Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Falling Asleep on the Train Will Be Very Different This Time
While Prandial ponders the heavy footfall of his carbon tread upon this earth, I'm congratulating myself on having undertaken a flight-free five day solo tour of the south coast of England last August which took me from Lyme Regis in Dorset to Bridport, West Bay, Dorchester, Winchester and Brighton. I took lots of pictures. There were lots of cathedrals, Roman ruins, cooked breakfasts, apple trees, charming little hotels, thoughtful strolls along quiet beaches and uplifting climbing around beautiful cliffs. I finally wore out my hardcore walking sandals as I must have walked miles each day, over all sorts of terrain. And I spent a lot of time on local buses that were not much bigger than a minibus, sitting next to old folks with baskets and trolleys who were spreading their shopping between three or four market towns or sometimes sullen teenagers longing to have something to do in their long summer holiday. I overheard a lot of gossip, a lot of tutting and sighing and cackling in soft West Country accents put forth by all age groups and genders.

Though I had to plan carefully to get to my destinations in time and not spend too much of my day getting on and off local buses, I felt connected with the places I was travelling through. I felt safe and protected among these people who were always quick to offer advice ("oh no, that bus will take you hours to get there... just nip across that field there... when you see the house with the red door, it's only another ten minutes past the duck pond...") and who were proud of their towns. I really enjoyed counting apple trees as I trundled along between villages and towns; the buses were often so slow, I could wave and pull faces at babies being pushed in their buggies alongside the bus lane. I spent a lot of time on trains too and felt my imagination and creativity stirring as the landscape passed by and day turned to dusk then into night as I made my way from one town to another.

Ryanair makes me sick. I'm always ill after flying with them - and Easyjet. Even British Airways makes me feel flu-ish after I've flown with them. Airports are depressing and unglamorous places. I always feel sad when I've rushed to the airport, bags packed and ready for adventure and then I have to sit still for hours when I want to be on my way. It's awful to land somewhere I've been looking forward to visiting only to be grumpy, grubby and badly treated when all I want is to feel excited and enthusiastic and start my visit feeling relaxed and clear-headed.

With that in mind, and taking on board Prandial's thoughts on carbon footprints, and my own pleasant experience of local transport and long train journeys, I've booked another holiday for Mr Hypatia Avenue's birthday.

We're going to Edinburgh. In March. By sleeper train. We'll be away for 6 nights, two of which will be spent in our bunks, in our cabin, which we will board at midnight at one end of the country and depart at breakfast in a completely different town, very far away. We've picked a "boutique bed and breakfast" which is "straight-friendly" and "dog-friendly" and run by two lovely men and their Scotch terrier, just outside the town centre (some local buses may need to be used). Travel has just got a little bit more interesting with the new emphasis on ethical and environmental responsibility and I'm keen to take up the challenge. I may not have a very big carbon footprint but it's nice to know I don't have to risk enlarging it to have a nice time away.

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