Holiday Fest & Sea Containers

When we got back from Christmas we had the normal stack of letters sitting on the doormat. Most were either later Christmas cards (yay!) or pointless real-world spam (boo!), but one piece of marketing caught our attention. Trailfinders, the high street travel agent, had stuck a voucher to attend a "holiday and travel convention" for free, hosted at the huge Kensington Olympia centre. It looked interesting and not the kind of thing we'd normally go to, so why not? It was a free ticket, after all[1]. So on the first day of the month we found ourselves getting the weird, single stop tube line up to Olympia.

We really didn't know what to expect, but it was a lot larger and produced an almost instant level of information overload. Luckily, we grabbed a programme and saw that a talk on South Africa was just about to start, so joined the queue. We're thinking of visiting SA again this year, though admittedly not the Wild Coast (Eastern Cape), but it was still quite good fun. From there we did a lengthy lap around the venue, checking out the various stalls. It's a bit bizarre to see a giant company like Viking Cruises sitting two stands away from the singularly staffed Isle of Man Travel Board, but it did create a certain charm. Some fairly disappointing food, one particularly interesting conversation with a lady from SA tourism (easily the largest country to have a tourist board present and right by the door), and several kilos of brochures later we headed home.

I'm not sure I'd bother going again, but it was eye-opening. For starters, I had no idea there was an entire industry built up around long-haul overland adventure holidays. Some of these can take almost an entire year, and yet cost about the same as a medium-cost month-long holiday. Yes, food isn't included in that price, but accommodation (tents and the van, but still) and transport are, as well as some form of guided service. £4,000 for a trip that loops the entire African continent feels like a pretty good price to me!

We weren't at home for long, heading out East to meet up with my parents who were visiting for a long weekend. I'd seen them a couple of nights earlier for some nice cocktails (and poor service) at Whisky Ginger in Borough Market and a meal at Butlers Wharf Chop House[2], but Alison hadn't overlapped for quite a while so it was great to properly catch up. The overall structure of the evening was the same (cocktails plus meal), but the venue had shifted further upriver, towards the South Bank, to the weirdly named Sea Containers. It's actually a giant hotel with a bunch of outsourced businesses within it (gyms, cinemas, bars etc.), but we were treated to a couple of drinks at 12th Knot, the fancy cocktail bar upstairs, to start.

The views were pretty impressive from the balcony, but nothing too amazing and I don't think much beyond what you get from the river bank itself. Still, the drinks were delicious. I had a Glasir, a fun Nordic mythology inspired drink with whisky, honey, and mead before following up with an even quirkier Project Concorde, a sweet vodka and pear mixture that mimics a dessert only ever served aboard Concorde. They also had a speciality Old Fashioned that contained maple bacon pieces, peach, butterscotch, and cocoa nibs which I was tempted by; apparently the combination honours Neil Armstrong's moon landing, though it remains unclear quite how.

Following cocktails, we sloped downstairs to the main restaurant for a great meal, where we spent quite a while discussing all the holiday ideas from earlier on, before heading home. Overall, a fun day... which was just as well, as I became ill for the rest of the weekend!

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Notes from Holiday Fest:

  • Oasis Overland were one of the most prominent overland trips, specialising in Africa, Asia and South America. Included a Nairobi -> Joburg route (via Namibia) that takes three months, and a ten month epic from Gibralter -> Cape Town -> Cairo!
  • Reef and Rainforest look like a good wildlife tourism provider.
  • Zambia tourist board operates Zambia Tourism
  • Rovos Rail looks like a ridiculously chique way of exploring southern Africa.

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