Thursday, 28 May 2009

And by Brits I do mean all of us

Earlier this week I commented on the British habit of going to a beauty spot, parking up in the car and then not actually bothering to leave the car park.

At the time I wrote it at the back of my mind was a little voice going “Isn’t it more an English trait rather than a British trait”

Well, having been for a beautiful walk along the seafront at Ayr, southern Scotland, with the warmth of a strong late spring sun shining down I can confidently say the habit extends to the Scots too.

All along the seafront were cars parked up with people sitting in the front seats staring out to the sea.

It’s beautifully warm outside, there is a lovely gentle breeze, the sand is enticing, but no, we’ll sit in the car thank you very much!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Money vs Environment

The government wants everyone to be greener. I’m in agreement with this, but sadly, economics does play a part in being green.

I could have caught a train back from Carlisle to London, which would have been environmentally much friendlier than flying back from Glasgow (ignoring the fact that an electric train still creates a pocket of pollution wherever the electricity to power it is being generated, but in any instance this is significantly less than the output of a plane)

However, the economics don’t stack up. It’s the half term holiday, and despite checking every couple of days from thirteen weeks out no cheap tickets were ever released. At eight weeks out I had to give up looking and make a decision. Do I pay £133 for the cheapest ticket I can find for the train, or do I look at alternatives.

So in the words of the MasterCard adverts
Train from Carlisle to Glasgow (First class) - £11
Night in a hotel in Glasgow - £50
Flight Glasgow to London City - £39
Saving £33 on the train fare, do you still wonder why people fly!

And the worst thing is that could have been even cheaper if I had gone standard (though I wouldn’t have got the very pleasant Breakfast from Transpennine Express), booked the hotel earlier and flown back into Gatwick with easyJet rather than city with BA.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

You can’t all be the most beautiful – an update

The Settle to Carlisle line winds hands down, though I would still like to put forward the Buddleia forest that the trains sit in waiting to get into East Croydon.

Doing the tourist thing

I’m going to put my hands up to doing the most stupid touristy thing I have done for a long time.

I made an assumption, which is never a good thing.

The largest body of water in the Lake District is called Windermere. There is a town in the Lake District called Windermere and it has a station in it. The station itself, shock, horror for a lot of English towns, is actually almost in the centre of the town.

Now it’s a natural conclusion to draw that therefore Windermere the town must be on the banks of Windermere the body of water.

It is from these same assumptions that people arrive at the Bodleian library in Oxford looking for Selfridges, and at the site of the 2012 Olympics looking for Shakespeare’s birth place.

No, Windermere, the town is nowhere near Windermere, the body of water. In fact it’s about two blooming miles away, which is a bit of a hefty walk when you only have an hour to get there and back to the station in.

Perhaps in future I should look at the guidebooks before making these rash decisions.

Monday, 25 May 2009

You can’t all be the most beautiful

I’m starting to get a little confused by the descriptions of some of the railway lines around Carlisle.

Along with the West Coast Main Line, there are four other lines coming out of Carlisle. One heads into Scotland and can therefore be discounted from the discussion of “The most beautiful line in England”.

All three of the remaining lines, depending on where you look share this accolade.

The Tyne Valley (or as it’s now known Hadrian’s Wall) line runs across the top of the country, roughly following the line of the wall, though you can never see it.

The Cumbrian coast line runs, as it’s name suggests, down the coast of Cumbria taking in the beautiful scenery, including Europe’s largest nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at Sellafield (which has never had an accident unlike that other site Windscale which it use to be called!)

The Settle to Carlisle line runs, imaginatively, from Settle to Carlisle and includes traversing the Ribblehead viaduct. (I can’t comment on any negatives at present as I haven’t been along this line yet, that’s the trip for tomorrow)

Now, there is the slight possibility that they could all be the most beautiful line as they all share a common starting point and run parallel to each other for about a quarter of a mile.

However, if the run into Carlisle station is the most beautiful train ride in England then I think my morning commute into East Croydon could be a contender to replace it.

On the other-hand, it could all be marketing spiel to try and persuade tourists to travel on lines which the train company has to run as a social service, but otherwise wouldn’t make much in the way of money, but that would just be cynical wouldn’t it.

No, perhaps beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Derelict freight yards are obviously the new beauty.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

British Bank (Car Park) Holidays

I didn’t think it actually happened, I thought it was just people exaggerating; I thought it was just a comic devise used to self-mock the Brits.

But today, I experienced the very peculiar habit of people driving to a beauty spot, parking up, getting out the camping chairs and having a cup of tea, in the car park, by their car.

Just 20 yards away was a little visitor’s centre with a tea room attached, but several couples were more than happy with their boot party.

The views from the visitors centre were stunning, with Hadrian’s wall climbing over the ridges into the distance, but they weren’t taking in these views. They were looking at the car park, and the ticket machine. They had their backs to the stunning scenery!

Perhaps it’s just me. Not having a driving licence I obviously haven’t got a drivers mind, I’m not focused on the car.

Or perhaps it was a troop that specialise in acting out the peculiar habits people joke about.

I hope its the latter, but I think it’s probably the former.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Where the Romans Succeed, Network Rail fails

Carlisle is the last English city before the Scottish border, in truth it’s one of the last settlements before the border. It’s been a key site on the road north for millennia. Even today it’s a major stop on the West Coast Main-Line.

So you would have thought that on the first proper summer bank holiday of the year that everything would be smooth and settled.

That’s what I thought when I booked to go to Carlisle back in the depths of December.

Then, twelve weeks ago, when the cheap tickets should have been release, I got a surprise. I couldn’t find any tickets for trains to Carlisle that didn’t involve changing. Even more surprising was that the change was in Newcastle and the journey involved travelling up the East, rather than West coast of the UK.

At the time I had an inkling as to what the issue might be, but thought that even Network Rail wouldn’t be stupid enough to close a chunk of the West Coast Main-Line during a major bank holiday weekend.

But, I wanted a cheap ticket, so I booked to go via Newcastle, and didn’t think much of it.

Then a couple of weeks ago the engineering works for the Bank Holiday Weekend were announced, and despite all logic and sense dictating that people would probably want to travel more on this weekend than any other around it, the line was partly closed.

Instead of a speedy journey of just over three hours from Euston to Carlisle direct (or other locations on the Western side of the UK), there was a not so speedy journey from Euston to Milton Keynes, then a very slow bus journey from Milton Keynes to Birmingham, before rejoining the slightly faster train journey to the North.

I was quite glad that I was going the scenic route. Though possibly not the people who booked late and didn’t have a seat reservation from Kings Cross and were still standing when the train pulled into Newcastle three hours later!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Mouselodge - An Update

Back in March I had the misfortune to stay in a mouse infested room in a Travelodge near Liverpool Street Station.

Now to give fair dues to Travelodge they did, eventually, get back to me to apologise and offer a refund.

With their recent sale the refund for one night equated into three nights in November in Coventry.

The hotel only opened a couple of days ago

Will there be enough time before November for the mice to move in?

Will I regret this comment when I am kept awake by the elephant infestation?