While the main part of the trip was over at this point, it would take another four days for me to make my fairly leisurely way back to Edinburgh.
Saturday 8 Feb
Around mid-morning, we took the subway followed by a train to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport. The ANA lounge had almost nothing by way of food, so Bruce had to go out and bring some in. Our domestic flight to Tokyo Narita passed uneventfully. Our night stop, the Radisson, proved to be desperately disappointing, being both woefully outdated and not entirely clean!
Sunday 9 Feb
We were eligible to use the JAL First Class lounge at Narita, thanks to Bruce’s gold card with BA, and it turned out to be a truly fabulous way to begin a long journey. Our BA6 flight from Narita to Heathrow appeared to be at risk of disruption due to Storm Ciara in the UK, but in the event operated near-normally; the main adverse factor was a strong headwind, causing the expected flight time to be a very long 12.5hrs. Our Club World experience turned out to be another good effort from BA, albeit not quite reaching the stellar excellence of the outbound. Both Bruce and I slept well and time appeared to pass remarkably quickly in spite of the slow progress. Additionally, this was another positive experience of Do&Co catering.
Despite disruption on the Heathrow Express, we made it to Paddington without any major inconvenience. Our night stop was the Hilton Paddington, where we had secured an unexpectedly good deal in the January sale.
Monday 10 Feb
We had breakfast at the Hilton’s executive lounge, which overlooks the busy Paddington concourse. We were booked on the 1002 to Bristol Temple Meads, but it was another day of severe disruption on the Great Western main line. We caught the delayed 0948 bound for Swansea and got off at Bristol Parkway. There, we hopped onto a taxi for the transfer to Bruce’s flat in torrential rain, courtesy of Ciara. It was a relatively lazy day of relaxation, following the long journey from Japan.
Tuesday 11 Feb
I spent the morning chez Bruce, which included an enjoyable brunch at Spicer & Cole on the Gloucester Road. I left for the airport around 1230 and on arrival, used my Lounge Card to gain entry to the Aspire Lounge. After more weather anxiety, my easyJet flight operated normally and indeed left early. The weather on arrival at Edinburgh was horrid, but I made it home by a reasonably civilised 1730.
It was a long way to go, at what some would see as a challenging time of year, for less than a full week of ‘destination time’ – but let me be clear: I wouldn’t have missed this for anything! Japan is one of my favourite destinations and experiencing a Hokkaido winter added a new dimension to my appreciation of the country and its culture. I didn’t know at the time that the trip would soon be followed by months of being grounded, but the vivid memories would prove to be a source of strength to draw upon during the long, sometimes bleak days of Covid-19 lockdown.