juliet: (audax)
[personal profile] juliet
[personal profile] doop and I spent last night variously sleeping on the (cold, hard) floor at Holyhead station[0], and on the middling-comfortable (why don't seats go back at all on UK trains? Coaches all manage this just fine) Virgin train from Holyhead back to Euston (thankfully no change at Chester this time unlike on the way out).

Things that I am forced to observe about the non-flying non-car option of getting from London to Belfast:
- your options are to go via Dublin, or to pay >5 times as much and have even worse timing (the Liverpool-Belfast ferry isn't part of the Rail/Sail cheap ticket deal).
- apparently Stena don't think that bikes are vehicles so Liverpool-Larne isn't an option even if cycling (which we weren't this time). Although I may contact them to discuss this.[1]
- it shouldn't take this long. 13 hrs on the way there (the main possible reduction: better linkup with the Euston-Holyhead train. You shouldn't need to leave Euston at 20:00 for a 02:40 ferry; 22:30 would be more like it. Better linkup at Dublin to the Belfast train would be nice as well but that was only 40 min).
- it really, really shouldn't take this long on the way back. Why no overnight train from Holyhead to Euston? (also, again, poor linkup between Belfast-Dublin train and ferry).
- it is v good value, though - £40 pp each way London-Belfast all in.
- the ferry has lovely squashy sofas to sleep on.
- do not eat the potato wedges available at Dublin Connolly station, under any circumstances. Pure evil.

However! We got to doop's parents' house in the end, and had a really lovely weekend. They live out near the coast, with a fabulous view over to the Mull of Kintyre, and we went for a couple of very enjoyable walks which involved scrambling over rocks and looking at seaweed and (in my case) standing in a big muddy puddle, whoops. The predicted horrible weather lifted after Friday, so you could see all the way across the sea to Scotland which I found v exciting, especially when I spotted Hadyard Hill wind farm. Also we slept a lot. And doop's family are great.

Today I intended to be largely quite lazy, but the to-do list is filling up regardless. How does this happen?

[0] After about 40 min I went in search of insulation, and came back with a pile of free papers. "I feel like a homeless person" [personal profile] doop said plaintively as I spread them all over the floor. Indeed, but a *warmer* homeless person. Query: why TF are there lovely soft squishy seats & nice carpet on the way *onto* the ferry, but on the way *back*, one is forced to spend the 4 hr wait in the rail station waiting area, which has metal seats and tiled floor.
[1] Vehicle-only ferries = "we have no method in place to get people onto the ferry on foot". If cycling you ride on along with the cars/lorries/motorbikes, so this shouldn't be a problem. I suspect it is FAIL on the part of their website.

Date: 2009-08-17 10:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aendr.livejournal.com
Interesting that their website for Liv-Larne allows you to select "bicycle" in the vehicle drop down box, but doesn't give you any options for journeys whereas it does for "motorcycle". I was wondering if you could pretend to be motorcyclists, but it's probably a lot more expensive.
I would suppose that a typical cyclist might well be fitter and more able to manage stairs than some car passengers.

Date: 2009-08-17 10:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
apparently Stena don't think that bikes are vehicles so Liverpool-Larne isn't an option even if cycling

Also, you have to go to Larne, which is a dump.

(the surrounding countryside is quite nice, but Larne is basically post-industrial wasteland decorated with rusting derricks.)

Date: 2009-08-17 11:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
Larne used to have lots of heavy industry, chiefly shipbuilding, but that's basically gone now, so it's a bit depressed.

My ex-husband's gran lives (lived? Dunno if she's still going) in Larne too.

Date: 2009-08-17 07:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] uon.livejournal.com
Larne has actually become way way way nicer than it used to be, over the last five years. I used to despise the place; now I quite like it.

The reason for this, as I understand it, is that the local council in Carrickfergus (town up the road) decided a while back to try to protect their interests by refusing to let any new businesses move into Carrick. This, combined with the fact that it was becoming well known as a hangout for Loyalist thugs, meant that an awful lot of businesses, shops, and people moved out to Larne instead: Carrick is now a ghost town whereas Larne is thriving. The post-industrial wasteland has mostly been cleared to make for shiny new developments of one sort or another. The town itself still isn't awesome pretty compared to the surrounding countryside, but it's a million miles away from the eyesore it used to be.

They've even replaced the fearsome mural of King Billy on the entrance to the town with something a little more tame and less sinister, and the "Welcome to Loyalist Larne" graffiti on the way in from Glynn has been sprayed over. I was impressed.

Date: 2009-08-17 11:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] steer.livejournal.com
Ooooh no -- seats going back on trains would be a NIGHTMARE. It's bad enough on planes when you have flight attendants to bark "put your seats up and sit still" and keep some modicum of control. Every minute the numbskull in front of you is moving the seat up and down like they're having a fit. No, for the love of god, let's keep train seats staying still. I don't want someone else's seat back bobbing up and down in my newspaper.

Date: 2009-08-17 11:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] steer.livejournal.com
Really -- I've always found that the seat-going back thing makes no discernable difference in comfort to me (on planes at least) but does massively increase irritation.

Perhaps I am bitter after the most recent Atlantic crossing where the person in front was unduly fascinated by the 2-3cm difference it made.

Virgin trains are a nightmare aren't they? They look like they're about to be really posh and nice and then are a real let down.

Date: 2009-08-17 02:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] htfb.livejournal.com
Are you by any chance a bit short? As a lanky git I find that airline and coach seats are too low, and sitting with them upright puts my knees above my hips and puts pressure from the abdomen into the stomach---not good if you're at all subject to travel-sickness.

And then the headrest to the seat is at shoulder height, pushing me forward, while the indentation that should be making room for the shoulders is leaving a gap where I'd like support for my back if I'm going to relax my spine at all---and the lumbar support for the lower back is just pushing into the bottom of the spine and crushing my stomach further. (This last effect is particularly pronounced on more recent trains, for some reason)

To get any support for my back at all I need to wriggle lower in the seat, and to do *that* every degree by which I can tilt the seat back is valuable. It decreases the legroom I get in proportion, of course. The last time I flew long-haul I broke my journey in Amsterdam to get an extra inch of seat pitch---it was worth a couple of hours to me[1].

None of this, even the absurd little rising headpiece on the planes, will do me much good in the event of a collision, since I can't by any means get my head into a position where I'll get proper protection from whiplash. But perhaps I have a right to try.

If your head's that bit lower then I admit my seat-back will be intruding into your personal space more than the reclined seat of the bod in front of me. But I'm not doing it wantonly to irritate you.


[1] On the way back I was bumped onto the BA flight anyway. I spent it on the steward's flip-down seat at the back of the cabin---the straight board-back was more comfortable than trying to fold myself into my allocated seat. At least my head was supported and my legs could sprawl.

Date: 2009-08-17 02:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] steer.livejournal.com
Are you by any chance a bit short?

6'2" and relatively broad with it. I can relate to your discomfort but not to the few centimetres of seat movement doing anything to alleviate it. My last plane journey I had knee problems for two days afterwards from sitting cramped up. I agree plane flight can be uncomfortable -- I just don't see the seat movement helps on anything other than a psychological level.
Edited Date: 2009-08-17 02:09 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-08-17 03:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] steer.livejournal.com
Heh... genius. And the genuinely selfish can deploy that and then recline their seats.

Date: 2009-08-17 01:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jvvw.livejournal.com
We saw a fabulous view of Ireland from the Mull of Kintyre a few weeks ago.

Impressed that you managed to do it that cheaply. Jon's parents live on the way to Holyhead (something which we've taken advantage of when going to Ireland) and the trains there always seem painfully expensive.

Date: 2009-08-18 12:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jvvw.livejournal.com
Thanks, that's incredibly handy to know about - will check the details next time we're thinking of going over to Ireland.

Date: 2009-08-17 01:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bluedevi.livejournal.com
Oh god, the cold hard floor of Holyhead. I've managed not to have to do that so far this year by getting up at silly o'clock, but I think the timings of trains from Oxford to Holyhead are a bit less likely to drop you in a ferry black hole anyway.

The last time I had to wait for the night ferry, there was a bunch of people with bodhrans singing Celine Dion songs.

Date: 2009-08-17 06:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] e-dan.livejournal.com
Still sounds like an exciting journey :)

Also, you mean there really is a place called "the Mull of Kintyre"? *giggles*

Date: 2009-08-17 08:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] uon.livejournal.com
I didn't think Holyhead was especially exciting, but unexpectedly passing through Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch was quite amusing!

Date: 2009-08-17 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrs-leroy-brown.livejournal.com
Hooray for you! Bloody 'ell, you can get to TV's the Midwest of America in that time! You win all the travel points ;)

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