Steve Slon attends a conference of travel writers in Ireland and does a little sightseeing, as well. See the entire series.
Ah, what a good night’s sleep does for you. Delicious Irish breakfast including the freshest eggs, the tastiest thick slabs of bacon, the richest butter and a hefty “Guinness” bread. Fortified for the day, I attend a few sessions at the conference where editors of various travel magazines talk about their strategies and travel writers take careful notes. (I’m going to leave out some details of this professional conference, but suffice to say, phrases like “digital landscape” are thrown about somewhat casually. I don’t suppose this kind of thing is of interest to people outside the world of publishing. But I do have to say that I lament the time when our business was simply about good writing.)
Sneak out in the rare bit of Irish sunshine for a walk around the grounds. Come across a beautiful pond.
In the afternoon, a series of one-on-one sessions with travel writers. Each individual session is 10 minutes long. I imagine it’s kinda like speed dating. Exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Writers usually come to the session with a few pre-planned story ideas. The best ones come from writers who’ve read the Post and are familiar with its style and subject matter. (I’ve let people know they can think outside the travel category if they have something good.)
Sure enough, I get some excellent story ideas. Regular readers of the Post may see some of these in the coming months. Highlights include: books to die for (that is, first editions and manuscripts of famous books like the Irish Book of Kells that people have died trying to save – or, in some cases, steal); the history of grain elevators in America (after falling into disuse, grain elevators have been rediscovered and repurposed as museums, hotels, recreation centers and more); the lasting impact of prohibition (2018 marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal); companies that are helping prisoners re-enter society; restored WW2 POW camps in the U.S. for captured German soldiers (it’s notable that German POWs were well treated by and large).
All this and several terrific suggestions for travel pieces about Ireland, of which I can only choose one!
I’m inspired. Head full of fresh story ideas for the Post. (Hmm, don’t know if I’ll have time to return that fancy adapter I bought yesterday).
Later that same evening, we were squired to the ultra-lux Mt. Juliet Estate for dinner. Driving onto the grounds, we were confronted with the stunning landscape of the famous Mt. Juliet golf course. A Jack Nicklaus course, it was the site of the Irish Open on three different occasions. Just beautiful.
As someone who has played golf indifferently for years, but has recently caught the golfing bug (which should possibly be classified as a terminal illness) I began to think about trying to finagle a round. But, about that, more later.
Our bus finally arrived at the end of the long driveway where we were greeted at the entrance to the grand manor by the hounds and huntsman.
As the dogs obediently follow him off to their kennel, we had a demonstration of falconry in which the falconer incited his Harris hawk to fly down from a tree just over the head of a volunteer. (I had my hand up, but so did half the group, and I was not selected).
As the bird swooped down, the volunteer couldn’t help emitting a bit of a yelp, which was all very entertaining for the rest of us.
On to a delicious dinner, a possible surfeit of wine and then drinks at the bar. Our scheduled return to Lyrath House was at 9 pm. The buses didn’t load until 11:30.
—Steve Slon is the Editorial Director for The Saturday Evening Post. See the entire series.
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