After four very busy days in London, we’re back in Spain for the last leg of the IndieRail trip. It’s not to say that we didn’t take trains while we were in England; on the contrary, we got right into British culture with a daily commute that involved two Tube journeys and a trip on the Docklands Light Railway.
Monday 5/11: We’d gone to London to attend World Travel Market, the biggest travel trade conference in the world, and were hoping to make contacts, meet up with other bloggers, and get information about the countries we plan to visit in 2013. The event officially opened at 10am, but we decided to get there early to avoid the crowds on the public transport system and to attend the press breakfast.
There were ten of us bloggers staying at Safestay Hostel in Elephant and Castle, and most of us set off to the Tube stop at the same time. Our journey across town to the ExCel exhibition centre was shared by thousands of well-dressed business people, and I felt like we were having a cultural experience in being part of London’s morning commute.
The day went well, we visited the (very impressive) stalls of several countries we plan to visit next year, but were surprised that many places weren’t represented.
Since we had press badges, we had access to the press centre, where we could get a bit of work done away from the crowds, and also meet up with other bloggers — awesome.
At around 4.30 we headed to Brick Lane to meet our friend Kyle for a drink. He’d had to work late and we had to run away early but at least we had an hour or so together — it’s always good to see him!
Our next destination was the Small Fish Big Ocean event, which we arrived at late for a variety of reasons. However, we still got to see six of the eight presentations, some of which were really exciting — I liked the sound of Make it Social for organising group trips, and Much Better Adventures, a website where tour operators can offer tours to customers rather than the customers searching online to find a trip that suits them. After the event, we headed out for a drink with a group of really awesome people.
Tuesday 6/11: We made a later start and arrived at WTM at around 10.30. Although we walked around the stalls a little, today was more a day of meetings and seminars — we attended one about adventure travel, which was very interesting.
In the evening we caught the Tube to Central London to attend the TBU Tweetup. In addition to catching up with heaps of other travel bloggers (which is always fun), we met several PR reps, including Lynda who represents Cameroon. We’d never considered it as a destination before, but she managed to get us quite excited about it — and since we’ll be in Morocco early next year, we could just about add it to the itinerary…
Wednesday 7/11: Our morning at WTM was once again full of seminars and meetings, and though there was plenty we wanted to do in the afternoon, we left early to do an Urban Adventures City Streets Explorer tour.
Our guide, Paul, was a born-and-bred Cockney who had a story for every corner we passed. He took us to several excellent viewpoints and had a back-up plan when the cafe we were supposed to have our tea and scone in decided to close an hour early. Instead, we had real ale in a cute pub — just as British as tea, in my opinion!
Our next stop was the Hostelbookers party, which was a lot of fun. A lot of our blogger friends were there, and we also met some awesome new people while drinking delicious cocktails. Too soon, it was time to go — we wanted to drop in at a Responsible Travel event that was on nearby, and that our new friends from Monday’s event had convinced us to attend.
Thursday 8/11: WTM was a lot more muted on its final day; some of the stalls had closed up and most of the people wandering around were students. We finally made it to the Moldova stall and also spent some time hearing about Corruption Tours before heading up to the press room — I went to a seminar about blogging while Craig had a couple of meetings.
We didn’t have anything planned for the afternoon, so just headed back to our hostel for a nap — turns out we were exhausted. We spent the late afternoon sorting through the enormous pile of brochures we’d collected, keeping a tiny percentage and photographing or binning the rest.
Dinner was a chicken meal at a friendly place down the road, and we had a pretty early night in preparation for our early-morning start.
Friday 9/11: The trip to the airport involved a 5.45 alarm, two Tubes and a coach, but we arrived with plenty of time and got on our Ryanair flight without any hassles. I was surprised that airport security at Stansted still requires travellers to put their liquids in ziplock plastic bags, since I haven’t seen it for some time, but apart from that we got through the airport smoothly.
Our couchsurfing host in our next destination, Córdoba, could only host us from Saturday, so we decided to find a hostel in Zaragoza and catch the train the next day, rather than adding a three-hour train trip to an already quite long travel day. After checking in, we spent most of the day inside doing not very much, apart from heading out for lunch and planning the articles we want to write for next year.
Saturday 10/11: After a well-deserved sleep-in, we left our hotel quite late and had to hurry to the train station. Along the way, we noticed a local train station and decided to go in and see if we could catch a local train to the main station — and we could! We had our Eurail passes but had to buy the seat reservations after we arrived at Delicias station; luckily we achieved this quite quickly and were on the train three minutes before it left.
The AVE trains travel at speeds of up to 300km and we didn’t make any stops, so it took less than three hours to travel from Zaragoza in the north of the country to Córdoba in the south. The views were amazing and the seats comfortable; Craig got three hours of work done and I listened to podcasts.
We’d arranged to meet our couchsurfing host Luis at his place at 8pm and it was only 3pm, so we had a few hours to fill. We spent the first few in an excellent café not far from the station, called the Cotton Club, where we got enormous free tapas with our drinks. A sign advertising chocolate con churros drew us into the next place a kilometre or so down the road — and you can guess what we ordered. The hot chocolate was thick, the churros were fat, they were both delicious.
We found Luis’s house without too many problems and he welcomed us in and showed us around his place. He threw together a quick but tasty meal, and we spent the evening getting to know him and his girlfriend when she arrived a little later.
Sunday 11/11: We inadvertently slept in a little, then headed out to explore Córdoba. Luis had told us that there was a flamenco show at midday, but it must only be during the week because the doors were very firmly closed when we arrived at 12.10. Luckily we were just across the square from the Fine Arts museum, so we went there instead and enjoyed the collection of paintings and sculptures.
Lunch was a bit disappointing — the food was just average and although “menu del día” means (at least) two courses and a drink in every other restaurant in Spain, the proprietor of the place we chose decided to charge us extra for the drink. So his claim of having the “cheapest menu in the area” was… well, it was a lie.
After a long wander through the streets of the city, we headed home via a convenience store to pick up food for dinner. In the afternoon Craig worked and I spent several hours with Luis and a computer as we talked about all the places we’d each visited and looked at photos and videos of them online.
This travel diary is part of our IndieRail series: IndieRail is brought to you by ACPRail.com, providers of a wide range of rail passes and train tickets including Eurail, BritRail, Rail Australia, Japan Rail and more. Great pricing, friendly service. We’re glad to be working with them. Local day trips are provided by Urban Adventures. We’re sharing stories as they happen thanks to Droam: mobile data without boundaries. Check out our next destination…