Wednesday, May 11, 2016

5 ideal solo writing retreat spots

Today's blogpost is inspired by Blonde on a Budget's excellent post, How to Prepare for a Solo Writing Retreat. Cait (the "blonde") outlines 10 concrete steps to create a plan - and to stick to it. That last part is important, as anyone who has tried to get away to write knows (insert your own memories of sleeping, walking on the beach, or shopping when you really meant to be tucked in your hotel writing here).

A solo writing retreat is something I have thought of doing again, so as the writer-in-me stirs, the travel-agent-in-me turns my attention to possible places to escape to. I've had fun putting this together, searching for options from long weekends to long-stays of 3-4 weeks.

A historic building stay that inspires

How can a writer stay in a building that is hundreds of years old and not be inspired to write? The Landmark Trust, a charity that offers short stays in restored historic buildings in England, Wales, Scotland, Lundy, the Channel Islands, Belgium, France and Italy, is a great way to find an old place for your retreat. Among their properties, there are castle stays, historic city stays, landmarks for walking and unusual places to stay. While many are extravagances, there are a few cheaper options (view the listings sorted by price, or check late availability if you are in a crunch). These spots are particularly appealing:
  • Old Light Cottage - a retreat for 1 adjacent to the lighthouse (which also has suites) in the Bristol Channel, off the island of Lundy
  • The Egyptian House, 3rd floor - 1 of 3 flats in a stunning old museum in Penzance, Cornwall

A hotel in the heart of a city that inspires

You know yourself. You know what setting will inspire you. For me, a great spot in a city centre holds great appeal (my main Twitter handle is @citytravelbug afterall!). For you, it might be a more rural setting that appeals. Regardless, searching for affordability in destinations that appeal can turn up some interesting options. Location is important (is it close to cafes, a grocery store, inspiring walks?), as is the establishment (is the hotel known for quality service? is it quiet? will you write more if there is room service?), your room type (can you write in a "closet" or do you need a room with a view? do you need a desk in your room?), your room style (does a bright, modern room inspire you? or could you write just as well in a dated room?) and safety, of course, is paramount. Aside of that, the world is your oyster.

An extended-stay flat that inspires

Increasingly popular in today's sharing economy, VRBO and AirBnB are sites that can help you find a long-stay apartment. I've had success doing so, booking month-long stays in Athens, Rhodes and Paris through VRBO in 2009. Just do your homework: check for reviews and watch out for scams. Or ask a travel agent to help you find something, as they have tools that consumers can't access. Here are a few that I see in my travel agent bag-of-tricks:
  • Kihei Akahi, Maui - full kitchen, lanai, a/c, washer/dryer, no resort fees, no cleaning fees (wifi extra) (often has good rates, such as June 1-14, 2016 for $1630 USD, including taxes - or October 1-31, 2016 for $3422 USD, including taxes )
  • Ala Moana Hotel, Waikiki - fridge, free wifi, a/c, no resort fees, no cleaning fees (often has good rates, such as June 1-14, 2016 for $1926 USD, including taxes)
  • Rates vary by date, please ask me for details

A long-stay package, far away, to inspire

Package vacations let you take advantage of group rates at a range of destinations. While geared to vacationers, and you may get a suntan as part of the deal, the value can make these a win if you can find one that doesn't significantly penalize solos. I suggest a location where you'd feel like doing little else but write, or one that oozes inspiration. Aside of the obvious (Mexico), these are a few I've had my eye on:

A long cruise with many sea days to inspire

Do you enjoy cruising? Do you enjoy sea days? If so, you may want to take advantage of a repositioning cruise with little else to do but write. It's not surprising that I think of cruising as an option (my other Twitter handle is @cruisetravelbug). Every month I book clients onto repositioning sailings that just call out to me. If you can afford it, a balcony will help with that inspiration, and give you something appealing to gaze at when you look up from computer - and is a perfect spot for journaling. If your budget is tight, you can book an inside cabin, and take your laptop up to a public area to write, or treat your out-of-cabin time as the reward for a few hours of writing away in your cabin. If you play your cards right, you can include a destination from your bucketlist - as inspiration or simply as a reward.

I hope this provides inspiration and ideas for your own creative retreats.

If you would appreciate assistance in planning your own personal retreat, I have access to travel agent resources that can prove to be very helpful. Whether your trip is big or small, your budget generous or teensy, I can help with accommodations, airfare and so on. I work with creative types of all sorts, near and far. Just contact me with your quest.

Related links
How to Prepare for a Solo Writing Retreat - Blonde on a Budget
Take Your Writing Away - The Boston Writer
The Rewards of a Solo Retreat - The Davinci Dilemma
Self-directed Writing Retreats for Your Wish List - Sarah Selecky
6 Essential Tips for Your Own Stay-at-Home Writing Retreat - BookBaby Blog

Suggested resources from my blogs
Travelling to Write: 5 Writing Retreats
Pietrasanta, the city of sculpture
Etruscan Italy: a self-guided tour

Friday, May 6, 2016

Pietrasantra, not far from Livorno

I first heard of Pietrasanta when I was reading about tours to Carrara, where there are marble quarries. I never really thought about visiting a quarry before, but when I think of all the amazing marble sculptures and architecture in Italy, I became intrigued. More about that later, but when I stumbled across references to Pietrasanta as "the city of sculpture" I was hooked. I wanted to learn more.

Pietrasanta is in the Versilia area, on the coast of northern Tuscany in Italy, in the province of Lucca, about 32 kilometres (20 miles) north of Pisa. The town is situated 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) inland from the coast (where the frazione of Marina di Pietrasanta is located).

With Roman origins (part of the old Roman wall still exists), the medieval town was founded in 1255. Like most of Tuscany in general, the area has long enjoyed the patronage of artists.

The aspects of the town's history that are most compelling to me relate to the marble and the sculptors who worked here. Pietrasanta grew to importance during the 15th century, mainly due to its connection with marble. In fact, Michelangelo was the first sculptor to recognize the beauty of the local stone.

Things that interest me about Pietrasanta:

  • Both Michelangelo and Henry Moore lived and worked here 
  • It is referred to as "the city of sculpture" and I want to see why 
  • There are 8 bronze foundries 
  • There are "dozens" of marble laboratories here 
  • It is near the Carrara marble quarries, which also intrigue me 
  • It is small and off-the-beaten-tourism-track 
  • Bozzetti Sculpture Museum (with sketches and models of sculptures by 100's of artists) 
  • Bruno Antonuci Archaeology Museum (with prehistoric, Etruscan, medieval and Renaissance objects) 
  • Art galleries feature some big names, such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude 
  • It has a beach * 
  • It's near Livorno, a popular cruise port of call

* The Pietrasanta Marina, with golden sand and luxurious equipment, is considered one of the best beaches of Italy.

It was because of its proximity to Livorno that Pietrasanta came to my attention, as it is mentioned as a stop on a few cruise shore excursions. It was on one of those day-long tours that include Florence, Pisa, Lucca and half of Italy (it seems), so it's not likely that I'd visit that way.... but perhaps I could visit on a self-directed excursion, or an independent visit.

I'm now curious to learn about others experiences visiting the town, and Pietrasanta's hotels (not many), sights, festivals and so on. Have you been? Please share!

Good resources
Discovering Pietrasanta - Travel + Leisure
Pietrasanta and Versilia Events Guide - local Versilia guide
Pietrasanta Travel Guide - Virtual Tourist
Pietrasanta Travel Guide -
How to Tour the Marble Quarries of Carrara -
Going to the beach in Italy -