I remember growing up in rural connecticut and hearing people say, If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute.”
When I arose this morning and looked out the window of my little hotel, it was a picture postcard view of Edinburgh: the sun illuminating the old city from an azure sky, dotted with a few puffy white clouds. By the time I checked out of my hotel at 11:00 a.m., that had all changed. The temperature had dropped to 49 degrees, soggy, lowering clouds had obscured any blue, and I felt a few stray drops of rain as I waited for my taxi.
Ask any local what the weather is going to be here–whether an hour from now or for tonight– and they’ll scan the horizon or check their smart phone and say “Should be nice” or “It could rain a bit”, but they will always hedge their forecast by adding, “Of course, this is Scotland”. And I mean always.
This is an awkward day for me in terms of my itinerary. I had to check out of my hotel at 11:00 a.m. and my train back to London–the overnight sleeper–doesn’t leave here until almost midnight. That’s no problem–in fact, I wanted to take the overnight train–but it does mean I’m at loose ends for a full twelve hours.
Furthermore, tomorrow will be more of the same. I’ll arrive back in London at 7:00 a.m., but my flight to Boston doesn’t leave until late afternoon. The reality, of course, is that I should allow three hours for security at Heathrow and by the time I get out there, the actual “dead time” won’t be more than a couple of hours and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Heathrow now has some very good restaurants for those if us waiting for flights over the lunch hour.
At any rate, I’ll be heading toward home tomorrow–eleven time zones east from here–and my transport will include that part of travel that I find most relaxing and enjoyable: overnight sleepers from Boston to Chicago on the Lake Shore Limited; from Chicago to to the Bay Area on Amtrak’s most scenic train, the California Zephyr, and south from there to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight … with most of my time spent relaxing in the Pacific Parlour Car.
Yes, it’s slow, even antiquated, compared to the trains I’ve been on these past few weeks. But it’s familiar, it’s comfortable, it’s relaxing, and it’s civilized.
It’s not perfect, but British nighttrains are pretty good, they’re better than the French Intercités de Nuit and to some extent German CNL. Well, one could call it ‘good news’ these will all but have disappeared in the next coming months and years, CNL stops completely (Luckily the Austrians of ÖBB are taking over a number of the connections) and the French will stop with all but 2 routes, most will be gone by December, and even venerable nighttrains as Paris-Nice will be gone somewhere next year…
There is enough to see in London to enjoy a couple of free hours, there is, of course, the British Museum, one could make a small trip to say Oxford or Cambridge, there are some options. But yes, Heathrow is a mess, so arriving a bit early doesn’t hurt either.