Day 19 – Sat 14 May 2005 – Back to London

Caught the 1100 GNER service to London (Kings Cross). It’s quite a long train with the only unbooked seats being in the last carriage, which is empty. Hope it stays that way all the way to London!

Edinburgh railway station

Unlike the Virgin train it doesn’t tilt, so you feel the curves more at high speed. It heads out of the station in the opposite direction from what I was expecting. The station is east-west oriented, rather than north-south as I had imagined. Quite a fast ride as we head out of Edinburgh’s suburbs, which look relatively new, quite well kept and pleasant. It meets and runs along the coast and through flat countryside sprinkled with farms and copses of trees.

Running alongside the east coast

Went through Dunbar, a pretty little town with the usual semi-detached houses and a few ‘normal’ bungalows. Unlike in London, buildings look new, newly renovated or newly painted. The train runs very close to the coast. I can see beaches, headlands and lighthouses, on what is an absolutely gorgeous day.

The train winds through low hills with farms, fields, trees and that yellow-flowered shrub that was also common in Ireland. It runs along the tops of cliffs and down to the water’s edge. A few trailer/caravan parks and the odd ruined chapel break the monotony as we slow down to stop at Berwick-on-Tweed.

Crossing the Tweed back into England

There’s quite a lot of beaches just past Berwick. There’s also a group of Scottish yobbos on board who apparently can’t survive a morning rail journey without getting stuck into bottles of ale. Once over the border and into England the countryside gets a quality of sameness about it. It’s like the freeway from Albury to Melbourne, but far less interesting. Just flat or undulating countryside with the odd non-descript township.

The yobbos get off at Newcastle. To the east is the river / ship canal, crossed by the Newcastle-on-Tyne bridge, a four lane rehearsal for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There’s also a railway bridge in the style of Brisbane’s Storey Bridge. Hmmm, Bradfield (the Australian engineer responsible for the two Oz mega-structures) must have visited here.

York Cathedral peeking over the tree-tops

Durham and York are two further cities we pass. Both have fine looking cathedrals. York is smaller than I imagined and has an unusual railway station. There’s a line that comes in from our left from the east (probably from Scarborough) and the station platform is on the inside of that curving line. our line joins it about half way along the platform. There’s a train already at the platform on the Scarborough side of the junction. It looks really weird to slide into the platform just ahead of it.

At York quite a few people get on the train and one guy sat opposite me, separated from me by a table. For some reason I found him distinctly irritating. I think his mother must have been a Cliff Richard fan as he had a very similar ‘look’. He had the habit of breathing very audibly and maintaining an intense focus on whatever he was doing at the time. Took literally about 25 minutes to set himself up comfortably. Fart-arsed about with a personal CD player for ages, then began reading a book while listening, then decided he didn’t like the CD he had on and meticulously went through his collection to select a more satisfying title. He ended up listening to Norah Jones, so I s’pose his taste is not all that bad. Had all his chattels – sunglasses, CD, book, CD pack, etc – laid out with great neatness on the table in front of him. Maybe I’m becoming a grumpy old man. Nah, this was provoked!

Kensington Gardens and/or Hyde Park

Last stop before London was Peterborough. a few dodgy looking types get on the train (apparently Peterborough is something of a shopping shrine) including a whole family of loud skanks (and that’s being complimentary). Final run into London goes through Hatfield and Potters Bar (of aviation manufacturing fame) and into Kings Cross station. The latter is smaller than I expected, but it is also right next to St Pancras station.

The tube is now an old friend. I catch a Circle Line train to Bayswater and sit opposite a middle aged American couple. Why do Americans, particularly of that age, have to openly articulate every thought that goes through their head? Got to the hotel, the Thistle in Kensington, opposite Hyde Park. The area (Queensway, Kensington and Bayswater seems reasonably upmarket. In spite of that, and as if almost to balance it out, there are numerous Aussie tourists in the foyer.

The roofs of London from my hotel room (looking to the right)

Many hotel staff in London are Eastern European. So are many of the tourists, so that makes sense. The one at reception at the Thistle tries genuinely and almost painfully hard, but is very confused. Booked me in under someone else’s name to start with, then said ‘Bear with me a moment’ about 20 times as he went through various antics to correct the error on their system.

Sorted it all out and ended up in an OK single room with an interesting view of London rooftops to the north. Had a big evening meal by my standards – minestrone soup, omelette and apple pie – then decided I wanted to gorge myself on chocolate washed down with soft drink; with the expected results the next day.

More London roofs (looking to the left)

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