Judging by this picture of a London bus, it’s time to buy swimwear again.
Not me, as I don’t swim. And the advert wouldn’t apply to me personally, as I’m a man.
My late wife, C, was a manic and enthusiastic swimmer to say the least and every day before work, she’d swim umpteen lengths in the pool at Bedford Lodge Hotel in Newmarket. She used to wear out Speedo Endurance swimsuits regularly, and I used to watch eBay for when last year’s models were sold off for here. Do professional swimmers have suits and trunks made out of something more long-lasting, or does the sponsor just pay?
I remember in 2007, which was the year she died, that C decided she needed some summer clothes and that of course meant swimwear. Since her breast cancer a few years before, she always felt that she must look the best fifty-year-old on the beach, not out of vanity, but more to stick two fingers up to the cancer. Although, she was probably two polite to do that other than metaphorically.
So she bought tickets on easyJet and one Friday in April we took the plane to Nice and checked in at the Hotel Windsor, which is much recommended. We had a marvellous weekend in the sun.
It was the first of seven holidays that we took in that fateful year before she died in December of a cancer totally unrelated to that in her breast.
My biggest memory of that holiday, is that C decided to buy a couple of bikinis for the summer. So we headed to Gallerie Lafayette and for a couple of hours, she tried on most that were suitable in the shop, whilst I passed what I thought might be suitable or a different size over the door of the changing room. It was a difficult job, but someone had to do it. They got hard work that last summer she was alive.
The picture shows C on the beach on the island of Panarea. I think you can just see that she was wearing nail polish, something she rarely did except on holiday.
It has just been announced that Thalys is now running fast through to Amsterdam. So I looked up and see if I could book from Ebbsfleet to Rotterdam for a reasonable price at a reasonable speed. I actually would go to Den Haag, but couldn’t find that on the Eurostar web site. Or should I say, I could find it, but I couldn’t book it!
In mid-January, I have found that I could do the trip in three hours and forty-seven minutes for a return cost of £127.50 with a credit charge of £3.
So how does that compare to easyJet?
easyJet on the same days costs £47.98 with a charge of £8 for the credit card.
The parking at Ebbsfleet and Stansted are about the same and I suspect you can get them for about £70, with perhaps an extra tenner for diesel for Ebbsfleet. And then you have the trains at the other end, which would both be just a few Euros.
As to time, the flight takes about five hours door-to-door and the train takes about six and a half.
So is it a no-brainer to take the plane?
No! I hate airports and all of the ridiculous rules. Not all are security too!
So it is perhaps why I actually prefer to take the boat. The last trip, I used Stena from Harwich and because I had a problem with the Lotus, I came back the same way. It is not really such a long trip in terms of time, as I would do Harwich-Hook overnight. But then coming back, you have the annoying delay, whilst they keep you on board, so you might have breakfast. I don’t, as their offerings are not gluten-free!
I normally go over using Norfolk Line from Dover to Dunkirk, which usually takes about eight hours door-to-door. That may be a lot slower, but I can fill the car with all the goodies that expats can’t get in Holland. And I can also take my Brompton!
Cost of the ferry is usually about £60 with perhaps about the same amount for diesel. I know that calculating the cost of motoring on the fuel cost is not valid, but it is the way we always add it up!
So perhaps, the easiest and most relaxing way is to drive via Dover. At least you get a nice break on the boat and can listen to BBC Radio 5 Live all of the way. And it’s only three hours slower than the plane.
I took the one flight home from Amsterdam and although you’ve called it outbound it was inbound for me, as I live half-an-hour north of Stansted.
I try to avoid Schipol, despite visiting Den Haag fairly often.
Lately though, I have been driving using Norfolk Line, as I usually go for four to five days and bring all sorts of goodies that Holland doesn’t have. I’m also a coeliac and stock up with things like Dr. Schar’s bread-mix which are unavailable in the UK. This is much easier in a car.
But it is Schipol that really annoys me. The easyJet gate at Schipol is a long walk and is distinctly unfriendly with no seats. I also always take a laptop and find the security annoying.
So there is nothing wrong with easyJet, it is just Schipol, which compared to Stansted is distinctly passenger unfriendly. Especially for people like me, who never buy anything in the shops.
I should also add, that your new big box crisps looked nice, but nowhere in the guide did it say whether they were gluten free or not. If you said what was, you might sell more. As it is I only just buy a coffee and no food.
Looking at my travel folder, I notice that I haven’t used easyJet from Schipol since April the eleventh. I think in that time, I’ve perhaps driven about four times, so the flight experience must be bad. But I have flown easyJet elsewhere for a holiday.
I ask this question because over the weekend I used two to get to and from Holland. As I had to visit someone at Winchester, I went out from Southampton on FlyBe to Schipol and came back to Stansted on easyJet.
Southampton Airport couldn’t have been more convenient for the train. It was just a short walk from the train to the check-in without any steps.
I did have a problem in that I arrived very early as my meeting had not gone on as long as I thought it might. So although I was booked on the 18:10 flight, I could have actually caught the earlier 14:25.
Could I change to the earlier flight?
I could, but only for a charge of eighty pounds. Now, I know they have rules about changing, which means that you pay the difference between prices and an administration fee, but surely there comes a point at which it is in the airline’s interest to bump someone forward. After all, they may sell your seat to someone later. But once a flight closes they can’t sell it.
So I waited the extra four hours. I think if the woman on the desk hadn’t been so firm, I might have tried to negotiate!
It has to be said that some airlines, allow you to change to an earlier flight, but only on your way home.
This may be simple but it is wrong or perhaps something that security rules won’t countenance.
Surely though if there are still seats on the 14:25, then as it gets nearer to the closure, the price of the seats should decrease, as the demand for them is smaller. You could argue that they should drop to almost nothing, but to stop people buying a later and cheaper flight and then transferring, the price would probably only drop to that of the next flight.
So in some cases there might be a charge and there could probably be an adminstration fee of a few pounds, but it would mean that the passenger didn’t have a long wait and the empty seat would be delayed for a few hours. They just might just sell it, in which case they would have made a profit.
At least though Southampton Airport wasn’t a bad place to wait, as they had a viewing gallery where I could watch the planes taking off and landing.
The flight was fine, although some passengers didn’t like the ride in the Dash 8. But it would have been bumpy in anything else. I’ve also piloted a light aircraft in worse. Only when you’ve done that do you really appreciate what the conditions are truly like.
Coming back by easyJet we were about an hour late. It was foggy and the pilot explained this had caused the delay. Fine! And I’m all for safety. But couldn’t we have had better information?
So to take everything into consideration it wasn’t a bad experience.
Except for the miles you have to walk at Schipol. How much of that is caused because the UK doesn’t belong to the Schengen Agreement, so we get the awkward gates?
We are the only major country in Europe that doesn’t belong to the Agreement. Most think this is correct, but I don’t!
Sheffield is one of the largest cities in Europe without a major airport.
It did have one, called Sheffield City Airport, and for a time just after it opened in 1996, it was reasonably successful. But it closed a couple of years ago and now it is being turned into a business park.
The reasons it closed was because it was designed to take limited short take-off and landing aircraft like London City. But unlike that airport, it couldn’t sustain the high value traffic that airports like that need for profit and growth.
On a more general point, Sheffield had too short a runway, to attract the low-cost airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet and in any case Manchester, Leeds and East Midlands were all within an hours drive. There is now even the new Robin Hood Airport on the former RAF Finningley.
This morning I was up at a quarter to three and on the road to Dover by twenty past. The road was dry, the weather was clear, the full moon was shining, the hood on the Lotus was down and there was little traffic. Except for the road works on the M25 between the M11 and the A12, there was nothing to hold me up. Even the tolls at the Dartford Crossing were free! Is there another crossing in the world, with a bridge one way and a tunnel the other?
So I pulled in to the docks at Dover at five past five after just one hour forty five minutes of travelling. The car may be seventeen years old, but it hasn’t lost its verve and long legs.
The title of this topic is the old slogan that MG used to use with their sports cars and saloons for many years. It is still the name of the MG enthusiast’s magazine. My father had many MGs in his time from pre-war Midgets to mid-fifties Magnettes and thought it was a slogan that suited the now-gone marque. I like to think that I drove the Lotus that way both to Dover and afterwards on the three hour trip to Holland.
The ferry was half-an-hour late due to a mechanical problem, which was a first for Norfolk Line, and the captain apologised, but I still had visions of hairy and oily mechanics trying to replace big-ends or something even more serious. But they did make up some of the time and I left Dunkirk exactly on half-past-nine by European Time.
In front of me on the ferry was an AC Cobra. Not a copy, but a genuine one from the 1970s and we started off in convoy towards Ostend. He was going to the Nurburgring, to see a classic Grand Prix. One day, I’ll take the Lotus there on one of their experience days. Sadly it won’t be this year, as someone has a wedding on that day.
One thing that was a bit wrong, was that the couple in the Cobra were using a Sat-Nav. Surely that is wrong!
But is it wrong that Colin Chapman named his car after a flower, with names that showed spirit, like Elan, Esprit and Elite? Not for him Cobra, Miura, Panther or Thunderbird, which exudes power, but something that is more about class and agility.
A word of warning here. If you are taking a ferry to Dunkirk, don’t do it with an almost-empty tank, as filling stations are some way over the Belgian border. The Cobra stopped in the first one and I carried on to Ostend. The fuel also seemed expensive at €1.41 a litre. So perhaps fill up at Tesco at Dover.
At Ostend the fun started.
The traffic along the coast had been light and generally proceeding at about 120-130 kph. But after the Ostend traffic joined the road was very busy and Mercedes and others were storming about at well over the legal limit. It is in traffic like this that the agile Lotus comes into its own.
With the top down, you have perfect vision in all directions and because the road-holding is so good, you can almost drive sideways to avoid someone who isn’t looking. In one instant a big 4×4 pulled out on me and I’m sure he was looking right over the top. And the Lotus is bright yellow! Norfolk mustard is the actual name.
Gent and Antwerp followed in succession without any holdup and I was quickly through the latter city and on the road to Breda and Rotterdam. And just as the road had got angry at Ostend, it calmed at Antwerp. It must be the Belgians.
And whilst on the subject of the Belgians.
Can they please use consistent road signs with the same name for the same city throughout the country? I don’t care if they call Bruxelles, Timbuktoo, but please be consistent. I wish the Welsh would do the same too. I don’t care what name, but every town and village in Europe should only have one name. To make things fair it should be chosen by those that live there.
The last part of the journey past Breda, Dordrecht and Rotterdam was busy, but again my speed was well-up and I finally arrived in Den Haag (Note the Dutch name!) just three hours and five minutes after leaving Dunkirk and eight hours fifteen minutes from home. I could have gone quicker by easyJet from Stansted, but I couldn’t have taken as much luggage and especially my Brompton. The difference is probably three hours.
Incidentally for most of the last part of the journey I was listening to the late great Dusty Springfield on the CD player. Wonderful! Especially, as through the Drechttunnel, with the top down, I was playing one of her songs at full blast and it was reverberating off the walls.
I did get slowed on entering Den Haag, so I turned off the motorway and followed the signs to Scheveningen. If you ask the locals how you pronounce that town, the answer is now very non politically correct, as it refers to shaving someone described by an N-word. But it is linguistically correct.
Michael O’Leary blames the British Government’s Air Passenger Duty and high charges at the airport. He’s probably right to a certain degree, but in the statements of his, I’ve heard, he doesn’t blame the recession.
I also think that people are thinking much more about their holidays and travel plans. I travel to Holland quite a bit and although, I can fly, I prefer to drive using Norfolk Line from Dover to Dunkirk. It takes a few hours longer, but then I live alone and enjoy a restful drive through the countryside. And if I pick my times right, I can even get across the Dartford Crossing with ease.
You have also to look at the economics.
A typical low-cost flight on Ryanair or EasyJet costs about £70 return, which is about the same as the cost of the ferry. So with the ferry I have to drive perhaps another 600 miles, which costs me about another £70 for diesel. But then it costs me at least £30-40 to park at the airport and then there is the train trip at the other end.
So although the low-cost flight is nominally cheaper, it’s unlikely there is more than about £30 in it. And of course the whole thing is blown apart if I need to hire a car at the other end.
It does take longer, but then I’m in comfort and I haven’t had to get to the airport and wait for a flight at some time that is inconvenient to everyone.
But where it gets interesting is that in my last trip to Holland, the car was quite full, in that I had a couple of boxes and my Brompton bicycle.
Try taking that on Ryanair with their 10Kg limit!