Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Journey: Edinburgh to Amsterdam to Brussels to New York City to Baltimore and Reverse

On a Saturday in early June, we experienced the best travel day ever.  We took the train from Dundee to Edinburgh and, to save money, we walked about a mile (with our bags) to the stop for the local bus to the airport (£1.40) rather than the Airport Express bus (£3.50), which picks up right outside Haymarket rail station.  We've done this once before and it was pretty straightforward but this time, due to construction for Edinburgh's tram, it wasn't as clear cut and we wound up getting lost.  We arrived at the airport less than 30 minutes before boarding.  Luckily, we were flying KLM (instead of one of the discount airlines) and we got the VIP treatment (escorted to the front of the line to check our bags) upon arrival.  We cruised through security and made it to our gate with time to spare.

Schiphol Train Station
The flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam took us only about an hour.  We waited longer at the airport, for our bags and the train to Brussels, than it took to get there.  We grabbed the train (€25, first class) from Schiphol to Brussels Central (an excruciating 2.5 hours) and arrived at our flat in Brussels about 30 minutes earlier than expected, around 11PM.

The trip from Brussels to New York City wasn't as pleasant as our first leg because a) the Brussels airport is shit and 2) our flight was connecting rather than direct, but the flights themselves were fine.

Comte de Flandres metro station
Getting to the Brussels airport is pretty easy (subway and bus, €3.50) and Air Canada was a nice enough airline.  We could've done without the 1.5 hours in Montreal but the flights only cost £230 so if the connection made the trip £500 cheaper then it was well worth it. We arrived into LaGuardia and took the bus to the subway to our hostel in the Bowery ($2.50).

For our trip to Reisterstown, MD we had to get creative.  We took the Megabus from New York to White Marsh, MD ($9.00), a suburb northeast of Baltimore.  From there we took a local MTA bus ($1.60) into Baltimore where we then grabbed the subway to Owings Mills ($1.60).  Our only option at this point was a cab and, luckily, there's a taxi rank right outside the Owings Mills station.  The taxi from the station to our resort cost $30.00.

Happily, we made a friend over our weekend at the resort willing to drive us into Baltimore.  We forced $20 on her for the inconvenience though, since she would've been travelling in the completely opposite direction otherwise.

Megabus, Baltimore to New York City
To get back up to New York we just reversed the above; local bus to White Marsh and Megabus into New York City.  Once we got to New York we had to make our way to JFK which required the subway ($2.50) and the AirTrain ($5.00).

Our flight back to Brussels was uneventful.  This leg was on Brussels Airlines and, besides the flight staff seeming rather surprised to be there, the flight seemed short and the seats were the most comfortable we've experienced in quite some time.  We arrived in Brussels an hour later than expected, around 7AM.

This next portion was one of our worst travel experiences ever.  We had hoped to simply reverse the above but the bus ticket (€3.50) is only good for a free transfer to the subway within an hour from purchase and we were stuck in a Brussels traffic jam for just over an hour, missing our free ride to Gare du Nord.  Not wanting to pay again we decided to walk, venturing forth with a compass, no map, and luggage.  We eventually got to Gare du Nord around 10AM and checked in for our 12PM Eurolines bus to Amsterdam (€9.00) only to be told that it was going to be late and not to expect it before 1PM.  It eventually showed up at 1:45PM.

We arrived at Amstel station in Amsterdam almost two hours later than expected.  Furthermore, for some reason our Google map had placed the distance from Amstel station and our flat at a mere 1.4km.  The reality was that Amstel station is 5km away from our flat, which makes a huge difference.  Had we known the actual distance we would've sprung for public transportation.  As it was, we just walked.

The train from Amsterdam's Centraal station to Schiphol airport was €4.05 (including €0.50 credit card fee because only Dutch bank cards are accepted for no-fee processing).  Schiphol is a wonderful airport but we didn't have much time to explore before boarding.  Our KLM flight back to Edinburgh was uneventful and we were home shortly thereafter, 17 days after beginning this journey.

This trip had many legs and, though the return trip from Amsterdam to Brussels and the bus ride from Baltimore to New York City were very long, it didn't feel as though we spent a huge chunk of time travelling.  Even at the end of the trip, the two solid days of travel (from Baltimore to Amsterdam) had almost been completely forgotten, though I fear the horrible Eurolines experience will stay with us for quite some time.

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