Pardon the interruption from the Iceland posts (I still hope to crank at least two more out), but it’s been a super-busy (and productive) six weeks at work and my big summer trip is already almost here! This will actually be my longest trip in over a year, at eleven nights, and I’m very excited, as the whole plan is very intentional, combining some gay party time, the arts, culture, and some quiet time with nature- I’m off to Manchester, England for its Pride festival, followed by a week touring Scotland.
I had initially planned to make this trip at the end of last summer, before I knew I’d be changing jobs mid-summer, so this trip has been awhile in the making. Last September, I set up award flight alerts on every airline for flights into Manchester in business class, and over a three month period, nothing became available. In December, on a lark, I looked to see what revenue tickets were going for, and sure enough an open-jaw ticket from DC into Manchester and back from Glasgow was available for under $500 — close to what you’d pay in taxes and fees on a business award ticket. The outbound has me flying through Atlanta on Delta and Virgin Atlantic, and the return is Delta the whole way via JFK.
This will be my first flight on Virgin Atlantic in economy. Unfortunately, the Virgin 747 was subbed out for a former Airberlin A330-200, which is supposed to be terrible in coach. And while I had a seat assignment in the front of economy in a window seat for the past few months, I logged on today to see I had been moved to an aisle in the center section of the plane all the way in the back, and the only window seats left were even further back. So, I am not looking forward to that flight.
On the return, I have a 5.5 hour layover at JFK, which I thought for sure would change due to schedule changes over the intervening nine months, but despite many changes to both flights, it’s still around the same. Guess I’ll have time to shower and such at the Skyclub.
As for my plans in the U.K., I am giving myself basically one day to explore Manchester before the festivities begin, and splitting my time between the Doubletree Manchester – Piccadilly — which hopefully will be better than the last former Mint, current Doubletree property I stayed at last summer in Amsterdam, and the Holiday Inn Manchester City Centre, both right in the heart of Manchester’s Gay Village. If anyone has tips for what I should do in Manchester, definitely let me know! Pride itself should be a blast, with Rita Ora and Jake Shears as headliners, and a big crowd from all over the world. Unfortunately the weather doesn’t look like it will be very Pride-y, with temperatures in the high 50s and grey!
From Manchester, I’ll be taking the train up to Edinburgh — the TransPennine Express to be precise, which sounds very fancy. While Flybe does fly between the two cities, the just over three-hour train from city center to city center is more efficient. I’ll be spending two nights at the Waldorf-Astoria Caledonian — my first ever stay at a Waldorf-Astoria. I was originally going to stay at cheaper places, but this is my big splurge for the trip hotel-wise, and it actually wasn’t very expensive at all- either in points for one night, or cash for the second.
I’ll arrive in Edinburgh on the very last day of the famous Fringe Festival, so I have tickets for two comedy shows, and will also have a day and a half to explore – so tips again welcome!
From Edinburgh I’m picking up a car and driving through Stirling, up through the Trossachs, and into Glencoe, where I’m spending the night in a small hotel, before going up to Ben Nevis the next day, and then down into Oban, where I have an Airbnb for two nights. One of my days in Oban will be spent on a full-day tour of three of the Inner Hebridean Islands – Mull, Iona and Staffa. The next day I’ll head back inland, stopping in Loch Lomond on my way into Glasgow, where I’ll round out the trip. In Glasgow, I’ll be spending one night at the Hampton Inn, and one night at the Doubletree, for reasons I’ll explain in a later post.
So, will I come back stuffed with haggis, wearing a kilt, covered in glitter with a thick brogue? Who knows! I’ll try and take good notes and photos either way.