Tips and Tricks for Travel Blogging

What can you do with a summer vacation? Have you ever thought of writing a travel blog? It's a great exercise to keep your writing sharp for the summer and cement your trip in your memory!

But how do you get started? The Tupelo Press Teen Writing Center has asked me to put together a guide to getting your blog on its feet.

Random Writing Tip One: No matter where you're going or what you're doing, keep a personal journal of the things you do, the people you meet, the places you see, and what you think about everything. This is your number one resource for writing material: life. Even if you decide not to share a blog of your trip, you can take experience, aesthetics, and situations and apply them to stories later. 

What are you doing this summer? And how do you blog it?

Are you flying this summer? Or taking it slow?

Are you traveling this summer with friends or family? Yes? Amazing! This is a huge opportunity to see a wide variety of places and experience new things.

Traveling is a great excuse to write a Travel Journal blog. These tend to be more diary-like and personal. It's your story. Where did you go? What did you do? What did you see? And what did you learn from it? In this form of travel writing, your personality is front and center. This style will be most appreciated by your friends/parents/followers of your cult of personality.

No chance to travel this summer? Studies show you can still have an amazing eye opening summer without traveling far. Most people make use of less than 20% of their home town on the regular. But you can change that. Take the opportunity to open your eyes to the city you live in, and experience it in a new way. You can make a conscious effort to go to the historical places you've never bothered to visit, try new hiking trails, try new restaurants, or other nearby attractions. Explore your city in depth! This is sometimes called taking a "staycation".

Staying in one place, or staying in different places for several days at a time lends itself to more Guide Book style blogposts, in which you can give fellow travelers advice on Things To Do In ______. This does involve a little more research, but you can share your unique thoughts and analysis of the places once you've been there. This style will be most appreciated by fellow travelers looking to go to the same destinations. 

As long as you keep your eyes and ears open, and keep yourself open to new experiences, you'll find material to write about. 

A Picture is Worth More Than 1000 Words

Pictures are the number one reason anyone will click on your article. They are an excellent opportunity to work on writing witty photo captions. I have many close personal friends who only skim my blog posts for photo blurbs!

Tip 1 for Photos: Tourist attractions want you to leave with a magical impression, and many are well lit for photo opportunities at night.  

Your tourist dollars pay the power bill.
Tip 1.5 for Photos: Make sure to always travel safely in packs when taking night photography.
A good photo can bridge cultures.

Tip 2 for photos: Take some pictures of recognizable places so readers can get excited that they recognize places. 

Though infuriatingly unavoidable,
Tourists are useful to provide scale. 

Tip 3 for Photos: Take pictures of temporary things like street art and other cute things that you appreciate that not everyone will have seen when coming to a city.

Cats in bubble baths won't stay there for long.

Misc. Tips and Tricks for Travel Blogging

  • Include lots of beautiful pictures. 
  • A little humor is a good thing. 
  • A lot of humor is a better thing. 
  • Be honest about your thoughts on a place, within reason.
  • Pointed pictures juxtaposed with text can do the talking for you.
  • Enthusiasm, or at least keeping an open mind is a good thing.
  • Even if you're upset, don't bash whatever place you're visiting, or the people you meet.
  • Try to keep a regular posting schedule, and plan for delays.
  • Blogger is the easiest blogging platform, but you can also try Tumblr for very short entries. If you are dedicated you can learn how to set up WordPress! 


Madrid, Madly, Deeply

You'd be mad to miss Madrid. It's not just a Spanish city. It's the Spanish city. It's also the city I was most terrified to enter. The city from which I had to fly home. I still loved the city. The art galleries were great. The wine was great. People were great. Trying to talk Spanish was great. Flying home was probably the worst mistake of my life. But back to Madrid.

Madrid is a city of things, and here are six random things I loved about Madrid:

1. Sunsets!

(Sunsets are a little known phenomenon in which the sky changes color when the sun goes down. If you look at the right time of day, you might see one too!) 

There is something majestic sunsets, and a Spanish sunset is quite a thing. Colors burn across the sky like beams of light scattered by molecules and particles. It's scientifically miraculous. 

Crane your neck for a better view.
In Madrid, the weather already feels like the air is on fire, and when the sun sets, the sky shows its true colors. 

Hot times, summer in the city,
 people everywhere getting down and gritty

2. Palace!

Like many places, Madrid once upon a time decided it needed a ruler, a poor scapegoat to burden with the task of heating a really large building. This is the building they chose to heat: 

The palace, too, likes sunsets.
It's important that the building has a space for reflection. 

The building has a space for quiet reflection, so it can think about politics.

3. Elephants

If you're like me, your trip to Madrid will be unforgettable. But what if Madrid forgets you? Don't take the chance! Find this random building, and look an elephant dead in the eye. That elephant will never forget. 

With his stony stare.

4. Wild Statues

Is a foreigner, I don't know much about Spain. I can only reconstruct what seems to be going on. There are machines, kicking around. I can only assume that that the baskets are statue-catchers, designed to take care of the problem of wild statues roaming the streets. I can only assume there is a bounty on their heads and hooves.  

Wild wild horses couldn't drag me away!

5. Smurfs

There is an even greater problem on the streets of Madrid than statues. And that problem is photobombing Smurfs. 

Photobombing leaves you feeling blue.

6. Turtles

There is something magical and strange and unexpected about the city. It contains things you never expected to find, like a dedicated Vegetarian restaurant in Spain (no ham at all!). But one of my top unexpected pleasures of Madrid, was definitely the miniature rain-forest habitat in the train station. (What, a train station has a greenhouse?) Yep. And it gets better. There is a pond, and it's got turtles all the way down. 



Córdoba, mi Corazon

Candyland Concept-art

Looking for a romantic getaway from the hustle and bustle of Madrid? Take a day to walk around this tiny, idyllic city with Roman and Iberian remnants!

Mini Minaret

Ever find yourself in the middle of Spain just wishing you could see something different, like Roman ruins? You're in luck! There is a Roman Bridge which dates back to the first century BC. Two of the arches are original. But we'll never known which. There's also a temple kicking around somewhere.

Roman and Iberian rule are water under the bridge.

From the bridge, you can see the Albolafia mill, which helps give the river area a postapocalyptic wasteland aesthetic.

General Mills

If you are still itching for Moorish architecture, check out Medina Azahara. Formerly a royal property, later a place for the Inquisition to hang out, it's altogether a pretty massive structure. The candycane arches on the inside match the door arches outside.

Arches show their stripes

When you walk around the old town, you can find a huge variety of angel statuary. Of interest is this really bewildering statue of Archangel Raphael. It is a fenced-off stone structure, with a mix of many clashing art styles and themes. The thing is made of stone, and surrounded by a wrought iron gate. The net effect  looks like someone serial-murdered other statues then tried to glue them back together but only managed to stick their limbs onto a very blocky attempt at a grotto, topped with a castle tower, topped with a roman column, topped with an miniature angel. All of which is growing some plants.

Grotesque is an art style.

And what sits beside the base? As mysterious as the rest of the assemblage, you find a Sphinx.

A grumpy cat before it was cool

GrumpyKat approves.


Behind the Vale of Valencia

No trip to Spain is complete without a trip to Valencia. It's got everything! Gothic quarters, skinny buildings, fountains, a river that is now a series of soccer futbol fields, and what I'm pretty sure is lifesize concept-art for a space station. 

It's a beautiful city so small you're bound to run into someone you know before you even get to your hostel.

Or possibly a dead cybernetic whale.

But we'll get to the future amazing architecture in a moment. 

The Gothic section of Valencia is plenty great, in the way that all Gothic quarters are pretty great. Go on a free walking tour, and they will point out all the excellent buildings, as well as the dirty gargoyle (not pictured). 

Speak with a cathedraawl

And it's nice and pleasant to walk around and see the very European stylings.

pretty random building/random pretty building

But some buildings really have a size problem.

Another senselessly skinny building.
Like Amsterdam, but in Valencia!

And there was a very rich family who had this overly fancy building called the Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas. You would be shocked to learn that the guy who owned the building held the (influential) title of Marqués de Dos Aguas. The family later moved to Italy and founded a mob or something.

They might've been rich once, but they're baroque now.

By the cathedral, there is also a fine Plaza de la Virgen.

Turia Fountain has not yet passed the Turing Test. 

And all of that stuff is great. Really, it is. If you find yourself in need of some European gothic stuff, skinny buildings, fountains, &c. &c. Go for it.

But when you're done, take an evening walk around the space station City of Arts and Sciences. It's literally impossible to walk through the complex without spouting ideas for ten new science fiction stories.

There is the giant eye, or "L'Hemesferic" aka gigantic electrical eyeball.

Sauron's got nothing on this.

It is something like an IMAX theatre, or a planetarium, laserium, or all of the above.

Eye-max theatre.

There is also an opera house, El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (the white part in the distance).

The Reflect Effect is pretty cool

Did I mention that there is a massive reflecting pool?

Mandatory JJ Abrams lens flares included.

There is a museum (El Museu de les Ciencies Principe Felipe) designed to look like a whale skeleton. The exterior is visually stunning. The interior, Wikipedia raves, "shows how little thought was put into the whole project."

Do you get vertigo looking at vertebra?

You're welcome for finding you a shooting location for the next big sci fi movie of the year. 


See no Evil in Sevilla

Sevilla (English translation: Seville) is the capital of the Andalusian region of Spain. For perfect weather, try October!

Giralda: mostly minaret, barely belltower.

Like Granada, Sevilla has strong Moorish influences, but it is balanced by more obvious Christian influences as well. 

It's not news that the Reconquista happened. I knew about it. I was prepared for the churches. Sevilla happens to have churches.

A cathedral, actually. 

It has a cathedral. A big one. The Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede is literally the largest cathedral in the world. In the world! This is known.

Big Catholic Influence.
But little did I know, before I even reached the hostel, that the Virgin Mary herself would appear before me.  
I would guess the crowd knew she was coming.

It was an overwhelming moment: bells clanging, cell phones raised in a traditional gesture of piety, a march of very slow flag-bearers. And then the Virgin Mary herself came out of the church on a dais of candles. (Unfortunate side-effect of that canopy: the poles holding it up look vaguely like really fancy prison bars.) I admired the crowd and unexpected spectacle as statue-Maria demonstrated her ability to build mystery and anticipation, and make a grand entrance. 

Church pomp: waxing elegant

Fortunately, there's more to Sevilla than strong Catholic tradition. Not fifty feet away from the Sevilla Cathedral is the Alcázar, a complex of Moorish and Spanish heritage. The Moors ruled for five centuries, and that leaves an impression on a city. The Alcázar was originally a fort, but transitioned into a palace through significant remodeling over the last five hundred years. It is the oldest royal palace in Europe still in use today, according to respectable sources like Wikipedia.

And it's a magical to spend an afternoon wandering with pleasant company. It's got everything:

Arches with colorful Islamic designs!

Even the arches have arches!

Arches with scallops!

The Courtyard of the Maidens, named after a legend of the Moorish king's
 demand of 100 virgins yearly from Christian kingdoms in Iberia.
Not entirely sure that legend is accurate...

Arches that look a face wearing helmets!

Dot the eyes?

Gardens with tropical trees!

And walls. Gotta keep the poor out somehow.

Rainwater tanks named after some king's mistress!

A place for quiet reflection.

And an absurdly tiny statue of Mercury!

Small cast system.
The Mercury rises on hot Spanish days.

But if you don't want any ancient history, there are also some more recent additions to Sevilla (like, within the last hundred years) such as the Plaza de España. 

There is something alien and beautiful about the place.

The whole area is a Moorish inspired blend of architectural styles from 1929 when it was built for a world's fair.

Bridging the gaps between cultures.

All of which you may have seen before in those Star Wars prequel movies we all like to pretend don't exist.

Just picture Natalie Portman
and some guy whining about being evil.

Spain. *sigh* It's the kind of paradise where you stop believing there are emotional states other than happy. Go to there! Feed your eyes with art and architecture. Bask in the perfect weather. And don't get trampled by the Virgin Mary.


Do Nada in Granada

Weather: hotter than Eastern Europe.
Granada is one of my favorite cities in Europe. It's located in the south of Spain, in the region called Andalusia. In its past life, the region was an Islamic state. Today it is firmly a part of Spain, but there is a huge amount of Moorish architecture and influences. As a place visit, it feels different from the rest of Europe. In a good way.

Lamps, no genies.

After the Reconquista, the Christian-Spanish peeps put down roots into the city also. There's a big stone church with an intriguing gothic style:

Suspiciously Assassin's Creed
After being a religious battleground for so long, Granada has gained a relatively large hippie culture. It's relaxing and warm and wonderful, and pretty cheap.


And don't let me forget the tapas! Oh the tapas! Unlike the extremely overpriced tapas bars we all know and love, the bars in Granada follow the traditional tapas practice. You buy a drink and it comes with food. And it's cheap. It's kind of amazing. Sangria, tinto de verano, beer, whatever you want! Plus food! Two euros or less! Establishments vary: sometimes you get to pick the food, sometimes not. And a lot of it is significantly tasty.

Pro tip: tapas are great, but they are not for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your liver will not thank you.

Land of the tapas eaters.

And the core of the backpacking culture is Oasis Hostel, which had a remarkably high number of people staying there for months and months. Very land of the lotus eaters. Very pleasant. 

Oasis rooftop view.

But the reason most people swing by Granada is not to wallow in tapas and sangria, but to see the Alhambra. It was a small fortress in 889. But in 1333, it became a palace for the Sultan of Granada, during the Nasrid Dynasty. 

Palatial palace. 

It's got everything! Arabesques, honeycomb ceilings, fountains, arches, gardens, etc. etc. 

Pooled resources

In the past everything was whitewashed, but the name Alhambra, which means "the red" in honor of the surrounding dirt, is more fitting with the currently vaguely orange color.

Alhambra not named after ham.

Repeating patterns and making art out of writing are the primary forms of decoration. The details are pretty darn intricate.

Bonus cool: The doors/windows almost make a Vader-face.

Plus there is a beautiful lush garden area that served as a retreat for somebody's wife.

Fountains of Win
AND there's the Court of the Lions, featuring a fountain on the backs of lions. They are especially interesting due to the general proscription against human/animal representations in Islamic art.

Sultans of Leon.
Destination: highly recommended.