Royal Edinburgh Diamond Jubilee Military Tattoo

Edinburg Diamond Jubilee Military Tattoo

August 3 – 5, 2012

And Fringe Festival

            Years ago, my husband and I did a two week tour of Scotland.  It was in late July (I remember being outside Oban at some Highland Games and needing to buy a blanket to throw over me and stay warm on August 1) and we started our tour in Edinburg.  As we are wandering the old city and walking the Royal Mile, we keep seeing adverts for the Military Tattoo.  Didn’t know what it was but it looked like something we were going to be sorry we missed.  Missed it by just a few days.  That said, we headed north and ended up in Inverness where they have a smaller and more home-y version of the Tattoo.  We were lucky enough to score some tickets and enjoyed it very much.  We decided should the occasion ever arise, we’d go to the mother of all Tattoos, the Edinburg Military Tattoo.

Luckily, I remembered all this so now that we are living in England, I started checking for the Tattoo and discovered we could get there on one of our spare weekends.  Unfortunately, I didn’t look in time so the only seats left for my time frame were the super duper expensive VIP seats.  Oh well, what is expatriate pay for if you can’t splurge on some host country events every once in a while.  Went for the cheap flights though which meant we were going to have to get up about 3 a.m. to drive to Gatwick to catch our flight out on Saturday morning.  My hubby surprised me by suggesting we just stay at the airport on Friday night then we wouldn’t have to get up so early.  Wow, ok by me.

Being in the VIP section means we had to wear nice clothes, coat and tie for hubby and no jeans and T shirt for me.  Probably I figured that also meant no tennis shoes either so we packed accordingly and headed to the Marriott Courtyard at Gatwick on Friday night.  I found a park and fly program with them and we could leave our car there and pick it up when we returned.  Only problem was, we fly out of Gatwick and fly into Heathrow.  Well, there are buses and it was still cheaper to do this than take our favorite taxi man.

Cats taken care of with our housekeeper and away we go.  No worries for Friday night.  Everything fine.  And we don’t have to get up too early so get to the airport without a problem.  Well, if we are complaining about anything, the shuttle bus from the Marriott dropped us about as far as possible from the terminal and it was raining but there is a covered walkway.  Just a minor hiccup.

No problems dropping off our bag and then we get to security.  My husband has his stuff on the belt and walks through the scanner.  I am right behind him when the security guy looks at my boarding pass and says, “OH, British Airways has cancelled some of the morning flights to Edinburg.”  HUH.  Why didn’t the ticket counter lady mention it??  Another security person runs over and takes my boarding pass and runs off with it to see if this is one of the flights that has been cancelled.  My poor husband in the meantime is standing on the other side of security and wondering what I have done now to delay me.  (I am always getting stopped by security for one thing or another – NEVER anything to do with security but always something to do with where we are traveling and they are just curious and want to ask questions!!)  They send me through the scanner and then we wait for the lady to come back with my boarding pass to see if all is kosher and fine and dandy.  Luckily it was and apparently our flight is going to fly this morning.  Whew.  Dodged one there.

Nothing special about hanging out in Gatwick for a bit and then go get on the plane and away we go.  The flight is only an hour but the flight attendants diligently served breakfast.  We fly a lot.  We fly British Airways a lot.  This was the worst meal I have ever had with them, bar none.  The roll could have been used as a weapon, it was so hard.  If it were thrown and actually hit someone, it could have done some serious damage.   The eggs and sausage and ham and mushroom and tomato all looked and tasted like they were left over from the nuclear bomb scares of the 1950s when everyone was encouraged to store food for nuclear attacks (and a lot of the powdered packaged stuff showed up around then).  Someone was cleaning out their underground bunker and sold all the powdered food to BA.  Sorry British Airways, I know you can do so much better.  Oh well, wasn’t really hungry anyway.

Landed fine in Edinburg and got our checked bag and decided that the best way to get to our hotel would be by taxi.  The bus going into town just didn’t seem to go close enough to the hotel and I never like to walk up and down hills with my suitcases.  We get a nice lady at the taxi desk that logs us into the system and then says, “Let me take you to your car”.  She proceeds to walk us out of the airport, through the car parking garage, around a few corners and across some walkways until we finally get to a semi-remote car park with some taxis sitting there.  It was a good 5 minute walk.  Wow, she must get some good exercise during the week.

Before we left the airport, we spent a good amount of time standing in front of the tourist brochures and collecting various brochures for my trip in September when I am bringing a friend of mine up here.  She’s never been so thought I should grab tours and such to help plan the trip.  Now we are armed with about 3 pounds of brochures.  Did NOT see on any of the brochures anything about the Royal Yacht Britannia which is moored in Edinburgh.  Had totally forgotten about it but we passed one sign on the way into town that said it was “that a way”.  I thought you could do tours of it but perhaps I am mistaken since no brochures.  Poo.

Pulled into the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa at 9:45 a.m.  I had paid 20 pounds extra to get a “Club room” so we could use the club room for breakfast and have access to a computer and also have drinks and snacks when we wanted.  And the Sheraton delivered!!  At 9:45 a.m. they gave us our room immediately and we checked into the hotel.  I love fancy hotels where no matter what time of day you turn up, they give you a room.  I once arrived at 5:00 a.m. at the Intercontinental in Dubai and got my room right away.  Just perfect.

Went to our room and we have a view of the castle.  Admittedly, from this view, it doesn’t look very castle like, more like a bunch of old buildings on top of the hill but still, it was a view.  We are also looking out on Festival Square which has an area set up in front of a huge screen and people can sit and watch the Olympics.  There were a couple dozen people sitting out there this morning already.  Cycling was on.  Plus there was a Cadbury booth out there with people able to play some kind of game and win prizes, was never sure what it was.

Took advantage of our Club Room immediately and went to the lounge to plan our day.  Turns out, the Edinburg Fringe Festival is also happening.  Lots of programs and plays and spoofs and buskers and all sorts of things out in the street.  How lucky for us.  Once we hit Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada during a similar festival.  Just by chance now we’ve hit another one so it’s given us something to do today.  And we had a much better breakfast in the club room.

Time to hit the streets.  We had a map from the front desk that showed us how to get to the High Street, also known as the Royal Mile.  It’s probably the best known street in Edinburg in that it goes from the castle at the top of the hill to Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the hill.  There are tons of shops and restaurants along the street, churches and cathedrals, small hidden closes (little streets that end in a courtyard of some sort usually) and mews (kind of the same), and bars, and today, buskers as well!!!  Exciting.

We walk out through the people watching the Olympics.  They are sitting on low folding picnic chairs and there are a bunch of beanbags in front for the kids.  We head up to the crosswalk and turn down the street towards the castle and run into a farmers market right away.  Wow.  Wish I had known about this and we could have just gotten some fresh bread and cheese for breakfast.  Up the hill past the rocks that serve as the base of the castle.  My hubby looks up and contemplates that they would be easy to climb for a free climber.  Yes, they would but also easy to defend from the ramparts above us.

We choose not to climb up the steep stairs that go to the castle but continue up the sidewalk and round the bend into the high street which is thronged with hundreds of people milling around and moving in and out of shops and up and down the street.  There is only one block of car traffic and then the street is closed for the fringe festival.  We wade into the horde and move downstream to see what we can find.  We are also looking for The Real Mary’s Kings Close which a brochure has advised us has an underground Edinburg tour.  We like the offbeat and odd kind of tours.  Have done ghost tours and underground tours and haunted tours and murder tours and such in many cities and while sometimes they are a bit stretched to fit the genre, usually they are interesting enough and fun and worth our time and money.

It’s several blocks down the street but we find it and go into the Close to get some tickets.  Unfortunately, the first available time is about 1 ½ hours away so we decide to go tomorrow as we will have a long day available before our flight home.  That done, we head out to find some entertainment.

A lot of the fringe festival consists of people advertising for afternoon and evening shows.  The advertising consists of everything from tabloids of people in freeze mode to characters dressed in period costume to musicians to acrobats to some protesters as well.  Mostly there are people trying to hand you a flyer with every few steps you take.  There was no need for us to take any flyers since we are booked for this evening but it was quite hard to fend off the flyer people.  My husband ended up with a handful of flyers before we figured out that shaking our head and saying “we’re booked” would make them back off.

Passed a large tabloid of people dressed in what looked like Les Miserables costumes and they were all lined up in a “scene” which they had “frozen” while their flyer people were frantically handing out flyers to entice people to come and see the show.  Never did figure out exactly what their show was but they were interesting looking.  Hubby is doing camera duty today as my purse was too heavy to carry the camera as well J

There are some covered mimes, the men and women who paint themselves silver or gold and then stand like a statue until enough people have stopped for them to do their little performance.  Later we saw one who was dressed in small square mirrors.  That was a new one.  We stopped with a crowd gathered around a woman who was doing juggling but had, as well, a volunteer from the audience who was checking out her straight jacket.  Figuring this busker would be escaping from the straight jacket, we stood there to watch.  She was entertaining enough but sometimes it takes them forever to get through their patter to get to the good part.  Guess that’s part of it, you need good patter so people will give you money.  Always thought it a very hard way to make a living and yet some people do quite well from being a busker.

Her volunteer put the straight jacket on her and before tying her hands behind her, she climbed up on his shoulders as a part of her act.  She didn’t look like she weighed too much but his legs were shaking as she was standing on him.  She jumps down and he wraps a chain around her and pulls it tight and locks it.  Patter, patter, patter, yada, yada, yada.  And then she starts her wriggling and twisting and such until she is able to get one hand over her head and then is able to go from there with jumping and wriggling and such to finally get totally out of the straight jacket and the chains.  Good show and she was entertaining.  A man in a cloth dalek costume was standing watching as well so hubby got some photos of him too.

We wandered on and passed some young men doing headstands on the cobblestones, ouch!  A lady in court dress posing for photos.  Some hip hop singers on a stage.  Some green aliens with long fingers.  A couple of balloon animal makers.  An early Scotsman in a very early kilt with his sword and shield.  A tourist Scotsman in a leather kilt.  That was a bit odd and unsettling.  Some bad*ss Scotsman.  And every few feet, someone trying to hand us a flyer.

We decide not to walk all the way down the hill to the Palace because that means walking back up the hill!  We are wise beyond belief.  We cross the street to start working our way back to the castle and find some lunch somewhere.  Finally we head into Deacon Brodies Tavern and squirm through the bar crowd to climb the stairs to the restaurant.  We are third in line to get a seat and the hostess tells the first couple it’s about 10 minutes and the second group of 5 would be ½ hour and they leave.  It’s a rather small restaurant of about 20-30 tables depending on the configuration.  The first couple gets in and we wait another 10 minutes and get a table.

There are three ladies working tables and one barmaid and they are all running as fast as they can but unfortunately, don’t seem to be very well organized.  Took another 10 minutes before they took our order and then three tables of people who arrived after us all received their food before us.  We didn’t have anything fancy that took a long time to cook so think our order was momentarily lost.  As our breakfast had been rather late, I just went for a couple of starters.  My hubby spied the “shrimp scampi” advertised on the menu as “shrimp scampi with the tail on”.   One of our rules to live by is “remember where you woke up this morning” meaning what you think you know from where you grew up or live in the states or whatever, could be totally different in another place.   My starters were just as I expected but my husband’s shrimp scampi with the tail showed up on his plate as deep fried and breaded shrimp balls.  According to many cookbooks, shrimp scampi is never breaded and deep fried but oh well.  He ate it and it was at least real shrimp and not mystery fish trying to pretend it is shrimp.  Still, we weren’t that pleased with the restaurant at the end.  Too long to get seated, too long to get an order taken, food not as advertised and too long to get the bill at the end.

Back outside, it is going on 3 p.m. and we have the late show at the Tattoo so we had decided that we would do a nap in the afternoon in order to stay awake for the show.  We continue up the hill back towards the hotel and pass another busker in the same place where we had stopped for our lady busker before lunch.  He was also doing a straight-jacket escape.  Hmm.  That busker location must specialize in straight jacket escapes and there must be a lot of people who know how to do it.  Stop in for some ice cream and then go down the steep stairs back to the hotel.

There are more people sitting outside watching the Olympics now but I think we will be able to nap without worrying anyway.  Inside and to the room and drapes closed and temperature cool and a few minutes of kindle reading and then we are asleep.

Alarm goes off way too soon.  We are about to start on our Royal Military Tattoo experience.  So far the weather has been holding and it looks good for this evening too but maybe a bit chilly.  We are dressed and ready to go by 7   but we don’t need to be at the Scotch Whiskey Experience until 8.  Maybe we should get a taxi because I can’t walk far in heels but decide instead to do an “Ascot” where I carry my good shoes until time to slip into them and walk the distance in my tennies.  Have to get some safety pins from the concierge too because my skirt is too large and in danger of falling down.  No, unfortunately, don’t think I have lost weight, just tried on the skirt without the requisite proper “undergarments”.  Wow, what a difference.

As we are early, we sit in the chairs in the park and watch the Olympics for a while.  Then we trudge up the hill to The Scotch Whiskey Experience where I whisk out my VIP tickets and we head into the Amber Restaurant for dinner.  First off, we get a dram of whiskey.  It was a brand I’ve never heard of before but not that unusual for Scotland as every loch, glen, island, and village distills whiskey.  It was 10 year old and tasty but not the best we’ve ever had.  Supposedly there was a whiskey expert at our disposal as well but although I asked our waitress several times if we could talk to him, he never materialized.  Maybe he’d been enjoying his work a little too much today.

Our meal included a bottle of wine and a bottle of water and a starter, a main, and a dessert.  I had the asparagus tartlet with an egg benedict which was very, very, very yummy.  Excellent choice on my part.  Hubby went with the shredded duck which came in a small ramekin but it was pretty much a solid chunk of duck in duck fat and he didn’t care for it.  Again, “remember where you woke up this morning”.  He got the lamb for dinner and I got the fillet of beef.  Again, mine was delicious and his was too so better choices there.  But I can’t eat a lot of beef without getting stuffed to the gills so don’t think I did the meal justice.  I was only able to eat about half.  Really would have liked a doggy bag on this one.  Finally for dessert, I had some Scottish dessert that I can’t remember what it is called but it was a whipped crème with berries and oats, I think, swirled in it.  Again, delicious.  My honey had the chocolate mess which was a dark brownie with some fruit puree with it.  For once, I think I made the better food choices on this trip.  At the end, tea and coffee.

Finally it is time to be escorted to our seats.  There are three couples waiting to head over to the Tattoo.  We skip all the queues and head for a set of stairs to take us to the VIP seats.  He asks if we want the elevator and I stupidly say, No, we can do the stairs not realizing until too late that it’s about 6 flights.  I don’t think the other guests were too happy with me.  We are escorted to our seats which have a tartan blanket for our knees and a gift bag which consists of a Tattoo pin, two DVD’s of 2011 and 2010 Tattoos and the program.  I thought we would be able to purchase the tattoo tartans at the event but was told they were at the Tattoo shop.  She gave me an extra lap rug though for my shoulders.

The field below us is full of people heading to their seats and also a good number of men in kilts posing for preshow photos.  Edinburg castle is the backdrop at the end of the field with a tunnel opening into it and lit by fire torches on the ramparts.  It’s all very dramatic looking.  The master of ceremonies (never did see from where he was speaking) starts his warm up patter with the welcome and does a little “where is everyone from” by applause.  The VIP section is filing with two groups.  One group seems to be visitors like us but they are dressed way better than we are.  Evening dresses and suits and led by a gentleman in uniform with medals and a bright red coat and huge hat.  They settle in and I notice a couple of women standing on the stairs right below the VIP section.  They are dressed in what I would call “best raggedy camouflage”.

The other VIP group are Scotsmen and they are all dressed in their best kilts but mostly all black which I didn’t realize that kilts came in solid black thinking that all of them had to have a tartan of some sort.  They are totally kilted out with all the accessories including the knife in the sock.  None of their women are in tartan though.  Ah well, it will be dark up here for most of the show so no one will know we are underdressed.

The Tattoo started with a bit of Scottish history in the two ladies previously standing in front of the VIP box in ragged clothes and dirt on their faces ran down to join others on the field as the first Scots, or rather Picts.  Well, it just got better and better from there.  Admittedly, this Tattoo was a bit different than prior years because they were adding some Diamond Jubilee celebrations into it.  And for me, there wasn’t near enough drums and pipes.  I’d have been happy had the whole thing been drumming and bagpipes but they had a lot of guest artists to celebrate the Jubilee and each act was excellent and well performed and also warmly welcomed by all 8,500 of us in the audience.  No empty seats here.

Performers included guests from South Africa, Canada, Australia, the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band, Switzerland, and the King of Norway’s Guards Band and Drill Team.   And of course there was a dozen or more different Battalions and Regiments of Dragoons and Highlanders and the Black Watch of Scotland.  Just so many excellent drummers and bagpipers and dancers and bands.  It was all glorious from the first massed pipes and drums that marched out of the castle tunnel onto the parade grounds to the last bit of fireworks and the Lone Piper on the ramparts and the marching off under our stands at the end to clear the field.  Just wonderful.

I think my favorite (besides the massed pipes and drums) was the Top Secret Drum Corps.  This was a group from Switzerland, and a small group, but so very, very talented.  These drummers did a lot of fancy drumstick work where they flipped and tossed drumsticks and hit on each other’s drums and then their drums started lighting up and flickering as they drummed even more furiously with their shared sticks and shared drum skins.  It was wonderful.

My other favorite group (again, besides the massed pipes and drums) was His Majesty the King of Norway’s Guards Band and Drill Team.  These men (couldn’t tell if there were any women in the group) were excellent in their precision drilling with their rifles and marching and intricate weaving of their rows and throwing and tossing their rifles and up and down and over the shoulder and a shot in the air (which startled us all).  Very impressive precise work.

My absolute favorite though of course are the massed pipe and drum bands.  Just can’t beat a good set of bagpipers and drummers going to town.  When we saw the Tattoo in Inverness, we heard the lone pipe play The Sands of Kuwait which I thought was hauntingly lovely. Sad to realize that was in the 90’s after the Gulf War I.  This time the piper played The Crags of Tumbledown which I didn’t like as much but the Lone Piper section of the program is always brilliant.

When the finale came around, they did a piece to Queen Elizabeth II where the “crown” was carried through the massed performers into the castle.  Then the National Anthem, fireworks with “Diamonds are Forever” and ending with Auld Lang Syne which is sung much differently than I learned it.  Then slowly the groups march out and it is, sadly, over.  Didn’t seem to take that long and we stayed awake without a problem in spite of the late time.

We had a small reception behind the VIP seats with canapés and champagne or whiskey.  My honey chose to go for the whiskey and it upset his stomach so we didn’t stay long, basically long enough for a brief chat with the lady who was in charge of one of the groups of dancers who was quite pleased that we had enjoyed it and then time for me to change my shoes and head down the hill to the hotel.

Supposedly our VIP ticket would allow us to use the steep stairs to cut off some of the walk but they had the stairs blocked and wouldn’t let anyone use them which seemed a bit stupid but whatever.  We joined the crowd of people thronging the streets and headed for the hotel.  When we got to our hotel, there was a large crowd of people in line for taxis.  Thank goodness we only have to go up to the 7th floor and nowhere else.  Wonderful evening.

We didn’t have to check out until 12 so we slept in but were both slowly awake by a bit after nine.  I was feeling less than top notch.  I am not a late bird I guess and anything past about 10 p.m. turns me into a pumpkin and apparently a rotten pumpkin at that.  Our flight was not leaving Edinburgh tonight until 8:30 p.m., putting us into Heathrow at 9:45 p.m. upon which we would then have to take a national express bus over to Gatwick to pick up our car at the hotel.  Yuck.  The more I thought about it, the less I wanted to do it or wait that long.  Just wanted to get home to my kitties.  So I hit the club lounge and started seeing if there were possibilities to changing our airline ticket. That was a laugh and a half as the price to change to an earlier flight was about double what it cost to fly up here in the first place.  How ridiculous.  So I went ahead and checked us into our flight.  I investigated just buying new tickets on Flybe or another cheap airline but it was still going to be over 400 pounds.  No way.  I may be extravagant sometimes but this was a bit much even for me.  So I figured we were stuck…  Well, wait. What about a bus or train?  Started checking those out.  A train was doable but to get home before our flight and make it worthwhile, we needed to forgo our underground tour and leave by 1 p.m. or so.  Turns out this was OK with my hubby because he does like to spoil me and he really didn’t want to wait that late either.  For some reason, we were just “done” with Edinburgh.  Lovely city that I like a lot but we had come for the Tattoo and it was over so I felt like we were done and I was ready to go.

Booked tickets on line for the 1 p.m. train and reserved some seats which didn’t look like they would be next to each other but they were.  Asked for forward facing seats which we didn’t get.  I hate riding backwards in a train and have been known to get carsick doing that.  Also needed to get the train from London Victoria to Gatwick (although I thought I was getting a bus) and then we are packed up and ready to head for the train station.

Oh, should mention that when we got up, it was raining.  There was no one outside watching the Olympics on the big screen but there was a resistance pool set up in the square and a couple of different people were trying it out when we looked at different times.  We also heard that we were extremely lucky with our weather as both the first two nights (including ours) had been clear.  Last year, it had rained every night on the Tattoo but they never cancel.

So we are off to the train station via taxi that drops us at the far end and took us a minute to figure out where the entrance was.  According to my instructions, we could pick up our tickets 2 hours after I placed the order which would make it 12:30.  We headed into the train ticket office instead and she was able to print out our tickets immediately.  She said they were good for any time of day on any train but since we didn’t have reserved seats for any other train, we’d be hard pressed to find seats next to each other on the 12:30 train because it was crowded.  We thought we’d try anyway.

Went to the platform stopping at a Marks and Spencer food shop for some lunch and then to platform 2 to wait.  It wasn’t too crowded but it got more and more so until by 12:30, it was heaving with people waiting for the train.  When the train pulled into the station, we could see that it was going to be difficult indeed  and probably impossible to find seats next to each other and maybe even impossible to find seats so we left the platform to go wait for our scheduled train and reserved seats at 1 p.m.

Wow, that train was sitting on the tracks just waiting for everyone.  As we found our seats in coach B, I was pretty sure I was going to be facing backwards.  I found a seat facing forward that only had one reservation tag on the seat of two so we sat there until the train was left and no one came to claim the seat so it looked like we could stay there.  The train went to Newcastle first and by the time we got there, it was pouring rain, hard.  Last month, Newcastle had serious flooding and a rather soaked lady who got on there said it was the same kind of rain and her husband had to detour around flooded roads to get home.  Gulp.  We got lucky and no one arrived at Newcastle to claim this seat so I am happily riding facing forward still.

On to Durham which had some lovely looking cathedral buildings, minister type, and possibly a castle.  Wow, didn’t know so many villages had huge cathedrals.  This looks like a good place to come visit.  I’ll have to add it to our list which keeps growing rather than shrinking.  The conductor comes onto the loudspeaker and says the train is being held for a bit at Durham and he doesn’t know why because no one is talking to him.  He sounds rather plaintive and we all enjoy a laugh with him over his predicament which then becomes our predicament as the train has brake problems.  I LIKE trains to have working brakes.  I think it’s rather important.  We pull out of Durham station but we are going rather slow and the engineer keeps trying the brakes, either to make sure they are still working or to keep our speed low enough that we could all jump off the moving train if necessary.

Well, a nice leisurely ride was not to be had as the engineer announces that we are all going to have to change trains in Darlington as this one is going into service for the brakes.  Poo.  So when we pull into Darlington, everyone piles off the train.  We’ve been told to take the 12:29 (coming along right behind us) from Darlington, stopping at York and then into London’s King’s Cross station.  Most of the people on our train must have been going to one or the other.  At first, the boards say stay on the same platform but then they change our platform to #4 so everyone starts moving over there.  I think we’ll be smart and go to the end where not many people like to walk all that way.  BUT when the train comes into the station, it is not nearly as long and we have to run back up the platform.  I skip the first three coaches as there is too big of a crowd trying to get on the train and hop onto the train at the fourth carriage I come to and there are two seats still available.  I was super-duper extra lucky on that because one seat had a young woman who was just really slow at removing her gear from the other seat.  My hubby plopped down there and I went to get the other seat that I could see.  It was a facing backwards seat but there was just enough room on the luggage rack overhead to stuff my suitcase and then hubby and I changed seats as he doesn’t mind traveling backwards.

A lot of people are standing at the ends of the carriage.  OH, I am so happy we found seats.  I remember years ago when my daughter and I were doing a grand tour of Europe and had first class reserved seats in Ireland for a train that never came.  By the time a train did come, it was packed and crowded and so full of humanity that we had to stand between cars for about 2 hours and nobody cared that we had first class reserved seats.  I am so glad this didn’t happen to me this time.  As we reached York and a few people detrained, a couple came up to the seats in front of us and tried to claim them as their reserved seats.  They probably were their seats but none of the stranded passengers from our first train were giving up seats where they had their butts firmly entrenched.  Good luck even finding the conductor to try and enforce any reserved seat status.

From there on into London’s Kings Cross station.  It was crowded and busy but not overly so from the Olympics or visitors.  We detrained and found our way to the underground.  Hubby thought maybe our tickets would get us through to London Victoria so we asked someone official looking hovering at an underground map and she squinted at our tickets and said she thought so.  Away to the underground and it did let us into the turnstiles so we are sitting pretty on the underground about 4 hours ahead of landing had we flown.

Problem at London Victoria though.  Our tickets would not let us out of the underground.  Mine read “seek assistance”.  My hubby’s probably read that as well but he didn’t see it so as I turn to him to say, we’re screwed, he kicks the turnstile gates.  OMG.  Don’t break the gates!  It would probably cost a lot of money to either fix or get bailed out of the hoosegow for unseeming conduct in the underground or whatever they would charge him with.  He just thought they were stuck.

We walk over to the security guard at the handicapped gates and I hand him my ticket and say, “It won’t let us out” fully expecting him to direct us to a machine somewhere to pay for an underground ticket.  He sighs, heavily, and says “this is a national railroad ticket and it won’t work on the underground.  You should have bought an underground ticket” and then opens the gate for us to exit.  Wow, I’ll take a small scolding anyway.  Guess he thought we were some dumb Americans come to see the Olympics and he’s probably been having to let a lot of them out of the underground because there was no place inside to top up a ticket or buy one if you’d made it onto the subway, like we did, without a ticket.  Hmmm.  Their system isn’t totally foolproof then.

Hubby thinks that our next set of tickets is for the train to Gatwick and I think it is a bus but we find a helpful clerk who says it is a train and if we hurry to platform 13, we can make the next train.  Away we go and we have about a minute to jump on and find a seat and start moving to Gatwick.  Once there, we arrive at the South Terminal.  We are feeling that we need to tell British Airways that we have arrived in London without their help and please do not wait for us in Edinburgh as we are checked in but obviously we aren’t going to get on the flight.  Did not know that British Airways does NOT have a presence in the South Terminal but we had to take the shuttle over to the North Terminal.  We get into the special assistance line and are waited on fairly quickly.  The terminal seems a bit dead and quiet.  Not many flights going out on Sunday evening I guess.  The man listens to me explain and then says, in quite a stern and loud and commanding voice, “Follow ME!”  OMG, we are in trouble and I think he’s going to take us into the back room and whack the soles of our feet or something but turns out he’s just not up to speed on what to do when someone has already checked in for a flight and they want to cancel.  He gives us to a lady who does the tappity tappity for 5 minutes on the computer and says, all set.  Thank you very much.

Almost home.  We have to find the bus back to the hotel and pick up our car which we accomplish without too much hassle and then home in time to watch the Olympics and see Bolt win the 100 meter!  What a great weekend.


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