Trains, Planes and Automobiles

Christmas and New Year are out of the way now and it was time for our thoughts to turn, once again, to exotic holidays. We are setting off today to join the M/V Voyager for a cruise in the Indian Ocean. So it was with that happy thought that we leapt out of bed at 6.00am to begin what would be a very long day spent travelling, hence the title of today’s blog.   🙂

Our taxi arrived bang on time at 7.15am to take us to the train station, where we stood on the platform shivering in the cold and windy January morning awaiting the train to London Kings Cross. As we are heading for tropical climes I didn’t wear a huge coat and boots, instead waiting for the train in a denim jacket and flip-flops. The train was 10 minutes late and it was with a sense of relief that we saw its headlights approaching along the track. During this last week there have been a lot of rail disruptions and train cancellations, due to maintenance work over-running and bad weather etc. But even allowing for delays, our flight from Gatwick wasn’t until 19:25 hours tonight, so we had a lot of time to kill.

Once aboard the train we settled in our seats to enjoy the three-hour journey to London. I always like this trip; it’s not too long or not too short, and you can just sit and relax with a magazine and a drink before the journey terminates in the capital.

After 50 minutes we arrived in York, and as the train was pulling out of the station we cracked open the bottle of Bollinger we’d brought along to give the journey a little bit of luxury and get the holiday off to a great start. 🙂

The hours winged by and, before we knew it, the train was pulling into London Kings Cross. From here we hailed a taxi to take us to Victoria Coach Station for the next leg of our journey. The taxi took us past Trafalgar Square and along The Mall, where we saw Buckingham Palace and its inevitable crowds outside. Then we pulled up at the coach station and went to have a cup of coffee, as we had a wait of about 40 minutes for our midday coach.

The coach was quite modern and comfortable and had a toilet on board. It took an hour and a half to get to Gatwick Airport south terminal against the 30 minutes it would have taken on the train, but it was only half the price of the train and allowed us to look out of the windows at the changing countryside and cityscape on this crisp and sunny London morning.

On arrival at Gatwick we had about an hour to wait until the Titan Airways check-in desk opened so we whiled the time away and I spent some time talking to a lively little French girl who was with her father and (apparently) her grandmother. It gave me a chance to practise my French a little, and once we left her father smiled and wished us “Bon voyage!”

We were one of the first few in the queue so it didn’t take long to check in at all. Once free of our suitcases we went along to the “No.1” executive lounge and settled ourselves in a for a long wait.

The No.1 lounge was very good indeed. It was very comfortable (I had a large chaise longue all to myself) and had huge, sunny plate glass windows affording us an unimpeded view of the runway, and the aircraft taking off and landing. We enjoyed several complimentary drinks and there was a good selection of snacks including hot soup, ‘designer’ salads (which were delicious) and cakes, and we also indulged in a tasty cheeseboard with farm cheese and artisan crackers.

After about four hours in the lounge, we made our way along to Gate 19 where our aircraft, a Boeing 767, was ready to board.

We found ourselves in the back row of the front compartment of the plane, which was ideal because it allowed us to recline our seats right back if we wanted to, without inconveniencing anyone behind. We also had two windows to look out of, one which looked onto the engine and the other the wing. For economy class the seats were actually quite spacious and comfortable, and leg room (at least for me, as I am only 5′ tall) was ample.

Once we were airborne and the seatbelt lights were switched out, the stewardess came round with some drinks, followed soon after by our dinner. For aeroplane meals it wasn’t bad at all; roasted Mediterranean vegetable salad to start with, followed by roast lamb, asparagus, new potatoes and gravy, then apple pie served with a little jug of custard for dessert. All washed down with coffee or tea, and more wine if you wanted, but we decided we’d had enough for the day so we stuck to water. The airline had also thoughtfully provided each passenger with two 500ml bottles of mineral water in our seat pockets, as well as a pillow and blanket for the overnight journey.

For some reason we all seemed to be having problems with the in-flight entertainment system. It would come on, you’d choose the channel/programme you wanted to watch, then a few minutes later the TV screen would switch itself off. This happened all the time, so in the end I just gave up and left mine off, instead looking at the main TV screen in the cabin, which showed the Sky Map.

In any case we were quite tired, so we settled down after dinner to try to snatch whatever sleep we could. I never enjoy good quality sleep on an aircraft anyway; I can’t really sleep sitting up and it’s too noisy (we had the engine right outside our window) and often too cold. So it was just a case of snatching the odd cat-nap here and there, or reading my Kindle or just getting up and walking around the aircraft cabin, to relieve the tedium of sitting for so long.

As we were heading to Mauritius, we were flying in a south-easterly direction which meant that the sunrise was much earlier than it was at home. We were thus able to enjoy a spectacular sunrise from the aeroplane window, where we saw the sky start off a dark ruby colour, followed by a panoply of red, russet, orange and yellow as the sky slowly lightened to a brilliant blue, with the fluffy white cumulus clouds below us.

Our flight lasted about 12 hours, and as we touched down and taxied along the runway we advanced our watches four hours to local time.

Disembarking the aircraft, we walked into a wall of tropical heat as we made our way to the Arrivals building to collect our suitcases. We were here at last, and our holiday had begun.   🙂

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