Transit through Frankfurt

Heading out to Ethiopia DonQui has a 12 hour trip ahead ahead of him. This includes a crack of dawn hop from London to Frankfurt where he is to pick up his connecting Lufthansa flight.

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Landing in Frankfurt at just before 9am, there is plenty of time to make his onward connection which departs at 10:30. As it is the same airline flying from the same terminal, DonQui imagines himself enjoying a second breakfast in a cosy lounge as he waits. After all how far can it be from gate A10 to B25?

Full of optimism he sets off following the sign saying ‘Gates B20-60’. Turning a corner he sees another long corridor ahead. His bags start to feel heavy as he goes up an escalator and turns another corner, only to be faced with an even longer, desolate-looking corridor.

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The sign: ‘Gates B20-60’ continues to beckon him forward but by now it begins to feel like the carrot in front of one of his less bright distant cousins — always in front and never getting closer. What he thought would be a short jaunt followed by a rest in the lounge has turned into a 3 day camel ride through the desert without an oasis in sight.

A transit train ride, another security check, several escalators, and endless corridors later, DonQui finally arrives at Gate B25 just as his flight is about to board. It took him 52 minutes and he is not a slow walker!

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Naturally DonQui tries to avoid non-direct flights if he can. Recently he has transited through Amsterdam airport quite a few times. Each time it had been relatively quick and painless. Not so Frankfurt.

Oh well it could have been worse. At London Heathrow he overheard a distraught passenger, ladened with bags, trying to work out how to make an onward connection from Luton airport. The time and expense of such a transfer made DonQui shudder.

 

London’s Airports

Many visitors to the UK don’t realise that London is served by 6 Airports. Depending on destination or point of origin there may be no choice but if there is, where you land or take off from can make a huge difference to your comfort as well as the length and cost of your overland journey.

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DonQui Oaty has previously extolled the virtues of tiny Southend Airport which is the furthest to the east of London.

Now he is flying to Dublin from London City Airport which is DonQui’s favourite London airport. Amongst its advantages is that it is actually in London and easy to get to or from on the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and Underground, without needing to resort to the long and expensive train journeys all the other airports require. Unlike the often chaotic, hectic larger airports, London City (LCY) is quite civilised and comfortable. As a creature who likes his comfort, this is rather important for DonQui.

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As it is actually in London, LCY is, necessarily, a very small airport with a short runway suitable only for quick hops to nearby European cities. Therefore there are no transcontinental flights but there are good connections to other international hubs such as Amsterdam and Paris. As LCY tends to cater to business passengers the flights can be on the pricy side compared to the budget fights out of Stansted, Luton, Gatwick and Southend.

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There are no lounges but the whole departure area feels a bit like a business lounge so there is no need. There are plenty of seats, good food and drink options and no hordes of package holiday-makers.

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It has been pointed out to DonQui that there are no opportunities to to stock up on toiletries or cosmetics in the departure area to get around the 100ml security limit for liquids and gels. Therefore if you wish to cary such things you will need to check a bag. DonQui has a pre-packed plastic bag with small sized amounts of such things for his travels so this does not bother him.

So what of London’s other airports? Here is DonQui’s biased guide, moving around London in a clockwise direction from the west:

Heathrow: Often hard to avoid if you have a transcontinental flight, Europe’s busiest airport can be hectic and daunting although it is well organised. With 5 huge terminals you need to know which one your airline will be using as although T1-3 are within walking distance of each other T4 and T5 will require bus or train transfers. Heathrow is convenient for the west but the Heathrow express into Paddington station is expensive. If you are short on cash you can take the regular commuter train at a fraction of the price or the Tube (Subway for North Americans). Both of the cheaper options take much longer — 45 minutes on the Tube vs 20 minutes on the Heathrow express.

Luton: Relatively small and dominated by Ryanair — DonQui’s least favourite airline. As a result this is the only London airport he has not flown from so cannot give a view. The journey into London tends to take about 30-40 minutes to St Pancras

Stansted: London’s third largest airport to the north is not one of DonQui’s favourites. It serves mostly budget airlines so there are good bargains to many European cities but it is overcrowded and chaotic. The journey into London can take an hour and the so-called Stansted Express which goes to Liverpool Street Station is not very express-like.

Southend: A great little airport well to the east of London serving only a small number of destinations with budget airlines. The trip into London Liverpool St station will take almost an hour.

Gatwick: With two terminals Gatwick is a sort of budget version of Heathrow with some major airlines using it and with some intercontinental flights. Although smaller it seems more overcrowded and more unpleasant than Heathrow. One plus for Gatwick is the Bloc Hotel inside the South Terminal which is great for an overnight if you have a ghastly o’clock start. There are good (approx 30min) connections by train to Victoria and London Bridge stations as well as Brighton to the south.

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If by some unfortunate circumstance you are transiting through London and have to change airports then DonQui pities you. DonQui would rather walk over hot coals than attempt it himself. Only London City airport is actually in Greater London. All the others are many miles away.

 

Off for some winter sun

IMG_9786.jpgThe first snow drops may be on their way…

Adnams-Jack-Brand-Mosaic-Pale-Ale-label.jpg… And Don Qui’s favourite Mosaic summer ale may be back on tap at his local.

Both of these are signs that Spring must be just around the corner. But it does not feel like it.

DonQui is heartily sick of the long cold, grey, damp, winter and so he has decided to head off to find some winter sun.

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His flight leaves from Gatwick Airport in the morning. Not being a great early morning animal he decides to stay overnight at the Bloc Hotel which is right inside Gatwick’s Terminal 2 by the departure gates from where his British Airways flight will be departing in the morning.

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A Weatherspoons’ pub is not the sort of establishment Don Qui would normally frequent. There are not any better options so not expecting much Don Qui goes inside in search of some refreshment. While far from gourmet, it is surprisingly OK and reasonable value for money.

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The Bloc Hotel is clean, functional, modern and has a few nice touches. Don Qui has stayed here before and finds the handy location by the departure gates more than make up for the somewhat utilitarian surroundings.

Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar

DonQui is on his way to Zanzibar for the weekend.

He had a number of travel choices from Dar and has opted to fly rather than take the ferry. His main reason for doing so is to be able to get back to Dar es Salaam airport to connect with another flight on Sunday evening. If he took the ferry he would have to struggle through Dar traffic again and he would rather maximise his time on the beautiful island of Zanzibar.

He takes the evening Precision Air flight, the return portion being due to deliver him back to Dar 2hrs 30mins before his flight on Sunday.Precision Air

He hopes it will all work out as planned!

It was a bit of a struggle getting to the airport from Jangwani. Late Friday afternoon the roads are always clogged in Dar and his Tanzanian friends warned him of election rallies that were blocking the traffic and making the journey even more nightmarish than usual.road

Fortunately he had already struck an agreement with a local taxi driver who took him a circuitous route through markets and the down the dirt roads of the more ramshackle parts of Dar. Bypassing the stationary traffic on the main routes he got DonQui to the airport in plenty of time for $15 less than the official rate.Dan Air 2

Previously DonQui has taken the Dan Air flight to Zanzibar. Dan Air is a very small outfit flying very small planes.IMG_2375

The trip itself was great fun, flying low and slow over the Indian Ocean.

What DonQui did not know at the time was that Dan Air operates from a different domestic airport which is close to main terminal but far enough to make connections problematic. Precision Air, on the other hand, flies out of Julius Nyerere International.

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The hop over to Zanzibar takes only 20 minutes and before long DonQui is settled down at the very pleasant Traveller’s Café in Stone Town.Samosas

Here is sips a Serengeti, munches on some rather fine Samosas, listens to the sound of the waves and begins to feel quite relaxed.

DonQui recommends
Trust the taxi drivers in Tanzania. You need to agree prices in advance but they will always honour them. If you arrange a pick up at a certain time and place you can count on them being there. Completion is stiff and they will keep their part of the bargain to gain future custom. At the airport there is no room for bargaining — the rates are set, but if you make a private arrangement in advance you can lower the price considerably.

Make sure you have a plentiful supply of US dollars in relatively low denominations. Many places are cash only and many prices are set in dollars. Even hotels and airlines will at times take cash only and not credit cards.

Best Airport in Britain?

London Southend?
DonQui was not entirely sure that he had heard correctly. Southend was certainly not London and he was pretty sure you couldn’t fly there unless you were a bird.
But it was true. He was flying back to England and not only did Southend have an airport but apparently Which magazine has named it as the ‘best small airport in Britain.’ It might be a bit of a cheek to call it ‘London Southend’ but the train into London Liverpool St is only 55 minutes — not much more than the train from Stansted.
DonQui was flying from Alicante airport and he was afraid that it would be overrun by the Benidorm crowd. Actually it was fairly quite and spacious. Whether it would be the same in high season he cannot say.

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The flight was quite pleasant, even thought it was EasyJet and there was a good clear view over the Thames estuary as the plane made its descent.

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Southend was a revelation. Clean, modern, uncrowded and with everything close together it was quite different from the human zoos of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick. DonQui was most impressed.
It took no time at all to get to the airport train station which had no barriers or queues. A train pulled in a minute or two after DonQui got on the platform and he was on his way home.