1 November 2022, London Marriott Hotel County Hall
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
It”s certainly been a busy time for Air France. What with the acquisition of VLM on Christmas Eve and operating ScotAirways services from London City Airport under the CityJet brand, the French carrier is increasingly active and none more so on Scottish routes.
Having long had an association with north east Scotland I”ve usually flown to Edinburgh, which necessitates a slog back into the city centre and then a train that actually passes right by the runway on the way out.
So I jumped at the chance to use CityJet”s service from London City Airport to Dundee and shave a considerable amount of time from the normal journey.
And now that passengers are becoming used to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) link from Bank tube station in the City of London, access is considerably easier.
Given this was a Saturday morning, the atmosphere in the departures lounge was much more relaxed ” a real change from the normal, supercharged work environment with dozens of laptops on the go. Prices for tea, coffee and food in general in the lounge restaurant remain startlingly high however, with ”2.30 for a poor quality cup of tea a disappointment.
However, travellers don”t use LCY expecting Michelin quality products; rather it”s the airport that is the out and out winner.
So much of air travel these days is sanitised and dull; half the time, passengers wouldn”t even know they are in a terminal, so insistent are the operators in cramming as many ” generally irrelevant ” shops into as small a space as possible.
But with LCY, you can almost smell the kerosene coming through the windows and watch aircraft such as Austrian”s Fokker 70 landing on the 1,199m (3934ft) runway. Significant extension work is also taking place to improve the aircraft parking space available; such is the popularity of the airport that airlines are queuing up to use it.
A short walk and we swiftly boarded the BAe 146 and were on our way. At 10am, the economy class service was a light snack and refreshments, while business class tucked into an upgraded offering. Having made the journey by train so often from Edinburgh to Leuchars ” home to the RAF and shortly to receive Typhoon squadrons to replace Tornados ” I was interested to see how long it would take to fly the same route.
Well, it was around an impressive eight minutes before swooping down over the mightily impressive Tay Bridge and landing at Dundee. Exit to baggage hall was swift, although the luggage was rather bizarrely being supervised by a policewoman.
Just 12 miles from Dundee is the hugely historic town of St Andrews. World famous of course for its golf, particularly the Championship Old Course, the town also houses the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, from where all golf rules are defined.
The golf brings an eclectic mix of tourists, including a goodly proportion of Americans and Japanese, but the place also contains more history per square mile than you can shake a stick at.
Dundee or Leuchars are the nearest places to access St Andrews ” the place controversially lost its railway station some time ago ” with the latter of course home to the RAF”s most northerly fighter base ” one of the busiest in Strike Command.
Far from the roar of RAF fighter aircraft, St Andrews was also home to ecclesiastical life in mediaeval Scotland. St Andrews derives its name from the Apostle, whose bones were brought to the town as a relic and whose Saltire Cross symbol now forms part of the national flag.
And around the medieval, winding lanes that criss-cross what are essentially the three main arteries in St Andrews of North, South and Market Streets, are innumerable letters in the road that denominate where pro-Reformation campaigners and priests were martyred horribly at the stake.
It”s difficult to underestimate the cataclysmic effects of the Reformation in St Andrews, where adherents of the new thinking clashed so violently with the established order, but for anyone interested in that period the town absolutely oozes history from almost every stone.
And no mention of St Andrews is complete without mention of its University ” the third oldest in Britain dating from 1410. Fiendishly difficult to be admitted ” students often need straight A grades ” its influence is felt far and wide from the many hostelries that students use to refresh themselves, to a significant sporting element and debates that attract the great and the good from the elite of the Scottish establishment.
One of the nicest places to stay is the St Andrews Golf Hotel on The Scores, which recently underwent a refurbishment including a new cocktail bar and terrace. One of the oddities of the town is that St Andrews has almost nowhere to eat or drink outside, but the Golf Hotel”s terrace is a real feature.
The property also has what must rank as one of the country”s most glorious breakfast rooms. On a sunny morning ” I was lucky ” the light literally cascade through enormous windows overlooking the North Sea straight ahead and the 18th hole of the Old Course to the left.
It would be extremely advisable to book ahead for this hotel and anyone thinking of staying there for the 2010 Open, might want to think of picking up the phone now. The hotel would be the absolute ideal base from which to watch the golf and unwind afterwards.
To that end, underneath the hotel lurks Ma Bells, one of St Andrews” institutions and a favourite with golfers straight off the 18th and students, including one Prince William, whose time at the University provoked such interest.
The food is wholesome and generously portioned, while the place has a real vibrancy about it that frankly, characterises so much of the town.
The area around St Andrews ” the Kingdom of Fife ” is packed to bursting with things to do, while of course to the south lies Edinburgh and north, Dundee ” the ”City of Discovery,” famous home of ”jute, jam and journalism”, including the Beano and Dandy comics.
There are of course a host of transport means to arrive in the north east, but if speed and convenience is the key, hop on a CityJet from Docklands; it”s worth a weekend.
St Andrews Golf HotelTel: 01334 472611
Air Francewww.airfrance.fr (www.airfrance.co.uk for UK)