travel writing

The Travel Writer's Handbook. How to Write - and Sell - Your Own Travel Experiences. Revised 7th Edition, 2012
By Jacqueline Harmon Butler & Louise Purwin Zobel
280 pages
Publisher: Agate Publishing Inc.
ISBN 978-1-57284-131-4
Cover price US$ 18.95

I am an unabashed accumulator of "how-to" books which often find their way onto my bookshelf after I have skimmed a couple of chapters.  I guess I must have some sub-conscious belief that their mere presence on my bedroom bookshelf will enable me to internalize their content while i sleep and I will magically become a better writer, photographer, cook or whatever my focus is at the time.

Tower Bridge at nightThe Air Canada flight from London to Vancouver departs Heathrow around 10 in the morning. Disembarking in Southampton from the Queen Victoria after the Ballroom Dance Cruise around the British Isles, I knew that there would be no way to catch that flight, so I had elected to stay overnight at the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel near the airport and travel back to Canada the following day.

A friend, Nancy, who was traveling back to the US also had a flight the day after the cruise, so we decided to take a  Thames River Dinner Showboat Cruise.

Several of us had booked a van to drive us from Southampton to London. After dropping the others off at the Heathrow terminals, the driver took us to our hotel. We had to wait quite a while to check in which was a bit annoying but we had arrived before the official check-in time so we could  not really complain.

During my London 2010 theatre week, just prior to the British Isles Dance Cruise, I was excited to be able to take a Backstage Tour at the National Theatre in London.Location of the National Theatre on South Bank of the Thames

Except for one visit to the Globe Theatre to see Antony and Cleopatra, my previous theatre-going visits to London had focused on West End theatre. But this time I was determined to visit the National Theatre  complex on the South Bank and see at least one play there.

When I checked out their web site to book on line, I saw that they offered a Backstage Tour.

I booked for  The Habit of Art on Sunday at 3 pm at the Lyttelton Theatre in the  National Theatre complex, and at the same time I booked the Backstage Tour,  an approximately hour-long tour that is conducted three times a day.

sunset at Craig BayFRIDAY, 31st July, 2009: Vancouver to Nanaimo

It is summer in British Columbia and in Vancouver we have been enjoying one of the hottest weeks on record. Perhaps enjoying is not the best choice of word. Temperatures soar and instead of grumbling about rain, there are warnings everywhere about how to "survive the heat".  It is really quite amusing as other parts of the world regularly experience weather far hotter and more humid than we are seeing.

Anyway, by sheer coincidence, this happened to be the weekend that our  group of friends who have traveled together on several explorations of the regions of Italy (Tuscany, Le Marche, Umbria, Sicily to name a few),  decided to have another BC reunion with lots of food and wine (see A Taste of the South Okanagan). Two couples in our group have homes on the island less than 5 minutes drive from each other, and the plan was that the rest of us would stay at one or the other place so we could easily convene for our various outings.

 Two of us from downtown Vancouver had planned to leave around 5 to catch the 7:30 ferry from Horseshoe Bay, but our plans changed suddenly when we read that the Critical Mass cyclists would be obstructing the downtown streets   just as we were heading over to the North Shore. We decided to err on the side of caution and leave an hour early and possibly have an early supper in Horseshoe Bay. 

Wendy and her hostsHoney makes sure Chris is picture-perfectAfter a busy day and the very satisfying but filling lobster lunch at the Fish House Grill in Bar Harbor I felt as if I would not want to eat again for a year. 

But we were asked to gather for group pictures before dinner, so there I was at dinner time with the gang in the lobby, watching Wendy try to marshal her staff for the pictures of the hosts for this cruise.

Wendy was trying to get everyone together while Honey was adjusting Chris's cummerbund and Bruce was giving  advice in the background.

Imogen and I took advantage of the moment to get a photo too.

view from Cadillac MountainBar Harbor, Maine - day three of the Autumn Escape East Coast ballroom dancing cruise.

Our stop in Bar Harbor was memorable for two things- the tour of Acadia National Park with stunning views out over  Frenchman Bay; and the buttery, lobster lunch that left us messy and smelling of shellfish but smiling in total gastronomic happiness.


The Queen Mary 2 dropped anchor out in the bay beyond the sandbar from which Bar Harbor gets it's name,  and we were tendered into the port. Bar Harbor is known for being "cottage country" for the ultra rich and famous in the mid-19th century. Although the cottages were in fact palatial mansions. Most were destroyed by a massive fire in 1947. Now it is a summer resort dominated by  inns, motels and bed and breakfasts, with a tiny permanent population of around 4800 people.

There is a very picturesque harbor with a tourist centre advertising the wide range of water-activities available.  Some of these  activities include whale watching aboard jet powered Australian designed catamarans that take you 20 miles south of Bar Harbor where the larger whales feed. They often see harbor  porpoises, sharks, seals, pods of pilot whales, dolphins and often humpbacks, Minkes and finback whales. You  can sign up for a lobster fishing and seal watching boat tour or even head into  Acadia national park and take a rock climbing course.

yup- we 're tempted by the fresh baked aromaHowever my organized roomie, Carol had booked us on Oli's Trolley Sightseeing tour, a one hour sightseeing ride that includes a 15 minute stop at the summit of Cadillac Mountain, and a stop at Thunder Hole. It was a good choice.

love those blueberry muffinsWe disembarked from the tender and made our way up to the landing. As we rounded the corner of the building we were entranced by the fragrant scent of freshly baking, and there in the window we saw a tray of freshly  made blueberry muffins. 

 We promptly turned round and headed into the bakery/cafe where I  bought a delicious blueberry muffin and Carol acquired blueberry scones. Great marketing technique. They say olfactory stimuli are among the most powerful sensory inputs and it certainly worked on us.

Approaching Brooklyn Terminal on the Queen Mary 2Autumn in New York - Eight days and nights in the city that never sleeps


 I love New York - just like it says on the T-shirts they hawk everywhere around Times Square.  Well perhaps I should qualify that statement by saying that I love spending a week or so in New York in the early fall, seeing theatre, trying out fine restaurants and dancing.  Last year I was here at approximately the same time (New York New York ) and saw some outstanding shows including A Steady Rain with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig, and Burn the Floor, which so blew me away that I saw it again, and then again for the show at the Vogue in Vancouver.

Me and a Boston DUKWFortunately my friend Carol is a great organizer because left to me, I would probably not see much of the various ports at which we call. Remember for me its the journey!  But thanks to Carol we had a  itinerary planned for this first destination in Boston.

We decided to have an early breakfast in the King's Court buffet, where we met  up with Dorothy and Bruce, and enjoyed a good chat. I was scheduled to have a lesson with Honey at 9:30 so I headed down to G32 where we worked on styling and following. Its those arm movements that get me every time. I think I have to just get less self-conscious and just let my arms move naturally.

Carol and another DUKWAfter the lesson I found Carol waiting in the cabin and we headed ashore. We had booked a Boston Duck Tour and needed to get to the Tour start center at the Prudential Building.We got there a little early and wandered through the shopping center before returning to wait for our tour.

sirloin steak in the Todd English restaurant - minus the risottoThe threat of turbulent seas from Hurricane Earl meant that the cruise itinerary had to be revised. So when I checked into my stateroom, there was a notice saying that the Queen Mary 2 would remain at the Brooklyn Pier till later that night and in the early hours, set sail, so to speak, for Boston. So instead of visiting Newport, we would have an unexpected day at sea.

I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to try a lunch at the Todd English restaurant so I trotted down the corridor to the aft end of the ship and made a reservation for lunch at 12:30 for Carol and myself, and figured I would check with her later.  I had been wanting to check out some of the alternate dining opportunities both on the Queen Victoria and on the QM2 but since with DAS we generally have each evening's dinner as a group, I have been reluctant to seem unsociable and skip out on a meal. So this unplanned day at sea seemed like an ideal time to eat out.

The reason I went on my first dance cruise with Dancers at Sea, the West Coast Ballroom Dancing and Wine-Tasting Cruise, that started my whole craze for dance cruising, was because on the DAS web-site, I noted that Wendy promised a dance host for every three single guests. So at worst, one would be dancing every third dance instead of sitting wistfully on the sidelines watching others on the dance floor.

On the second cruise I took with the DAS group, the four night East Coast Labor Weekend Getaway from New York, I first encountered Dance Hosts from the Queen Mary 2 Dance Host program. A couple of the hosts on that cruise were really excellent dancers and thanks to them, we found that we got to dance more frequently than every third dance. The next three cruises I went on were on two Princess and one Costa ship, none of which had dance hosts and I thought for me, that was a significant lack.


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