Aegina, Greece

I fell in love with a small island in Greece while reading a book that ended its tale in a small island in Greece. This made the island all the more special for me, as if I was meant to be here at this time. Aegina is a short boat ride away from Athens, it is everything every guide book has ever promised you, or so the rich of Athens will tell you, who come here to get away from the city.

It is easy to forget just how smothered we are in the UK, everything is set out for you and made safe, and yet here, ironically in another island you can breath again, you are free. In Aegina you can drive around tiny cobbled lanes, skirting around the stray white nondescript cats of Aegina and the fish caught that morning, you can park your hired scooter or quad-bike (the choice is yours) any where you like, never worrying about fishing for the last bit of change out of your pocket for parking.

What is there to do but sit back and relax? Explore the island in your own time, driving past giant cactuses and fields of pistachio trees. Visit the majestic Temple of Athena, drive up the long winding mountain to walk around the ancient Greek ruins. Pistachio’s are grown on the island and celebrated every September with the festival of Fistiki (Pistachio). Aegina produces every type of thing you can think of to do with a pistachio, and it is a delight to wonder around the island and find them all! My personal favourite being pistachio butter, very much like peanut butter.

I am looking forward to returning to the island of Aegina, a rare feeling for me as I am usually enthralled but always eager to move on. But, I would also like to see more of Greece. To stay in Athens and Thessaloniki.

 

The Cambridge ‘Time-Eater’

My first impression of Cambridge is the staggering amount of bikes. I left with a bizarre feeling of wanting to cycle to work in a suit. I hate bikes. Then I realised cycling is no real effort here as Cambridge is very flat!

Instead, we booked a leisurely punt trip down the river Cam. My friend and I agreed that our punter seemed the most competent and had the best local knowledgable on the water, and for an added bonus we had the best seats on the boat.

We floated under the Bridge of Sighs, a Grade I listed building, and apparently a favourite of Queen Victoria’s. The bridge was built in 1831 and named after the bridge of the same name in Venice. Myth has it that the bridge of Sighs was originally named for the sighs of the condemned as they went from the court to the prison over the bridge, later to be emulated by students as they cross from their accommodation at St Johns college to receiving their grades on the other side of the river.

Looking for a fantastic more authentic, less touristy, momentum of your time in Cambridge? Keep an eye out for artists Signature JT outside Kings College selling handmade wooden landscape designs of Cambridge skyline.

We came across an amazing clock outside the Taylor library at Corpus Christi college. The Corpus Clock with the Chronophage mounted on top, literally ‘eating time’. The inventor Dr Taylor told BBC News, “I wanted to depict that time is a destroyer – once a minute is gone you can’t get it back.” The Chronophage is a gothic beast that reminds you that your time is ending every second so don’t waste it!

George Bernard Shaw

I am staying with a good friend for the weekend in her home in Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire, famed for the U.K.’s first ever roundabout…yes, honestly! I will endeavour to take a picture of the roundabout before I leave. We planned to visit George Bernard Shaw’s house close by (both being literary geeks).

George Bernard Shaw bequeathed his home in the quiet village of Ayot St Lawrence in Hertfordshire to the National Trust. The house at Shaw’s Corner has therefore been left as it was at Shaw’s death in November, 1950. George was born in Ireland and he and his wife, Charlotte lived in London, but increasingly spent their time in their home in Hertfordshire. Charlotte’s bedroom (on her request) has been turned into a museum room, the best part being the Oscar (for Pygmalion) and Nobel prize safely tucked away in a glass cabinet and under a thick green velvet robe. I have never seen either of these prestigious awards before. The house is nestled within an extraordinary large garden, with an enclosed wood cutting area, important in all the modern homes back then apparently, and a shed at the bottom of the garden with a simple desk, typewriter and even a cot bed, when you just need to lye down and think about what you are writing. I need one of those…one day ‘sigh’!

 

Grab Your Media Pack!

This is the kind of life I always imagined for myself; travelling to other countries and writing. I love to travel, but it is good to have a reason as to why you are travelling. I always find that this way, you are more likely to find unusual, less touristy destinations, that you may never have discovered unless you are travelling for work. This weekend I am in Salou in Spain, just an hour away from Barcelona. I am the Copy Editor of the Paintball Magazine and we are here to cover the big international paintball games, called the Millennium Series.

Salou, Spain

It has been great catching up with a few people I met at the last Millennium Series in France last year. A writers life can be a very solitary existence, so it is great to get the opportunity to get out and interview people for magazine articles…and I find people are always happy to talk to the media! 🙂

Aur Revoir…for now!

It is sadly time to say goodbye to A.J Writer Experience. I have been writing this blog since December 2012! My original aim was to keep practicing my writing skills and most importantly to have fun. It has been an amazing journey and an incredible thing to have people from all over the world reading and contributing to my blog. Thank you to all you lovely people out there, you know who you are!

Don’t worry, if you enjoyed this blog and want to read more from me, and let’s face it why wouldn’t you? Then please follow my continued writing adventures at Writing Times.

Au Revoir…for now xx

Book Launch of ‘Emma’

I was recently invited to a friend’s book launch of her new book ‘Emma’, second part of a trilogy set in the early 1900’s along the Devon coastline. The life of a writer can be fairly isolating. Isolation and time to think alone is one of my favourite things about being a writer, but it is wonderful to meet up with other writers and feel part of their success.

In the book On Writing, Stephen King gave the writer permission to read as many books as possible. From then on I stopped feeling guilty about reading when I should be writing. A writer should also be a reader, and unlike a normal reader a writer should read all genres and styles. As a writer and avid book-worm I have read a fair selection of every genre and this includes romantic historical fiction, though this style has never been my favourite, too mushy and the protagonists are usually fairly linear with no levels.

But ‘To Turn Full Circle’ and ‘Emma’ get it right. The characters have many levels and the author, Linda Mitchelmore has delved into the darker side of life in the southwest and the social structure of the times. Linda also get’s the  history of the times accurately, enough to interest but does not dominate the story.

To Turn Full Circle and Emma are easy reading, I thoroughly enjoyed the two novels and couldn’t put them down. I will be eagerly waiting the third in this exciting, romantic drama.

Hogmanay 2013/14 & The Town Below Edinburgh!

The end of 2013 was highlighted by a trip to Edinburgh to count down midnight at Edinburgh’s 2013/2014 Hogmanay! I have been visiting Edinburgh since I was 20 years old and it has become a real home to me over the years.

This was my second Hogmanay visit and will probably be my last. Hogmanay 2013/2014 was headlined by the Pet Shop Boys, that we couldn’t even here and although we had a great time the experience has become commercialised and too crowded!

This was a short trip to Edinburgh this time but I seemed to have learnt more about the history of the streets of Edinburgh than I have on previous occasions. On this trip I read a book called the Town Below the Ground, by Jan-Andrew Henderson. My father (who lives in Edinburgh) posted the book to me before my visit. Reading about the history brought the streets and places I have often visited in Edinburgh alive as never before. Jan-Andrew Henderson’s informative book, is a tale of the ghost stories that have come to shadow the often macabre history of Edinburgh.

For nearly 250 years Edinburgh was surrounded by a tall defensive wall. Unable to expand, and exhausting all means of rising up, people began living below ground. When you walk along the city’s bridges between the old and new town (the new town is not so new as most of the buildings are Georgian!) it can feel like you are not even on a bridge as every available space was taken up for living quarters and shops.

On a previous occasion my Dad took me down below ground on the infamous Real Mary King’s Close tour, and the experience of seeing the living conditions of the people who had lived beneath the ground helped me to visualise the ghost stories I read about in the book!