Monday, September 30, 2019

MENU's UK Adventure 1. From Cape Town via Dubai to Edinburgh

We love travel but, sadly, flying is not the best part. Financial constraints mean looking for the cheapest flight, so we went the long way round with Emirates via Dubai to Gatwick for the start of this year's adventure in England and Scotland. Because John needs a visa, which takes time, it precludes getting any cheap flights early on in the year, which is a major setback. Lynne was born in London, but we had not been back since 2004. And family there are, like us, getting older, so it was now or never
We always get to the airport very early (we are told that this might give us a chance of an upgrade) we live in eternal hope that one day... and we don't like rushing. So we left home mid-morning, piling our Uber driver's car high with our luggage - we needed enough for 5 weeks and we had to pack winter clothes as well as a few for warmer weather. We were coming out of winter on the 18th of August but, when Lynne Googled the weather in Scotland, we just packed the same clothes we had been wearing at home We had time for lunch once we had checked through and the café provided a huge portion of good crisp chips with John's toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich
and Lynne's smoked salmon roll. No, she didn't eat the cucumber
A sign of the times - the price of two sandwiches and a beer
The Boeing 777, loading
It was a long flight to Dubai (9½ hours) and we were met with a huge blast of hot Gulf air at nearly midnight
and a shuttle from the plane to the terminal
It is a huge shopping mecca, where the shopping was still very active at 11.30 pm SA time, which is 1 am Dubai time
We just wanted to find some seats for the 2½ hour wait
Then, the inevitable wait in polyglot Dubai for our connection to Gatwick
Dubai airport is always full of travellers from every part of the world
and there are never enough seats to go round, even at the ungodliest hour of the night
Arriving at Gatwick at 07h05 after a very comfortable flight from Dubai in the huge A380 Airbus. We had one of the best flights ever, because we paid extra to sit upstairs and had two very comfortable seats to ourselves with a window and we both managed to sleep for several hours, unheard of usually.. No noise of jet engines up there at all and very little movement of staff and other passengers. Heaven
The stairs back down in the morning
Next was the great trek from Gatwick to Edinburgh via the local ThamesLink train and the express from Kings Cross
Wow, have they modernised the trains. This is the ThamesLink to Kings Cross, which took about 25 minutes. Yes, that is our luggage on the right. We take a picnic cool bag with us, which holds Lynne's laptop and coat and a cushion for her bad back, but when we travel in the car, it becomes our food bag
A brief glimpse of the Shard as we came into London
and a skyline that has changed so much since we were last here 
We grabbed some sandwiches for the journey from an M&S shop
and then waited at the notification board to see at which platform our train would arrive
We had bought 3 day Britrail passes for the same price as the normal fare from King Cross to Edinburgh. £79. One tiny snag, if you do this, book your train seats early. We tried, oh how Lynne tried, but could not book any. The best advice was from a very helpful gentleman in, of all places, Canada, who said "get yourself to the right platform and wait for car H, which is the only carriage with non-reserved seats". We dashed, we made it, we boarded and we found seats together. But not all were so lucky; one hapless woman was standing in tears as the train pulled out, she had not managed to get on. They don't allow standing passengers on the fast trains. An unfair comparison with SAR: the average speed of this train is ±120 Km/h
Lynne remembers these English skies that have inspired so many artists
Cottonwool clouds, the corn was golden and the countryside so green and lush
Small villages and sheep in the fields make for a very English scene
Another Sylvan landscape near Darlington, site of the first ever railway
and then the Tweed estuary at Berwick, marking the approach to the Scottish border
The Royal Border Bridge spans the River Tweed between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Tweedmouth in Northumberland, England. It is a Grade I listed railway viaduct built between 1847 and 1850, when it was opened by Queen Victoria. It was designed by Robert Stephenson for the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway and remains in regular use as part of the East Coast Main Line. Despite its name, the bridge does not span the border between England and Scotland, which is approximately 3 miles (5 km) further north. Note the photovoltaic panels on the roofs. Britain gets a significant proportion of its electricity from wind and solar
And, exhausted almost to extinction, we finally arrived at our Edinburgh AirBnB by taxi
And it was so well situated, very central and just below the ramparts of the Castle 
In one of the classic stone buildings of Edinburgh. A little tatty on the outside
....... but so chic and comfortable inside
A great kitchen, with all the utensils, crockery, glasses, pots and appliances we could ever need
Our bedroom, into which we collapsed after a brief supper, which we had brought with us, bought at M&S at King's Cross
09h30 on the 18th to 19h00 on the 19th meant that we had been travelling for over 33 hours
And, to our delight, a small space outside where we could sit on a warm, dry evening with a glass of SA Chenin or Chardonnay
Well, one evening anyway. Scotland has very soft weather (it's a euphemism they use for wet)
Lovely to be in Scotland, where some of our ancestors were born

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