Our European writing adventure this spring was better than ever. We had more than a dozen writers in our group this year. We wrote an average of 57 pages per person over the course of our 16 days together. For me personally, this meant half a play written from scratch. (Well, actually written from King Lear, so not exactly scratch. More on this later.)
Every evening we read out loud to each other. This was sometimes critique and sometimes pure entertainment. One of our writers, Beryl, a lovely English lady, started writing after retiring from a prestigious career as a university professor. And she turned up with a new short story almost every night. She writes horror stories. Totally fun. Her husband Richard is a dignified and admired poet, and we heard his poems as well in the evenings. Gary (from Eugene) and Roxanne (from Alaska) read us their murder mysteries on the installment plan. Peggy read from her memoir about her husband Keith and how he came to write Free Willy. We also had real-life lady pirates, Nova Scotia fishermen and a Haitian earthquake. We were doubtless the only people in the dining room who were anxious for the gorgeous five-course dinner to be over so we could get back to our writing adventures.
In Dublin we encountered Oscar Wilde’s statue and childhood home, a fabulous Yeats exhibit at the Dublin Library, and the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Great pub food and drink. And a world class hat shop where half the gang bought tweed caps.
When we docked at Liverpool, Beryl took us to one of her childhood haunts, the medieval city of Chester which is a perfectly preserved town inside an intact Roman wall. Luckily we no longer need 35mm film or we definitely would have run out in Chester, one of the most photographically gorgeous towns in Britain.
In France we went to Bayeux to see one of the world’s oldest and longest tapestries. A hundred and fifty -seven feet long, telling the story of the Norman conquests and the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Apparently they are still arguing over whether it was sewn by women or the men of the weavers’ guild. A thousand years and counting.
In Dover six of us hired a van for the day for 30 pounds apiece and had a fabulous day touring the white cliffs, the Queen Mum’s castle and some amazing historic sites, including both the oldest church and the oldest pub in England.
Brugge, Belgium, had a completely different look from anywhere I have ever been. The architecture was like ornate doll houses with tranquil canals and swans.
After disembarking in Amsterdam, I spent nine days in London with three of our group. I saw eleven plays. And since I booked them by phone (thank you, Skype) months ahead, we were in the first or second row for almost every one. I call these the nosehair-viewing seats. At War Horse, the puppet horses were grazing right at our heads. If they’d been real they would have nibbled our hair. We saw Lord of the Flies outdoors at Regents Park Theatre. With trees, and darkness and wind and little feral boys scrabbling at our feet. Totally scary.
Best moment in the theatre this year? Billy Elliott, the Musical. Since I saw it two years ago, I didn’t have to wait to cry. I could just start at the beginning of the overture and sniffle through the whole thing. Killed me. Again. Those little English boys can really dance. And they’ve got perfect Yorkshire accents to boot. Heaven.
Now for the really fun news. (And thank you for indulging in my travelogue. Your true friends are the ones that will sit through your photos of Brugge, and you are my TFs.) Next year it’s going to be a whole new adventure. In response to requests by Writing the Waves alums over the last three years, in spring 2012, we will have two trips to choose from, and you can do either one or both.
Part One is Trans-Atlantic from Fort Lauderdale on April 28, on the Crown Princess ship, with eight At Sea writing days with class in the mornings, writing afternoons, dinner together and critique group in the evenings. This cruise is 14 nights and docks at Gibralter; Alicante, Spain; Barcelona; Spain; Marseille, France; Florence/Pisa, Italy and ends in Rome on May 12. Prices start at $1,655 for an inside cabin ($1,155 for non-writing roommate.) This is only about $100 per day. Meals included, though not airfare. Balcony rooms start at $2,155 ($1,655 NWR).
Part Two is a Mediterranean cruise of 12 nights. We depart from Rome, spend 2 days in Alexandria, Egypt, a day each in Mykonos, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Kusadasi (Ephesus) Turkey; Athens, Greece and ends with 2 days in Venice, Italy. This cruise includes four At Sea writing days in the blue Mediterranean. Part two prices start at $2,540 for an inside cabin ($2040 NWR).
But here is the great news. You can do both. You can book a 26 day Tran-Atlantic and Mediterranean Cruise with Cynthia! We already have four of us signed up for the whole thing. If you can swing it, it’s going to be the writing adventure of a lifetime. For the near-month-long cruise prices start at $3,620. ($3,120 NWR)
Even if you’re not 100% sure you can swing it, you can book now for 20% deposit which is fully refundable until next January and these low prices will be locked in. For a flyer email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you one. We’re also offering the $500 writing class portion of the cruise at the silent auction at the conference. (Where you can also see the actual photos of our trip.)
If you have always wanted to see the great pyramids and the sphinx but were afraid to go on your own, take my hand. We can do this. Seriously. Go for it. Let’s do it.