A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about planes

Snapshot

sunny 18 °C

Cancelled

Cancelled

I wonder how the Covid 19 events of March - June 2020 will appear when we look back on them 3, 6 and 12 months from now.

How will our lives be 3, 6 and 12 months from now?

I should have been in Rīga on Thursday morning (19th June) after a flight the day before from Edinburgh with SAS.

Rīga

Rīga

My itinerary was supposed to take me to Moscow on Saturday with Aeroflot. Then today (Monday 22nd June) I should have been on an S7 flight to Kazan. My return was to have been via St Petersburg with Nordavia and SAS.

Russia is not open to travel for foreigners. Here in Scotland only essential travel is allowed, and for leisure I am restricted to a 5 mile travel radius.

SAS cancelled my flights - they are working on a 7 day cycle but it has been clear for a while that Edinburgh would not be on their schedule at the moment. They offered a voucher or a refund, so I took the voucher. It is valid for a year. Even if I cannot use it for a future trip to Russia, Scandinavia is always attractive.

SAS at ARN

SAS at ARN

Aeroflot cancelled my flight too. I have a voucher from them as well - valid for 3 years - plus a 15% discount. I had to call their customer service centre (free) last week, and they were a pleasure to deal with.

Aeroflot Offers

Aeroflot Offers

My S7 and Nordavia flights are still scheduled, and domestic flights in and out of Kazan seem to be operating normally. I have had to cancel and then see if I can recover on my insurance. The flights were cheap.

In the overall scheme of things this inconvenience is minor, and the cost very small. It is still disappointing. It was a trip I put a lot of research and planning into, even going as far as resuming my Russian studies (after a gap of 45 years) on Duolingo.

Thursday should have been special just on its own. In July 1968 I took my first flight, and it was from Rīga to Moscow with Aeroflot. My plans had been built around re-tracing those steps.

Posted by IainT 02:57 Archived in Russia Tagged planes moscow st_petersburg scotland edinburgh life flights russia sas riga latvia airlines kazan aeroflot Comments (0)

Scottish Islands

all seasons in one day 13 °C

Lockdown Reading

Lockdown Reading

Earlier this month I was looking for books to buy and found Scottish Island Bagging. Click, click, click and it was on its way to me from the publisher (in Sheffield, oddly enough).

Apart from a summer job in an Arran hotel in 1972, for most of my life the Scottish islands were a blank spot on my travel map. I remember a couple of day trips to Stornoway for work, and an overnight business trip to Shetland when we worked for 16 hours out of 24.

I woke up to this a few years ago and started to put things right.

Vatersay/Bhatarsaigh

Vatersay/Bhatarsaigh

In the space of 5-6 years I have visited Gigha, Islay, Tiree, Colonsay, Mull, Iona, Staffa, Ulva, Lismore, Seil, Kerrera, Luing, Easdale, Eigg, Barra, Vatersay, Eriskay, Lewis and Harris.

I have been back to Arran a few times in that period, and to Orkney (which I first visited about 10 years ago).

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

From my home in Fife, just across the water from Edinburgh, all these places make for quite a long trip and careful planning is needed. If a ferry is involved, often it means getting to Oban first and that is a 3 hour drive. Mallaig - for Eigg - is a good bit further. Tayinloan or Kennacraig, for Gigha and Islay respectively are also a 3 hour drive.

Usually you have to be at the ferry terminal at least 30 minutes before departure, and with building in a bit of time for toilet stops and contingencies, you have to leave the house at least 4 hours before the ferry time. You will have to make a reservation if you want to take your car on the more popular routes, and well in advance in the summer months. On the smaller ferries you just drive up and get on the next one.

Gigha Ferry

Gigha Ferry

I flew to Barra, Lewis, Tiree and Colonsay. Loganair was the carrier for most of those short hops, but I used Hebridean Air from Oban to get to Colonsay. All those flights are on small planes and lots of fun.

Waiting

Waiting

During the peak season accommodation is at a premium in these small places, so that has to form part of the advance planning. I think I have only once been disappointed by accommodation on the islands, but remember that it is a short season with relatively high demand (in normal times) so what you get may not always seem like value for money if compared with other parts of the country.

Where would be top of my list to return to? Iona. It is special. It has so much of the country’s history as well as being remote and slightly spiritual. I am not “spiritual” but on Iona I got it.

Jura Ferry

Jura Ferry

Where is top of my list to go to for the first time? Well, I will finish my book before I make up my mind, but at the moment Coll, Raasay or Canna.

Coll is a strong possibility because I loved nearby Tiree, and it is on Hebridean Air’s route map as well as Calmac's.

Raasay is easily accessible from Skye, which is a long drive from home but no ferries are involved. My late father had a long involvement with the buyout of the island from its absentee landlord during the 1970s, so I would love to see how it is now.

I loved my time on Eigg, and getting there and back by car, train and ship, so another of the Small Isles beckons. Canna seems right.

My View, Eigg

My View, Eigg

Meantime, I am staying at home and trying to stay safe. A good book helps.

Posted by IainT 23:31 Archived in Scotland Tagged beaches planes boats scotland ferries transport flights lewis airlines orkney barra lismore islay stornoway eigg calmac islandlife colonsay steòrnabhagh leòdhas na_hearadh barraigh vatersay bhatarsaigh eiriosgaigh eriskay Comments (0)

Brexit

overcast 7 °C
View Malmö on IainT's travel map.

Escaping

Escaping

Thursday night (30th January) was tough. I had been diverting myself all week by keeping busy at work, and with other stuff at home, but that night the barrier collapsed.

Brexit Blues

Brexit Blues

Yesterday (31st) was better, with more diversion therapy. I took a flight to Copenhagen, and from there took a train to Malmö. I have never been to this part of Sweden before, unless you count passing through on a sleeper train from Stockholm to Copenhagen.

My mood was helped by the hotel - Radisson Blu - upgrading me to a junior suite.

Radisson Blu

Radisson Blu

After settling in I went to find something to eat in the dark, in a strange city, and in drizzling rain. I was half expecting to end up at a fast food place, but only 100m away I found a great wee pizza restaurant.

Pizza Time

Pizza Time

Excellent food and friendly service. My mood lifted even more.

No 25

No 25

Well that’s what I did on 31st January 2020.

Goodbye

Posted by IainT 13:18 Archived in Sweden Tagged planes trains food beer scotland restaurants sweden transport belgium flights ice_hockey brussels denmark copenhagen airlines brexit Comments (0)

Trans Caucasus

sunny 28 °C
View Tbilisi 2 on IainT's travel map.

Zvartnots International - Exterior

Zvartnots International - Exterior

Planning my Yerevan excursion from Tbilisi was fascinating. The whole exercise of traveling between the two cities is worth a blog of its own.

I could have taken an overnight train to Yerevan, with the return in daytime - although it is an overnight train from Yerevan to Batumi (on Georgia’s Black Sea coast) and so it is a sleeper train with no seats. It arrives in Tbilisi about midnight.

The cost in a 1st class sleeper is 17,300 dram (or £30) one way. In 1st class the compartment is for 2 people sharing. 2nd and 3rd class are also available. The journey time is 10 hours - remember a trainload of passengers have to clear two immigration controls at the border. It takes time.

The winter train service is different as the summer one is aimed at Armenians going to the coast on holiday.

I could have booked a shared minibus in either direction. It costs £18 one way, and takes 5-6 hours. The distance is 171 miles (276km).

My Yerevan Apartment Building

My Yerevan Apartment Building

I could have taken a rented car with a driver for £90 one way. The journey time is about the same as a minibus. I could have rented a car and driven myself. What put me off the latter very quickly was the need for an international driving permit in Armenia.

Until very recently taking a flight was a just theoretical possibility. In reality, the only flight (Georgian Airways) left Tbilisi at 5:30am.

Russia and Georgia recently engaged in one of their diplomatic crises, as part of which Georgian Airways cannot fly to Moscow. They used the spare capacity to upgrade their Yerevan service to 2/3 times daily and at more sensible hours.

Yerevan City Centre

Yerevan City Centre

Their cheapest fare was over €150 one way when I first looked. Is that good value for a 30 minute flight? It is only 108 miles (173km) between the cities by air.

My decision was to book the minivan service. I wanted to see the countryside and was curious about why it takes so long. I have written a piece already about the Tbilisi to Yerevan trip.

Minibus Recovery Mode

Minibus Recovery Mode

To get back to Tbilisi I changed my plans and booked a flight. The thought of 5.5 hours in a cramped minibus was just too much! It cost me US$162 one way, including a checked in bag. Unlike most airlines, their fares seem to stay fixed and the price does not go up close to the departure date.

The flight turned out to be an excellent decision. I had to hang around Zvartnots International for a couple of hours, but it was a pleasure. It is a lovely airport. Bright, clean, spacious, stylish, comfortable, efficient - built for travellers and not as a shopping mall.

Zvartnots International - Inside

Zvartnots International - Inside

The flight was interesting. Aircompany Armenia as a franchise for Georgian Airways. Moscow to Tbilisi via Yerevan. A mixed bunch on board. Some got off at Yerevan. We got on.

None of this is intended to put anyone off, and it is just an explanation of what my research and experiences produced. Things change quickly of course - like the sudden addition of extra flights. Those might disappear when Moscow’s attitude shifts.

Posted by IainT 20:47 Archived in Armenia Tagged planes trains transport flights georgia airlines tbilisi yerevan armenia Comments (0)

The North

sunny 18 °C
View Belfast on IainT's travel map.

AC Hotel

AC Hotel

My sports travel adventures resumed last weekend with the start of the ice hockey season.

It was a modest adventure, but very successful. Belfast.

The city is 40 minutes flying time from Edinburgh, and using Belfast City Airport it is a whopping 8 minute bus journey from airport to city centre. FlyBe uses that airport, and easyJet flies to Belfast International so the competition keeps prices down. I paid £98 return, booking quite late.

Purple FlyBe

Purple FlyBe

The reason for the trip was Belfast Giants v Augsburger Panther in the Champions Hockey League. I watched a bit of German ice hockey during the Ingolstadt phase of my life, and loved it. The quality is high, with an emphasis on speed and skills. The crowds are electric. Indeed I remember going to at least one Ingolstadt v Augsburg derby.

Fans Assembling Pre-match

Fans Assembling Pre-match

The game in Belfast was tremendous, ending as a 2-3 win for Augsburg in overtime. I reckon 1,000 out of the 5,000 crowd were Augsburg fans, and they generated a wonderful atmosphere. I started as a neutral and they won me over.

Panthers Fans

Panthers Fans

I stayed in the AC Hotel (a Marriott label) across the river from the SSE Arena, as I did last time I was in Belfast. It is not cheap, but Belfast is plagued by stag and hen parties so a cheaper hotel brand increases the risk of late night/early morning noise. The riverside location is convenient and pleasant, and quiet.

Belfast Dawn

Belfast Dawn

I have walked past McHugh’s many times over the years and never gone in. I rarely venture into pubs these days, but this time I took the plunge. I recommend it. They have a great range of beers - I had Guinness - and even on a busy Saturday afternoon the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. Like most pubs they have caved in to the TV addiction (I counted three - two normal size and one massive) but they also had a folk music trio playing in a corner.

Pub Life

Pub Life

The North has belatedly come to feature a lot recently in the media in Little Britain after London realised the Brexit plans (or lack thereof) have major implications for Ireland as a whole. I will not wade into that controversy.

EU Funding

EU Funding

I will just mention it is the only part of the UK where police officers all carry guns all the time, and travel in armoured cars. You will find a “Peace Wall” in West Belfast which keeps the two sides of the community apart.

large_fullsizeoutput_56b.jpeg

Belfast has changed enormously for the better since my first visit in the mid 1990s, well before the peace agreement was signed in 1999. Anyone in London who risks that progress and the relative peace since then has my total contempt.

Posted by IainT 11:53 Archived in Ireland Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises planes ireland transport flights ice_hockey airlines belfast brexit Comments (0)

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