Earls Court, London
We had pre-booked parking at Earls Court and after being given the run around by the satnav we found it. It was a bit of a walk from where the travel show was and we only noticed this when we walked into the wrong convention. We eventually made it to the Destination: Holiday & Travel Show and had our schedule taken off of us by security. It was written on our ticket printout and for some reason they insisted on keeping it. Not a great start I must admit but with a new schedule penned in and a quick toilet break we run head first into the exhibition.
We put together a plan to try and cover the whole show but knew we would run out of steam eventually. The organisers had done a great job of putting on a wide variety of stalls and exhibitions on practically everything you can think of. It didn’t take long before we stumbled across Bertha. That’s right our old buddy from the USA road trip! Cruise America were there and had brought the exact RV model we had driven from Los Angeles to Chicago.
After the excitement passed I had to refrain from telling them about the list of problems we had experienced and how their American cousins had only escaped a tongue lashing due to tiredness and pure luck.
We instantly barged past everyone looking at the bodywork and climbed in. She was exactly how we remembered her from four months ago. Everything was significantly shinier and presentable but the fittings were identical. I even pressed the button to check the tanks were empty. They were. We like to think it was Bertha’s holiday and she was going round the UK sightseeing.
We walked across the back of the show and hit the food and drink section. We were looking forward to raiding the ‘taste the world’ zones but every time we passed one it was either empty or was mobbed by silver haired folks eating as though their life depended on it. One little old lady had handfuls of Swedish reindeer tasters making odd scoffing noises stuffing them in at such a rate you thought she had been feed porridge and stale bread all year. Instead we carefully chose a bakery stall piled high with pastry and sweet delights. I went for a standard sausage roll while Emma decided it was cake time, all the time. I washed mine down with a couple of samples of wine from a nearby stand. It was Shawbury Vintners a wine merchants in Birmingham. It soon became obvious that this wine wasn’t burning my throat the same way the £3.99 bottles form Tesco do and the man was telling us about signing up for cases of wine. I glanced around to view their other clientele. Retired people, and folks wearing expensive shoes. Realising I was out of my depth I took a deep breath and asked how much cases of wine cost. He confirmed that I would indeed need to start selling body parts to pay for the wine. I called up my body part dealer but couldn’t come to an agreement for enough cash. I sampled the final taster and let him get on with finding clients who could feature a case or two of wine in their budget. I was gutted as the wine was so delicious. In that moment I seriously considered letting adverts on Restless Backpack to pay for the wine.
We found a stand selling curry sauces with tasters out front. As a bit of a curry fiend I wanted to try them all. Emma can’t take a lot of spice so she tried the more fruity sauces and I went with a hot one from the end. All of Anila’s Authentic Sauces were delicious and I threw my wallet at the man demanding he take what he need and to fill up my bag with sauce. We eventually bought 3 for £12 and walked away happy. We got two mild that Emma could eat and one spicy one for me. That happiness went about five minutes later when I accidentally dropped the bag and smashed the spicy sauce.
It was soon time for Jeremy Bowen and we headed to the World Entertainment Stage. It was already full and people had taken the chairs from the nearby seating area to pack it out even further. On top of that there was a ring of people standing around waiting for Jeremy. Emma is nearly five months pregnant and was starting to flag. I searched around for a few minutes and couldn’t find any spare chairs. She sat in a stairwell an ate the last of her cake while I jostled with the crowd to try and see Jeremy and/or take a photo. It was rammed and I could barely hear him there were speakers but it was quite noisy. I have read two of his books (Six Days & War Stories) and would love to speak to him in person. Stupidly I thought we might have had a chance to chat to him afterwards but I assumed that is what everyone had bargained on. I heard a few snippets about a flak jacket and having a shell fired at him but after ten frustrating minutes we left. I think someone of Jeremy’s reputation really needs a larger stage and better sound at an event like this. I think it is great the organisers got Jeremy Bowen in I just feel that quite a few people missed out on an enjoyable experience due to the lack of seating and sound. The demographic group the showed was aimed at was also the demographic that would have seen Jeremy under fire in the Middle East or covered in blood in Egypt.
We talked to some stands and fell in love with Southern Italy, Iceland, Thailand, Lapland, Isle Of Man, Croatia, The Faroe Islands and Malaysia. Well, I fell in love with the Faroe Islands, Emma not so much. I am pretty knowledgeable with my geography and asked about the weather in the Summer as it was around 200 miles north of the Scottish coast. Emma doesn’t like the cold, she doesn’t like warm either, she is only comfortable when hot. I reckon she just says that so we go on beach holidays but I have no proof. I asked the guy nearest to us.
“So if we were to go in August what sort of temperatures can we expect.”
“It’s nice in the summer! Between 13 and 16 degrees”
“Oh that’s good, t-shirt and shorts weather.” I heard Emma cringe and quietly whimper behind me. Bjorn sensed this as well and followed it up with:
“But it is less windy in the summer so it can feel a bit warmer.”
I suspect if we do go to the Faroe Islands 18kg of our 20kg allowance will be thermals, socks and endless jackets for Emma. I spotted a logo I recognised and we found ourselves at the Round The World Experts stand. I have written articles for this travel website before forming Restless Backpack and when I mentioned it to one of the people on the stand they just looked at me as though I wanted a cookie. It was clear I wasn’t about to purchase anything so he moved on. It was starting to get busier now as it was just after lunch but the layout of the show meant that the traffic kept moving. A nice change from some other shows where the walkways are quite narrow and you end up in the people version of the M25. We came across the Lyca Holidays stand and they had a big wheel of fortune on show. You could spin the wheel and had the opportunity to win holiday vouchers. The top prize was £100 and I leapt at the chance to spin. They apologised saying that the game had been quite popular and wouldn’t have anymore vouchers for another 15 minutes. Eager to play I accepted that my spin would be for fun and promptly landed the top prize. Damn!
We wandered through the Wanderlust travel photography exhibition showing off the winners and runner-ups of its recent competition. I walked the entirety of it claiming our photos from the USA were better only briefly pausing to admit quietly that the winners were ‘pretty good actually’. We stopped for lunch and spent a further five minutes searching for chairs. By this point Earls Court was warming up and Emma was getting tired and feeling faint. Not wanting the pregnant wife to face plant through a stand I went off to seek somewhere to sit while she sat on the floor drinking water. In my frustration I tweeted the organisers about the situation and thought nothing more of it. After 15 minutes I found us some white benches behind the health area and we sat down for lunch. The organisers then replied offering us comfy chairs in the press room. Emma was instantly embarrassed and now that we were sitting down and getting refreshed I was too. I still think that there was a distinct lack of chairs for customers at the show and this needs to be addressed for next year. There probably was enough seating on the other three days when it wasn’t as busy but lunchtime on Saturday there were lots of people lining the walls sitting to eat, read or drink.
Soon after lunch we saw the same crammed situation forming for Simon Reeve and decided to call it a day. We had seen all of the stalls and talked to lots of people making a list of destinations we want to experience. Before leaving we heard singing and followed the racket until we found a Mariachi band. A rather good Mariachi band performing by the Mexico stand. It was a nice way of topping off a great travel show and we drove home to watch the Olympics kicking ourselves for not going to Sochi this year.