A weekend in Belfast

This was a short weekend away in Belfast for the wedding of a university friend; fitting it in around work commitments meant we could only spend 2 nights away. I booked the trip at the end of December and we departed on Friday 31st July.

We took the Heathrow Express to the airport, using a Duo Saver ticket for £50, working out at £12.50 per person each way. I know there are cheaper ways and that there are many people who are not fans of this ridiculously expensive train, but is it so convenient and I am a fan (as explained here). We dropped the bag off in Zone C and, as there were five stick men at North Security and only 2 at South, we made the trek down. It was heaving when we got there but we were lucky that they opened another lane just in front of us and we went straight through – definitely my fastest experience including previous visits in the fast-track line. Shame it didn’t continue throughout the airport – I queued for longer in WHSmith for a bottle of water!

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Flight: BA1430 LHR – BHD
Aricraft: Airbus A319 G-EUOH
Seat: 10B
Payment: Avios as part of a GLA-LHR-BHD ticket for 4,500 and £17.50
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I had managed to check in online the day before and secure the exit row seats. Being 6ft3 having that extra little bit of space is worth setting an alarm at T-24 for. The book is in preparation for my TP Run to Las Vegas next week!

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Boarding was the usual chaos. There were people queueing for the fast track bit from at least 20 minutes prior to boarding, and once it had been called everyone seemed to jump up to stand in line. It was only then that the gate staff explained the procedure of boarding from the back using an ineffectual tannoy which resulted in slow boarding. We got on in the end, proceeded to taxi all the way round the airport and took off just before noon.

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We did get to see Concorde on the way past.

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The short hop was uneventful, coupled with a cup of coffee and some lemon melt biscuit before we landed into a soggy Belfast

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We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel with ValueCabs. They seemed to have a monopoly on taxis in the city as their advertising is everywhere and they are the only firm to have a pick up stance at the airport. They were excellent; 15 minutes and £10 later we were at the Holiday Inn Express – Queen’s Quarter.

The Hotel was fine – we have stayed in a number of HIExpress’s before and the offering is consistent, but the stay was one of the worst in terms of the service. The staff were very polite – they just failed to deliver. We checked in and were given room keys so we went up to our room only to find that it was still being made up. We went back to reception who allocated another room. Back upstairs we went to the new room only to find that it was twin bedded and not a double. So we traipsed back down only to be to that we had booked a ‘standard’ room which was not necessarily a double, despite the fact that the options on booking were double with sofa bed, accessible, twin or standard. Apparently there was nothing that they could do, even though I am a Platinum member and it was early in the day. Whilst this was annoying, it was not the end of the world, so we dumped the bags and headed into town.

After a quick bite to eat we went to the Titanic Museum (which reminded me of an ice berg…)

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We spend about an hour and a half there and it was good, but I am not sure that I would hurry back. We walked back to the hotel and then out to The Barking Dog for dinner. It was recommended by the bride and it didn’t disappoint. The food was well presented and really tasty, the highlight being their burger. The middle is beef shin which is so tender that it melts in the mouth, surrounded by a ‘normal’ burger mix to keep the shape. Topped with cheese and a horseradish mayo it is certainly the most gourmet burger I have ever had.

Saturday was the wedding and Sunday a day to travel home with a gentle hangover. Again, ValueCabs took us to the airport with an impromptu guided tour of some of Belfast’s highlights. The airport was busy and the line for security long as it winded its way round, but everything moved quickly and we were soon through to the departure lounge.

Flight: BA1415 BHD – LHR
Aricraft: Airbus A320 G-MIDS
Seat: 12C
Payment: Cash – earning 10TP and 500 Avios

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The boarding for this flight was done very well – rows 1-15 went down the airbridge and the rest went up the back stairs. There was also plenty of time, meaning that the whole experience was calm and stress-free. We pushed back early and were soon airborne. As with the outbound, we were treated to a Band 1 treat, this time a coffee, virgin Gin and Tonic (as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory would say) and a bag of crisps – there were more than 4 in the bag! Landing was fine and ahead of schedule just before 1500, and we were home at 1605 which included waiting for a checked bag, 10 mins for the train and 5 for the tube.

Now, just time to unpack, do the washing and get repacked before my next trip to Dublin!

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