Finding beauty and tragedy in the Dolomites in Italy

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The village of Casso sits high on the slopes of the valley

Northern Italy is pretty much all jaw-dropping beautiful.  We had been driving through green alpine valleys, stopping often to stand and look in awe at the craggy mountains above and the ice-blue river we were following.   Leaving the stunning River Cellina valley we followed the Torrente Cimoliana to the pretty village of Cimolais, all the time making a note to come this way again.  We drove over the Passo di Sant’Osvaldo coming down to the village of Erto.  Ahead I could see a scoured hillside, devoid of trees or vegetation, this certainly looked out of place.  We stopped the ‘van to take it in, at first wondering if this was a quarry but quickly realising the mountainside was too steep for such activity.  The scale of the ‘M-shaped’ scar on the hillside was hard to take in but we realised we were looking at a landslide.  What we didn’t realise at that moment was how devastating the landslide had been.  We had stumbled upon the Vajont Dam and the legacy of the disaster that occurred here on the night of 9 October 1963.

The Vajont Dam, a 265-meter high arch dam was in 1963 considered an amazing construction that created a large reservoir in the mountain valley.  The dam was well built and still stands as it withstood the unprecedented destructive power of that night.  On the 9 October 1963 a huge slice of the mountain slid in to the reservoir behind the dam.  Around 260 million cubic metres of rock hit the water and this created a massive wave that breached the Vajont Dam, the displaced water rising high and pouring with unimaginable force in to the Piave valley below, gaining speed all the while.

We stopped below the Alpine village of Casso that clings to the mountainside.  From here we could see the scar on the flank of Monte Toc and look down on the Vajont Dam that stands as a memorial to the thousands who lost their life.  We walked below Monte Toc trying to take in the scale of this avoidable disaster.  As the dam was planned and built many people warned about the geological instability of the area and the risk from the dam but corrupt and powerful institutions failed to listen.

We drove down the mountainside to the town of Longarone.  This lovely town is below the dam and in 1963 it was flattened by the tsunami of water that poured over the dam.  In the moving museum in the basement of the modern church there are photographs showing the aftermath and the names of people who died.  It is estimated that around 2,000 people were killed that night and I thought about all those lives cut short.

Although I left feeling somber, I was glad we had stopped to learn about this disaster that has left its mark on this beautiful landscape.

For photographs of the reservoir and the destruction of the landslide take a look here.  Today the Parco Naturale Dolomiti Friulane has been created to bring tourism back to this incredible and beautiful area.

05.27.2018 Celina and Vajont valleys (13)
In the museum in Longarone

 

Fortuna favours the bold: In Murcia Spain

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Evening sunshine at Banos de Fortuna

Fortuna was the Roman goddess of luck and fate and she must have been smiling on us benevolently the day we decided to meander up to Baños de Fortuna, approximately 25 kms north-east of Murcia some years ago.  In pursuit of the Spanish coast, many people overlook small inland Spanish towns and yet we constantly find such places are well worth a stay and offer a different perspective to Spain that is a million miles away from the Costas.

Baños de Fortuna is a village developed around a hot spring and on the edge of the Sierra de la Pila.  It is three kilometres from the small town of Fortuna with a population of over 9,000; enough to ensure it has a supermarket and a weekly Saturday market, as well as a useful tourist information office eager to give out leaflets.  Situated in a dry and arid landscape that will bring to mind cowboy films, this part of Spain has warm and sunny winters that suit us northern Europeans.

The Romans must also have thought that Goddess Fortuna was smiling on them, when they found running hot water near Fortuna.  Banos de Fortuna has now developed into a small settlement, with two campsites and a spa resort.  We chose Camping La Fuente, a very well provisioned and excellently presented site; the main attraction being a large naturally heated swimming pool.  The site has generous gravel pitches, many with their own bathroom and all with sun-shades during the summer.  Laid out in crescents and small terraces you never feel that you are surrounded by lots of other campers, even when it is busy.  Around the pool are a bar and reasonably priced restaurant with terrace, the staff are helpful and knowledgeable and the campsite facilities include a hotel and bungalows.  At around 08.30 every morning we heard the welcome horn of the bread van that tours the campsite and tempts you with crusty bread and Spanish cakes.

Campsite guests can use the pool for a reduced daily rate and with a temperature of 35C some campers will spend most of the day lounging and chatting in the warm spring water, relieving their aches and pains and putting the world to rights.  A dressing gown, flip flops and swim wear is almost all the clothing you need if the pool is your prime reason for staying at Camping La Fuente and clearly many people visit to relieve their mobility problems.  The site is popular with German visitors and is busy through the winter months and it might be worth ringing ahead and booking if you plan to be here from January to March.

Fortuna continued to smile on us and during our week long stay in November.  We enjoyed sunshine and temperatures in excess of 20C each day; warm enough for shorts and to sit outside and enjoy a breakfast of fresh bread rolls from the bread van, greeting early morning swimmers on their way to the pool.

Lovely as the baths are, it would be a shame to come here and not explore the area.  We enjoy walking and cycling and found this was a campsite with plenty of opportunities to indulge in both.  Just a few minutes’ walk from the campsite is the spa resort, this has been renovated and the hotel buildings have been painted in bright colours that pick out attractive plaster work details.  There are benches and shady gardens of palm trees dotted around the spa and a smart souvenir shop which are certainly worth a wander around.

Using a photocopied map from the campsite reception and Spanish instructions, we set off to climb the 585 metre high hill visible from the site.  The walk was graded on the map as being of medium difficulty and it proved to be a steep and interesting climb through aromatic scrub of fragrant rosemary, lavender and thyme, with occasionally yellow and white splashes of paint on jagged rocks to assist our route finding.  The last few metres were a scramble that required hands and knees, but we were rewarded with extensive views across the dry, semi-desert landscape, dotted with brilliant green areas of cultivation and a peace and quiet you don’t find on many British hills on a sunny day.  We managed to navigate a less precipitous route back down the northern flank of the hill, eventually finding a trail through bushes and past tall agave plants.

The main road to Fortuna is a fairly busy one and the fast rumbling lorries from nearby quarries mean this isn’t a pleasant route for a leisure cyclist.  However, there is no shortage of quiet minor roads that make for very pleasant cycling.  The road to Capres from Banos de Fortuna is a little used, but well-surfaced road that climbs steeply up to the village for around five kilometres.  We rested on benches outside the low white church in Capres while we ate our picnic, the only thing to disturb us were the sounds of sheep grazing among the trees above the church, watched over by a sleepy shepherd.

La Cueva Negra, north of Fortuna, is also worth a trip.  This large cave, as the name suggests, has black walls which are covered with graffiti inscriptions, some dating back to those Fortuna seeking Romans.  There is plenty of parking here and public barbeques and it is clearly a popular spot at weekends, although on a November weekday we had it to ourselves.  We walked up to the cave and watched the Crag Martins and Black Wheatears flitting around the rocky cliffs as we looked down over an expansive landscape of low modern villas and citrus and olive trees.  On the same cycle ride we took in the Ermita at Cortao de las Peñas on the edge of the Parque Regional de la Sierra de la Pila, a roadside monument painted white, that is an extension of the surrounding cliffs.

A different day’s cycle ride found us exploring the area to the east of Fortuna and the nearby town of Abanilla.  We cycled through a confusing criss-cross of lanes, through lemon and orange groves and small housing estates, past industrial farming units and along irrigation channels.  This area is less hilly and more suitable for the lazy cyclist.  Although arid, many crops are grown in this area, as well as citrus fruits, peaches and olives, you will spot almonds and market gardening.  Abanilla is a pretty little town, with an attractive town centre and steep narrow streets and steps leading to pleasant plazas.  This is not an area where you will find stunning crowd-puller attractions, but we always enjoy the chance to explore small towns that are off the tourist circuit and ignored by the guide books.  Our 35-kilometre cycle ride saw us returning via La Huerta and on the eerily quiet A-21, through a landscape of dry gorges with peregrine falcon’s calling overhead.

Once you have exhausted all the nearby attractions, or if even the hot springs can’t ease your saddle sores, there are places of interest to visit in your campervan.  We had a splendid day driving along the Rio Segura valley north of Murcia to Archena, another ancient spa town and Cieza, where the huge fields of peach trees must be a riot of colour in spring.  To the south east is Orihuela, a charming town on the banks of the Rio Segura with fine buildings, a hillside castle, swathes of palm trees and a fascinating underground museum, the Museo de la Muralla, where you can see the remains of the old city walls and Arab baths

Hopefully, the Goddess Fortuna will smile on me and let me visit more of this interesting area of Spain at least once again.

La Villes-aux-Dames and Tours

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La Ville-aux-Dames mural on one of the schools

In 1974 the good people of La Ville-aux-Dames near to the city of Tours in France decided [very appropriately] to give only women’s names to their streets and roads.  I loved finding La Ville-aux-Dames [the town of women] but didn’t expect the town to have taken the female theme to such amazing heights.  Even on the lovely campsite, Les Acacias in La Ville-aux-Dames all the chalets are named after women; you can stay in Edith Piaf, Maria Callas and others.  Taking a stroll around the local area I found not only are the roads named after women, the local schools are too; as well as Avenue Jeanne d’Arc, Square Mary Queen of Scots and Rue Colette I found École élémentaire Marie Curie.  Some names were less well known to me and had me checking them out; Gabrielle d’Estrées advised Henry IV and had three children by him and I learnt that Anna de Noailles wrote three novels and poetry.

The mural in the photograph above is on one of the local schools and has images of nine French women;  Marie Curie, George Sands, Colette, Lucie Aubrac [history teacher and resistance member] and Berthe Monsit [impressionist painter] and others.  I was delighted to think that all the children who attend this school will know who these women are and what they achieved, adding a bit of balance to the male-dominated history my own schooling involved.  Just walking around the streets was an education.

The name is testimony to the abbey for nuns that was here and it is said the name La Ville-aux-Dames comes from the old name for the area, Villa Dominarum, the Latin for ladies town.  Surrounded by excellent agricultural land the local people produced milk for Tours and the inhabitants became known as ‘Caillons’ after their curd cheese.  In November La Ville-aux-Dames’ Marche des Caillons, a sponsored walk, attracts over 400 people.  Today the inhabitants of La Ville-aux-Dames call themselves Gynepolitains from the Greek words for women and town.

The campsite proved to be fantastic for visiting the lovely city of Tours.  On the confluence of the Rivers Loire and Cher we had no expectations of this city and so its beauty and charm was a surprise.  We cycled the seven kilometres in to Tours along the Loire cycle route and chaining up the bikes pottered around fairly aimlessly.  We knew of no ‘must see’ sight so we were free to just wander and admire with no pressure.

Starting at the cathedral we had coffee and cake in a lovely cafe and then followed lively streets to the old city.  Here there are pretty squares surrounded by 15th century timber-framed houses with amazing narrow extensions on the back for staircases; these looked very Disney-esque and heath robinson.

In the big market hall we explored the lovely stalls and bought fresh vegetables and local cheese and yogurt for our evening meal.  We ate at a cheap and cheerful burger and kebab cafe in a lively square and finished up with sweet peppermint tea.  Walking back to our bikes by the River Loire I fell in love with the elegant fountain [below] in the Place Anatole in front of the library.

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Beautiful and vibrant Tours

Failing frugality: Year two of financial independence

05.28.2018 Lago di Corlo walk (2)
The pan is empty

It is now over 18 months since I finished the nine-to-five and 15 months since Mr BOTRA last had any paid work.  At the end of 2017 I was feeling pretty smug as our spending of £24,000 in our first year of retirement was well under budget – clever us I thought.  Now it feels as if all manner of expenses were just waiting in the wings for year two.  We are just over half way through our second year of spending our savings and we are on target to spend £3,000 more than last year.  You may recall £27,000 was our budget for each year. What has gone awry?

The campervan

Just over £1,000 of our additional spending in 2018 has been on the campervan.  Our Devon Tempest is now over three years old and with over 30,000 miles on the clock has needed some TLC this year; two new tyres [it will need two more before the end of the year], new brake pads all round as well as general servicing.  The conversion has also needed a bit of work as we had to have the water level sensor replaced.  There have been other odds and ends such as a new kettle and replacement levelling blocks too.  This year has been spend, spend, spend on the ‘van.

Holidays

Holidays remain our priority.  As well as the usual costs for ferries and campsites we have had a long weekend in Milan this year for a significant birthday [not the cheapest city to visit and our trip cost just under £1,000] and we have paid almost £400 up front for a holidays for 2019.

Health

Our health is important but this has been the year we have both had to have new specs and Mr BOTRA has had some expensive dental work, totalling over £900.

Clothing

We wear everything until it falls apart and when it comes to gear we like to buy quality kit but with so much free time we are out walking a lot of the time and it seems that even quality gear doesn’t last forever.  This year we have had to replace walking shoes and other bits and bobs of clothing, pushing this budget line to over £800 already this year.  Last year it was much less, maybe next year it will be too!

Increased cost of living

We know the cost of food has increased in the UK and we have noticed this in our spending.  In 2018 we are spending an average of around 16% a month more than we did in 2017.  I don’t think we have changed what we eat or where we shop so this must be related to an increase in the cost of fresh vegetables and other staples.  In addition with the pound falling against the euro our supermarket shops on our holidays abroad have become more expensive.

Don’t panic

We monitor our spending so that we can keep it in check and avoid any problems but there are three reasons why we aren’t in a panic yet about this increase in our spending.

Firstly, we had given ourselves what we thought was a generous budget of £27,000 a year and we are currently projecting around that amount for 2018.  It could be that our first year of not working was particularly cheap and the budget we set was accurate rather than generous.

Secondly at the moment my travel writing income will more than cover the £3,000 projected increase in our spending for 2018 over 2017.

Thirdly, we have that emergency fund.  We are glad we saved what we needed and a little bit more to give us a cushion in the tough times.  This emergency fund increased last year as we spent under our budget and it increases every time I have a travel article published.  We don’t really want this to dwindle to nothing and hopefully it won’t.

Looking ahead

On reflection our campervan, our health and our trip to Milan together more or less account for the increase in our spending.  Only the wonderful trip to Milan was really optional and we won’t be repeating this in 2019.  We will keep monitoring our spending and see if we need to revise our budget and perhaps rethink some of our regular spending.  We have already arranged to switch our gas and electric supplier to save us a small amount and we have come up with some new water saving ideas too but there are others areas of spending that we could pull back on if we need to in the future to keep us on track.

 

 

Campsites during our trip to Croatia, Italy & France

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The lovely campsite at Le Poet-Celard

During our trip through Germany and Austria to Croatia [with occasional excursions in to Slovenia] and on to Italy and France we stayed on 37 campsites.  Each site has some notes about our experience of the site:

Campsite name Number of nights Comments Cost
Camping Freizeitzentrum, Sagemuhle, Trippstadt, Germany 1 Large site by a small lake with bar & restaurant, lovely clean faclities, very hot water & indoor wash up, grassy pitches on well drained soil & open site, very good bread rolls £19.50
Hofgut Hopfenburg, Munsingen, Germany 2 Open site above the town with hard-standing walking from site in woodland, facilites excelletn, clean, warm, very hot showers, indoor wash-up, drying room, fresh bread, great site for €15 £15.00
Alpencamping Mark Weer Austria 2 Green site with grass & trees & friendly welcome, walking & cycling, clean facilities, good hot showers, bread rolls & lots of info £17.00
Camping Goldeck Seeboden, Austria 1 Grassy terraced site with clean facilities, building work going on & entrance steep, facilities dingy & cold but warm water, air of neglect £19.00
Camp Slapic, Duga Resa near Karlovac, Croatia 3 Nicely laid out site with open & shady pitches by river, English spoken at reception, lovely modern facilities, bar & restaurant, walking & cycling & railway station 5 mins away £19.00
Camp Marina Lozovac Sibenik, Croatia 2 Small site with marked pitches & some shade, clean facilities, roomy shower/wet rooms & hot water that runs continuous 2 kms from national park & excursions from site £15.00
Autocamp Peros Zaton Nin, Croatia 1 Small site, friendly welcome, grassy with trees, facilities basic but the water is hot & showers fine, peaceful, a few kms to Nin a lovely old town £17.00
Bluesun Camp Paklenica Starigrad, Croatia 4 Large site by the sea with bungalows & chalets, stony ground, level & pine trees for shade, modern facilities & good hot showers with no push buttons & roomy cubicles near the town £17.00
Hostel Plitvice Rastoke Camperstop, Slunj, Croatia 1 Car park with fantastic views over the river gorge to the town and EHU. £15.00
Camp Slapic, Duga Resa near Karlovac 1 Different pitch, the site now has bread in restaurant £19.00
Vugec Plac Camper Stop Samabor, Croatia 2 Small site for 4 vans, flat & grassy with 1 bathroom & sitting area / itchen & pool, all new & clean, hedged & gated in peaceful area with open views, good hot shower, friendly owner £20.00
Terme Olimia Camping Podcetrtek, Slovenia 1 Clean facilities, shaded pitches, aquapark not open so fairly peaceful but some road noise £17.00
Camping Terme Ptuj Slovenia 1 Grassy site, pitches in circular areas, busy with group from Netherlands, good hot showers £19.00
Camping Amarin Rovinj Istria, Croatia 2 A large grassy sloping site with trees, facilities basic but clean & hot water, fresh bread & shop water taxi & bus to Rovinj £17.00
Motovun Motorhome Parking Motovun, Croatia 1 Sloped gravel parking area for 12 vans, some trees only 1 shower & 1 toilet per sex, good hot showers & water by pitch £25.00
Camping Park Lijak Active Sempas near Nova Gorica, Slovenia 1 Grassy site with views of hills, friendly welcome, facilities modern & clean, water in showers only just warm enough, €5 tourist tax £17.00
Belvedere Pineta Campng Village Grado Italy 3 Large site by lagoon in pine woods, good size pitches, cycling routes from the site, no toilet seats or toilet paper, €17 on ACSI (we used some free camping cheques) good hot showers, supermarket, restaurant & bleach, wi-fi €5 a day £0.00
Lago 3 Comuni Alesso, Italy 2 Small site with pleasant bar, small pitches, showers push button & barely warm but facilities clean by a lake & mountain views £21.00
Sosta Barcis, Italy 1 Level car park by lake & cycling from site, small town with some shops, toilets nearby & water & electric on pitch, some music noise until 01.30 it was Saturday £14.00
Camping Lago Arsie, Italy 2 Level grassy site by lake with shop & restaurant, good size pitches, very little shade, helpful reception, showers hot but showerheads a burst of water rather than a shower, facilities modern £19.00
Camping Valle Verde Predazzo, Italy 3 Excellent & peaceful site in mountain valley, given a map of 10 local walks & cycle routes, facilities clean, toilet paper & paper towels, good hot showers £19.00
La Sosta, ponte di Legno, Italy 1 Car park on the edge of the mountain town with cafe & hook up, slight gradient, toilet with cafe, water on pitch £15.00
Camping Presanella Temu, Italy 1 Lovely views from this grassy site, clean facilities, cycle route from site, free wi-fi, hot showers but no heating in facilities £28.00
Camping Covelo, Iseo, Italy 4 Small site between lake & railway line, cramped pitches, friendly & helpful staff, good hot showers & clean facilities, near to town, extra €2 for lakeside £19.00
Montgenevre Aire, France 1 Large gravel aire with views over the village & mountains at 1,859 metres £13.00
Le Glandasse, Die, France 2 Large friendly site by the river popular with Dutch, marked pitches, showers small & push button, clean & almost warm enough, no toilet paper £13.00
Champ la Chevre, Lus-la-Croix-Haute, France 1 Sloping site with few level pitches but open views to the mountains & by village, indoor pool, good hot showers & clean facilities £15.00
Les Chapelains, Saillans, France 2 Small site by a town, friendly welcome, marked pitches, facilities open & showers only lukewarm & push button £15.00
Les Clorinthes, Crest, France 1 Level site with trees, friendly welcome & near to the town, facilities clean, showers push button & could be warmer £17.00
Le Couspeau Camping, le-Poet-Celard, france 2 Terraced site with wide open views across to hills, friendly welcome, 5 hrs of free wi-fi, all facilities, peaceful location, modern facilities & good hot showers, restaurant & bar £15.00
Camping de Mars, Cordelle, France 1 Overlooking the Loire, peaceful spot, facilities a bit dated & showers tepid, friendly rabbit, paid with free camping cheques so only paid tourist tax £1.10
Couleurs du Monde, Montrichard, France 1 Level site next to supermarket & 1 km from Montrichard & the Cher River, wrist bands obligatory, facilities clean but water tepid, popular with English £15.00
Les Acaacias Camping, Tours, France 2 Level site with some road noise, friendly & helpful welcome, good facilities, showers roomy & warm enough, 7 kms cycle route to Tours £17.00
Camping Les Plages de Loire, Rochefort-sur-Loire, France 1 Flat site by small town between Le Louet & Loire, facilities mixed, showers have been updated but were not very warm & push button, wash up is somewhat grim, pitches marked but narrow £13.00
Les Paludiers, Batz-sur-Mer, Le Croisic, France 2 Large rambling site with marked pitches, some very sloped, showers were roomy with sinks & warm enough in good weather, helpful reception £17.00
Municipal Campsite Corlay, France 1 Grassy area by play ground with hook up for 4 vans, toilets, basins and showers that were hot & good but a bit scruffy, no one came to be paid £0.00
Riva Bella, Ouistreham, France 2 Flat site near town & supermarkets with indoor pool but also peaceful corners, modern facilities, roomy showers with wash basins that had warm water £17.00
Camping La Fontaine des Clercs, Montreuil, France 1 The pleasant aire was full so we used this terraced site with some small pitches & dated facilties, free wi-fi, showers tepid but very hot water in sinks, popular & busy £19.90

Bee In The City: #surprisingsalford #30

Bee in the City

Through July to September this year Manchester is buzzing with the Bee in the City art trail that is getting people exploring corners of the city finding these colourful large bee sculptures.  I am so pleased that a few of these bees have made it over the Irwell in to Salford and we have discovered and admired the ones at Salford Quays.  Spend any time in the city at the moment and you too will enjoy seeing families seeking out these bees.  Check your social media accounts and you will spot photographs tagged #BeeInTheCity.

These big bees make fantastic and engaging public art.  People are tweeting about their favourite big bee and challenging themselves to find all the colonies of little bees in various venues around the city.  Hopefully some of these people are also thinking about the beauty of bees and the threat many species of bee are under – did you know that over 270 species of bee have been recorded in Great Britain?

It is thought it was the industrial revolution that started the association between Manchester and the bee when the productive factories were hives of activity.  In 1842 the bee was incorporated in to the Manchester coat of arms, dotted around the globe.

I haven’t followed the trail but instead have stumbled upon bees as I walk around the city.  I came upon this bee in Salford City Council corporate pink on Bridge Street by the New Bailey and the River Irwell.  Created by the artist Hammo, this bee has a stylised depiction of the Manchester skyline on its body.

 

Life in the day of a travel writer

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The beautiful bay at Batz sur Mer

 

Is being a travel writer non-stop glamour, always in business class on the plane and being wined and dined at the launch of a new hotel?  Well it isn’t like that for this campervan travel writer and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I only write about my travels because I enjoy sharing the wonderful places I have visited and want to inspire others.  Each trip I make is a real trip that we have paid for ourselves and are trips that anyone with a ‘van could make.  I am not interested in writing about luxury tours that I wouldn’t make if someone else wasn’t paying.  I guess if you are a travel writer or editor invited on to press trips for the PR then your days might be glamour-packed but for the travel writer without a commission this is a long way from reality.  First and foremost the trips we follow in our campervan are our holidays, the payment I get for writing about it is a bonus that comes after the event.  Below might give you some idea about how much work it takes to create an article.

The work starts even before you pack a bag

Research – This can start months before we set off on a trip.  I read travel books and articles, watch TV programmes and follow other travel bloggers and sometimes a story or a place grabs me and sparks off an idea for a trip that I will run with.  Sitting at my laptop I research exciting places to visit in an area, stories that might interest readers, campsites and walking or cycling routes.  I will also look at ideas for the best photographs of the area.  This is generally internet research but I also read guide books and walking guides to learn from other people’s travels and find out about places we might enjoy visiting.

The weather – As I said these are real holidays and trips and so we get all sorts of weather but travel magazines want to see blue sky and sunshine.  In the days leading up to a trip or THE important venue during the trip I check the weather forecast obsessively – a dull day means I have to be more creative with my photography and rain plays havoc with photographs and my camera.  Magazines require good quality and colourful photographs that will inspire readers and my writing is nothing without good photographs to illustrate the words.

We arrive

Being there – This is the holiday, the easy [thanks to the planning] and certainly the most enjoyable part.  We are there and visiting the place of interest or following the walk I have planned.  At this point I am truly on holiday, as with no commission in my pocket I have no idea if an editor will buy my story.  I am in the moment and appreciating and absorbing the colours, smells and feel of a place while also taking hundreds of photographs and cursing street furniture, signs and other visitors that get in the way.  Of course I am still a writer and so I am always on the look [or listen] out for that extra something that will help make a place come alive for readers.

That evening

Sifting the photographs – I try and sort through my photographs while the day is still fresh in my head, deciding which are worth working on and which didn’t come out as I hoped.  I am a writer not a photographer and make no claim of expertise in this area.  By going through the photographs immediately I can check their quality and if they are all a disaster we might have chance to go back for a second try.

Edit the best of the photographs – Using Photoshop I try and do this on the same day, otherwise I end up with a backlog of hundreds of photographs to edit.  This can take hours!  Sometimes Mr BOTRA reads to me while I edit 🙂

Writing up notes about the things I have seen – I am a bit old fashioned here and always write my notes in long-hand in a journal at first, the pen and paper experience seems to help me to think.  I will type up these notes either that day or later and use these notes as a framework for a story.  I note down smells and sounds, as well as what we have seen and snippets of conversations that I liked, all this helps to bring the place back to me once I start writing.  I also need to keep notes of the cost of campsites and entrance fees as these are often required by magazines.

Back-up photographs and notes – I am terrified of the photographs I have worked so hard to get going missing and so I am a bit obsessive about backing up.  Photographs are left on the SD card and as well as the laptop are copied to a pen drive and a hard drive, just in case the camera and / or the laptop goes missing or gives up the ghost.

File away useful leaflets and information – I also keep leaflets from venues and for walks so that back home I can check the correct name and spelling and maybe opening times, rather than just rely on the internet.

More backing up – If wifi is available I will upload the best photographs to the web as well as the obsessive back-up procedure.  Sometimes campsite wifi can be very slow.

Back at home

The writing and editing and writing and editing …. I don’t normally start writing my articles until I am home, although ideas will have been meandering around my brain during the trip and added to my notes.  This is not a nine-to-five job for me and so I have the luxury to be able to be a slow writer and generally spend around two weeks on a 2,000 word article, constantly checking facts, seeking the right words to describe a place and adding the reference information.

Choosing photographs – From the hundreds of photographs I have taken this gradually has to be whittled down to the 30 photographs that I think would look best in a glossy magazine.  This can be a painful as well as a time consuming process.

If you still want to have a go at being a travel writer I can highly recommend it and there is some useful guidance here.

In contrast

At the end of our trip around Croatia, Italy and France we had a few day in Brittany that won’t appear in any of my travel articles.  We were meeting friends and socialising in the the lovely resorts of Batz-sur-Mer and Le Croisic and later in the pretty inland town of Corlay in Brittany.  It was these few rest days that inspired me to write about the work involved in being a travel writer, as the down time I had made me realise how much free time I have when I’m not doing all of the above!