Euro 2012 Trip – Day 1

First morning in UK, it’s 5:30 AM local time (which is really 10:30 PM Calgary time), we are staying with Shareen’s parents at Northcott Cottage which is on Southcott Farm near Morchard Bishop in Devon.

The house we are staying in is in an old (I’m told over 600 year old) converted barn but more on that later.

The light outside is grey, there’s fog and mist and the cows are mooing, waiting for the farmer across the lane to bring them in for milking.

Thinking back to our trip yesterday it couldn’t have possibly gone better, at least from a logistical point of view (lady who kept feeding her kid rice crispy squares, cookies, and apple juice, you know who you are). We traveled with Air Transat as it was quite bit less expensive than any competitors we looked at. We were apprehensive about going with a discount airline fearing that we were sacrificing service and comfort for savings but that was not the case.

The plane was a clean new’ish Airbus A330, the seats were cramped but no more than anything else we’ve flown in recent memory. The plane left Calgary exactly on time and delivered us at London Gatwick exactly eight hours and thirty five minutes later. We were served one hot meal and a continental breakfast and the staff were courteous and attentive. None of our luggage was lost and we were ready to go about forty minutes after we landed.

The British rail system kicks the shit out of Swiss precision I have to say. We checked with the train wicket at Gatwick and had about twenty five minutes before the next train to Reading station where we would switch to another train for our final leg.

The Gatwick rail terminal was a short stroll from our terminal and the train for Reading left at EXACTLY the time indicated on the boards. The train was a commuter type train with small but functional seats and we had to stuff our luggage in a doorway before we found a space in a small luggage area. The commuter train made frequent stops and it took about an hour and a half to get to Reading.

Side note, coming from Canada and our big space I’m not used to the crowds in Europe yet. Reading was quite busy and I got flustered trying to find which platform our train to Exeter would be departing from. I checked with the information desk which pointed me to platform 7 which it turns out was right next to the platform we had arrived on.

We made our way to platform 7 and waited about 30 minutes for the train to Exeter St Davids. The train arrived about ten minutes before the scheduled departure time but getting on board was a bit of a schmoz. The kids were tired and tempers were a bit frayed in addition to the fact that the train was overbooked (the announcer apologized profusely at least twice). Our tickets were for unreserved seats and this particular train had very very very few unreserved seats. Shareen and I left the kids in the last two unreserved seats in the whole train and went to stand in the restaurant car where at least there was a bit of room to stand.

My wife showed some initiative and asked the attendant how we could find some more unreserved seats. He told her that you had to go look and find them. Not sure if he felt sorry for us or was embarrassed about the overbooking but he told us to go sit in the first class car right next to the restaurant car. We found four seats together and brought the kids over later.

The conductor came to check our tickets and I was ready to either argue for our right to stay in the first class car due to the space limitations in the rest of the train or purchase the first class upgrade but he simply winked at me and said “no worries”. Later when we were getting off at Exeter St Davids I wanted to give him something for making our trip easier (to be clear, I wanted to give him something for easing our burden, not for letting us stay in first class specifically) but he refused stating that it was the least he could do for a weary traveler. He did however have no problems ejecting some mooching Quebeckers who were looking for a free ride.