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If you are following me on Twitter or Facebook, then you know I've been all over the place, including Scotland! I was there a couple of weeks ago to attend the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) conference in the Highlands. I will tell you all about that trip and continue with my Seabourn Baltic cruise. Last week we were in Stockholm and this week we will sail to Helsinki, Finland. Woot!
Before I went to Scotland, I was in Toronto visiting my beautiful girlfriend Natalie. I could've flown a Thomson Airways 757 directly into Glasgow, but I chose to fly on a bigger plane and on an airline I know well: British Airways (BA). To give you an idea of how much the airlines have cut capacity and why tickets are so expensive these days, BA used to fly 747s to and from Toronto and London three times a day. Now they just have two flights daily and they are on a 767 and a 777 (smaller wide-body planes).
TORONTO TO LONDON
I took BA flight 92, which departs at 6:55 p.m. (18:55). I've learned the trick to getting a good seat with BA without paying the advance-purchase fee: check in exactly 24 hours in advance. This way I was able to scoop up a coveted exit-row seat for no charge (normally $75 if done in advance). Flight time from Toronto to London was a short six hours (3,540 miles), so it was tough to get any sleep (not that I can sleep on planes anyway). Since I wasn't tired I watched two movies from the individual entertainment systems in the seatbacks. It's nice that they have them, but they could use updating to a bigger screen and on-demand choices instead of their current way of playing them in two cycles.
We landed at 6 a.m. local time, which was 30 minutes early. BA had said my bag was too big to carry on, so I checked it. Like a fool I went to baggage claim, even though I had a connecting flight to Edinburgh. Duh! What a rookie mistake. I didn't mind, though, because I wasn't in a hurry since I had booked my ticket last-minute and couldn't get on the 8:10 a.m. flight to Edinburgh (it was oversold). My connecting flight was at 11:30 a.m. (yeah, that Thomson flight was looking pretty good right about now), so I wandered around Terminal 5 before going back through security. It was no big deal and took less than seven minutes.
I wasn't hungry, since BA fed us two meals on the flight, but I needed what I thought would be a quiet place to work so I checked out Gordon Ramsay's restaurant Plane Food. The prices looked really reasonable until I snapped out of my jet-lag funk and realized they were in pounds, not dollars. I had banana pancakes with honeycomb butter. They were good but really small. The food comes out really quick here, which is good for an airport restaurant--unless you have a five-hour layover like me. Random restaurant observations: 98 percent of the workers here were Indian; obnoxious techno music was playing.
GOOD TO KNOW: The best place I found to plane-spot in T5 is by gate A7. They have plenty of chairs and a clear view of one of the runways.
LONDON TO EDINBURGH
Our flight was delayed by several minutes, and not long after I took my exit-row seat (row 8) on the completely packed A321, I passed out. I woke up midflight (the 311-mile flight was 44 minutes long) to use the loo and have a glass of water, and most of the other passengers on the plane were passed out too. I guess they were all connecting as well.
TIP: When you are jet-lagged and waiting for a connection, set your cell phone alarm for boarding time, just in case you fall asleep.
The Edinburgh airport has a really nice part to it (not the section where I later flew out with Continental) that was bright, modern, and cheerful. I grabbed my bag and, as instructed by the conference committee (ATTA), I took the two-minute free shuttle to the Hilton airport hotel. While waiting in the lobby for the four hours until my free transfer to Aviemore, set up by the conference, I couldn't help but notice that all the guests were Americans--mostly men on golfing trips. Why would they stay at an airport hotel?
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