It was back to Skills London at the ExCeL Centre this morning. I’ve just looked at the Google map of the area, and it’s quite a way out of the city. Past Whitechapel, past the Isle of Dogs, even past Greenwich. There’s more space out that way, I guess. Space enough to build a exhibition centre, with huge halls, cafes, bars, hotels, transport links and an off-site delivery coordination area.
I’ve travelled more on the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) this week, than I have in my entire time in London so far (which, as of today, has been two years). Today, I made the disturbing discovery that they don’t have drivers. I was sitting up the front on my way to Canning Town, looking out the front window at the roller-coaster like tracks ahead, and suddenly I realised that there was no driver in front of me. Reading this BBC news article, I learnt that there’s supposed to be train attendants instead – but so far, I haven’t seen one of those. Without a driver, who’s going to be the voice on the intercom telling us that there station ahead is closed/there’s a person under a train/we’re being held at a red signal/to please mind the gap.
For anyone who’s more interested in the actual event than the London public transport system, I’ve blogged about it for work here.
Since we’ve been in Europe, most of the travelling we’ve done has been surface-based (or, in the case of my day-to-day commute, underground) on trains, buses and the occasional ferry. However, last weekend, we took to the air again, for an extended long weekend trip to Ireland.
Dates around a long weekend aren’t usually the best time to pick up cheap flight deals, especially when you wait till less than a month before departure to book. But we did a bit of interneting, but and finally found some Ryan Air flights from London Gatwick Airport to Dublin on the Friday night for around £70 each. And then, even better, we found some coming back from Belfast to London Stansted Airport for £0 each. Yep, £0 – which is a total bargain, even when you consider that you have to pay for extras. There’s an extra charge for checking in at the airport, for example. There’s a separate extra charge for checking in baggage. There’s another charge if you want to be one of the first people on the plane. Still, even when Matt and I decided that we both needed to check ourselves and one bag in at the airport, that flight back only cost £12 for the both of us. So I’m not complaining really.
There are, however, a couple of things that I would’ve liked to know beforehand, so those are going to be recorded here for the benefit of anyone who hasn’t yet flown Ryan Air and may in the future.
- London Stansted and London Gatwick are both more than 45 minutes out of London. The express train ticket to get there may cost more than your plane ticket.
- There might be a delay to the flight’s departure.
- If there is a delay, there are advantages to this, as the check-in process is sped up, and you can find youself getting through the queues and into the departure area relatively quickly.
- There might not be a delay to the flight’s departure.
- If there isn’t a delay, then you’re in luck: getting home and getting to bed at a reasonable hour is much more feasible. However, it does mean that check-in staff have much more time to enforce the rules – such as the one that says checked-in bags are not supposed to be over 15kg. Our hand luggage was quite a bit heavier on the way home.
- There are no assigned seats on the flight. This makes it more important to not spend too much time in duty free. It was bit of a free-for-all once people got on the plane, as they tried to find a couple of seats together. In some ways, this was merely reminiscent of commuting (though everyone did get a seat in the end). In fact, the whole experience was rather like flying across the Irish Sea on the tube.
Still, the great thing about flying is that it was all over relatively quickly. And on Friday we were in Ireland and worried about finding our hostel, and on Monday we were back in the UK and trying to work out the quickest way home. And while I’d always prefer to travel by train, there’s perhaps a good case to be made for taking to the air again on future European adventures.