Archive for category Travel

Thoughts from Madeira

I’m just back from a week in Madeira.

Madeira

Before I went I selected a brand new empty notebook from my stash and packed it in my suitcase – ready to fill with wonderful words as I basked in foreign climes. The notebook has returned completely empty. I didn’t write a single word.

But I’m not counting that as a failure. We also took far fewer pictures than usual on holiday. I’d like to think that instead of making a point of recording everything in pictures or words, we were actually living in the moment (and enjoying it!). I have returned with memories of some of the emotions I felt whilst on holiday and I’m hopeful that I can draw on these to add depth to my fiction when trying to imagine how a character might feel in a particular situation. For example:

  • The nausea I felt when the pilot tried to land at Funchal airport in high winds (the landing was aborted 3 times before we diverted to Faro). The plane was buffeted from side to side and I had to locate the sick bag, just in case!
  • The claustrophobic fear that overcame me when we walked through a 1.4 km long tunnel. It was pitch black, the low, rough ceiling forced us to bend over and we had one tiny torch between us. My husband banged his head and had blood trickling down his face when we finally emerged into the light and … realised we’d gone the wrong way – we should have turned down a path before the tunnel.
  • The respect and admiration that was due to the native Madeirans who are trying to eke a living by farming small plots of land on the steep hillsides. They have to walk a long way along steep, rough paths to get to their land and then pay for water from the levadas to irrigate their crops.

It can be good to relish the moment and store away those feelings to pull out a later date.
What about you – do you write whilst on holiday?

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Travel Writing Competition

I’m just back from a holiday walking in the Yorkshire Dales.

Sally Jenkins in Dales

We covered about 100 miles in a week and it was typically British. We saw sheep, cows, rabbits, moles (dead), enjoyed cooked breakfasts in hospitable B&Bs and made a bee-line for tea and cake in any cafes we passed. There was also some British rain.

So, it was rather appropriate that on my return I found an email from Steve Hanson of seniortravelexpert.com announcing their latest travel writing competition. The theme is ‘Travel and Water’.

Steve says, “The theme ‘Travel and Water’ is deliberately wide and we accept fictional as well as factual entries. In our last writing competition – ‘City, Town or Village’ – one of the winning entries was fictional and one of the runners-up was a poem. It is free-to-enter, has a prize of £100, maximum 750 words and closing date December 31st, 2015.”

Ten runners-up will each receive a firstwriter.com voucher worth £10, allowing them to take out a free subscription to firstwriter.com, providing access to details of hundreds of publishers, literary agents, writing competitions and magazines.

So what are you waiting for? Most holidays involve travel and water in one form another. All the competition details are here. Get writing!

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Walk the Cleveland Way – Accommodation, Attractions and Advice

Regular readers of this blog will know that I enjoy walking, especially long walks. Walk the Cleveland WayGetting outside in the fresh air for the day is a great way to unwind and a complete contrast to sitting in front of the computer all day (which I do for my ‘day’ job, as well as when I’m writing).

In August 2013, my husband and I walked the 109 mile Cleveland Way in North Yorkshire over ten days. It’s a fabulous route because the first half meanders over the deserted moors where you’re lucky to even find even a solitary tea shop but, in contrast, the second half is along the coast through bustling resorts like Whitby and Scarborough. This path is also great for beginners because the signposting is excellent – so you are unlikely to get lost (but a map is always advisable, just in case …).

I may like the fresh air but I’m definitely not a backpacker. We stayed in comfortable guest houses and small hotels and had our luggage transported. So we carried only day-sacks and our suitcases were waiting when we arrived at the next overnight stop. All we had to do was hop in the shower and wash away the weariness of the day before changing for our evening meal. And there was always a great cooked breakfast to look forward to the next morning …

Being a writer, I carried a notebook for the 10 days we were walking and I jotted down everything about our trip, from details of the English Heritage properties we found along the route to the tea shops providing good cakes and the display of knitting we found on Saltburn pier. It seemed a waste to keep all this information to myself – it’s all stuff we would have found useful when deciding if this was a holiday we would enjoy and would have helped us in the planning too.

So, I typed it all up into a coherent format, used one of the photos from our trip as the basis for the cover and published it on Kindle.

It’s now available for you to gaze at in awe, ‘look inside’, borrow for free (if you’re in Amazon Prime or  Kindle Unlimited) or even purchase. Simply click here.

If you fancy returning from holiday with a clear head, feeling fit and strong (despite eating many cakes and cooked breakfasts!) then I recommend the Cleveland Way to you.

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Senior Travel Expert Writing Competition

The Senior Travel Expert Writing Competition will open for entries on November 20th 2014. It’s free to enter and the prize is £100.

Don’t panic if you’ve been nowhere exotic. The theme is ‘City, Town or Village’ and the brief is:

“Submit up to 600 words, non-fiction or fiction, which will persuade the readers of this site to go and visit the city, town or village you have chosen.”

We’ve all been somewhere that we could write 600 words about – even if it’s only our home town. So pick up that pen and have a go!

Visit the Senior Travel Expert website for full details, which should be available once the competition opens for entries on Thursday 20th November 2014.  At the moment you can just see a brief paragraph if you scroll down the page.

Good Luck!

 

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People Watching

Have you ever been on a coach holiday? They’re great for people watching and character invention.

Cardiff Castle Wartime Shelter

Cardiff Castle Wartime Shelter

I was a coach holiday virgin until last weekend when I went on a two-day break to Cardiff and Bath. It was planned as a getaway for me, my sister and my mum so that we could spend some time together without the hassle of driving, flying or lots of organisation.

However, we didn’t anticipate the amount of time we would spend hanging about at service stations waiting for ‘feeder’ coaches to arrive. Four coaches had to meet part way to Cardiff on the outward journey and again part way home from Bath on the return journey.  So there was a lot of waiting around.

But this gave us time to watch our fellow passengers and the drivers.

We discussed the man sitting across the coach aisle from us. He appeared to be travelling alone but then we saw him with a woman and then alone again. Had he been chatting her up? Is a coach holiday a good place to meet someone of the opposite sex? Yes, but only if you’re male – there were a lot more women than men travelling with us.

The drivers’ lifestyles came under our scrutiny. Cooked breakfasts and burgers seemed the popular choice at the table ‘Reserved for Coach Drivers Only’ in the service station cafe. None of the men seemed to know what route they’d be driving from one day to the next or what time they’d be getting home. And the final leg of our journey was driven with urgency because if the driver didn’t get home at a certain time he wouldn’t be allowed to drive the next day due to insufficient hours between the two trips.

There was a Murder Mystery dinner in the hotel. In tables of ten we worked out who’d killed the Earl. Group dynamics came into play and it was interesting to see who took charge, who just listened and who was keen to interrogate the actors. Then there was the table of riotous women on a birthday outing who made it difficult to hear the scene where the body was discovered.

Finally, my imagination went into overdrive in Cardiff Castle’s wartime shelter. Think of the drama, heartache, deaths (and possibly births) that must have happened as the sirens wailed in the 1940s.

I haven’t come back with any complete story ideas but I have got various characters buzzing around in my head. Perhaps eventually one of them will come to the fore and tell me their tale.

Do you have a favourite place for people watching? Or a favourite technique for dreaming up characters?

 

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Mountain Kingdoms Travel Writing Competition

I’m just back from a short (wet) bank holiday break in Gloucestershire. Mountain Kingdoms Travel Writing Competition

Whilst wandering around Wotten-Under-Edge looking for the Town Hall (where tea and cakes were being served) I spotted this competition in a travel agent’s window.

Entry is FREE. Prizes are vouchers for Bob Books. First prize is £75, second £50 and third £30.  ALL entries receive 15% off the usual photo book prices.

Entries should be a minimum of 100 words and be accompanied by a photograph. The judges are looking for either a unique experience, a cultural encounter, a trekking tale or a piece of advice. A selection of entries may be published on Mountain Kingdoms’ website.

Full details are available on the Mountain Kingdoms Blog. Closing date is 30th September 2014.

I don’t think my tale of a wet bank holiday will be a winner – but maybe you’ve been somewhere more exciting?

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The Library of Birmingham

Prince Charles once said that the Central Library in Birmingham looked like ‘a place where books are incinerated, not kept’.

The Library of Birmingham at Centenary Square ...

The Library of Birmingham at Centenary Square with Birmingham Rep in foreground (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That 40-year-old concrete building will now be demolished. It has been replaced by The Library of Birmingham, which opened its doors for the first time a few weeks ago, at the beginning of September.

I’ve been to see it and was very impressed by the modern, light, hi-tech interior. There are also outdoor spaces for reading, chatting or relaxing – the Discovery Terrace is an elevated garden and includes herbs, fruit and vegetables and the Secret Garden Terrace on the seventh floor gives a quiet place to sit and admire the view over the city.

The ninth floor houses the famous Shakespeare Memorial Room. This was first designed and built in 1882 for the city’s Victorian Library. In the early 1970s it was moved to the, then new, Central Library and it has now been re-located again to sit atop The Library of Birmingham. It must have been quite a feat to carefully remove and then rebuild all the wood panelling along with glass printed shelves and metalwork. The ceiling has some very ornate plasterwork and stained glass windows.

Also on the ninth floor is the glass-enclosed Skyline Viewpoint giving stunning views across the city from 51 metres above street level.

There are two cafes – selling wine, champagne and expensive paper cups of tea.

The Library of Birmingham was a £189 million project. There has been a lot of controversy in the city about whether that money should have been spent, when smaller, community libraries across the region have had their opening hours drastically cut.

This new library has a lot to offer as a tourist attraction but I’m not sure whether it will get more people reading. However, it is open seven days a week and was very busy on the Sunday afternoon that I went – but most people were just there to have a look around it rather than to read or borrow books.

Personally, I’ll go again when the novelty has worn off and the place is quieter. Then, maybe, I’ll find a quiet corner and do some writing – if I’m not distracted by the thought of roof terraces and a glass of champagne!

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