Tuesday 14 March 2017

Adventures need not take long!

The first few adventurers wait at Stamford station
As I reported recently, I have finally arranged a party in a brewery, that legendary event that is supposed to be as easy to organise as, well, a party in a brewery. It becomes difficult when you have to get the date and time to suit the brewery in questions (the Grainstore in Oakham in this case) and potential guests, and when I want/need to be available myself to go along and "make sure everything is OK".

There it goes - our train leaves us at Oakham
Every journey, they say, starts with a single step, but where to start? What step? I had ascertained that Tuesday evenings seemed to be best, so I consulted my own diary and rang the brewery. I made a provisional booking for their top package: a tour plus samples, followed by supper with unlimited (within two hours) ale. The train timetable decided the time: we'd need to get the last train home at 21:46 from Oakham, so we needed to get there on the 18:05 to ensure that we had sufficient time for all the activities - although that left only about 90 minutes for the unlimited ale, probably not a bad thing if we were to be allowed on the train home!

It worked well. A group of mixed ages, mostly men but with some women, set off from Stamford on a lovely February evening and had a very informative tour of this microbrewery, totally different from the huge Banks's Brewery I had visited in Wolverhampton a few years before. Usually the supper is a ploughman's supper and this was indeed on offer, but it happened that on Tuesday nights they have a build-a-burger evening at the brewery tap so we were allowed an alternative of a modest two-topping burger instead if we preferred, which some of us did.

Proof that I can indeed organise a party in a
I can recommend a visit to the Grainstore, whether to do their tour or simply to drink and eat, and it is next to the railway station, so there is no problem getting home, so long as you either live near your local station or have a lift home from the station!

Cross Country Trains did a great job of getting us there on time (so not wasting part of our evening) and getting us home on time, too. All in all, a great evening.

If you live near Stamford, Oakham or Peterborough and are interested in joining me on some of these day trips, please see the "Come with me!" Page.

Destination: Destinations

A great day to travel from Peter-
borough: everything running to
With a recent Great Rail Journey brochure came a pair of free tickets to the Destinations travel show at Olympia. I thought this might be a good show to see as we could meet tour operators and agents face-to-face and also might have ideas for future travel that we may not have had simply from advertising. Indeed, the opportunity to speak to Amtrak was worth the effort because I have at the back of my mind a one-off tour of the United States one day and it is worth investing some effort in the planning of this since it will be too expensive to return and do anything I regret missing! That plan, however, is another story!

There was no booking to do for the exhibition itself, simply completing the form on the back of the free ticket (giving them my details was effectively the price of the ticket, but that was OK because the details included ticking boxes for what interests me, so the hope is that I'll receive relevant advertising that I'll actually want to see). So, to the web to book the travel! As it happens, we have family living not far from Olympia so we could plan to visit after we had seen the exhibition, and then travel home later in the evening, after the rush had died down.

We always have to change trains at Peterborough on our way to London, and the train we get from there to London will depend upon which one has the best-priced First Class tickets available. We were in no hurry to get there and Peterborough station is well-located for passing time in the Queensgate shopping centre, and so we spent a little while in John Lewis between train before boarding our Virgin East Coast service to London: basically on a trip this short it is a 125mph coffee break, with included coffee, cake, biscuits and fruit! We generally take the bottled water as well and often take it with us because we are bound to need it at some point in the day, even if not on the train.

Not being in a hurry on this occasion we caught a bus to Olympia: the number 10 from Kings Cross serves much of the West End on its way to Hammersmith and is a route we often use. Although buses are supposed to be every few minutes on this route, we had to wait a long time, with our Bus Mapper app showing "due" for several minutes. There seemed to be some severe congestion somewhere and suddenly a flurry of eastbound buses arrived at Kings Cross to go round the block ready to head back to Hammersmith. We boarded the first and rode towards the front of the upper deck. This bus was terminated early after further delays owing to a roadworks diversion so we had to change buses at Marble Arch, but got to Olympia in the end, having see a lot more of London than we would have done on the Underground. Not the way to go if your journey is time-critical, though!

We visited all the companies we wanted to visit at Destinations, but we struggled with lunch: there simply were not enough catering facilities to cope with the number of visitors and we ended up with a take-away salad (very nice salad) sitting on the floor of the hall. Fortunately I was surveyed after my visit and was able to give a low score for customer satisfaction at Olympia, but the exhibition itself was good. They just need a decent place for it.

After we had seen all we wanted to see we visited family and then took the Hammersmith and City Underground line back to Kings Cross for the train home. A weekday, so a later train and a slicker connection at Peterborough and we were swiftly and comfortably home, with a tot of whisky on the train (included in fare) to round off the day.