A long and winding road

04-05JUN19

I left Edinburgh on the 24+hour trip to Trapani that I’d booked on my Kiwi.com app.

The schedule was:

08:00 Edinburgh to Dublin

15:55 Dublin to Luxembourg

02:50 Luxembourg to Frankfurt Hahn

06:40 Frankfurt Hahn to Trapani

The journey began at 5 am with a short walk to the bus stop outside Slateford railway station in Edinburgh. I took the 300 bus. It was a quiet journey as it was still early. The bus left at 05:20 and arrived at the airport at 05:55 – in plenty of time for the 8:00 am flight.

Edinburgh Airport

On entry to the airport I found it difficult to find the appropriate check-in desk since there were no boards indicating to which desk to go. I found the right one by conducting a physical check of all desks.

After check-in I went up to the departure area where there was a long queue for the security check. I joined one of the queues for the automated boarding card gates but when it was my turn all of the gates were turned off owing to the huge crowds waiting to pass through security.

Once I got to the x-ray area I was obliged to separate my iPad from my bag and to remove my shoes and belt.

After this ordeal was over I walked briskly through the Duty Free shop, ignoring the temptation to buy whisky, and headed to Nero’s were I had a coffee and muffin while waiting for the departure gate number to be advised.

Punctually at 07:00 the electronic notice board informed me to go to gate 29. It was not immediately apparent in which direction to head but I found my way. Edinburgh Airport needs to improve its signage generally. Apart from that it is quite a nice airport.

Is Edinburgh a place worth visiting? Absolutely. But I will write about Edinburgh separately.

Hainan Airlines to Dublin

Hainan Airlines didn’t provide the “luxury” of on-line check-in, but the in-person process was quick and easy. Generic local Swissport check-in staff.

Boarding was orderly and timely. First call for business and parents with children. Then the call for Economy passengers. As I was seated in one of the few seats reserved for old or infirm passengers I was one of the first in the queue.

Hainan Airlines boarding card

On boarding I was welcomed by one cabin crew member who politely checked my boarding card and gave directions to my seat while another handed me a sandwich and a bottle of water.

I had been allocated seat 36G on the 787-9 Dreamliner which was located just forward of the wings. Leg room was ample but storage space was limited. The power-points did not seem to function when I tried to charge my iPhone.

The aircraft, perhaps 15% occupied, left the gate at exactly 08:00 as scheduled.

The flight from EDI to DUB was 50 only minutes so we were obliged to keep our seatbelts on, tray tables closed and seats upright for the duration of the flight.

Adequate leg-room but very little space to store anything apart from a book

Not a full flight – plenty of empty seats. I had a row to myself.

We touched down at 08:50, twenty minutes ahead of the scheduled time. It was raining. The aircraft taxied then stopped and sat on apron for 20 minutes while Air Traffic Control decided where it should park. An announcement was made after 15 minutes to apologise for the delay. In the meantime I found a USB jack under the tv screen that charged my phone a bit. A second announcement was made 35 minutes after landing.

Forty minutes after touching down the plane started to make its way to a vacant bridge and another 10 minutes later the plane was parked. We spent fifty minutes waiting to park after a 50 minute journey! Not good but not Hainan’s fault.

Would I fly with Hainan again? I doubt if there would be a situation in which I would go out of my way to use the airline. However, if there was a need to use Hainan again I wouldn’t complain.

Dublin Airport

I didn’t have any hold baggage to worry about so I was able to exit quickly. I tried to follow the Connecting Flights trail but the security guy politely explained that Ryanair flights don’t participate in transit arrangements so I had to go back the way I had come, exit the baggage area and reenter the terminal. Very polite and patient guy👍.

Security was not as bad as that at Edinburgh. Thorough but much shorter queues. I bought a small backpack to replace the cumbersome box (Ryanair regulation cabin bag size) that I planned to use for the trip. It is squishable so hopefully will not cause the Ryanair bandits to give me grief at the boarding gates.

It was close enough to lunchtime for me to decide on having some food. I found the Garden Terrace on the upper floor and chose the Full Irish Breakfast (fried egg, two sausages, two rashers of bacon, half a grilled tomato, baked beans, hash briwn potatoes, a couple of slices of toast and what appeared to be two slices of blood pudding. And a mug of black coffee. €12.50)

Full Irish Breakfast (Vegans avert your eyes!)

I had to try this. Full breakfasts can be quite healthy though some possibly count as heart-stoppers! I have had the Full English, Cornish, Scottish, Vegetarian and Vegan breakfasts, and now the Irish version. The best non-English breakfast I have tried so far was the Full Scottish Breakfast served at the Spylaw Tavern, Colington, Edinburgh. More about that at another time. The Irish breakfast was tasty though didn’t score much on presentation.

Full Irish Breakfast at Garden Terrace:

⁃ 2 sausages

⁃ 2 rashers of bacon

⁃ 2 slices of black pudding (?)

⁃ Baked beans

⁃ Fried egg

⁃ Hash brown potatoes

⁃ 2 slices of toast

⁃ Coffee

The fried egg had been sitting for a while. It had a glazed alert look about it, as though it had been freshly fried, but once I cut into it it proved to be tired and dry ie held under a heat source after it had left the pan.

The coffee was good.

Ryanair planes in the rain at Dublin Airport

My next flight, on Ryanair, was scheduled at 15:55 which left me plenty of time to relax.

Would I visit Dublin again? Yes, and would consider an overnight stay so that I could look around the city. But only en route to another destination.

Ryanair to Luxembourg

There aren’t many people that have a good word to say about Ryanair. Jokes abound about the extent of their extra charges – a darker one for example about having to pay for oxygen in the event of cabin depressurisation. I had carry on baggage which meant I had to have the bag under the seat in front of me. Priority passengers get to take a small suitcase and one item of hand baggage.

I was seated next to a window on the right hand side of the plane (seat 14G) but there was cloud most of the way and nothing to see. It was an uneventful flight apart from a bit of turbulence over France on the approach to Luxembourg. The plane was a bit late.

Would I use Ryanair again? It’s a no-frills budget airline. I don’t like their baggage policy but aside from that I will probably use them unless there is a better option available. Leg room is tight – made worse by having hand baggage stored under the seat in front.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg airport is not very big, though not surprising considering the diminutive size of The Grand Duchy.

Luxembourg Airport

I exited the building with the idea of finding the bus stop for the next leg of my journey and found it right outside. Next plan was to find a way to get into the city. The number 16 bus was the answer. €2 ticket valid for two hours was adequate to take me to the main railway station. The journey took about half an hour. I had a quick look around but the light was fading so no decent opportunity to take pictures other than a couple of record shots on my iPhone.

Luxembourg railway station

I had something to eat at the station (just a granary roll with parma ham and cheese) then caught the bus back to the airport. There seemed to be a few photogenic locations along the bus route that might occupy me in the event of a return visit to Luxembourg, but I doubt that I would come back.

The airport, at 9pm , was pretty well deserted. The silence in the terminal building was broken only by background chatter, the occasional loud phone call (interestingly two separate calls: one, a woman chatting on speaker with her friend in Portuguese; the other a man also on speaker chatting in Portuguese to his wife or I think his lover – she with a Brazilian Portuguese accent – about missing his flight.

Oberweis cafe at Luxembourg Airport

At one point a woman, who appeared to have some problem with the world at large, began talking very loudly in French. She had a good stage voice, catching the attention of the entire terminal but directing her complaints at one woman seated in the cafe! The cafe staff encouraged its patrons to ignore the woman who, it seemed, was a regular visitor. That was the extent of the evening’s entertainment.

The bus to Frankfurt Hahn airport

My bus was scheduled to leave the airport at 02:50. I had somehow managed to keep myself occupied for over 5 hours with just one cup of coffee.

The air outside the terminal was cool, slightly humid and had a pleasant smell reminiscent of woodlands. It had rained lightly for about an hour from midnight. I sat outside the bus stop on a piano stool at 2:30 am. Within a few minutes a bus arrived but it was to another destination. My bus arrived shortly afterwards, driven by a middle aged blond German woman who seemed to like modern rock music.

At the scheduled hour she started the engine and reduced the volume of the music. I settled down with a plan to nap. The first stop on the way to Frankfurt Hahn airport was in the centre of the town of Trier, on the Mosel river, that I remembered from my school German lessons. At 3:30am, after a few minutes waiting, the bus continued its journey. The autobahn was smooth and quiet. We stopped at another town though I was in a sleepy state, taking little notice of the surroundings until the dawn light broke close to Frankfurt. I managed to nap a bit but not nearly as much as I wanted.

Frankfurt Hahn Airport

Frankfurt Hahn, in comparison to the large modern complex of Frankfurt am Main airport is little more than a glorified shed! Considering how Germany is noted for its Teutonic organisation this airport was a bit slapdash.

Frankfurt Hahn airport

It was clearly an old airport and very clearly catered to budget airlines, though it did have a couple of nice cafe/snack bars, a duty free area and a souvenir bookshop.

The departure gates were chaotic! Two lines existed: one for Priority passengers and one for non-Priority. There didn’t seem to be room enough to support a single queue but the two ran in parallel. It seemed to work but I would have relocated some seating to create decent queuing lines.

Once through the boarding process we had to walk a fair distance to the airplane. When I got to the plane there were two long queues snaking away from the fore and aft stairs.

Long queues to board the aircraft at Frankfurt Hahn.

Ryanair to Trapani

The flight was about two hours in duration though scheduled to take 2 hours and twenty minutes. As ever on Ryanair there was applause on landing. I suppose passengers are just grateful to arrive in one piece! Enough said about Ryanair!

Trapani

The airport at Trapani has been in use for decades. It is a compact airport with a runway shared with the Italian Air Force.

It has a small cafe where one can buy coffee, wine, spirits and snacks. I had an espresso and a cannolo. However, despite the sign indicating that cannoli are prepared on request, I was served with a made up cannolo in which the biscuit had become soft. If you want a cannolo insist the it is freshly filled.

Unfortunately, it seems that local politics have obliged airlines to move to Palermo Airport – an hour away from Trapani – with a consequence that tourism in Erice/Trapani has declined significantly. Ryanair still flies to Trapani but the number of flight options has been severely reduced. Hotels, restaurants and taxis have suffered.

Would I visit Trapani again? Absolutely – though primarily because my mother lives in Erice. I have always liked Trapani and Erice and the surrounding countryside. Lots to see and lots to do.

Conclusion

Long journey. Four legs in each direction but it was the cheapest option available. It also enabled me to review a number of aspects connected with the trip.

Cobbs for Brunch

Outdoor enthusiasts can have a pleasant time browsing and/or buying clothes, accessories or gear for camping, mountaineering or sport at a well-stocked specialist .

Combine such a shopping experience with a good Sunday brunch and you have, potentially, a great way to spend half a day – even better if the other half of the day is spent trekking in the hills.

I had a very nice brunch at Cobbs located at Craigdon Mountain Sports store. It was the second time that I’d had brunch there, very pleased with the food quality and ambience on both occasions.

I ordered the Cobbs Works – essentially a full Scottish breakfast.

Cobbs Works – a full Scottish breakfast

Grilled bacon, leek and pork sausages, black pudding, haggis, baked beans, tomatoes, toast and an egg (fried for me). (£8.50 with a hot drink included – I had an americano). I think the toast may have been an extra (£1).

With apologies to vegans and vegetarians I found the two rashers of bacon to be grilled to perfection. The mushrooms,too, were great – I don’t like overcooked mushrooms. The egg was a bit over-fried but I did ask for it to be well done as I am not keen on under-cooked whites. The rest of the items were good.

Anericano coffee

On the last occasion I had the vegan full breakfast which was really good. I have already posted about that so won’t repeat here.

There are lots of options on the menu which is great for families and other small groups. The place is both child friendly and dog friendly so a great option if you like taking walks before or after lunch.

Where

Situated next to the Pentland hills at the roundabout joining Biggar Road and Swanton Drive off the A702.

44, Biggar Road, Edinburgh, EH10 7BJ

Phone: +44 131 445 4581

New Projects

I shall be travelling again soon. My camera kit is packed for some serious studio and commercial photography work while based in Edinburgh.

Parque das Nações, Lisbon

I also have a stopover in Lisbon, as I usually try to do when flying from Brazil to Europe, so have a few projects lined up there too. Most of the time I shall be involved in capturing more sights of the city but, of course, there will be food and drink in the mix.

Old windmill used to pump water from the salt pools, Moxia, Marsala, Sicily

The months of June/July will find me in Sicily where I shall continue my search for the world’s best cannoli as well as trying a number of traditional Sicilian delicacies and wines.

National Monument of Scotland, Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Then I return to Edinburgh for an indefinite period in order to try to focus on both traditional Scottish cuisine in addition to finding the best vegetarian, vegan and Italian restaurants in the city.

Really looking forward to this trip!

As ever, if anyone would like to commission images or articles from this trip, please contact me so I can see if I have room in my schedule (I still have a couple of weeks in which to finalise my travel plans).

I have a couple of days set aside in Sicily for a Photographic Tour – an educational day trip in which participants can gain some practical tips on landscape / travel photography. I have provided the details in a post earlier this week.

Please contact me for details of my projects and check out my site Shoot Stock.

Photographic Tour of Western Sicily

Segesta

After a very warm Easter in UK what better way to see out the end of Spring than to spend a few days in Sicily!

I spend a lot of time in Sicily which is an enormously fascinating country – and photogenic too. I shall be there in June / July to welcome anyone with an interest in learning more about photography to spend a day with me exploring towns like Marsala, Erice and Corleone.

Apart from the opportunity to get fresh air and see parts of the island, you will gain an understanding of how to control your camera and to see landscapes with a different point of view.

Corleone.png

What you will learn:

  1. Starting: Camera basics – body, lens and sensors
  2. Seeing: Composition and objective
  3. Capture: How to use the camera’s shooting modes
  4. Control: Making the most of aperture, shutter speed and ISO
  5. Lighting: Daylight and artificial light
  6. Histograms: what they tell you

What you will need:

  • A digital camera with the ability to control exposure:
    • Programmed Auto (P)
    • Shutter-Priority Auto (S)
    • Aperture-Priority Auto (A)
    • Manual (M)
  • Flash (optional) There may be a flash incorporated in the camera that you have
  • Standard/wide-angle. (Telephoto/zoom lens – optional)
  • Tripod (optional but useful)
  • Water and warm clothes

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The Tour (conducted in English)

This will be a whole day session with an early start!

We will meet at the railway station in Palermo that will enable us to get some good views, to stop and chat about what we are doing, and to discuss/answer questions.

We will stop half-way through to have lunch (cost not included in the package) and talk through any issues. There will also be time to try cannoli or ice cream.

In the afternoon we have the option of seeing either the old and infamous town of Corleone or to visit the archaeological site of Segesta and the salt pans of Marsala (where we may stay on to sample the famous fortified wine).

Total time from start to finish will be about 10 hours.

Don’t forget to ensure you have a fresh memory card and fully charged battery in the camera. If in doubt bring back-up!

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Freshly made cannoli

Price

£200.00 per person (excludes flights)

£100.00 on booking to secure place (non-refundable)

Balance to be paid on the day of the tour.

When

Date: 12JUN19 or 19JUN19

How to get there

Fly to Palermo. There are direct and indirect flights from various UK airports.

A visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh

Screenshot 2019-03-13 10.57.01

Palm House at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh

Nature was in a good mood. The day proved to be relatively sunny and mild, sandwiched by cold wet days that prompted me to think about cancelling my visit to the gardens.

I arrived at the East Gate entrance, a gate festooned with metal flowers on a wire background. After purchasing a ticket to enter the Glasshouses I bought a coffee and snack before starting my photographic tour of the gardens. The first subjects were the colourful crocuses and daffodils near the gate.

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East Gate (pedestrian) entrance to the gardens

My walk took me, with the bright winter sun in my eyes, up to the left of the entrance and among bushes at either side of the path. The gardens are, in the main, wheelchair friendly with signs indicating which paths were, or were not, accessible.

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Direction signs on path

The only real issue with photographing the gardens at this time of year is the fact that some plants are not yet in bloom, and many trees were still bare. That said there were plenty of colourful plants to see and photograph and I came away with about 400 pictures for the day.

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As I reached the Nepalese garden the clouds gathered overhead so I made haste to the Terrace Cafe for lunch. I arrived just in time as the heavens opened and it rained quite heavily for an hour. Although hot food was available I decided to have a Coronation Chicken wrap, followed by a cherry slice and a cup of hot chocolate. At £10 for this simple meal  I was not unhappy but have heard comments that the food is regarded as expensive by some people.

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    Terrace Cafe near the Nepalese Garden

The rain cleared as I finished my lunch so I then made my way towards the Glasshouses, passing the huge beech hedge and the Queen Mother’s Memorial garden, then the rockery and finally the Glasshouses themselves. I entered via the Palm House which has palm trees (obviously!) and orchids.

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One of the many species of orchids on display

One then passes (after the ticket desk) into the series of 10 huge glass houses, a couple of which are very hot and humid!. A note here to those with cameras – the lenses will steam up as the camera/lens units will have come from the cold outside ambient temperature to a hot humid environment. I had to hug my lens for about 15 minutes, to bring up its temperature, and wipe the front lens with a micro-fibre lens cloth to clear the condensation. I also had to remove my jacket as I too was suffering from the heat (ironic considering I live in Brazil where temperatures are high).

Screenshot 2019-03-13 11.20.42

Amorphophallus konjak, also known as the Corpse Flower, in bloom

The exciting feature of the visit was the Amorphophallus konjac, also known as New Reekie or the Corpse Flower, which was in bloom for the first time in many years – a rare event. I have a poor sense of smell so did not notice the famed bad odour. Interestingly the plant is used as a source of vegan food in its native home in Indonesia. New Reekie was in the last of the 10 glass houses so I then retraced my steps back to the reception area.

Photographic Tour of Edinburgh

Screenshot 2019-02-01 at 17.54.07Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

It’s as cold as it will get in Edinburgh at this time of year. Best to stay indoors near a warm fireplace, drinking hot chocolate. Or not!

Why not venture out? If you had a New Year resolution to take up or improve your photography then why not wrap up warm and take a photo tour of the beautiful city of Edinburgh with an experienced professional photographer to guide you in a practical walking workshop.

Apart from the opportunity to get fresh air and see parts of the city, you will gain an understanding of how to control your camera and to see the city with a different point of view.

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What you will learn:

  1. Starting: Camera basics – the camera body, interchangeable lenses and camera sensors
  2. Seeing: Composition and objective
  3. Capture: How to use the camera’s shooting modes*
  4. Control: Making the most of aperture, shutter speed and ISO
  5. Lighting: Daylight and artificial light
  6. Histograms*: what they tell you

* If your camera doesn’t have these features, let me know in advance of the tour.

What you will need:

  • A digital camera with the ability to control exposure:
    • Programmed Auto (P)
    • Shutter-Priority Auto (S)
    • Aperture-Priority Auto (A)
    • Manual (M)
  • Flash (optional) There may be a flash incorporated in the camera that you have
  • Standard/wide-angle. (Telephoto/zoom lens – optional)
  • Tripod (optional but useful)
  • Water and warm clothes

Screenshot 2019-02-01 at 19.25.37

The 9th March, 2019 Tour – Royal Botanical Garden

It will be a slow walking tour, not a long trek, but one that will enable us to get some good views, to stop and chat about what we are doing, and to discuss/answer questions.

We will stop half-way through to have a light lunch (cost not included in the package)  which will give us time to talk through any issues.

Total time from start to finish will be about 5-6 hours.

Meet: East Gate 10.00am

Don’t forget to ensure you have a fresh memory card and fully charged battery in the camera. If in doubt bring back-up!

Note: This tour assumes that images captured will NOT be used for commercial gain, solely for personal use. In order to use images captured in the gardens commercially it is necessary to obtain prior approval from the RBGE press office.

Please note that entrance to the Gardens is free but there will be a charge of £7.00 to enter the Glasshouses – well worth the visit if only to warm up on a cold day – where we can photograph exotic flowers, cacti and orchids.

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Price

£90.00  £60.00 per person (Winter Special!)

£30.00 on booking to secure place (non-refundable)

Balance to be paid on the day of the tour.

 

Full Scottish Breakfast

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Anyone used to having a Full English Breakfast may be a little confused, or even a bit disappointed when encountering the look-alikes in the form of either a Full Cornish Breakfast or a Full Irish Breakfast etc. In reality, they are all Full Breakfasts, so are unlikely to vary much in content. The only one that I have, so far, found to be mildly different is that provided in Scotland.

The Full Scottish Breakfast that I ordered at Piece Box, located not far from The Meadows in Edinburgh, comprised poached eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, haggis, tomato, bacon, sausage and potato bread. The key differentiator here was the inclusion of haggis in place of black pudding and the potato bread. My only dissatisfaction was with the size of the haggis which I would have liked more of. But that’s life!

It was a filling breakfast, more of a brunch by the time we actually got there, and tasty to the last morsel. I had an orange juice and a mug of coffee to accompany the meal.

Haggis is one of my favourite foods though I have only eaten it in Scotland and in Hong Kong – anywhere else, in my view, is not going to serve traditional ingredients. On the occasions that I ate it at Burn’s Night dinners in Hong Kong the haggis had been flown in from Scotland for the occasion.

I rarely have a Full Breakfast but I do try to have it when I am on trips to UK – breakfast is, as they say, the most important meal of the day