Claire Rochford of FCm Travel Solutions is our October winner in the Irish Travel Trade News Budding Travel Writers competition and therefore has a 4:1 chance of winning €1,000 – and YOU could too if you work in a travel agency or tour operator in Ireland (North or South)!
If you have participated in a fam trip, or taken a trip won as a prize at a travel trade event in Ireland, over the past 22 months (i.e. since 1st January 2012) then simply send 500 words and one or two photos from your trip, along with your name, job title and company, to email@example.com .
Claire’s entry was selected by the judges – Ronan Flood and Neil Steedman of Irish Travel Trade News and Cathy Burke and Bernie Whelan of Travel Counsellors Ireland. Our September winner was Sarah Slattery, Skytours (see www.ittn.ie/bulletins/sarah-slattery-or-you-could-win-e1000), our August winner was Shane Cullen, Killiney Travel, (see www.ittn.ie/2013/09/12/) and our July winner was Bernie Roche, HRG Worldwide / Club Travel (see www.ittn.ie/bulletins/bernie-wins-e100-july-prize-now-in-running-for-e1000-top-prize/).
All four have each won a €100 One4all gift voucher and an invitation to the 22nd Irish Travel Trade Awards gala event at the DoubleTree by Hilton Dublin – Burlington Road (previously the Burlington Hotel), on Wednesday 11th December 2013 – when one of our five monthly winners (from July to November) will be presented with the 2013 Budding Travel Writer of the Year Award and a cash prize of €1,000, sponsored by Travel Counsellors Ireland.
Claire’s entry was her report on the fam trip to the Golden Triangle, India, held in September 2013 by GoHop.ie and KLM:
India: Amazing Colours and Incredible Hospitality
I think everyone has a place they want to visit but are just that little bit daunted by doing so on their own. For me that place was India. It was always on my bucket list and in my mind since first watching Michael Palin’s “80 Days Around the World” back in 1989 but this September I got the chance to tick it off my list – and to spend six magical days visiting India’s famed Golden Triangle.
Departure day couldn’t come quick enough for me, but finally 11th September rolled around and I found myself in a taxi en-route to Dublin Airport to meet those who were to be my travelling companions for this fantastic GoHop.ie/KLM fam trip. It wasn’t long before we were cracking jokes, drinking the odd glass of champagne and getting into the spirit of our upcoming adventure. For most of us this was a first time visit to India, so we couldn’t wait to get there.
We arrived in Delhi in the early hours of the morn after what seemed to be a very quick flight, due in no small part to our very spacious seats in Economy Comfort onboard KLM. After bags had been collected, immigration cleared and rupees acquired, we headed off into the heat of India. We met our bus and drivers, and climbed aboard our new home for the long journeys between Delhi, Jaipur and Agra over the next week. On arrival at the fabulous Le Meridien New Delhi we were greeted warmly despite the crazy hour. We quickly decamped to our rooms to grab a few hours sleep before our first full day in India!
After a hearty breakfast we ventured off accompanied by our very knowledgeable and formidable guide. Stop number one was the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh Temple, a tranquil and unique place built back in 1783 in the city centre. All the girls got a chance to demonstrate their cooking skills as we were set to work in the communal kitchen making rotis. Irrespective of religion, race, occupation or fortune the temple offers free meals to everyone throughout the day. It is staffed entirely by volunteers and was an incredible sight and humbling experience. I felt privileged to be able to play a part in this, however small it may have been.
That afternoon we visited Qutab Minar, an incredible example of Muslim and Afghani architecture. The colour of the carvings in the red sandstone as the sun set led to some spectacular photo opportunities for us all.
The next day we moved on to start our journey to the Pink City of Jaipur, stopping for lunch in the beautiful and historic Neemrana Fort Palace enroute. Another beautiful hotel, the Marriott Jaipur, awaited us on arrival and what a fantastic temporary home! A visit to the Holiday Inn Jaipur for dinner enabled us to experience some traditional Indian dancing and also a cookery demonstration using a tandoor.
The following morning a challenge awaited me at the 16th century Amber Fort. For those who know me and my life-long fear of animals, taking an elephant ride was a big step, and several doubted I would actually go ahead with it! As we hopped off our bus the hat and bracelet sellers swooped in, as they do, and my one and only chance of escape was on the back of ‘Stompy’, as I had affectionately named our elephant. So I jumped on board and off we went with Lucky, our skilled elephant driver, in supreme control.
After lunch the shops of Jaipur were calling! Martina from KLM did us proud as she haggled with the sellers and secured a vast amount of pashminas for ourselves, family and friends at a knockdown price. Over the next hour we acquired jewellery, clothes and other bits and pieces, much to the joy of the shop owners who were escorting us wherever we went proclaiming they each had the best of everything we wanted and would “do us a good price”!
The end of our trip was closing in fast and despite the jam-packed days we all were enjoying every minute of the sights, sounds and colours that India has to offer. The Taj Mahal in Agra beckoned and was the final big adventure on our list. We couldn’t wait to see this Wonder of the Ancient World, even though we had an early rise at 5.00am. When the phones beeped our alarm calls we rose and headed off just before dawn to see the sunrise and the symbol of love that is the Taj Mahal.
Once we had run the gauntlet from our bus, past the street dogs, donkey carts and monkeys, we reached our destination. Although busy, the place still seemed so tranquil at dawn. The colours were amazing in the early light. The intricate designs and size of the building were awe inspiring and created a memory that will stay with me forever.
A few hours later we left Agra and headed back to Delhi for a last dinner together at the Leela Guragon Hotel. We were treated to fantastic food in a wonderful setting. The dessert station and its incredible choices will stay with me for a long time! We laughed and reminisced about all that we had seen and done. There were a lot of stories and jokes and we were sorry to be heading home, all be it in Business Class – which was such a nice touch on which to finish.
India was everything I expected but in many ways it was so much more: the amazing colours of the clothes, the green landscape after the monsoon, the crazy drivers beeping horns, wandering cows on the road, fantastic food, ancient history, calm serenity even among so many people, and incredible hospitality. I only saw a tiny part of the vast country, but it piqued my curiosity and I really do want to return. I hope I get the chance in the future.
Budding Travel Writer Competition Rules
1. Each entrant must have participated, or be due to participate, in a familiarisation trip ex-Ireland (North or South) between 1st January 2012 and 29th November 2013. For the purposes of this competition, ‘a fam trip’ includes any trip won as a prize at a travel trade event in Ireland. Confirmation of the entrant’s fam trip participation or prize win may be sought from the relevant supplier.
2. They must currently be employed by a tour operator or travel agency in Ireland, but not necessarily the same company that they were employed by at the time of the fam trip. Travel Counsellors are not eligible to enter the competition.
3. More than one entry may be submitted if an entrant has participated in more than one fam trip during the above period.
4. Each entry must comprise up to a maximum of 500 words of text and captioned photos (minimum one, maximum four).
5. The competition opens at 9.00am on Monday 8th July 2013 and closes at midnight on Friday 29th November 2013. Only individual travel employees are eligible to enter.
6. Entries must be submitted by email, with the author’s name, job title and company, to firstname.lastname@example.org. All entries are deemed to be the property of Irish Travel Trade News and as such can be featured in any of ITTN’s online or offline publications without recompense to the writer.
7. All entries will be adjudicated by an independent panel of judges representing Irish Travel Trade News and Travel Counsellors and one monthly winner will be selected for July, August, September, October and November 2013 from the entries received. All entries submitted from 8th July up to the end of each month will be eligible.
8. Each monthly winner will be notified by the 5th of the following month. They will receive a prize of a €100 One4all gift voucher and will be invited as a guest to the 22nd Irish Travel Trade Awards to be held at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin, on Wednesday 11th December 2013.
9. One of the five monthly winners will be selected as the overall winner and will be presented at the above event with the 2013 Budding Travel Writer of the Year Award and a cash prize of €1,000.
10. No correspondence will be entered into in relation to any entry submitted and the judges’ decisions will be final.
11. The copyright of all entries submitted will be owned by Belgrave Group Ltd, the publisher of Irish Travel Trade News.
12. The 2013 Budding Travel Writer of the Year competition is sponsored by Travel Counsellors Ireland Ltd.