The Sleeper Agent was on a mission. He wasn’t a double-oh so, no life or death stuff but still, he wanted to fly under the radar. Incognito. No Travel Agent credentials. No special treatment. Keep the mission as non-Agent travelers can expect to experience it themselves.
No fly zone
Wait; did I say “fly”? Fuggedaboudit! How about rail? The Agent traveled overnight by train, on the Caledonian Sleeper and his mission succeeded! Aberdeen to London, combining transportation and lodging in one fell swoop.
A well-trained traveler
I’d come up on the daytime Virgin Train to Edinburgh a week earlier. Trains are so enjoyable between England and Scotland, especially in the comfort of first class. Downtown London to downtown Edinburgh in under 5 hours, just about every hour. It’s spacious, comfortable, relaxed and even offers nice views.
Try that with a plane: it’s another fuggedaboudit. You have to spend time and money getting to and from an airport. Deal with huge hordes of fellow travelers. Insane “Security” lines; 3-hour airline check-in periods wasting your precious vacation time – and pay to check bags!
The dark night
After a dose of Scots adventures, I was heading back to London. Fun as the day train up was, overnight trains are a different kettle of fish.
There’s an air of adventure, of romance, a sense of times past, when travel was special. And overnights are practical too: unless you want to see the scenery, night trains provide a great combination of transportation and lodging.
Euston, we do not have a problem
I’d traveled on the overnight train from Glasgow to London before and loved it. This time, my Scots trip ended in Aberdeen, where I boarded the Caledonian Sleeper late in the evening.
The Sleeper travels to London’s Euston Station, an easy 10 minute walk from St. Pancras Station, home of the Eurostar: handy if you’re traveling on to Paris and the like.
Milling about an Aberdeen Mall
Aberdeen’s Central Station is situated in the large Union Square Mall: see my upcoming Aberdeen blog. The Caledonian Sleeper departs at about a quarter to ten, so you have time to shop around here. Note their relatively early closing time of 7pm though!
Fortunately, their restaurants and cinema stay open longer. You can have a nice dinner or drinks or even catch a movie while awaiting the whistle. There’s also lodging available if that fits your needs: Jurys Inn, right inside the Mall.
Booking and budget
The Caledonian Sleeper can be booked a year out and provides options for any budget. At present, they offer Sleeper Seats, Twin rooms and First Class singles. I had booked the latter, a nice little cabin with A/C (not needed in November), toiletries, a sleep pack, and a desk with built-in hidden sink.
Sleeper ensuites coming soon
My cabin was not ensuite, but at least close to the restroom at the end of the carriage. Caledonian Sleeper is upgrading their product though. The Guardian newspaper reported that some 75 new carriages are entering service right around now, offering ensuite (private bathroom) cabins, double bed options, WiFi and hotel-style keycards.
I’d love to do another Sleeper mission and check out those upgrades! Washing up in that in-cabin sink is OK but a true ensuite with a shower and toilet would be huge. No more midnight restroom walks through the corridor… I’ve done other overnight trains and ensuite is so much nicer: start the day refreshed – especially if it’s a 3-night 4-day epic adventure like riding Australia’s Indian Pacific!
Dinners and drams
Late as it was, I was in the mood for some evening entertainment and headed to the Lounge Car. You can have a very decent meal on board, in the Lounge or even in your cabin, but I had dinner back at Union Square already. Drink choices a-plenty and I couldn’t resist a nice Balvenie Doublewood.
It was quiet when I came in but after a bit, the entertainment started. A large and loud group of Scots settled in, regaling each other (and me in my corner) with jokes and stories. Some were definitely of “midnight quality” and you gotta appreciate the not always “PC” Scots humor.
In the morning, breakfast can be served in bed! In First, there are multiple options that you can select the evening before. The cabins aren’t big, so when the Attendant knocks in the am, you can grab the door handle right from your bed and open up.
He or she then hands you a breakfast tray and presto, breakfast in bed on a train! Sure beats having to get dressed early and head to the restaurant carriage.
The long and short of the Sleeper
Here’s how the timing works. Departure from Aberdeen was at 9:43pm. The Sleeper makes very few stops and goes at a very modest speed, so as to provide for a decent night’s sleep. Breakfast was around 6am as I recall, arrival was scheduled for 7:47am and due to a minor delay we rolled into Euston around 8:15. This timing allows for a full day in London (see my Remembrance Day blog) or plenty time to head to an airport.
The name is Street. Bond Street
Not all missions are a success, nor necessarily enjoyable, but the Caledonian Sleeper was both. I switched from Sleeper Agent to Awake Agent, ready for the upcoming day. Life’s short and precious, and who needs a double-oh Agent status! A license to enjoy will be just fine. And with that, this Sleeper Agent went for a stroll along Bond Street…
My travel blog “Con’s Corner” takes a sometimes irreverent look at 4+ decades of travel in the British Isles. My trips are real: no months of staging the perfect photo, no waiting for the perfect weather, no Photoshopping, no promo story in exchange for a freebie: I pay full fare. It’s true travel. Note that the company does not necessarily share my opinions and views. In fact, they may be shaking their heads. The photography is mine (except where credited as noted), as are all typos, grammatical errors, and odd expressions. It’s a blog, people, not literature! I also accept full responsibility for any puns, varying on a scale from hilarious to ouch… Be all that as it may, I intend to keep at it until I get it right. Con Jager, Santa Rosa, USA.
Feel adventurous? Enjoy shaking your head? You can now subscribe directly to Con’s Corner, but don’t blame me for a sore neck!