blogs and travel articles, keep a travel diary or even just record your travel experiences for yourself or others to read, a travel writing workshop from Silver Travel Advisor could help.

Silver Travel Advisor writing courseAlthough the site itself is aimed at travellers aged 50+, the workshop is open to aspiring travel writers of all ages.

The travel writing workshop takes place on Wednesday 22 April 2015, hosted by cruiseline Noble Caledonia at their offices in Belgravia, Central London. The course fee is £65 per person, including tea, coffee, biscuits and sandwiches

The event will be led by cruise writer Deborah Stone and travel journalist Nick Dalton, who have years of experience of writing for national newspapers, including the Telegraph and The Times, as well as various magazines and travel guides.

The course runs from 10.30am-2.30pm, and will cover motivations and inspirations for travel writing, and a review of sample articles to be discussed for their content and style. There will also be the opportunity to write creatively, as well as tips and advice on setting up your own travel blog and the chance to ask your own questions.

Places on the workshops are limited, so make sure you book soon by emailing service@silvertraveladvisor.com stating the number of places required. For further information, visit www.silvertraveladvisor.com/workshop.

A culinary travel writing tour in Cambodia

Cambodia ala Backyard TravelFancy yourself as the next Elizabeth Gilbert? Boutique travel agency Backyard Travel, which specialises in insider tours throughout Asia, is hosting a culinary writing tour in Cambodia this May.

With just the one departure date on Friday 22nd May 2015, the eight-day ‘Eat, Learn, Love Cambodia Tour’ has been put together in collaboration with travel writer Lara Dunston, who writes for The Guardian, The Independent, and National Geographic, amongst others.

Over the course of the trip, you’ll get to visit some of Cambodia’s most iconic locations, as well as less well known sites. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to deconstruct Khmer cuisine, delve into the country’s vivid and troubled history and, with Lara’s guidance, develop their flair for culinary writing. Professional photographer Terrence Dunstan will also join the tour, offering tips on travel and food photography.

Tonie Sap lake, Cambodia

To provide insight into the roots of Cambodian cuisine, the tour includes guided visits to cultural landmarks such as Angkor Wat, ex-colonial outpost Battambang, and historic temples like Banteay Chhmar Wat. Along the way, you’ll scour village markets for fresh produce, discover the region’s vineyards, taste its wine, and sample an array of authentic local flavours, from street-side vendors to top-billed restaurants and everything in between.

Through excursions to pineapple and coconut plantations you’ll trace the cuisine back to its source, while side-trips will offer a chance to focus on other cultural aspects, including Cambodia’s art, religion and colonial history.

The trip will also include a homestay in rural Cambodia, “offering a true taste of Cambodian warmth and hospitality.”

Find full details on Backyard Travel’s website and social media channels: www.backyardtravel.comFacebook.com/BackyardTravel and twitter.com/Backyard_Travel.

Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Become a travel writer for French Entrée

Lamothe_rural France

Rural France © CDT Auvergne/Lamothe

FrenchEntrée, the English-language website for people who love France, is searching for expats eager to describe their experiences of living and working in France.

Originally launched in 2004, the new-look website from the travel and property specialists provides comprehensive advice on everything from buying a property to cultural and leisure tips for those considering moving to, or who are already living in, the country.

The unpaid role will give you a chance to raise your profile as a writer, as well as providing the opportunity to share your love of France and all it has to offer with an audience of around 250,000 people a month.

Founder and Managing Director Guy Hibbert says: “With the new site’s focus on fresh content week in and week out, we are looking for authentic voices of all ages that can add something new to our considerable store of articles – whether that’s the trials and tribulations of a renovation project, or simply navigating the cultural rules of life in France.”

The website has been re-designed to appeal to increasing numbers of users accessing it from a tablet or smartphone.

Interested? Email FrenchEntrée Editor Justin Postlethwaite at justin@francemedia.com with a brief outline of your experience. If possible, include links to blogs or sites you already contribute to, or other examples of your writing.

Find out more about the brand at www.frenchentree.com.

There’s more to Barcelona than Gaudi…

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya views cr Beccy DownesA few weeks ago I posted my Barcelona – 10 Ten Experiences piece. I travelled to Barcelona with my friend Beccy Downes, also a writer, and thought it would be interesting to show you how different two pieces written in response to the same trip can be. Here’s her piece on Barcelona.

Anyone visiting Barcelona will have heard of the work of Gaudi, and there is no doubt that the Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell are unique and stunning to visit.  But what else is there?

For a quick break in Barcelona, the ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ Bus Tours are perfect.  Faced with the challenge of seeing as much as we could in three days, I found that the commentary really helped me to focus, not only on what I had intended to see, but on the things I enjoy that hadn’t even occurred to me to seek out.  The tours all start at Plaça de Catalunya.

FC Barcelona cr Beccy Downes As a football and sports fan in general, I relished the chance to see the impact that sporting events have had on the city.  Having regularly seen and heard about the famous FC Barcelona on the TV, Camp Nou was an obvious early stopping point.  I was immersed in the culture of this football club when first stepping through the gates; in awe of the surroundings which encapsulate the 98,787 seater stadium, a village of eateries and merchandise stores line the approach…player and sponsor images adorn the outside of the stadium itself, although there are a few statues and plaques which pay homage to the club’s auspicious history too…

FC Barcelona sculpture cr Beccy Downes A stadium and museum tour is available for fans of both the club, and wider football in general.  It currently costs €23 for adults, €17 for children aged 6-13 (price taken from Club website) and includes the pressroom and commentary box, the trophy room, and even the players tunnel and dressing room. I didn’t have time to try this out, but if the official club shop is anything to go by, it promises to be a Barcelona FC-themed assault on the senses!

Olympic Stadium cr Beccy DownesAnother stop on the bus tour takes you up Montjuic (which has its own story – you’ll hear it on the commentary) and to the site of the great 1992 Olympic Games. Although I was fairly young at the time, I can still remember being stirred by the Freddie Mercury and Monserrat Caballe song which became the theme for the Games, and when I caught sight of the sheer magnificence of the stadium, I felt a slight tingle as I imagined what it might have been like to stand there surrounded by the thronging crowds…

Olympic Stadium horses cr Beccy Downes

The ambience, even on a quiet day, is majestic – from the horses leaping from atop the stadium wall, to the layers of fountains flowing on three levels below the stadium, I spent some time just taking it all in…with the impressive telecoms tower designed by Santiago Calatrava to resemble the Olympic flame looming above.

Olympic Stadium communications tower cr Beccy Downes

Another stop on the bus tour, which I had no idea was even there until sheer awe of the view made me disembark, was the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC). Even if art is not your thing, the two Venetian style towers that flank the approach, the fountains which dance in front of the museum (I didn’t get the chance to see them at night but the night bus tour takes in this experience during summer for an additional cost) and the view of Barcelona from the very top of the hill directly outside (see top of post), makes the climb very much worthwhile. There are escalators to help if you find walking uphill a bit difficult.

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya Beccy Downes

And of course, something that you might forget when visiting Barcelona, believing it to be the ultimate city break, is that it’s actually pretty darn close to an absolutely superb seafront. The hotels and casino which make up the Port Olimpic marina were built in readiness for the Olympic Games (the sailing events took place here and the athletes stayed here during the games), but some of the accommodation has since been sold as high value apartments to residents of the city – a lot of the architecture here, as with many of the buildings around the city, is unusual to say the least, and there’s some outstanding artwork too, including Frank Gehry’s giant goldfish!

Gehry's Fish  cr Beccy Downes

And finally, the nearby Barcelonetta beach is the ideal place to take the weight off your weary feet, feel the warmth of the Spanish sun and enjoy a cocktail or two. ¡Salud!

Barcelonetta beach cr Beccy Downes

Cocktails cr Beccy Downes

Find more Barcelona highlights at barcelonaturisme.com.

 

 

 

 

Laments in Lisbon

iew of Lisbon from St George's Castle, LisbonA hush falls as an elegantly dressed woman stalks among the crowded tables, coming to a halt into the centre of the room. A guitar is gently strummed, then the laments begin.

I sit in near-darkness in a room crammed with Portuguese Fado aficionados, all listening intently. Not a single fork scrapes against a single plate. I haven’t experienced Fado before. Part of me was expecting something akin to the explosiveness of Spanish Flamenco, but Portugal’s national song is far more contemplative. I don’t understand the words, but the sentiment is clear, and shivers race up and down my spine.

“Fado translates as fate,” Carmo tells me when the performance ends. “Many of the songs are about beloveds who never returned home from sea.”

Tram, Lisbon cr Judy DarleyI’ve only been in Lisbon a matter of days, but the area around Clube de Fado, the Alfama district, is already one of my favourites. When we return in the morning, only a little the worse for wear, Carmo reminds me that it survived the great earthquake of 1755, so retains a sense of the small city as it would have been long before then, with washing hanging haphazardly between wrought iron balconies and steep, narrow streets. “Many homes here still don’t have their own bathrooms,” she comments, an note that could equally be horror or pride in her voice.

The streets are stacked one above the other another, giving the impression they were built in haste, yet it’s hard to imagine anything here ever being done in a hurry – even the trams amble like commuter-crammed caterpillars.

There’s a curious beauty about the Alfama, with some of the houses beautifully tiled. Most feature at least one small painted tile paying homage to a saint, and keeping the homeowners’ family safe from harm. This is a place where fate is taken seriously – anything you can do to safeguard your family is done.

Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon cr Judy Darley

Above all this sits Castelo de São Jorge, where we wander through dappled sunlight and drink in panoramic views that showcase the city like a painted tableau. Despite the tourists, it is peaceful here – people murmur as they pose beside cannons, and cameras whir gently. Terracotta roofs are stacked above creamy buildings, and the strong, rectangular towers of churches rise above all else.

Far to my left I glimpse a crimson bridge that seems oddly familiar. “It was designed by the same company as San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate bridge,” Carmo says.

Ah, that explains it. The river it spans is the Tagus, a thread of water that broadens at times into an estuary lake so wide it resembles a sea, yet it narrows as it nears the sea – seeming reluctant to leave.

It’s an impulse I can relate to. I wonder how Portugal‘s explorers could bring themselves to head out to the unknown, knowing they might never make it safely home.

“This is my favourite place in Lisbon,” Carmo says, eyes half closing in bliss. “You know, don’t you, that the city was founded by Ulysses?”

I ask her to repeat herself. Surely Ulysses, the one I’m thinking of, is a fictional hero.

She shrugs, either uncertain or not caring. “I like to imagine him standing here on this hillside and saying, yes, this is good, this is home.”

Castelo de Sao Jorge cr Judy Darley

Discover Barcelona.

In search of the Cornish sun

Gyllenvase Beach cr Judy DarleyMy latest travel feature, covering my recent, very happy, trip to southern Cornwall, is now up on Travelbite.

We caught the train to Falmouth on the morning after St Piran’s Day (Cornwall’s patron saint) in early March, revelling in the fact spring comes fractionally earlier to Cornwall than to my home city of Bristol. Before long we were seeing fields of golden daffodils, trees laden with vibrant camellias and creamy magnolias, not to mention countless tiny lambs (we even glimpsed one sheep giving birth as we whizzed past!). Train is definitely the best way to do this journey – peaceful, comfortable and offering outstanding views of some of England’s most beautiful scenery, particularly the stretch between Exeter and Teignmouth. Continue reading