My Trip Leftovers

By | December 10, 2010

When we weren’t in London we were exploring other parts of the English countryside. First off was a trip up to the north.

York
Three trains and three hours later we made it from Bishops Stortford to York (photo link). York is known for the York Minster, one of the oldest churches in England complete with an incredibly large stained glass window. This was the first church we went into on the trip and it was hard to compare the glass at Sainte-Chapelle when the York Minster had so much throughout.

York Train Station York Minster York Minster Tower
York Minster Tower View York Minster Tower View York Minster

We paid the fee to walk up to the tower at the Minster and the tight staircase with the worn out steps had just enough room to stick out your elbows for support. The view from the top was amazing and it was neat to see the sprawl of the town with Leed’s off in the distance. We explored the Minster for a bit more and then went out into the town.

Shambles in York Clifford's Tower Walking the Walls

We went down to The Shambles, walked a bit of the original Roman walls and then went over to Clifford’s Tower. With six hours of travel to and from we were tight on time so what we saw after the Minster was from the outside. However, we felt like we got a good feel for the city and could see why it was highly recommended to tourists.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is the opposite of what the Royal Pavilion in Brighton was. The Royal Pavilion was a summer retreat for royalty, a party house that was decorated in different themes. Windsor Castle is proper, orderly and very regal.

It was a beautiful castle with a lot of history, and I was glad to have an audio tour to help me appreciate where I was and what I was seeing. They were preparing the 150 person table in St George’s Hall for a formal dinner the following week. It would have been quite the sight to see it all laid out as rulers were used to ensure precision on the placement of everything on the table.

Windsor Castle Guards at Windsor Castle Windsor Castle

We got to Windsor Castle in the early afternoon so my energy levels were low but it was worth the trip to see this iconic place. I would have taken more photos but there was no photography allowed indoors and the exterior of the Castle is so large you can’t do it justice in a picture so my camera was by my side for most of the trip.

You read about these places and what famous events have happened or will happen and it’s nice to understand what it means to have a wedding at Westminster Abbey or how a reception dinner at Windsor Castle would look like.

Cambridge
After two trips to Cambridge in 2009 we were no stranger to the city and quickly found our way to the shopping areas. After surviving Oxford Street, Covent Garden and Paris without spending any money on myself my purpose was shoes. Wrong colors and a limited size collection affected my search so I left without adding to my shoe collection.

We went to Cambridge the day after we returned from Paris so we were tired and had to take frequent stops. We explored all the shopping areas, walked and then walked some more, ate too much food at Nannamexico and slowly made our way back to home base. We didn’t have the experience we thought we would at Cambridge, but if the shopping had been successful and we weren’t going at the end of our trip I think our mood would have been better.

I think it’s pretty telling that there were no photos from Cambridge either, I wasn’t feeling it enough to take the lens cap off.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is now the world’s #1 exporter of volcanic ash. Previously our main exports were reindeer bones and giggles.

Bjork on the April 17, 2010 opening to Saturday Night Live

Without a doubt one of the highlights from the trip was one didn’t plan for.

Our departure from Gatwick Airport on October 30th was delayed for an hour due to a medical emergency. After things were sorted out we were bound for Calgary. An hour into the flight the flight crew asked the infamous question if there was a doctor on board. You could tell people stiffened in their seats and chatter started. Shortly after the pilot announced that we would be making an emergency landing in Keflavik.

The fuel was dumped and we made a quick decent down to the barren island. I have always wanted to see Iceland and was pretty excited to see what I could from the airplane.

Once the medical emergency was dealt with we were preparing for take off. The safety instructions were quickly run through by the flight crew again and then the pilot announced there was a tire pressure gauge issue and he couldn’t resolve it from the cockpit. He called for an engineer from the airport to assess the situation. A little more time passed and the pilot announced that the engineer was not trained with the Airbus A330 we were on and the nearest engineer who could remedy the problem was in Glasgow.

The plan was to fly someone en route from a Toronto – Glasgow flight or fly someone in, but that wouldn’t be for another twelve hours. They were making travel and hotel accommodations for the passengers and we would be let off the plane shortly. We slowly filed out of the plane into the baggage claim area and waited for signs of our luggage.

It would be easy to criticize how Canadian Affair (Thomas Cook) handled this situation but seeing that they had to make quick plans for the passengers they did a fantastic job. However, a little more information on what was going to happen next would have helped. While waiting for our luggage a lot of us broke off into groups and talked about what we heard or knew of the situation (medical, mechanical, where we’re going). It was interesting to see that the groups that were formed were based off of where people sat on the plane.

Say What Now? Waiting and Waiting Keflavik Airport Sculptures North Atlantic Ocean

Slowly our bags appeared on the conveyer and we went through an empty airport and into an awaiting bus. For the next 30 minutes we were travelling from Keflavik to Reykjavík. The sun was setting as we drove so the mountains became silhouettes and the water became dark but we were in Iceland, something that made me chuckle when I thought about our situation.

Our bus dropped us off at the Grand Hotel and it was the nicest hotel we’ve been in in years. The staff at the hotel was incredibly accommodating, they handled a good portion of the passengers (some went to another hotel closer to Keflavik) and the stress of going from minimum occupancy to full was taken in stride. The supper they gave us was amazing and the dinner really showed what this experience meant for everyone.

Lighted Floor at Hotel Reykjavik Where Are We? Lost Forever

People were inconvenienced and put out but everyone was generally happy and smiling about it. We shared a dinner table with two ex-pats and someone who was moving to Red Deer for work. Complete strangers only hours ago we were talking about Tim Hortons, life in London and how unique this experience was. When supper was over I returned with my camera to take photos of the hotel and lingered around the Reception area when we heard that the buses would be coming at 3:30AM to take us to the airport.

It was nearly 11:00PM and at the end of a long day it was time for a quick sleep. At 2:50AM we received a wake up call, packed up our bags and headed downstairs for a nice breakfast. Again, the staff at the hotel did a great job accommodating us and I saw the same faces serving us dinner helping with the breakfast.

When we arrived at the airport the friendly atmosphere we experienced at supper carried on. The usual rush to get on the plane was gone, people were talking to each other asking how their night was, others were offering their overhead luggage space to people a few rows down who had none; we all went through a fun experience and were no longer strangers on a plane.

We may have only been in Iceland for 16 hours but I had my passport stamped and bought a shot glass (standard procedure when we travel to a country) and now want to return and travel this amazing country properly. As for the medical emergency, when we left on October 31 the passenger was still in Intensive Care in Reykjavik but their outlook was good.

That’s it! That was our big trip for the year. We have talked about our next destination and have discussed an all-inclusive somewhere warm but Iceland was bumped in priority and we will try to get there sooner than later.

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