Wanderlust

May. 22nd, 2011 07:09 pm
chris: (stockton-on-tees)
[personal profile] chris
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?

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-22 08:47 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
I travelled New York - San Francisco on Amtrak, via a day in Chicago and friends in Cleveland, Minneapolis/St Paul, and Portland OR. It was a fun way to see the country though the longest stretch from St Paul to Portland was a rather tedious one. There's only one train a day each way, so I was unable to see some of the prettier bits in daylight - there was light to see North Dakota, but not Montana.

I suspect with travelling short you could easily plead travel-sickness as a reason to get out early - and I've left stations where I've had to change trains by asking the ticket people politely - or buy a ticket from the station closest to your destination and leave with that one...
Edited Date: 2011-05-22 08:48 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-22 08:49 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
The train to Dublin is OK, but when came back that way a couple of months ago there were huge delays due to trackside fires in North Wales, which took the fun out of it somewhat.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-22 09:01 pm (UTC)
dinah: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dinah
If you ever fancy coming over to NI you( & of course Meg) are welcome to our spare bedroom! I couldn't get the SailRail site to produce tickets for me to London, might have to see about other destinations in England.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-29 11:13 am (UTC)
undyingking: (Default)
From: [personal profile] undyingking
On our main line it's often cheaper to buy a ticket from A to B plus one from B to C, rather than one from A to C. (Where C = London.) The tricky bit comes when you take a train from A to C that doesn't actually stop at B, as many of them don't. This is prohibited not just in theory but in practice: the on-train inspector will make you buy a direct A-C ticket. Seems a bit harsh to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-22 08:59 pm (UTC)
moony: (Default)
From: [personal profile] moony
I've done the cross-country Amtrak trip three times, and I enjoyed it immensely. You see the most amazing country, though admittedly the flatlands can get a bit mundane. I was perfectly comfortable in the reclining seat, and enjoyed interacting with a lot of the passengers. You have to remember to bring enough cash for food from the cafe car, though.

(Though, I will caution that sometimes it can be a bit rough to be stuck on a train with people for four days straight; there was a woman recently ejected from a train because she talked loudly on her mobile for SIXTEEN HOURS.)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-22 09:04 pm (UTC)
flourish: white lady, green eyes, brown hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] flourish
I've done the Amtrak trip from Sacramento, CA up to Portland OR and back, but I had a cabin. I was really glad I chose the cabin, in fact, because while the trains are pretty much 100% reliable on the East coast except on the very worst snow days, the trains on the West coast are not at all reliable, in the winter especially. We were delayed on the tracks for more than 24 hours due to snow high in the mountains.

That said, it was a beautiful trip. If you get a cabin, no matter how long you're delayed, your cabin includes meals - so you're pretty much golden. And there's nothing quite so lovely as waking up to see that you're still traveling through snow-covered mountains, looking out over huge beautiful valleys towards the Pacific.

I also take the commuter trains in the Northeast corridor (from Maine down to Washington DC) very regularly, and they are comfortable and reliable. I have friends who have had good experiences on the auto train that goes all the way down to Florida, but you wouldn't be considering that, I don't think...
Edited Date: 2011-05-22 09:05 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-23 11:03 pm (UTC)
sophie8: (Kite)
From: [personal profile] sophie8
Alas cannot help you out with the gaming thing is Leicester this year, though it is a shame you'll miss that since M is part of the team running the treasure hunt! However for next year's OxCon, M and I would be more than happy to put you up. We won't be in Oxford by then, but the train from Reading is not too expensive and M will be travelling through I'm sure.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-24 07:48 pm (UTC)
sophie8: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophie8
I think that might be pushing it a little!

Also kitties! We are getting kitties at the end of the summer!

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