The nice thing about receiving rubbish news was that we had already booked a long weekend getaway to Oban. Or, more specifically, to Loch Melfort, about 17 miles south of Oban.
So we let it go and piled the family, the luggage, and the dog into the car.
Wait, we don’t have a car.
Fortunately it is possible to hire a car in Scotland. Angie finished off the packing while I caught the bus to Falkirk to pick up the rental car. I chose Mitchells Hire Drive, Scotland’s favourite vehicle rentals. Scotland must love low levels of service and product quality.
The next cheapest company was double the price of this bunch, so perhaps I expected too much. Most people probably don’t think they deserve to receive a clean car and full tank of petrol when they pay £40 a day for the privilege of using a Ford Ka. Yeah, it must just be us uppity immigrants. The dirty looks I got when I raised some objections. Sadly there wasn’t a lot of competition nearby, otherwise I would have walked out and tried to rent a vehicle somewhere else.
The beaten-up grubby car acquired, I travelled home and we loaded in all the gang.
Weather was our friend on this trip, and Scotland is a really beautiful place on sunny days.
The drive was beautiful. The place we stayed, Melfort Pier and Harbour, was beautiful. There was a tiny beach and Jethro loved splashing in the water. Bean had her first experience of a beach, and I had the impression that she approved. She seemed to say, “Surely, such holidays are fitting for a dog of my high status, and why have I not been treated to such things previously?”
We travelled a bit around the coast, visiting Oban and taking a boat ride around the seal island. Also got a look at some salmon farms up close.
Other short drives took us to the tiny villages along the lochside. Beautiful little spots like Craobh and Ardfern received our custom and appreciation.
Then we returned, and on the drive back we found a most wonderful spot for lunch. The pictures belong tell you more.
It’s taken over a month, but the tale of my family’s journey to Edinburgh is here. It’s long, and I even got sick of writing it. You’ve been warned. Enjoy.
Jethro is a two-year-old, and his level of excitement about flying on an aeroplane was high. Angie and I had been going on about it for a while—we’d bought a book called “Going on a plane,” so he was pretty psyched about it.
We knew an eleven-hour flight was going to be a bit much for the little guy, so we thought we’d drug him a little. Perhaps it would get him to go to sleep. Perhaps it’s bad parenting too, but we felt special measures were called for.
Stupid idea that.
We gave Jethro some Panado Paediatric Syrup. The one with 10% alcohol in it. I was under the impression that alcohol is a depressant, and should have a sedative effect on my small child. He was certainly relaxed in the taxi we took to the airport. Singing away as he sat between Angie and I, and demanding that we “Dance! Dance!” It was clear then that we were unlikely to have a restful flight.
Things were already not too restful. The taxi service arrived with a fancy Mercedes Benz, but not one with a huge amount of boot space. I was sitting with a suitcase on my lap, the baggage on the front seat was considering whether it might jump across the gear lever and take control of the vehicle, and the boot door had shut only by the intervention of a higher being.
The camper cot didn’t make it. It sat forlorn on the bitumen of the car-park at Angie Mum’s place, and was presumably taken back to the house to meet its fate along with the rest of our stuff that couldn’t make it in the bags but we didn’t want to throw out.
Two trolleys packed to overflowing, we made our way to check-in. At Johannesburg’s International Airport there is a business made of wrapping luggage in cellophane. R50 per bag. This is R50 I’m never willing to part with, so when someone came over and offered to wrap our luggage I was about to decline his offer when he insisted that if we were flying Virgin Atlantic, the service was free. Nice touch, Virgin. Jethro was entertained by the luggage-wrapping machine, so that was an extra service they didn’t even think they were giving us.
When we got to the front of the queue (and we were kindly fast-tracked due to our slightly drunken bundle of joy) we encountered our next challenge. Hand-luggage was overweight. Luggage for the hold was tightly wrapped up, making transfer of goods from hand to check-in luggage impossible without having things rewrapped.
The nice touch had gone a little nasty. In the end the solution was to remove the laptop and camera bag from the hand luggage suitcase. Yes, that’s right. Take everything into the cabin, but in three bags not just one. Such broken logic would be encountered once again at Heathrow.
The flight wasn’t as challenging as it could have been, but I can’t describe Jethro as having been completely cooperative. Everything was fun for a while, but the excitement of the flight kept the J-man awake until almost 11pm when his normal bed time is 7:30. Tired children are not quietly content children, but he did eventually pass out in slightly contorted position.
The veggie meals were rather pleasing, but the crazy times that airlines feed passengers has not improved in the least since the last time I flew internationally. Dinner at 10pm, breakfast at 4am. Seriously, give us a take-away breakfast or something.
Landing at Heathrow
This was a super-fun bit. We touched down at Heathrow, collected our two trolleys full of luggage and headed through customs. Nothing to Declare. We got out to the shops and asked an airport employee where we needed to go to catch our British Airways flight to Edinburgh. It’s easy—catch the Heathrow Express to Terminal 5, free for flight transfers! Hooray!
Now all we needed to do was get all our luggage on and off the Heathrow Express, without using the trolleys. Recall the amount of crap we were transporting, and an extra mini-human who can’t pull his own weight—effectively an extra piece of squirming, jiggly, playful luggage, that won’t stay in one place.
I can’t clearly remember how we did it, but somehow everything made it to Terminal 5, and nothing was left behind on the train. Strangers even helped us taken everything off the train, which was something I really hadn’t expected in the rush-rush places-to-go-people-to-see frenetic madness of London.
Thus, we made it to the connecting flight.
British Airways were less pedantic regarding the hand luggage weight, but infinitely more annoying regarding liquids going on to the flight — although to be fair this was more to do with Heathrow than BA. Insanity prevailed as we had to transfer the liquids in our hand luggage into the sill one litre baggie, with 100ml bits and pieces, although we’d travelled from South Africa without doing this.
I certainly felt a lot safer while standing in the security check queue when we dropped the plastic bag, smashing Jethro’s bottle of gooey paediatric syrup. The stickiness oozed over our toiletries and drip-hang-dripped on to the floor. Jethro, exhausted from the first flight, added to the fun. Eventually we cleaned up with one of Jethro’s nappies.
Jenny, Angie’s sister, met us at the airport, helped us organise a taxi to our B&B, and was just generally awesome.
And now I am tired of typing stuff. Unfortunately I don’t seem to have taken too many photos that actually tell the story of our journey. The photos seem to consist mainly of my son, and pretty much nothing else. During moments of calamity, I’d have liked to take photos documenting it, but I suspect Angie would have attacked me with the car-seat as I snapped away while she struggled single-handedly with the luggage and child.
It was a well-deserved rest, and we had a most glorious break. The Cavern is even better when you have children. We had to pay 60% of full adult fee for Jethro, which seems a little cheeky since he was only 6 months old, but they provide well-trained and certified caretakers/nannies to look after the children during meal times. In fact, children under 7 years old are not allowed in the main dining room.
It just isn’t understood how brilliant that is until one has children of their own. When we got to Clarens and stayed over a night a self-catering guest house there, where no-one looks after your children during meals, I understood that I’d been taking it all for granted. I won’t be doing that again in a hurry. The 60% rate that The Cavern charged was well worth it.
We caught the train from London, King’s Cross, to Edinburgh. We did not take a plane.
Planes travel faster than trains, but everyone plays silly-buggers for a few hours before getting on a plane. Metal-detector scans. Discarding fluid. Putting things in transparent baggies. Taking off shoes. Taking off belts. Taking off pants and bending over. X-rays. Suspicious looks. Cattle-herding. What fun it all is.
Then, once on the plane you get to simulate Houdini confinement chamber experiences.
Trains are not like this. Trains are pleasant. There is space on a train. There are no queues getting on the train, and best of all, no-one looks at you as if you are carrying concealed weapons while you travel on a train.
That said, trains do have drawbacks. Drunken people get on trains and get a little rowdy, but mostly they stay near the bar.
We went to Edinburgh to help Jen and Kyle move house.
Jen paid good money to get us up north to help her move her belongings from one flat to another. Angie and I were lazy workers, and she could probably regretted not hiring more dedicated manual labourers who lived nearby (but possibly spoke in funny accents).
When not conducting heavy lifting, we watched Scottish people spit on the floor. Then Angie and Jen stood in the spittle. Apparently this spitting is good luck, but I wasn’t having any of it.
Spittle of the Scots!
In general, Edinburgh is a really beautiful and magnificent place. Not surprisingly, they have Indian people and Indian Restaurants (the whole of the UK is like that). Jen and Kyle took us to one (a restaurant, not a person) as pre-payment for helping them move house the following day. Kushi’s (apparently world famous Indian cuisine. First I’d heard of it)
Edinburgh also has a castle, and if one cares to, they can visit it. We didn’t. They wanted £11 each.
Instead, we wandered about in the former moaty/lochy area that once, Jen tells us, was the dumping ground of all of Edinburgh’s sewage. The flora in the area was certainly thriving.
Then, Jen asked me the time. It was almost 1pm.
Excellent, they fire the canon every day at 1pm. Despite expecting a loud banging noise, I still jumped a metre or so into the air on hearing the canon go off, much to the amusement of the locals sitting behind me on a bench.
Edinburgh also has the “Baked Potato Shop.” I should have taken a photo of this shop. If you ever go to Edinburgh you have to go the this shop. Jen and Kyle raved about it. I was not convinced — until I received, and tasted my order.
At the end of our trip to Budapest we travelled a little out of the city to visit Memento Park (also called Szorborpark or Statue Park. Not called South Park, but they sold T-Shirts reading Marx Park and I bought one).
The Hungarians were clearly not all that impressed with the communist iconography and promptly stripped their city of all traces of it.
They weren’t angry though because, unlike effigies of Saddam Hussein during the er… “liberation” of Iraq, they didn’t get broken down and destroyed. Instead, they were simply taken down and deposited in a park outside the city.
The first few days in Budapest had magnificent weather. The day we visited Szorborpark was suitably glum and overcast. We couldn’t have timed it better if we religiously checked the forecasts at hourly intervals.
Angie and I recently went on holiday to the northern lands. Admittedly, living in South Africa one would need to visit Antarctica to visit southern lands. We had no choice but to head north. We kept going north until the plane landed at Heathrow, London.
My tale of Europe and Associated Islands is broken into a number of parts because I have much to say, and internet readers are given indigestion by significant chunks of reading material.
It helps when the words are nicely broken up by pictures. I will apply pictures to the equation and hope to keep the readership entertained.
We visited three cities (London, Budapest, and Edinburgh) but used one of them as base camp (London) from which we launched our other excursions. Expect a slightly non-linear tale as I relate this Tale of Three Cities, ordered by city.
Do not expect any further intentional references to the works of Charles Dickens. I detest Dickens.
People in London are in quite a hurry. I’m not entirely certain why, but it is quite clear that they are. They must have heartless corporate cutbacks to implement, or corporate slave duties to perform, or some other very important tasks that cannot wait a moment to be polite.
It should be clear by now that London isn’t my favourite place and us going there to visit friends hinged on us going somewhere else that wasn’t London. Yet, meeting up with absent friends is always good, and is so good that even the inherent blerghness of London could not sour it.
Our base camp in London was at Wendy and Saul’s place, and the day after we arrived (and recovered from the flight) Wendy organised a social gathering of all the humans we know, living in London (or who happened to be be there at the time). This gathering is best illustrated with a photo essay of sorts from the balcony of their place:
Angie snaps one of (from left) Frances, Rachelle, Lisa, and Wendy (and herself, reflected in the glass of the door). Complaints regarding your appearance to be addressed to the photographer. Neil snaps Angie, Rob and Lisa. There is also a good view of Wendy and Saul’s rather deformed gas heater on the left.
Unknown photographer includes Michael and Neil (an other previously mentioned persons)
Louise with malformed heater-head as a hat
Long exposure after sunset with camera balanced on the balcony ledge.
Alas, late-comers were not included in the photo-shoot (people like Jocelyn and Saul). They were there. Honest. Scott was also there, but who was Scott? Who indeed (his knee is actually in one of the photos). Rachelle summoned him for torture at the hands of her friends. Most unsporting of her.
The evening proceeded late into the night, with a impromptu dinner at an Indian restaurant (London practically is a part of India) followed by dancing festively (and Saul’s traditional shooter generosity) at a nearby London cocktail bar. I haven’t danced like that for ages and it was good because it was holiday and I didn’t care.
I cared the next morning when it was necessary to get up, pack, and catch a flight to Budapest having only clambered into bed at 3am. Almost five hours sleep was woefully inadequate, but somehow we survived.
Next time on waffle group:
Join us again next time for the Hungarian leg of the holiday or possibly more of London, or arbitrarily a slice of Edinburgh. That non-linear story-line is quite a kicker.
I might even ignore it altogether and rant about the lack of pavements in South African cities (they have plenty of pavements in London).