23/07/2016 by spitfirepilots
A Foreigners Guide to Flying Legends
HOW TO GET THERE
Well, that all depends from where you’re flying from doesn’t it? Usually, you have three airports you might be flying into. Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick. If your airline of choice flies to Stansted, do Stansted. It is by the closest and the cheapest option for further travel. There’s direct trains from Stansted to Cambridge. Cambridge is the closest town to Duxford, and a majority of the airshow goers stay here while attending the airshow (other stay in the closest villages, but I believe that is mostly Englishmen). If your airline does not fly to Stansted, you will have to fly into Heathrow or Gatwick. Now, I am tempted to say I prefer Heathrow. You cut back on travelling to Cambridge a bit if you fly into Heathrow. And Heathrow T2, the brand new one, is designed for major crowds and things even in July flow smoothly. It looks smashing as well. Gatwick is much further south, and it will take some extra time to get to Cambridge. By experience, the roads down there and around London quickly get congested – which I’ve experienced twice.
From Gatwick and Heathrow, you can take the express trains into London and get on a train to Cambridge. I would recommend you to avoid London all together. It’s very over-crowded and can be insanely annoying. Trains from London to Cambridge departs King’s Cross and Liverpool Street Station if you really, really need to do that. From Heathrow and Gatwick, I’d be tempted to say; «get on a bus». I’ve done that a couple of times. While very slow, it is better than queing in London. National Express drives from both airports. Check http://coach.nationalexpress.com/ for details. For trains, check http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/
If you are travelling in a group, I advise you to book a large taxi. You might have to spend ten pounds more all in all, but the comfort of a taxi to Cambridge is to be recommended by far. This is usually my way of travelling, as we’re always a group of minimum 4-5 people. There are several companies in Cambridge or elsewhere offering this service. It will set you back about 120 pounds or so, but divide that on 6-7 and voila. Tip; add at least an extra hour going back to the airport just in case of congestion. Put that on top of two hours at the airport and the 1,45 – 2 hour drive.
If you rent a car, be up for some queing as Duxford Airshows are popular. I have not done it, so can’t really give any pointers. However, an ardent ‘foreigners guide’ reader have done this several times, and he says the following; For the last 6 shows at Duxford I/we have rented a car. I prefer an automatic as that gives me one less thing to think about. Left hand gear shifting takes some time getting used to, and an automatic removes all that pain. Drive by GPS/Sat nav(most smartphones have this ability through an app) and you are good to go. Getting from Gatwick to Duxford takes 1h 30min. Heathrow to Duxford 1h 15min and Stansted to Duxford 20min. The M25’s reputation is not deserved in my experience. Just some minor gongestions and reduced speed near the Thames, and after that it full speed ahead at 70mph. For Duxford shows get there by 7am. There are no congestion at that time. Park at the north car park. That usually opens for ticketholders first. Then you will be able to reserve you favorite spot along the fence.
WHERE TO STAY
What does your wallet tells you to stay? Cambridge offers a wide range of different hotels, B&B’s and now also AirBnB’s. We have mostly stayed on the cheap side, and our choice of B&B’s are these B&B’s located on Tenison Road. We’ve tried several of them. Now, that road will put you close to the railway station for free airshow buses going to Duxford on Airshow days (alert: catch the first one at 08:30, you might have to wait a bit for the next one!). There are other, more expensivce choices closer to the city center, but also cheaper options. I haven’t tried AirBnB in Cambridge, but I’ve tried it three or four times in Norway and in Britain and it was a pleasant experience. If Cambridge suffers a heatwave (happened three times the last ten years), some of these places can get steaming hot as there’s no aircon anywhere. A friend of mine experienced sauna like temperatures in the Earl of Derby, another B&B not far from the train station. How much time are you gonna spend in your hotel/b&b? Not much? Save money? No? All up to you. Tip: book quickly! Start your bookings in January. Cambridge is popular during the summer. Not just for airshows.
HOW TO GET TO DUXFORD
As mentioned, there are courtesy buses going from the railway station each morning on airshow days. Get on it. Find details at the IWM site when they are going. I believe the first ones leave 08:30. I suggest you get on that. A taxi down to Duxford will set you back about 18 pounds. If you are several in your group – not a bad way to go down there either. For a fiver, you can take the train to Whittlesford, and walk over to Duxford. It’s a 20 minute walk. Not a bad deal either. I’ve done all of these.
WHAT TO DO AT DUXFORD DURING LEGENDS WEEKEND
Visit the flightline, pay your five pounds to see these birds up close. Visit the hangars. I would recommend you look into TFC’s hangar as this one is more lively than say the more static displays in some of the other hangars. AirSpace is always cool with the Concorde. American Air Museum is newly refurbished and always a pleaser. At the far end there’s the Tank Museum, but if you’re not into tanks – you don’t have to bother to much. So, try the flightline first – but don’t forget some of the hangars. But first, find your spot outside and be ready for the show!
PLACES TO BE, WHERE TO SIT
Sadly, the hot spot for photographers and hardcore nerds – what is called The Tank Bank was closed in 2016 due to new CAA regulations or indirectly because of it. Many of the Bazooka Brigade (photographers) went nuts and said they would never again bother with Legends because the photospot was ruined. Nonsense (bizarre another word). While the Tank Bank was brilliant, you can do well by the Tank Museum or in any other spot. I know some friends who always go to the other end of the airfield to get the sounds, the smell (and even the oil!) in their face. Usually, the wind direction goes straight down the airfield which means the aircraft take off from the M11 end. You see, some people like different things. Some may like to point a big bazooka at the sky and snap away, others like to smell oil. Others may even want to shelter from the sun (which often pops up) and stay in the Gold Pass section. The Gold Pass section is located in the middle of the crowdline, and will cost you a lot more. I’ve done that three times I believe. After I discovered the Tank Bank, I’ve ventured over there instead. Gold Pass is good if you want comfort, a good chair, a shadow and may need a rest or two in quiet surroundings.
WHAT TO EAT, WHAT TO DRINK
Duxford got upgraded in 2016 with fancy Burger stalls with Spitfires on them. Even the burgers tasted better. However, any Englishman you would talk to would say they are very expensive and will tell you to not bother. I personally like an overpriced Duxford burger, so I usually get one. If you’re foreign, my tip would be (if not buying burgers) to buy sandwiches in Tesco or Coop and bring them to the show. If you have a nice little bag, buy peas and use them as cooling devices. You can also bring a couple of beers if you would like – altough I recommend to get a pint at Duxford. Imagine sitting in the sun with the Legends programe (a must buy) and a pint of beer. Can’t do much better on a weekend than that, can you? Have a pint and enjoy the American girls from New York singing WWII tunes. Lovely stuff.
As for Cambridge, we usually stick to pub food, but we’ve also done Indian, but more on that later.
PHOTOGRAPHY FOR DUMMIES
You don’t need a bazooka to have fun, but you would need a 300 mm lense to have a bit of good photography going on. If you haven’t done much of this, please set your settings to 320 shutterspeed so you can get the blurry prop. We do not like those frozen props do we. Stick to take offs and landings if you have a small lense. No need to shoot away at high altitude loops.
Ah, the weather. Scorching hot, scattered showers, windy days? Jeans, shorts, t-shirts or jackets? Anything goes in Cambridgeshire in July. “Do bring an umbrella”, the English will tell you. If you’re from Scandinavia, you will think “I don’t need one, I’m not scared of silly rain”. Well, do as you please. BRING SUNBLOCK! Oh, and do bring an umbrella. We’ve experienced showers or rain four times in eleven years. That’s a bit under half of the weekends isn’t it. My regular Legends outfit is shorts, t-shirt and a jacket just in case. It won’t go under 15 plus. That’s BBQ weather for Finnish people for example. But, please BRING SUNBLOCK. Put it on even if its cloudy. The sun bites through. I have seen people getting burnt regardless. Massively. If it’s sunny, bring a nice hat. It will do wonders. Some people like to use umbrellas for cover if the sun is out. So, fine, bring an umbrella.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN CAMBRIDGE
We usually stick to local pub grup. We’ve tried Lebanese and Indian as well as a few other places. The most obvious choice of pub is The Eagle in Cambridge. It’s an historic RAF bar with pilots signatures in the ceiling. Be aware; the place might be packed the whole weekend, but do try a pint in there. Other recommended pubs; The Anchor (lovely pub by the river), Fort St. George (also by the river), Salisbury Arms (close to the railway station, less tourists), The Mill, and The Flying Pig. Try the ales – stay off the lagers. You can have those in your own country. Try something local. The Eagle now got an ale called Hawker Fury. That should be enough to try one?
The English in Cambridgeshire are used to tourists and will understand your lack of English, or be mighty impressed if you speak well English. You know the saying ‘When in Rome’, well this applies. Be sure to use ‘please’ when you order stuff, and ‘sorry’ if you bump into anyone. Do NOT knock on the desk and say ‘beer’. Yes, it might be all very reharsed and you might not think much of it since all those phrases have very little meaning behind them, but do them. It’s how they operate.
English airshow-goers are a spoiled bunch of people, and will complain about something if you ask them. If there’s only seven Spitfires for the show, and not 11, they will complain. The cost of entrance will be too much, the traffic will be appaling and the beers might not be their type. Yes, it’s all very bad. Remind them that in your country, you’re lucky if even one Spitfire shows up for an air show and you’re stuck with three Tiger Moths and a Belgian F-16.
OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS
Do not use yellow t-shirts. Little insects are drawn to them like mad. Bring enough notes. Do not rely on credit card machines by any stalls or shop. And never trust the ATM at Duxford, it is always ‘out of order’.