My Scottish Road Trip comes to an end.

I began this post while I was sitting at Heathrow Airport, waiting to fly back to Australia. I have been home for a few days now, but have only just managed to get time to put something together for Friday’s deadline. I am planning on publishing some more considered posts about my vacation in Scotland over the next few weeks. I had a fabulous time and have so much to share!

–ooo–

The joys(?) of long haul flights

Edinburgh – 09:30

The prospect of being awake and upright for the two days is not a happy one. My Scottish vacation has come to an end, and today is the day to head back to Australia. The journey starts waiting for the (delayed) LNER (London and NorthEast Rail) 10:00 AM Edinburgh-London Express.

Kings Cross Station – 15:30

Five hours later I transferred on foot to the Piccadilly Line for the 55 minute trip to Terminal 4. The carriage is airless and hot, with only an occasional breeze fluttering my hair when the doors open. The number of passengers dwindles as we get closer to the airport and I can feel less guilty about my big suitcase blocking the aisle and my backpack taking up a seat.

 

An action figure in a plush red train seat
Iain rides the train to London

Wednesday: 17:00 GMT – Landside

I had completed a web check-in, but the fellow at the KAL counter (quite rightly) decided that my backpack was too big and bulky to be considered cabin luggage so I need to check it in. On top of that, my rolling suitcase is overweight. I joined the clusters of people scrambling on the floor to publically reorganise my luggage, switching 3 kg from one bag to the other. To be fair, I knew the backpack was too big, and I had planned to try and bluff it. When I left Sydney, I had all the compartments zipped up and strapped down, but with all the bits and pieces I had bought, it was now fully expanded!

Wednesday 17:30 – Landside

Wheeling the luggage-laden trolley into the accessible toilet cubicle, I get changed into warmer clothes and heavier boots. I am desperate to wash my feet after wearing sneakers on the unexpectedly hot Tube ride. I baulk at the notices over the bathroom basins indicating there is a foot wash in the multifaith prayer room next to Gate 9. Many others besides me must have considered washing their feet in these sinks.  I decided to give it a miss. It would have to wait until I had a shower in Seoul. The halfway home point. Until then, I’d have to keep my shoes and socks on!

A second turn at checking-in is successful, and with both the big bags off my hands, I can head to security.

Wednesday 18:15 – Airside

With the frantic flurry of repacking, check-in and security clearance over, I have settled in for the wait, and I’m quietly enjoying a very large glass of Pinot Grigio. I fiddle with my phone and add up the time ahead of me. Another ninety minutes till I can board, twelve hours from London to Seoul, another 11 to Sydney after a four-hour layover in between. Sigh! At least I can have that shower in the Prestige Lounge at Incheon Airport courtesy of my FF points! Perhaps, if there are any vacant lounges in the “relaxation room”, even a blissful lie-down

Next time I travel long haul I am going to consider booking Prestige seriously. Really seriously! Even if only for the final leg home. That last 10 hours; when you are so weary, you will commit a crime for a lie down – that bit.

 

IMG_0229

The last tedious bit: perhaps its Thursday?

I am now one flight down and boarding a smaller plane. The Korean crew welcome me most warmly, and I make my way to my seat. After “the chicken” or “the beef” decision, the lights are dimmed, and people drop off to sleep while I curse the fact that during my frantic luggage re-sort, I left my antihistamines in the other bag and can not rely on them to make me drowsy. A few hours later, I give up trying to sleep and watch five more episodes of the police drama I downloaded to my iPad.

The map on the back of the chair shows a familiar outline of the SE coast of Northern Queensland, and while breakfast is served, we head over the Great Barrier Reef. I’m over Australia, but it’s still 2 hours 55 minutes till we land. Soon the lights of Sydney are blinking in the sunrise, and I’ve got 10 minutes to watch in the final episode! Can’t you go around one more time? Give me ten more minutes till I get to the ‘who-dun-it”? The flight attendant insists I pack it away.

 

a photo of aSydney taken from a plane window at dawn
Sydney comes into view

Another queue to pass through immigration and quarantine. I join the “something to declare” line since I ‘ve been hiking in agricultural areas, but I’m waved through after an explanation of where I’ve been. Yet another wait for the Airport Shuttle and a 90 minute drive to my front door. Thursday has vanished somewhere, lost in changing time zones.

Friday 10:00 AEST

I finally open my front door and sigh with relief that all is as I left it. It’s been 47 hours since I left the Airbnb. My goal now is to stay awake until it’s dark to help combat jet lag.

That’s another seven hours away.

Fill up the kettle, start making the coffee and wish me luck, it’s gonna be at least a 6-cup day!

 

 

Planning a Scottish Vacation – Episode 4

A map of Scotland with Acamera and passport

I have booked the flights! Yes it’s still months to go but since I was using frequent flyer points and they only set aside a limited number of places for award tickets I decided to get in early. So a nearly free flight!

This video discusses why I have chosen to fly with Korean Airlines even though they are not always the cheapest or the most direct route to my destinations. I think being loyal to this one brand has been worthwhile. I am a member of the Morning Calm Club which gives me access to the Prestige Class Lounge at the airport and priority baggage handling as well as extra baggage limits. I have had one free upgrade and now the “free” ticket. It was free except for taxes and the fact that I have flown with them for eight international return trips!

I have also recommended an app called Tripit, which aggregates all your travel information into one place which you can access from any device or computer. So even though I still have my trusty printed spreadsheet; I also have this electronic version that sends me alerts if any flight/booking details changes.

Next episode,  I will have the itinerary pretty much finalised.

Delayed flight leads to writing bonanza

I got an email from Korean Airlines to tell me my flight the next day was going to be delayed by two hours. It was nice that they let me know. It was late on Boxing Day – a public holiday in Australia. Even though I knew the limo company would be closed, I sent them an email “just in case”  to  try and change the time of my airport transfer pick up. Thankfully, they got back to me and we agreed on a new time. Then I got another email from KAL to say the flight was going to be another two hours late. I didn’t want to muck the limo people around with another change so I just resigned myself to the fact that I would be at the airport SUPER early! My pick up would be eight hours before the flight. The transfer company has a policy of getting you to the airport 3 hours ahead of time because of the vagaries of Sydney traffic. It normally takes an hour to get to the airport and then check in, immigration clearance and the security check might use up another hour. I was looking at 6 hours to waste airside before boarding. Sigh!

I stepped out of the minibus and sniffed the air. I love that first whiff of AvGas when you are close to the airport. Apart from the fact you have suitcases in tow, and a passport in your hand, it’s proof you are going somewhere. The heady kerosene-like odour that tells you the tarmac and turbulence are not too far away.

The second clue you are travelling is the queue. As a seasoned traveller (LOL) I sometimes get impatient in these queues and run an internal commentary. Come on people!! You know you need photo ID to get your boarding pass. Get it out of your wallet before you get to the counter.You’ve just been standing in a line for the last 30 minutes watching everyone else hand over their ID. We could be saving about 50 seconds per transaction here if people were ready. What? Repacking your bags NOW? FFS you had all morning to weigh them.

Breathe Robyn! Breathe! You are going on holidays! Just grab a coffee, sit back and watch the people go by.

People watching

The first person to catch my attention is a ¾ age man (you know – older than middle age but not yet old) in his hipster aqua shorts with pineapple print. Then a Russian (judging by the language – Baltic at least) with the close to pornographic photo of two women being ….ah…. friendly… on the front of his t-shirt. I wonder how he got through immigration with that on? The brash, very well dressed Yanks float past in their matching boat shoes, white fedoras and navy jackets.  No doubt on their way to the first class lounge. The mums with toddlers asleep on their shoulders trying to kick their bags along.  They’ve invented trolleys love… I think to myself.

All this, backgrounded by Mariah Carey singing Christmas carols.

I move on, walk around for a while and then get another coffee. I am waiting for my phone to recharge after plugging in to one of the new charging stations that are everywhere in the airport now. No need to sit on the floor and unplug the drinks machine these days. I quickly switch back into people-watching mode. A young woman in front of me is talking on her phone, wearing  earphones,  her free hands are waving wildly in their air. Whoever is on the other end is clearly keeping her amused and she laughs and giggles. So sweet to watch. The young fellow to the right of me is using his phone as a mirror and is picking his zits…Ewwwwwww.

areoplanes through a round window

My phone has 2% to full charge and I still have three more hours to wait.

I listen to the announcements and wonder what happens to those  who are called out as the last people to board? They must have checked in? Did they change their mind and decide not to go? Was there some sort of family tragedy which kept them from flying out? Where they in the car accident that had caused the traffic jam 5 km out of the airport?

More people watching!

There are two African-American guys standing in the line at McDonalds. One has a big guitar like keyboard around his neck and the other has big gold chains, short spiky dreadlocks and gold reflective sunglasses on. They look like they should be famous. Perhaps they are just wankers. A Muslim man walks past with 4 daughters – so many weddings to pay for!

At  noon I decide it’s close enough to beer o’clock and buy a glass of wine which turns into two and hallelujah – it’s time to board.

All in all, the waste of time was productive. I wrote three blog posts. Researched part of a family history I wanted to write and made up character arcs for some of the interesting people who have walked by. Who knows, perhaps I even featured in another bored traveller’s diary.

View across Sydeny airport toward the city

14J

IMG_4187

Do you do it? I do.

Every time I check in I ask. ‘Any chance of an upgrade?’

On a flight from Toronto to Seoul I changed my tack a little. “If there is any chance of a better seat, I would really appreciate it”

I got the usual response, a polite but unmoving face. The ‘do you know how many times I have already been asked that question today’ kinda face. He looked at his computer, pressed a few keys and said

‘I can offer you a window seat in economy.’

I declined. These days I prefer the aisle…less people to climb over.

Processed with Snapseed.
The long wait.

After the tense but necessary flurry of activity to get through immigration and security, I was sitting at the gate waiting to board; bored.

Bing-bong

I never really listen to these announcements but today my ears pricked up.

‘Can Ms Robyn Lang please make herself known to the gate staff.’

Although I would not class myself as a pessimist, I began to think all the bad thoughts.

Had I lost something? Did I leave my passport at the check-in counter? Did the Mounties finally catch up with me for being 15kph above the speed limit in that last little town??

I approached the desk with some trepidation. The young man who had checked my baggage looked up and recognized me. His eyes creased into a tiny smile which he tried to cover up.

He started apologetically; ‘I am sorry ma’am, we have been unable to find you a better seat in economy but if is OK with you I can give you a window seat in Prestige Class.’

I play along and with what passes for a slightly disappointed face reply ‘Oh really! That’s disappointing! I guess I will just have to take it.’

We both smile broadly. He is as excited as I am! He hands me the new boarding pass and the first time ever my seat number is less than twenty!

I returned to my seat grinning like the Cheshire Cat. A little while later, another announcement is made and a Korean lady about my age, becomes alert. She walks to the counter slowly with the same fear I had felt. She returns to her seat clutching a boarding pass to her chest. She has obviously swallowed the same mouse I did! Her expression mirrors mine and we smile together. Victorious in our upgrades!

IMG_4692