Lonely Planet progress and publishing plotting for Diver

If you’re familiar with my blog you’ll know that I’ve been making steps to getting published in travel, scuba diving and adventure related publications. My photojournalist coach, Brendan O’Brien, has been nudging me in directions that could help me get off the ground. Well, I took on some assignments from him, which you can read about on Brendan’s site.

My first steps with Lonely Planet were a couple of entries to their readers’ section, where the magazine gives punters a chance to get their tales and photographs in print. Not a bad way of getting noticed – they must get thousands of emails from people crashing straight in there and asking to be a freelance contributor. Well they’ll probably get one from me eventually, but this could be a way of getting my name in print faster. And hopefully they’ll remember my name for the future.

I sent in my pitch to review a hotel – if you inspire them enough, they’ll pay for you to stay in a hotel for up to £150 a night and send in your experiences for a one page spread. I also sent in my bid for featuring in their ‘Postcards’ section. This is a chance to send in an eye-catching photograph along with a few words to tell the tale behind it. Well… within just one day, I received an email back from an Editorial Assistant at Lonely Planet. Here’s what he said:

Dear Karli,

Thank you for getting in touch – it’s great to hear from you and to see your photograph from Bali. Everyone on my desk was very curious about these ***!

We are always looking for contributions from readers for our Postcards section so the art team will be sure to get in contact if we are able to use your photograph in an upcoming issue.

We will also let you know if we are able to send you to write a review of the ***.

In the meantime, why not join our Lonely Planet Magazine reader panel? It’s a great way of keeping in touch with us and telling us what features you’d like to see in the magazine. Simply log on to panel.bbcmagazines.com and fill in the short survey.

Sorry about censoring the details, but if it makes it to the magazine I want to keep my ideas a surprise! If I’m still expectantly checking my emails in six months, I think I can safely put them on here…

But the fact that I received an email back within a day, in fact at all, from Lonely Planet was huge encouragement. My coach said it was ‘nice going’ and I must have given them something to pique their interest.

I’m also really pleased that the back scratching is going both ways with Brendan. He emailed me to say thanks for getting him back in the game, so to speak:

Hi Karli,

Just wanted to thank you for providing the catalyst for getting back into running workshops and keeping my blog updated.

SPICE are keen to do a day long workshop sometime in the future. Out of the evening I was also approached by a chap from a photographic society to run a magazine photography workshop as well as a journalist who runs seminars on feature and news writing who wants to form a partnership with me.

Well that does make me smile. I’m really pleased Brendan’s career is getting a kick up the bum too. I just hope I can provide a spectacular finale to his coaching series on his site by actually getting published somewhere.

My next port of call to achieving this is DIVER magazine. It’s time for me to write up all my experiences with dry suits and submit them for the Deep Breath column, which is a space for readers to write about diving experiences, analysis, opinions and lessons to learn. Now that I’m getting my head down on preparing for my bid to be included in these well-respected pages, I dug up some interesting nuggets of information.

I’m a member of the Yorkshire Diver’s forum, as you may remember from my ‘Get wet or go dry?’ dilemma. Reading back through some of the comments at the time, I worked out that no other than the Technical Editor of DIVER magazine, John Bantin, had been contributing his pearls of wisdom too. In one of his posts he said he’d read my blog. I’ve only just realised that a senior member of the editorial team of DIVER has been reading my articles. It’s fantastic that I’m getting my blog read by people in the right places. But oh shame of shame, after he posted a picture of himself in a dry suit (telling me how good they can look if they’re your size), I replied with ‘FIT’. I told a 50-odd year old respected dive photojournalist and editor that he was fit. There goes my career…

But I’m burying that blunder and cracking on with getting my name in print. Ooh the cheek.

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Donkey lawnmowers and fairytale villes – a mini escape to the Dordogne

I am blinded by beauty: the colours seem so much brighter here than at home. Yes the sun is beating down without even a fluff of stratus to mottle the gloriously blue sky, but I swear I’m not imagining it; everything just looks so alive and vivid. The hour’s drive from Limoges airport to our gîte was spent with my nose pressed against the window. The winding roads of the countryside in the Dordogne felt a bit like home actually, but just on a really, really good day. And without a pothole in sight! As we drove through the hamlet where we were staying I realised I had that blissfully happy grin I wear when I’m taking in somewhere both peaceful and exciting. Sarrazac is the definition of a hamlet; ‘was that it then?’ I seem to remember asking. I was happy. Just an hour and half’s flight from home but I had already switched off and felt my laptop hunch melting away.

Rustic charm: the renovated farmhouse

As we took a left down a lane lined with orchards, the gîte came into view. It was the kind of French home I imagined in novels.

View from the gîte

Secluded in its own land and exuding that rustic charm you drool at in ‘A place in the Sun’, I felt a world away from work, emails and the relentless pace of home. We were so lucky – I know friends who have hunted around for holiday homes for weeks on end to find this idyll we were about to enjoy for a few days. But we were visiting friends who had spent years renovating this stunning French property and we were most grateful guests indeed.

It felt like home. Probably because I wished it were my house! Just looking at it was a sigh of pleasure. It was a stunningly restored farmhouse; the windows still looked out behind the original wooden shutters at the lush landscape. Not to mention the pool! I’m still a little kid when it comes to swimming pools, splashy splashy.

‘Adventurising’

Of course, I can’t be horizontal for long, so after some unwinding it was time to get adventurising! I know, I know, that’s not a real word but the boy and I say it so much it feels like one now. So there.

The Dordogne makes for some picturesque cycling

There are some great cycling routes around the Dordogne and something to suit all abilities. It was over 30 degrees every day we were there so we didn’t plump for a hardcore mountain bike trail, as if! In that heat, a wee jaunt would do nicely. There are hardly any cars round here so it’s pretty safe to follow the roads through the countryside to take in the awesome view. We saw a deer bounding along in front of us if you don’t believe how undisturbed I say it was.

Unspoilt nature is dotted with the odd quaint home covered in gorgeous flowers and wisteria, blending perfectly into the countryside. I love biking on holiday – it’s a great way to explore your surroundings and lets you slow down enough to take it all in.

Canoeing in Brantôme

About half an hour away from Sarrazac is Brantôme. I’d read it was sometimes known as the Venice of the Dordogne, but I think that’s going a bit far. There is a river around the centre of the town, the river Dronne, so okay there was some water. Italian exaggerations aside, this place feels like you’ve stepped into a classy Disneyworld.

Benedictine abbey, built by Charlemagne in 769

It’s what fairytales are made of and within ten minutes of arriving we agreed we’d like to come back again. Wandering around the town has you gazing at the architecture, which is a mixture of medieval and renaissance.

Foie gras is just ordinary fayre here, but it won't be on my menu!

And this town must be a real find, because I couldn’t find a tat shop anywhere! Souvenirs were mainly tubs of foie gras – it’s sold in practically every shop.

A visit to Brantôme wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the town from a canoe. There are a few canoe hires around the circular part of the river: we went with ‘allo canoes’. Couldn’t complain about the value of this adventure at all – it was €10 for two of us in a two-man canoe.

Circling Brantôme from the water

It’s ideal for families and kids as it’s a fairly gentle paddle, but there are options to go on full day excursions with white water promised. If we do go again I’ll be giving that a go. As it was, we only had an afternoon there and had spent most of that enjoying the most delicious lunch I can remember in a long time. Au Fil de L’Eau is a gourmet bistro on the water’s edge. Under large parasols and looking out at the river, I feasted on mouth-wateringly succulent duck… and the tarte citron was enormous. It’s a wonder we didn’t sink the canoe.

The next chapter in the fairytale at Jumilhac-le-Grand

Hiring a car is a must for a holiday in rural France – if you want to see any of it beyond your lodgings that is. You can’t expect bustling centres in this neck of the woods, but that’s part of the escapist charm. Just ten minutes away from Sarrazac is Jumilhac-le-Grand, where you’ll find a fairytale Château.

Château de Jumilhac

You can see it poking out of the high trees as you drive into the village; it does make you go ahhh. It forms part of the Richard the Lionheart Route with other nearby castles (Nexon, Coussac-Bonneval and Chalus) if you fancy an historical roadtrip. We learned that it dates back to the 12th century but we decided not to take a look inside because you couldn’t take photographs. Now what use is that for us blogging types!

The village is pretty quiet with around 1200 inhabitants. We saw about four people the whole time we were there, including the ice cream lady who sat on her front porch selling Twisters and Cornettos. Bless her, she had a sandwich-board advertising around 30 different ice lollies and ice creams, but her shop appeared to be just a single freezer in her front room.

Happily giving the locals business

Jumilhac is well worth a stop if you’re driving along the historic route or if you’re staying nearby. As well as the Château, there’s a pretty square with a fountain and some pleasant walks by the river.

Can you hear anything?

Nope, me neither. A holiday in the Dordogne is so peaceful, even just a few days there as we spent, will have you coming back home with a full tank of happiness in your heart and you’ll have topped up your energy levels. You can sometimes go a whole day without hearing a single car drive past. It’s just you, the sunshine, the birds and a refreshing glass of wine. I bet you’re wondering what the reference to donkeys in the headline is about at this point. Well, to make my point about the quiet, you won’t even hear the neighbours mowing the lawn. Apparently new-fangled technology has no place here: the donkeys you see in people’s gardens are hired to cut the grass! Honestly, that’s what our hosts told me…

Want to escape to the Dordogne?

I flew to Limoges, which is the nearest airport to where we were staying and to the places we visited. But flights from the UK are available to Bordeaux, Angoulême, Poitiers, La Rochelle and Bergerac if you fancy seeing other parts of the region. Take a look at the following airlines, which fly to some or all of the Dordogne’s airports:-

Flybe            http://www.flybe.com

RyanAir         http://www.ryanair.com

British Airways         http://www.ba.com

If your French is a bit rusty I’d recommend getting a French phrasebook before you go. I haven’t spoken the language since I was 15 in my GCSE exam so I knew I’d need to refresh myself of a few words and phrases. You’re spoken to in French there and they won’t resort to English unless they really have to. Plus it’s nice to show a bit of willing I think; they only cost a few quid and are pocket sized. I like Lonely Planet phrasebooks, but there are loads to choose from such as the Collins French phrasebook or if you’ve got an iPod, you can just download a phrasebook and learn on the go.

If you want to hire a car, find out the kind of places you can stay in or you just want more general tourist info, I found this site really useful:- http://www.northofthedordogne.com/

A trip to the Dordogne is the perfect adventure abroad if you’ve only got a few days of leave to spare. There’s no need to allow for jet lag, yet it feels a million miles away and will have you feeling refreshed in no time.