Last week I was invited to the ‘Press Breakfast’ at (The Times presents) Destinations Holiday & Travel Show 2012 in London’s Earls Court. Having stayed with a friend in North London, I was up bright and early Thursday morning to make my way across town, in the bitter cold, arriving at Earl’s Court with over half an hour to go before the show even opened.

I found a delightful little coffee shop (opposite West Brompton tube station) where I was greeted with a very warm welcome and, despite only ordering a coffee, I was given some delicious crispy biscuits to accompany it. Having finished my drink I was happily reading when I noticed steam rising up from behind my newspaper. ” That can’t be steam” I thought. “I’ve finished my coffee.” Peeking round the paper I noticed for the first time the candle next to my empty coffee cup over which I’d been waving the newspaper. Yikes,  that was close. Strike “steam”, insert “smoke”.

Having nearly set fire to said delightful coffee shop I re-wrapped myself into a cocoon of warm layers and scurried back to Earls Court where we were directed to the Turkish beach bar in the centre of the show. Having deposited my coat, scarf, hat, two pairs of gloves and a layer or two of jumpers in the cloak room I sat slowly defrosting by a pretty blue rowing boat on a sand bank!

I filled up on more coffee, nibbled some tasty turkish sausages and chatted with other writers about the show. There was so much I wanted to see and do. I had a quick look round and came across a group of school children eagerly learning some Indonesian dance moves in the ‘See the world’ area of the show. Their enthusiasm was a delight to see.

Next stop, a photography masterclass on reportage photography by Doug McKinlay which was fascinating and informative and worth a blog in it’s own right. Then there’s time to watch a beautiful display of tango from Argentina on the World Entertainment Stage before catching an Expert Panel Session on Responsible Tourism. Hosted by Richard Hammond from Rough Guides with guests from four very different tour operators all specialising in responsible tourism, it was a fascinating insight in to their expectations and the challenges they face. I’ll also be discussing this in more detail at a later date.

Back at the World Entertainment Stage, I catch the end of  Tropicalinc.com‘s amusing and educational talk on wildlife where we all get to meet a very large snake, an undeniably cute young meerkat, a gorgeous genet and rather a moody looking skunk. Volunteers were asked to come forward for the opportunity to stroke and hold these wonderful creatures and some how I ended up holding a tarantula before passing it on for another person to conquer their fear of all things arachnid.

Having looked round some more of the stalls offering every conceivable holiday imaginable (and a few stalls that seem to have no relevance to travel at all) I return to the World Entertainment stage to watch the Indonesian dancers that had so successfully engaged the school children earlier in the day. A lovely end to a really interesting day.

The following Saturday and Sunday, back at Destinations, I caught-up with some very interesting people including the inspirational travel writer, Frances Linzee Gordon who was there to talk about the wonderful new Dorling Kindersley book ‘Ultimate  Food Journeys‘ and celebrity Caribbean chef, musician and dragon slayer, Levi Roots who told me about how he came to England as a boy from Jamaica, his subsequent musical career and his rise to fame following his appearance on ITV’s  ‘Dragons Den’. More on all of this coming soon!

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