We Caught a three hour Portugal Air flight from Maderia to Gatwick in London. I didn't realize how short the runway is on the island. They have built an extension supported by posts and at the end it drops off with land far below. The plane uses every bit of the runway so it's a little white knuckle experience.
After landing it was a travelers endurance experience for us even though we are experienced travelers. We had to go from one terminal to another and the walk to get to transfer point was a very long one which took a good twenty or more minutes and without moving sidewalks. In addition, the directional signs are few and confusing. We had to get to the North terminal and after looking a long time came to a sign pointing to an elevator for North terminal. The sign said to wait for someone to come for you. Since we were all alone and there was no one else around we were concerned about making our next connection. We thought perhaps we were in the wrong place and went on to check. We decided it had to be the right area and just as we got there a man came up the stairs who turned out to be the bus driver. We were fortunate that we arrived just as he did or we would have missed the bus. We went down the elevator to the bus. There was no one else except us on the bus to the terminal.
The terminal was a fifteen to twenty minute ride and then more walking to a waiting line for passport clearance. Next, we were told we needed to fill out a landing card (Portugal air had not supplied us one) After that we got in to the passport line. We stood in line and after clearing that we went on to security. We are even more concerned about making the connection because we still had to walk to our gate. I went through to put things on the belt and noticed Lita wasn't with me. I moved around until I spotted her.She had been stopped before she was allowed to move on. A security person said her bag was too big for a carry-on and made her put it into a rack. It was about 1.5" too wide and she was told she would have to all the way back t o the check in counter. Instead she took out magazines and the bag fit, much to the disappointment of the guard who warned her not to insert them back into the luggage (even though there was no additional checking of luggage size) Then he went through her purse item by item, opening lipstick and everything in it, hoping, I suppose to find something else wrong. He was mystified by her Kindle electronic book and didn't know what it was so he swiped it with the material and then tested it for explosives. After all that she was allowed through to security where she had to run everything through the Xray machine and clear security.
In the meantime we are worrying about having enough time to make our connection so we rushed along only to find more signs that were obscure and gave general directions which lead you forward into another area with no more signs so you weren't sure where to go next. As a result, we had to frequently ask for directions. Finally we arrived at our gate which had four exit areas some distance apart. We were sitting at our designated exit door which I verified by asking the British Air employee at the desk next to where we were sitting. We had sat for some time when Lita heard another passenger say something about the flight being to another exit even though there had been no announcement and the airline employee within six feet of where we were sitting had said nothing. We checked and yes, it had been moved so off we rushed again to another exit area. There we sat for more then a half hour after the scheduled departure until we boarded.
The one hour flight to Edinburgh was totally packed. Three disabled passengers were brought on board, one hooked to oxygen, another unable to walk and a third in a wheelchair, sitting listless with his head dropped down to his chest. He showed no signs of being conscious andthe attendants physically had to lift him into the seat. A small child was crying loudly near us. Three seats across on each side and very crowded across as well as from the seat in front. It was a most uncomfortable flight. We finally arrived around 8:30 pm, got all our luggage without difficulty and headed for our hotel. It was a full day of hard stressful travel.
Our hotel is the Balmoral, a very old and famous hotel in this city. Our room is very large with high ceilings and several connected rooms like one would expect in an apartment. We did not unpack and instead went directly to the bar for single malt scotch. I needed it. We had a meal in the hotel and went directly to bed.
On Thursday we explored by walking. With apology to friends of Edinburgh, the city strikes me as having wonderful ornate buildings all of which are greatly in need of power washing. They all have the same dark brown tones as if coal burning has taken it's toll. Beautiful spires and interesting structures all have the same appearance. There are rows of residential buildings side by side all looking the same and all the same color. The whole down town seems torn up by ongoing construction and it is difficult to get around by car.
The sky was overcast and it was cold when we started walking. People had their coats buttoned up. We walked to Jenner's, Edinburgh's answer to London's Herrods. A large rambling sort of store with many goods. It is the oldest department store in the city. We ended up buying some things for our home. We converted money there to Pound Stering since U.S. dollars and even Euro's are not accepted everywhere. The pound is presently $1.60 to the dollar and we were charged $1.70 for the conversion.
Soon the sun was out and it was warm. We walked George street and went into the many shops. After awhile I sat in a Starbucks and let Lita continue exploration while I struggled with my Iphone. I've been trying, since we arrived in the UK, to get my Iphone to connect to wifi and it has been nothing but frustrating. Even in areas with wifi area, while the phone showed connection to the phone the wifi remained unconnected in spite of everything I tried. I finally managed to connect by purchasing a five day plan good only in the UK and Ireland.
By now the sun was out and it was warm. We walked Rose Street which is actually a wide alley with many shops and ate at Dirty Dicks's, a pub. It was, in fact, dirty and full of clutter to impress tourists. I had a beer and hamburger which was a C- at best. We walked Rose street back towards our hotel and discovered where we turned right, had we turned left instead we would have found dozens of very nice pubs and eating places which were far more inviting then the one we picked. Back at the hotel we rested and Lita has gone on an errand. Now the sky is dark and overcast at 3:00 pm. This reminds me of Seattle weather. I have to separate things in my luggage for the train and then go across the street from this elegant, old hotel to Burger King. Yes, Burger King, because they have a free wifi which I need to connect Lita's Iphone.
Tomorrow we get on the Royal Scot Train. More reports to follow.