Kris' Travel Advice! [Trip Reports/Reviews]

Discussion in 'Trip Planning & Reports' started by Kristofferson, 12 Aug 2015.

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  1. Kristofferson

    Kristofferson Member

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    Having just returned from a week away with the better(?) half, I felt it right to share some of the travel, food and hotel-related observations I made along the way. This isn't a traditional trip report, but hopefully this will be of interest and maybe even useful to some :)

    The trip into London on a sunny afternoon is relatively familiar territory, sat in standard class [makes a difference to the Sardine Special I get to work!] on one of London Midland's "what do you mean it's a limited-mileage lease" 350/2s. Great British Railway Journeys this ain't and I won't miss these cramped 3+2 Desiros, or their terrible air con, when they're sent up north!

    Arrival into Euston is pretty much right time and, having arranged to catch up with Techniquest as he's in the area, I head over to an overpriced sandwich outlet in the plaza to meet him whilst the missus disappears into an overpriced clothes shop. A short while later, the man himself turns up with another Railforums regular - Hassan. After a good chat with Tech about his epic 6 day bash [great to meet you guys!], it's time to part ways and head off to "base camp". An S7 is had from Euston Square to Farringdon, and we're glad to escape the sun as we step into the hotel.

    Malmaison Farringdon is just opposite Smithfield Market, a short walk from Farringdon station and literally round the corner from Barbican! For a "boutique" style hotel, I'm informed you can get some cracking deals [Tech recently nabbed a room for £37 a night!] if you book early for a Sunday, but the "last minute" and weekday prices easily top £100. Everything is clean and consistent as you'd expect from a chain hotel, the air conditioned rooms are chic with a faux-premium feel and the service is attentive but not pretentious [sums this place up really!]. We were disappointed by the hard bed and collapsing pillows, but it's no worse for comfort than a Travelodge these days.

    [​IMG]

    After checking in, it's not long til dinner! If you're in this part of town and fancy a decent steak in casual surroundings, head to Foxlow. The prices aren't too far off a Beefeater and, because this is Hawksmoor's "dirty sister", it's a damn good slab of meat! The next morning, it's off for a walk to Hawksmoor itself in the City for their legendary take on the Great British Breakfast. Slightly posher surroundings than last night, but another outstanding meaty treat and one I recommend if you're travelling with someone and have a spare £15 each.

    [​IMG]

    After staggering back to the hotel and completing bag/check out procedures, we wander over to Barbican for another S7 to rattle us along to Paddington. The first class lounge is a welcome relief from the crowds and, although there are complimentary sandwiches on offer, I'm way too full still so settle for a soft drink [juices, Coke and water available]. On the subject of freebies, I can't resist a quick flick through the lounge copy of FHM [not as good as it used to be!] while waiting for the HST to roll in.

    Goodness me, the GWR refurb is fantastic! The old style first class carriages were starting to show their age, whereas these are truly fit for the future. I wonder what'll happen to these coaches when IEP/SET takes over? Taking a comfortable leather seat and plugging the phone into the a new USB charge point, it's time to relax and enjoy some thrash (1st is always next to a power car!). The journey on these trains is always so smooth compared to modern commuter stuff, will be sad to see the Intercity 125s go...

    [​IMG]

    Arrival into Cardiff Central is a couple of hours later and for some reason we choose a taxi instead of the 153 on the Cardiff Bay shuttle [habit I guess :( ]. Luckily we find an honest cabbie who doesn't suddenly up the rate and put an extra quid on the meter upon arrival, unlike previous experiences..! It's then a short walk for us along the Bay [which, if you haven't been, is one of the most relaxing and pretty places in Britain] to St David's Hotel.

    [​IMG]

    This place has a reputation for being the place to stay in Cardiff, and it's well deserved. Rates are about £100 a night and everything from the massive soft beds to the balconies with a view is spot on. There's even "his & hers" toilets with a urinal for the chaps and a throne for the ladies [on second thoughts, maybe that was a bidet not a urinal... oops! ;) ] Personally, I still prefer the modern apartments at A Space In The City Quayside though - a bit cheaper, even better located opposite the Millennium Centre and you get hotel suite space for hotel room money. Both are great places to stay if you fancy a change and a treat. Check in at St David's is followed by an afternoon on the balcony with a cuppa, and the evening is concluded with dinner in the hotel's restaurant - Tempus at Tides.

    Really high quality surroundings and traditional British food to be had here, well recommended if you're staying in the hotel and on par with London restaurants such as Roast but sadly the same price! The service is a bit stuffy, too. We ask for tap water instead of the silly bottled stuff, and the waiter then doesn't bother to offer us bread or the specials. Which is a shame as I'll happily shell out for decent food, but no way am I paying for flippin' water!

    I should also mention there are many great eateries around Cardiff Bay and in the nearby Red Dragon Centre if you're staying in the area [and why wouldn't you, it's so close to the station!]. The buffet at Spice Hut is my personal favourite, but there are of course chain Italians; a Chinese buffet; Wagamama; a Nandos; GBK and Spoons within a square mile to name just a few.

    The next few days are just a holiday and of little relevance to those travelling on the railways, so I'll skip those! We check out of the hotel to begin the journey home and realise it's Tube Strike Day! I'll get to that later... For now it's a 25 minute walk from Cardiff Bay to Cardiff Central again for another HST back to Paddington. I note that the first class lounge at Cardiff is small and hot, but you can still get a coffee and there's a selection of railway books on sale.

    We arrive into London and are met with the chaos you'd expect - it's not even peak yet either! The queue for black cabs looked to be about a quarter mile long, and I didn't even attempt the buses. We exit onto a nearby main road and hope our alternative travel plan works. It does! I order an Uber taxi on my phone and a car turns up about five minutes later for the slow crawl back to Euston. I'll take a minute here to recommend them, although some may disagree! The service is quick to arrive, no hassle to pay, the prices are roughly on par with black cabs and you can easily get £40 worth of rides [about three journeys] for free through clever use of voucher codes and the "recommend a friend" feature if you're in a couple or group. Uber über alles as they [probably don't] say in Germany ;)

    Noticing the Overground at Euston is busier than usual [no surprise!] and there are even crowd control barriers in place, we're glad to have bought Advance 1STs for the entire journey as 350375 [I seem to have a knack for remembering 350/3 numbers as they're the only trains I've properly "bashed" and cleared for haulage] is also rammed to the gills with Harrow and Watford early birds. A routine journey home follows and a diet begins shortly afterwards! :p

    Total cost: Could have done a 7 day 1ST ALR each! :s

    Well, I hope you enjoyed the read and bonus points if you got this far. More bonus points if this influences your next trip :)

    Cheers!
    Kris
     
    Last edited: 12 Aug 2015
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  3. fishquinn

    fishquinn Established Member Quizmaster

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    This sounds like a very fun (but costly) trip! Shame about the London chaos on the way back though. I doubt any of the normals thought to order a taxi!
     
  4. Kristofferson

    Kristofferson Member

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    It does sound costly but I usually only do one "big" trip a year, and this was it :) yeah we planned this trip before the tube strike was announced, and didn't fancy paying more for new Advance tickets closer to the time.
     
  5. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    100 quid a night in Cardiff? Fudge that! I'd not pay that for Malmaison either, I got my bargain stay when I booked it almost 5 months ago. I'd have stayed on the Monday night too, but that bumped the figure for both nights to nearer 250 quid. At which points I had two Extra Special fingers for that idea! Disappointed to hear the beds aren't comfortable, I'll have a very thorough review on TA and here, hopefully I won't regret booking it!

    15 quid EACH for breakfast? :shock: I begrudge spending over 5 quid! Quite the difference between us that's for sure, I could do a 6 day marathon trip for less than 400 and it sounds like you spent that with no effort at all!

    First Class does look nice on FGW, I look forward to trying it one day.

    Glad you had a good time though!
     
  6. crehld

    crehld Established Member Associate Staff Senior Fares Advisor

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    Looks like you had a good time. It's good to splash out and enjoy yourselves once in a while and if it's only once a year then you may as well. :)

    Those first class carriages look rather plush I have to say!

    I've also been to Cardiff Bay and thought the place was great!

    I'm actually looking to go away with the missus soon, so I may just be collecting some of those bonus points ;)
     
  7. Kristofferson

    Kristofferson Member

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    Thanks Tech - I was very jealous of your bargain price at Malmaison, as I thought £139 was a good rate for a decent hotel in central London!

    Cheers crehld - 10 bonus points are on their way ;)
     
  8. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    The King of Budgeting would have said stuff it and re-arranged plans, or just carried on to Cardiff that same night, saving 139 quid!

    Still, if it was a good time then it's money well spent :) Of course, if this trip cost you as much as two First Class ALRs for a week, maybe you'll have to convince her to do that next year ;)
     
  9. Kristofferson

    Kristofferson Member

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    Got that railtour booked for one of the honeymoon days so that's progress ;)
     
  10. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    She may divorce you there and then after the tour, after all they're not the nicest of environments for a norm! ;)
     
  11. 47403

    47403 Established Member

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    Glad you both had a great time, sometimes it's nice to have a bit of a splash out, not that I could afford such luxuries but I'm sure the misus appreciated the break as much as you did. Now while tech had a minor coronary over a £15 English breakfast:lol::lol:, you cant exactly splash out on a trip like that and take the missus to a greasy spoon.
    The view from the balcony over Cadiff Bay looked really nice too.
    Great read and a quite luxurious break.
     
  12. Kristofferson

    Kristofferson Member

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    It's a Statesman Rail tour, Tech - air conditioned mk2s in "Pullman" style with dinner included, so she might even enjoy it! I'm also looking forward to the sedate 57-hauled journey :)

    Thanks 47403, glad you enjoyed the read. I do try and make it interesting :) Maybe not up to the standard of some others' reports yet, mind!
     
  13. 47403

    47403 Established Member

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    We all have our own styles, doesn't make it less interesting kris.
     
  14. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Oh it was an interesting read still, sorry if I didn't make this clear previously.

    Sounds like a good tour there if it indeed decent inside the MK2s. Never done a Statesman Rail trip so can't comment on their operations at all.

    Mr 47 is right, you can't exactly take the other half to somewhere like Spoons for breakfast. Mind you, on my 2013 Ireland trip with a norm we did Subway for breakfast almost all of the time. Not included in our room rate and it was an outrageous sum extra for breakfast so Subway just down the road won! Hopefully 2015's trip will feature better options for breakfast, pending whether it is indeed included or not in the price. Dundrum may have good options anyway!

    Fair to say me and my norm friends aren't posh! ;)
     
  15. 47403

    47403 Established Member

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    Mr 47?, Brilliant.:lol::lol::lol: i've been called some names Lord Quest of Hereford.:lol::lol::lol::lol:
     
  16. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    :lol:

    Love that, watch now it'll get used in the next trip report! ;) :p :lol:
     
  17. Kristofferson

    Kristofferson Member

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    OK chaps, here's another of my infrequent (but hopefully interesting) trip reports! It's a big 'un...

    Kris' Honeymo-on the rails

    As someone who doesn't spend much time on the rails for leisure but has a long “bucket list” of trips, what better way to spend one's honeymoon than a week of revisiting favourite railway journeys and experiencing new iconic ones? Upon approval from the missus, I get the magic plastic out [thanks for the term, Tech!] and set about booking...

    Part 1: GWR again!

    Our first trip sees a return to one of our favourite places, Cardiff Bay, although I won't go into too much detail here as the journey is largely similar to my previous report! After packing one of those infernal wheely suitcase things the night before [what a way to spend your wedding night, eh], a not-too-early start is had on Friday morning and we're hammering down the WCML on a [dud cos I've seen 'em all] 350/1 from our home station at around 10am. 45 minutes and an obligatory S7 stock from Euston Square later, we're devouring a McDonalds for breakfast in the GWR First Class lounge at Paddington.

    Our HST powers away from the station just after 12 and, despite having prepared a case full of Nintendo games, we spend the next couple of hours staring out of the window of this lightly-loaded carriage as the GWML looks particularly photogenic today:

    [​IMG]

    Arriving on time at Cardiff Central, I remember why we don't take the ATW 153 to the Bay... it departs from Queen Street, which is just as long a walk from Cardiff Central as the Bay is! We're staying at St David's again [see my previous report for the review etc!], where check-in procedures are done and we head to the room. The staff seem quite proud of the fact Madonna is responsible for the interior design of the suite we're staying in. Personally I think it's hideous, but the views across the water are worth the price of admission on alone - so I don't feel too ripped off!

    [​IMG]

    A wander, a meal, a decent night's sleep, a classy fry-up, some arcade games and two hot chocolates are had [Crema at the Millennium Centre is much better than Costa in the Red Dragon Centre] and, before we know it, we're popping into Sainsburys for a supply raid [as GWR's First Class offering is rubbish!] on our way to the station. The new booking hall at Cardiff Central is nice enough [by ATW standards] and we're back on the platform for our train home with an hour to spare.

    On a dark and cold December evening, I'm disappointed to find the opening times for the First Class lounge listed on the website are incorrect [they've since been corrected] so we perch on a bench until the train rolls in instead. Not that I mind, as I don't get to see [hear] many DMUs around my way! Wouldn't fancy travelling on those rammed 158s though...

    It turns out tonight is diversion night again on the Great Western, so the Nintendo is brought out for the extended-by-an-hour drag home. It'd be more bearable if it was light outside! Waiting at Paddington, we stand for an unusually long time [compared to my usual peak travel on the Northern line anyway!] until the next S7 rocks up and we continue our reverse journey. Euston, 350 [in the company of drunk Friday night commuters... joy], taxi up the hill etc and we're home after a busy two days! The takeaway from our local “Indian” is well deserved...

    Part 2: Highland Chieftain

    Two days after our return from Cardiff [having attended a family party on the day inbetween], it's time for our second trip. Since discovering the joys of rail travel, the Chieftain service has been near the top of my “to do” list due to its epic length and reportedly pretty destination. Having never spent 8 hours on a train before, I'm unsure of what to expect but put my trust in East Coast [sorry, Virgin Trains!] to keep me fed and drunk [sorry, watered...].

    Following the mandatory 350/2 to London and the horrible, tourist-filled, wheely-suitcase-rage-inducing stagger between Euston and Kings Cross, a quick cuppa and a couple of bacon butties from Waitrose are enjoyed in the calming East Coa... Virgin Trains lounge. Boarding time rolls round and the MTU-branded 43 290 is waiting at the platform, the Virgin Cola red looking far better in the flesh than it does in photos:

    [​IMG]

    A smooth on-time getaway from London is had and, being a midday departure, the All-Day menu is on offer. The lack of tea on departure [one of many new service trials, I'm told] is slightly grating for everyone on board... as is the fact they'd run out of beef curry before reaching Coach M! However, it's soon forgiven as an enjoyable “pulled pork” [although it's closer to pulled pork paste!] sandwich turns up around Peterborough [my missus rated the pasta too] and the scenery outside improves as the weather worsens.

    An enjoyable time is had, reclining in the comfortable seats and availing myself of the various “freebie fare” on offer - crisps, Coke, biscuits etc. Darkness falls just before Edinburgh and at this point I'm starting to flag a bit, so I pop my head out of the droplight [thank the rail gods for mk3s!] as we're restocked:

    [​IMG]

    Shortly after departure from Edinburgh, the All-Day Extra menu is brought round and I win myself a beef curry this time on the “VTEC Random Food Generator”! As it's dark outside, we decide it's acceptable to start on the grown-up beverages to make the journey more entertaining. And entertaining it is! Following a few G&Ts, we strike up conversation with a nice [equally drunk] Scottish lady and her borderline genius son [wouldn't be surprised if he starts the next Google!] which keeps us engaged and awake until Inverness arrives. We're told that there's been some spectacular scenery on the way up... hopefully we'll see it on the return journey!

    Base camp tonight is the Royal Highland Hotel, a 3-star establishment which is either fantastic or rubbish, depending which social media/review site you read. For just north of 50 quid a night, I wasn't expecting too much and it met my expectations pretty much exactly! I'll offer my thoughts after the jump and copy it into the “Accommodation” thread for future reference...

    [​IMG]

    The hotel has a very traditional/country manor feel to it, from the grand entrance hall [which supposedly inspired the Titanic's Grand Staircase] to the patterned wallpaper of the stairways and room furniture which wouldn't look out of place in my gran's house. It's not that the place was built and then never refurbished – the old fashioned look is absolutely the image that the hotel wants to project, as everything is very clean and well kept.

    The hotel restaurant serves up warming, reasonable, reasonably-priced British dishes [the haggis, neeps and tatties is damn good stodge] and the staff are friendly enough – although folk who expect 5-star service may find some of them a bit abrupt. I'll excuse the dead insect found underneath my potatoes because, let's be honest, that kind of thing happens everywhere occasionally... I was just unlucky!

    A good night's sleep is had and we pop down for breakfast, encountering some more slightly abrupt staff in reception and the breakfast hall. The morning shift also seem to be lacking training, as they couldn't identify whether or not breakfast was included in our room [it was]. The breakfast itself is one of the worst full English [full Scottish?] brekkies I've had – the bacon is way over-smoked, the sausage has probably never seen a pig and the “fruit” yoghurts were pretty much just flavoured mousse. Everything else on the plate was acceptable and I had my fill of haggis to compensate!

    [​IMG]

    Today is filled with a wander down the beautiful Inverness riverside, and around the not-so-beautiful city centre. Before heading back to the hotel, dinner is had at the “Filling Station” restaurant next to the hotel [the Scottish name for the “Coast To Coast” chain] and I'm really pleasantly surprised! We indulge in a very tasty three-course meal for under £35 [total, not each!], can't say fairer than that.

    The next morning brings an early alarm and another awkward encounter with the reception staff [have we paid? Have we not? Who cares!] as we check out of this acceptable but inconsistent hotel. The Chieftain, already patiently waiting in the platform, is ready to depart at 0755. 43 239 is at the back – not sure what was up front as I wanted to get to my seat and have a snooze!

    Rolling through the Highlands, I finally see the scenery our temporary companion waxed lyrical about and it is pretty damn spectacular. Having never seen real mountains before [I live inside the M25 to be fair], this is a most impressive journey in my eyes!

    [​IMG]

    Breakfast is the usual East Coast fry-up, now served on a plate instead of silver-served. It's still the best breakfast I've had on a train up to this point, and of the same standard as the West Coast offering. Fuelled up, I'm feeling much more awake when we arrive at Edinbugh running about 10 minutes late. There's just enough time to poke my head out for some air before we're off again!

    The Nintendo comes out for the final haul down the ECML south into London, where we emerge onto the bustling Kings Cross plaza [a culture shock after our peaceful excursion up north!]. The walk to Euston is bearable and we collapse onto a 350/3, followed by the usual taxi, for the short haul home. The trip was fantastic, but it's good to be home and greeted by the cat [we have a good cat sitter so he probably didn't miss us] for a day or so before the “main event”!

    Part 3: The main event!

    But what is the main event, you say? Why, it's a Statesman Rail tour to Edinburgh [and back in a day, crikey!] in Pullman class! Before our journey can begin, there's the small matter of a positioning move to Wolverhampton, so let's get cracking...

    After a day at home, it's now 4pm on Friday. We jump on a 350/1 to the Bat Cave [New New Street... although technically it's the third New Street since the original, so it should be New New New Street] and endure the usual, uneventful, slow crawl up a dark WCML. Arriving at New Street for the second time since its rebuild [I just can't get enough!], I evaluate our options for onward travel and make a poor decision!

    I've never experienced a CrossCountry Voyager [I do have memories of cramming into the stuffy, odd smelling shop/vestibule of a Virgin 221 on a commute once], but the horror stories are legendary.

    They're all true. All of them.

    We boarded 220 666 [the number I now use to refer to every hellish XC Voyager!] and enter the “reservations zoo”. Imagine the population of Birmingham playing Twister in a crowded elevator, and you're pretty close. Nobody knows where they're going, everyone's tripping over each other, there's shouting “is this our seat”, there's shouting “you're in my seat”, there's an endless stream of people cramming into the cabin from both ends, and there's me and the missus cowering in what is probably someone's reserved seat, hoping they chose to stay at home today.

    Thankfully, they did. Eventually the chaos subsides and we're RA to Wolverhampton. We hear the TM announce we're approaching the station, so we collect our cases and head for the vestibule ready to disembark. This is easier said than done, as we discover half a carriage's worth of people standing in the luggage racks between us and the doors! Just as the cabin door closes behind us, the train comes to a stop outside the station. Stood in a cramped, stuffy and airless space between two luggage racks with the other doomed souls, this is when I realised why my XC ticket was so cheap. I've paid for postage, not a train fare!

    After what feels like an eternity [about two minutes], we're on the move again and released into the Wolverhampton night. A quick walk past what seems to be half the BTP [is Wolverhampton that dodgy?] sees us arrive at base camp – the Wolverhampton Central Premier Inn. I'll post some pictures here to break up the wall of text, but let's be honest – everyone knows what a Premier Inn looks like, so feel free to skip!

    [​IMG]

    The air-conditioned Premier Inn room is of the usual good standard – I do prefer cheap-ish chain hotels to fancy independent ones, because you know what you're getting! The TV is also far more impressive than the “posh” hotels – a huge Samsung panel with HDMI, aux, computer inputs etc on a panel near the desk. We pop across to The Bluebrick, the Table Table restaurant which is literally attached to the hotel by a walkway, for a quick dinner. For some reason there's a terrible disco going on in the bar area, but we manage to get a quiet table in the corner for some acceptable grub. It's non-offensive, it's reasonably priced, it's Whitbread [and can't compare to my new favourite place to eat - Filling Station!].

    A great night's sleep on the comfy Hypnos mattress is had, and we rise early at 5am(!) to put on some posh clothes and make our way across to the station. Just before 6am, 47 826 chugs into the platform hauling a mixed rake of mk1s [crew and kitchen cars] and mk2s [air conditioned passenger cars] with another 47 on the back. I'll offer my thoughts on the loco and WCRC later, but for now we board coach K - “Ben Cruachan” - and take the most comfortable train seats I've ever parked my behind in!

    [​IMG]

    The Gravy Train catering crew are a friendly bunch, all looking smart in Statesman branded uniforms with epaulettes. Tea & coffee is served quickly and followed by a full English that makes VTEC's offering look like the Royal Highland's! The great quality, well cooked, sausage bacon and hashbrown put a smile on my face [alright, it wasn't just the food – seeing the APT-E as we passed Crewe Heritage Centre helped!] as the sun rises on our way through Crewe.

    Up front, the 47 is putting on a good show and the driver is treating it kindly for a smooth ride. As coach K is directly behind the loco, I take up a spot at the droplight and listen to the beastly diesel ahead...

    [youtube]WafWA8USu_4[/youtube]

    We're soon passing snowcapped mountains and over Shap, where the appearance of snowfall outside this Christmas train makes for a truly memorable experience – passing a field full of Christmas trees well and truly completed the scene!

    [​IMG]

    As we travel through the recently-repaired railway around Carlisle [with no signalling and a TSR] and the scene of some of the last fortnight's horrendous flooding, the view [and the mood!] is understandably dampened somewhat. Thankfully, we pass through just fine [with a short hold as we're looped outside Lockerbie] and continue to Edinburgh. I take the opportunity to raid the gift trolley before we arrive, and acquire a new furry friend as well as the Railfilms Statesman DVD!

    I should mention at this point that the Statesman staff are a bit like Mrs Doyle from Father Ted when it comes to tea. “More tea?” is a common refrain in the carriage – it's nice, but I'd prefer free water if anything! Charging for booze is fair enough, but charging for water grinds me gears. I make a note to stock up at Edinburgh, as my stomach begins to growl at me for drowning it in tea.

    Edinburgh soon arrives, so I join a couple of spotters down the platform end to take some photos [much to the wife's delight(!)] before heading off to the Christmas market. A nice touch offered by Statesman is that you can leave your possessions on the train while it's parked in Craigentinny TMD.

    [​IMG]

    The market itself is everything I expected – rammed to the gills, full of overpriced tat, staffed by grumpy “hired help” stall-keepers and patrolled by “hi-vis Hitlers” who seem to be short of “Christmas spirit”! Luckily we did this trip for the train, not the market, but I imagine there were a few disappointed folk! A short wander round the city [we've been here before] sees us grab a well-needed sugary beverage in Costa, watch a charity choir and hit Sainsburys for a supply raid before heading back to the station.

    When we take our seats again, the table is set for dinner – complete with Christmas crackers – and food arrives as we cruise through the lowlands. It's a 4 course dinner! On a train! Skip this section if you don't like food reviews... I'll talk railways again soon. The pork rillette starter is meaty and a bit like a really big, decent quality, sausage roll. It's followed by leek and apple soup with bread... odd but really tasty. The main meal, a roast dinner, is probably the best one will get on the rails. It can't compare to a “proper” homecooked roast - but when you consider that it has to be stored, transported and cooked on a train, it's a real achievement. Dessert is some kind of plum and berry crumble, which I accidentally ruin by pouring fancy cream on mine [it doesn't taste like the tinned stuff my mother puts on the Xmas pud!]. Luckily my other half is feeling generous and I help her finish her cream-less portion! Final course is some petit fours with yet more tea and coffee...

    [​IMG]

    Food and drink service is done by about 8, as we're looped outside Carlisle to allow some Pendos and TPE Desiros to crawl through the TSR ahead. Because it's dark outside, the couple behind us are indulging in the adult equivalent of “are we there yet” - “are we moving? I think we are.” “No dear, that's the cars on the motorway passing us”.

    About 20 minutes later, the train lurches into life [this driver doesn't quite have the finesse of the last guy...] and we're hauled forward to the first of our station calls. The delay seems to have angered the man up front, and his mood is worsened by a platform assistant who insists on checking every single door on the train [don't have a problem with that myself!] . Leaving our first station stop, the train rolls backwards slightly and is then violently jolted forwards as the driver seemingly whacks the handle all the way back and gives it the beans out of the platform. I'm sure the bashers in the coach nearest the loco were more impressed than the old couple sipping wine to our right!

    The rollbacks and lurches continue throughout the journey [the suggestion that WCRC are “heritage hooligans playing trains on the mainline” enters my mind] as I alternate between listening to music and attempting to get some shut-eye on the long trip back to Wolves. Apart from one final drinks run just north of Wolverhampton, there hasn't been any service since Carlisle [in fact, half the crew disembarked at Crewe!] so I'm glad I stocked up at the supermarket before departure! I think Statesman could definitely learn from the mainline TOCs when it comes to service schedules on long journeys...

    Wolverhampton arrives just after midnight – only 20 late which, considering the stop-start progress over Shap on the way back, is not bad at all. We thank the remaining crew and unload ourselves, being sure to take the complimentary chocolates and flowers on our way. Having been awake for 19 hours [can't remember the last time I did that] and out for 18 ½ of those, we're glad to collapse into our Premier Inn bed – not setting an alarm!

    The next morning comes around very quickly, having grabbed a good 10 hours' sleep, and we're over the station again as we plan to find breakfast at the Bat Cave. My other half suggests we board the next ATW service as it's the next train to Brum – having seen the XC-like crowds upon boarding, we [thankfully] flag that and cross over to the opposite platform where 390 138 is waiting.

    In the interests of breaking up another wall of text, I'll pop in a few last pics from the Statesman and our trip home here before continuing...

    [​IMG]

    Arriving at the Bullring's posh cousin, we head upstairs for a Costa and are entertained by an angry customer demanding that staff find him a seat before he orders [it's the McDonald's of coffee shops mate, were you expecting the Ritz?]. A quick walk past the less-than-spectacular Network Rail Christmas tree sees us back on platform 1B, where one of my last 3 required Pendos for sight rolls in [390 001] – a perfect end to the trip!

    The short haul down the WCML seems to pass in no time at all, and it's one last 350/2 then a taxi home for Christmas! Thanks all for reading, I hope it was enjoyable :)

    Merry Christmas!
    Kris
     
    Last edited: 15 Dec 2015
  18. Kite159

    Kite159 Veteran Member

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    That food looked amazing :)
     
  19. crehld

    crehld Established Member Associate Staff Senior Fares Advisor

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    Now this is a man who knows how to travel in style! Sir: I salute you!

    Nice trip report Kris. I managed to get a train journey in for our honeymoon too. Portsmouth to Bern by rail (first class of course, with three hours in Paris for lunch no less!) :) That place in Cardiff Bay looks great - well the views do anyway.

    I had my first go on the chieftain in first class earlier this year too and I enjoyed it a lot - even more so because I wasn't paying! I had cracking weather for the journey up with really helped show the scenery off. Have never been on a rail tour myself so that's something I'll have to address!
     
  20. fishquinn

    fishquinn Established Member Quizmaster

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    That sounds like an amazing few days! You were incredibly, incredibly lucky at getting 2 47s on the Statesman, something that is usually 2 57s!
     
  21. Kristofferson

    Kristofferson Member

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    Thanks chaps!

    Kite: the food was certainly amazing for the environment it was prepared in - it'd be unfair to judge it against the "real world", but if I did it'd be comparable to a regular chain restaurant :)

    Crehld: I did try and get a Rewards ticket for the Chieftain but there were none available :( I still feel the 50/60 quid advances each each way were reasonable though!

    Lord Quinn: it was awesome dude. I was expecting 57s, or a 57 and 68 as I saw it with a month or two ago.
     
  22. fishquinn

    fishquinn Established Member Quizmaster

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    Glad to hear it!
     
  23. ac6000cw

    ac6000cw Established Member

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    Great write-up :)

    Actually I'd have preferred the 57 + 68 combo, but that's mostly because I'm old enough to been around when 47's were more common than 66's are now ('oh, it's only another 47' as it rolled into New Street with blue'n'grey Mk1's in tow - how times change...)
     
  24. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Lord Kris, first of all you're welcome for the 'magic plastic' term! Second, I see we're all starting to use 'supply raid' for a stocking up trip now, you're welcome ;)

    More importantly, congratulations on getting married!

    As for your trip, wow that was a busy ol' time! Rather decent honeymoon that's for sure! The view from that hotel in Cardiff looked great, the others I'd certainly be in two minds about but I agree on Premier Inn (as will Lord BT of the Burgh) as you know what you're getting. I've done that Premier Inn, ridiculously convenient for the station!

    The Statesman tour sounds like it was generally exceptional, apart from the lacklustre service on the way back, and the rough riding mind.

    Sounds like you had a right mission enduring the Chieftain, sounds like an expensive few rounds mind! Imagine how you'd have struggled in Standard Class! ;)

    Glad to hear you had a good time, and she hasn't divorced you yet so she must have enjoyed it to some extent!

    An excellent trip report good sir, most enjoyed that read!
     
  25. Kristofferson

    Kristofferson Member

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    Cheers guys, glad I'm writing stuff you enjoy :)

    Thank you for the wedding wishes Tech, happy (belated?) birthday to you sir - I didn't make a note of it :(
     
  26. ac6000cw

    ac6000cw Established Member

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    Seconded ! :D

    So the important question - how much persuasion did you have to use to be allowed all that train riding on your honeymoon ? ;)
     
  27. Kristofferson

    Kristofferson Member

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    Thanks chap :)

    Not a lot, surprisingly! Luckily we both like UK holidays and agree that rail travel is the best way to get around. As an enthusiast, I wanted to show her that the journey could be just as enjoyable as the destination - touch wood, it worked as she's looking forward to the 14 hour West Highland Statesman next year ;)
     
  28. Blindtraveler

    Blindtraveler Established Member

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    Nowhere near enough to a Pacer :(
    I also took the Wife bashing on honeymoon. Great to read someone elses. Thanks for that, and esp the refference to Brums population playing Twister in a lift!
     
  29. Kristofferson

    Kristofferson Member

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    Glad I'm not the only one who managed to get away with it!

    You're welcome :D
     
  30. Blindtraveler

    Blindtraveler Established Member

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    Nowhere near enough to a Pacer :(
    We also stayed in Premier inns and ate pub food and indeed Supermarket Café food once.
     
  31. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Cheers good sir, I had a bloody good meal and 3 beers when I got in from work so it sure ended well!:lol:
     
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