Travel, tales and imaginings

Carbis BayI’ve quite a day, tucked up in my writing room as rain has drizzled down the window. Hard to believe that this time last week I was enjoying Cornish beaches in the sunshine! I’ve been busy writing about that trip for Travelbite, and doing some other bits of travel writing for other titles too – some wonderful escapism.

A Dark Imagined Bristol cover

I’ve also been very restless because A Dark Imagined Bristol – the first anthology from the Bristol Fiction Writers’ Group – went live on Amazon this morning, with two of my tales in it!

Restoration image cr Liz AscottMy stories are ‘Restoration’ and ‘Untrue Blue’ – this artwork for the former (shown left) – a tale of two sisters wrangling their differences in a cemetery – is by talented local artist Liz Ascott, who is also a member of the writing group and has stories in the anthology.

On a separate but equally happy note, I’ve spent the latter part of my working day struggling with the back cover copy for my debut short story collection, Remember Me To The Bees, due out later this year from Scopophilia Publishing.

Exciting times!

A wander through The Valley of the Butterflies, Rhodes

Greece, Rhodes, Valley of the Butterflies cr PROTOUR
One of the most beautiful places I’ve visited is the Valley of the Butterflies on the Greek isle of Rhodes. As part of a gap year, I was working as a shepherdess and staying with a farmer and his young family in the village of Theologos. Each day I would spend a few hours watching the sheep, daydreaming and dozing under the olive trees, then head off to the beach for more of the same, minus the sheep and plus a few waves.

I had one day off each week, giving me the chance to head out to Rhodes town to catch a ferry to one of the nearby islands. But I’d heard about the Valley of the Butterflies and was keen to see what it was. I could have caught the bus to Rhodes Town and then another bus out to the valley, but Theologos is set almost halfway between Rhodes Town and my destination, so when my host advised me that it’s an easy stroll, it made sense just to walk it.

Greece, Rhodes, Valley of the Butterflies cr Greek National Tourism OrganisationI set off at 9am, trekking along sun-blasted roads in the rising heat. When I finally reached the natural park, it was like arriving at an oasis. It was only early June, so there weren’t the mass of Jersey tiger moths (Re the misnomer, I guess Valley of the Moths just didn’t sound so appealing!) swarming in the Petaloudes valley that you get later in the summer, but there were still enough to give the gorge an otherworldly feel, and the tourists were also in low numbers, which made it far more atmospheric.

If you want to get the full impact of the invasion, come in July or August when more than a million moths will have arrived to feast on pine resin before copulating and laying their eggs. Quite a sight to behold! On the downside this is also when crowds of the tourists visit, diminishing the tranquility of the place.

Personally, I think May or June are the better times to visit – sure, you’ll miss out on the clouds of copulating moths, but the valley will be far, far greener. You’ll have much of the park to yourself and will be able to wander around the shady forest paths to your heart’s content, enjoying the mist drifting from the many waterfalls and crossing the log bridges at your own pace, not the pace of the people behind you.

Find out more at www.rodosisland.gr.

Many thanks to PROTOUR and the Greek National Tourism Organisation for supplying these images.

Greece, Rhodes, Valley of the Butterflies cr PROTOUR1

Amsterdam: From A to B and beyond

Singel canal with bikes, AmsterdamThe following extract is part of one of my travel features, and can be read in full at easyJet.

Arriving in Amsterdam is a bit like accidentally stepping on an anthill. You emerge from the airport directly into a heaving train station with people rushing around in every direction, all seemingly knowing exactly where to go.

We stayed at The Double Tree by Hilton, a vast green construction with a cool glassy exterior and a modern interior of clean lines and high ceilings.

National Monument, AmsterdamThe hotel is perfectly placed for visiting Amsterdam’s highlights, from the Red Light District to the exceptional galleries and museums that burst from every corner. After dropping off our cases we made our way to Prinsengracht (the Prince’s Canal), admiring the grand, if admittedly rather phallic, National Monument as we crossed Dam Square.

Prinsengracht is the perfect place to while away an afternoon, with easygoing bars frequented by locals, and the restaurant Envy, where we feasted on a multitude of small dishes such as Dutch oysters, North Sea crab salad, fried pork belly and an array of Dutch cheeses. Continue reading

How to evoke a sense of place

Monsarez, AlentejoA version of this feature was originally published in the 100th issue of The New Writer magazine.

Judy Darley offers advice on capturing the essence of a place in journalistic and creative writing.

As a travel and fiction writer I have a strong awareness of the importance of a sense of place in all kinds of writing. Sights, sounds and smells all add up to an evocative image for the reader, and keep them interested in the story, whether it’s a piece of fiction or a feature.

Open any story or feature with a few words of description about where your scene is taking place, and you immediately provide the reader with a tangible image to hold on to as your tale unfurls. A location can set a tone, a mood, and conjure up an atmosphere far more adeptly than a lengthy description of your main actors’ feelings and actions. Continue reading

Slavonia: the undiscovered corner of Croatia

River Danube, CroatiaThe following extract is part of one of my travel features, and can be read in full at Travelbite.com.

That night we stayed at Hotel Dunav, an exquisite family-run hotel set on the shores of the River Danube – Dunav in Croatian. With its own sandy beach, a multitude of outdoor seating and even its own pleasure cruiser, this is a popular spot for vast wedding and Christening parties, as well as providing a tranquil getaway. I woke shortly after dawn and meandered along the riverbank in the early light, watched by a flock of crows that flapped their way from tree to tree as I passed.

Ilok city walls

From here it’s just a short journey into Ilok, Croatia’s easternmost town (pictured above), with 1km of intact medieval walls, a lovely old stone church and a state-of-the-art museum, one of the few in Slavonia with displays in English as well as Croatian, overlooking the river to Serbia. Continue reading