It all started smoothly enough. Our group of 20 split into four groups, each of which trundled down Queensway to the Bayswater Tube station. The Circle Line got us to King's Cross Station, and after hauling luggage up far more stairs than we expected, we congregated on a platform at the famous station. There was time for many of us to be photographed at the barrier through which one gets to Platform 9 3/4. We decided to take a non-direct route to Scotland, on a train to York where we would change to a train to Edinburgh. Sounded simple.
|Calvin students on Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station in London.|
The train to York was run by the Grand Central company and included a snack trolley (no chocolate frogs, though), free wireless access, and large pictures of Marilyn Monroe. We had a great time. Then the train stopped at York.
Under normal circumstances, we would remember York as the site of Calvin's Semester in Britain program. Instead it became the site of one of our course's most memorable (mis)adventures. Our train, it turned out, was running late and the crew was hoping for a very quick stop in York (for 60 seconds or so). That would have been difficult enough, given we are a group of 20 in a new environment and carrying luggage. But when we went to get off the train, we discovered a bizarre exit system: to open the door and alight, one must pull down the window of the door, reach outside the train and open the door from the outside. (Our friends in Edinburgh were surprised to hear all this.) Well, one group of us managed to get the door open and to frantically offload our luggage and our bodies. But a second group couldn't get their door open, and the train was moving before the incompetent crew realized that people might actually want to get off the train at the stop. As the train pulled out, some of our number on the platform could see a fellow student's hand groping for the door handle on the outside of the train. Oh no!
In York we tried to get the train company to get our stray students off at the next stop, and put them on the next train back to York. This would have worked quite well, but while the staff at York were friendly enough they were unable to figure out how to contact the crew of a train. So instead, the Lost Students were advised to alight at a station downtrack, and change to a train in Newcastle that would proceed to Edinburgh. Once the remnant in York learned this, they got on a train to Edinburgh via Newcastle, and our class was joyously reunited in Newcastle. The Lost Students reported that they found the whole thing "fun" and told hilarious stories of holding signs for passing trains (which they thought would have the rest of the group on board) telling them to meet in Edinburgh.
|The Lost Students showing courage and cleverness.|
It was all worth the hassle, because we finally arrived safe and sound in gorgeous Edinburgh, and checked into our wonderful modern hostel in the middle of the Royal Mile. We were offered free full breakfast for our entire 10-day stay – a surprise blessing – and discovered a clean and comfortable common area that was a nice change from the more, er, rustic accommodations in London.
Next up: our first meeting with an Enlightenment scholar