As I mentioned in the previous post, we arrived in Edinburgh just in time for the city’s annual Fringe Festival. When I booked our room at the Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel back in early April, I had no idea this huge festival was going to be happening. If I had to do it over again, I think I would have avoided Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival, not because it isn’t a fantastic festival, but because I don’t enjoy crowds. Edinburgh was bursting at the seams during our two nights there.
Our flight to Edinburgh from Frankfurt occurred on August 2nd. I booked us in business class, not just because I like luxury, but also because we were bringing a lot of bags. During our last visit to Scotland in 2017, Bill had a kilt custom made expressly for gala nights on Hebridean Princess. He doesn’t own a tuxedo and doesn’t particularly want to purchase one. I kept bugging him to get a kilt, even though he’s more Irish than Scottish.
On prior cruises, Bill wore his Army dress blues, but he’s now five years retired and it’s not so easy to fit into the old uniform anymore. Moreover, technically he’s not supposed to wear the uniform at non-military sponsored events, since he’s no longer on active duty. Now, that doesn’t mean he’d get “busted” on Hebridean Princess. In fact, when he’s worn the uniform, he’s mostly been well-received by the other passengers. Most of them have been from Britain and on every cruise we’ve done so far, Bill has met at least a couple of people who have served in Britain’s armed forces. Fellow Americans tend to be scarce on Hebridean cruises. The ones we have met had nothing to do with the military. Still, it was time for a change in wardrobe. The uniform serves as a great conversation piece, but it’s cumbersome and requires crash dieting.
We had to transport the kilt and all that comes with it, as well as a few nice dresses for yours truly. In business class on most airlines, passengers get a generous luggage allowance. On Lufthansa, we each got two free bags. We only checked three bags, which was way more than enough! I really need to learn to pack less!
Our flight to Edinburgh was to commence at 4:15pm. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, although we couldn’t find any luggage carts near where Bill parked. The one machine we found was broken, so we ended up hauling the bags well into the airport before we finally found someone’s mercifully abandoned cart. My mood was rapidly turning to irritation as we searched for a place to check our bags. Although we had just flown out of Frankfurt in late June when we went to Sweden, the check in desk we’d used was moved.
Complicating matters was the fact that the check in desks were on a lower floor and there was no elevator nearby. Somehow, we managed to wrangle the bags onto the escalator without major injury. Then, instead of searching for a proper full service check in, we headed for the self-service luggage drop. That was a bad idea, and didn’t turn out to be self-service, since we ended up requiring assistance. I don’t know what we were thinking. I don’t even like using the self-service checkout at the grocery store. As we were trying to figure out how to get the luggage tags, I remarked to Bill that since we paid for business class, we should have enjoyed all of its perks… like someone who knows what they’re doing and can efficiently get our luggage sorted. Hindsight is 20/20.
Fortunately, there were a couple of Lufthansa staffers on hand to help us get our bags checked. Then, after a somewhat painless trip through security, we headed to passport control, which is always an interesting experience when you’re on “SOFA” status. For those who don’t know, SOFA stands for Status of Forces Agreement. It’s what allows Bill and me to live in Germany and not be legal residents or pay German taxes. We’ve found that the passport officials don’t always know about SOFA, particularly in countries where U.S. forces aren’t typically based.
Even in Germany, which has a long history of hosting U.S. military folks, the passport officials sometimes have to be reminded to check for the blue card. We usually only deal with passport control when we’re headed out of the Schengen zone, like when we go to Britain or the United States. Bill, of course, has dealt with them more than I have on his trips to Africa.
We cleared passport control, then headed to Lufthansa’s business class lounge. Access to the lounge is another reason I usually book business class within Europe. I don’t like crowds and, although the lounge can get crowded, it’s never as crowded as the general areas are in most airports. Lufthansa’s lounges are nice, since they offer relatively quiet places to plug in electronics, comfortable seating, clean toilets, food, and beverages. The ones at Frankfurt Airport also have showers available, which I’m sure are great for people who are on long haul flights.
At about 3:30pm, we headed for our gate, where many people were already congregated. Boarding time was 3:45pm, but it came and went. Our flight was delayed due to weather problems and a computer glitch. I was pretty impatient to get out of Germany. I do love living here, but I also love getting away for a few days. I longed to get to Scotland, where I knew I’d see and hear inappropriate things that would make me laugh. For instance, in Germany, it’s technically against the law to flip someone off, particularly in traffic. I’ve never actually done that myself, but I’ve read that people who get caught doing it can be levied heavy fines. Scotland has no such oppressive laws, as we found out soon after landing in Edinburgh.
Our flight was okay, except there was a child sitting behind me who kept kicking my seat. Her brother sat in the aisle seat and kept whining for his mom, who was sitting nearby and looked really tired. I couldn’t blame her. Her kids were at a very energetic age, which they were sharing with everyone. The drama escalated when “mama”, apparently from Italy, took her son’s tablet away, causing him to protest rather loudly. I’m glad there was wine.
Edinburgh’s airport is pretty decent, especially compared to Glasgow’s, which we experienced yesterday. When we landed, we had a super quick, painless entrance. It was fully automated and took seconds. I put my passport on a scanner, was deemed “okay”, waited to have my picture taken, then scooted straight through to baggage claim. We had no trouble finding a luggage cart, and after a brief walk to the taxi stand, were soon experiencing our first taste of Scottish hospitality. The hilarious cab driver loaded our bags in the back of his van. As he was packing us up, the cab driver behind him honked. Our cabbie straightened up, smiled pretty, and shot the bird at the guy behind him! I howled with laughter! It felt like I’d come home!