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Wanderlust - Many a mickle maks a muckle

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May 22nd, 2011


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07:09 pm - Wanderlust
So today I browsed The Man In Seat Sixty-One, the marvellous web site about international train travel from the UK and epic train journeys around the world. It's making me feel a little itchy; I don't have a destination in mind, more itchy for an interesting journey. I really enjoyed reading about, for instance, the possibility of coast-to-coast across the United States for under US$200, and the California Zephyr sounds wonderful. I'm tempted to believe that the far-reclining seats are as comfortable for a multi-night journey as claimed, too. That said, the cheap fares only provide access to communal bathrooms without showers, so it would certainly be a crunchy way to do it. Nevertheless, in 1996 I took a 48-hour Greyhound coach from Los Angeles to Atlanta and that was completely fine, so the train journey sounds, well, really appealing.

More prosaically, I was very impressed by the sound of SailRail to Ireland, by train and ferry, at a very attractive-looking price. Admittedly the last-but-one sea journey I took went badly, though it was on a bouncy hovercraft (Sorrento-to-Capri) rather than a nice ferry, and the journey back on the big, gentle ferry was completely uneventful. (I slept through it.) A single journey from anywhere on the British mainland train network to Dublin can cost as little as £33 - and journeys to other locations on the island of Ireland not much more. Impressive! It would be a long day's travel, but a fun one, and it's a tempting concept.

Most interestingly, these cheap tickets can even be booked on the day of travel. Turns out that it's cheaper for me to travel by train, tomorrow, to the capital of Ireland than it is for me to travel to the capital of England, Wales or Scotland. Admittedly there's a train to London that costs just £3 more, but it will get me to London at almost half past one in the morning. Northern Ireland comes next, then Scotland, then Wales.

It also offers the silly, and technically prohibited, hypothetical option of buying a ticket to Ireland and getting off before I got there, if the ticket to Dublin were cheaper than the ticket to the intermediate destination - which, considering the Dublin price, is quite plausible. Such a tactic is well-known. In US air travel, it's referred to as "throwaway ticketing"; in UK rail travel, it's called "travelling short". Happily, I'm far from the first person to think of it; if you got caught, and most of the larger mainland train stations where you might want to use this tactic to alight will have exit barriers to check your ticket even if the inspectors do not, you can expect to face a considerable surcharge pertinent to the journey you have taken even if it is not the one you paid for.

So I suppose I'm almost looking for an excuse to travel; my personal discretionary travel and leisure budget is basically zero, which makes me rather embarrassed to be unlikely to be able to see lots of lovely people who are travelling from the US to the UK in coming months. I am hoping to go to a board games con this year, as it has been some time since the last time I did so, though this too may be outwith the budget in practice. It occurs to me that it may actually be cheaper for me to get to one in Dublin than to one in the UK; if convention attendance, food and accommodation match up then perhaps this might be an unusual and interesting option.

Trouble is, I'm not sure there really are board games conventions in Ireland in quite the same way there are in the UK. Irishgaming.com has a lovely overview of the big events; it's a simplification, but not to an extent where I feel ashamed to make it (though I probably should be!) to say that they tend to be RPG, war games and CCG cons first and foremost, though they do have board game events as well. (My restriction in interest to board game events is purely self-imposed, and evidently to my own cost under circumstances like these.) It's probably pretty telling that the Ireland forum on boardgamegeek.com is pretty quiet and a quick perusal of the conventions forum seems fairly light on Irish material.

That said, LepreCon at least has tournaments in Settlers of Catan, Dominion and Diplomacy, which is a strong sign that its heart is in the right place. A shade further afield - Northern Ireland rather than the Republic, but still accessible through the SailRail system, sees Q-Con in Belfast, which might be more interesting still. Now back in 2006 and 2007 Q-Con hosted Qnightmare, a recreation (perhaps more accurately, emulation) of the Knightmare kids' game show of legend; highly relevant to my interests, but sadly no more.

Lots to think about, but so much I don't know! Have any readers been to any of these events and can you tell more?

Please redirect any comments here, using OpenID or (identified, ideally) anonymous posting; there are comments to the post already. Thank you!

 


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