Airports and Alnwick

Got up at seven o’clock and had a shower and got dressed before making our way down to the dining room for breakfast. The coach was coming to collect us all at 8.00am to take us back to the airport. How our four nights in Poland had flown!

After breakfast we returned to our room, collected our luggage and had a last look round to ensure we hadn’t forgotten anything. Then, donning our masks, we descended in the lift to the foyer and stood with the other hotel guests outside. One lady, who was travelling on her own, explained that she used to travel the world with her husband, who had sadly recently died. However, she kept up the travelling and carried some of her husband’s ashes everywhere with her, so she could scatter them in places around the world. What a lovely idea!

Presently the coach turned up and we all boarded for the 45 minute journey to the airport. Inside, we checked in our cases and went to a small cafΓ© and ordered a large cup of coffee each; drinking the coffee gave us some temporary respite from constantly wearing our masks. We then had a look around the duty-free shop, but trying to test the perfume samples whilst wearing a mask made the job next to impossible, so I didn’t buy anything this time.

We then made our way to the departure lounge, where we could see our aircraft sitting on the tarmac. When the call to board came, we all went down the stairs, out onto the tarmac, and boarded the shuttle bus which was waiting to take us out to the plane. As the bus approached the aircraft, a guy in overalls came over and spoke to the driver. Next thing, the bus turned round and started to return to the terminal. What was going on? 😦

We all went back upstair and back into the departure lounge. None of us had a clue what was going on and no explanation seemed to be forthcoming. Announcements in Polish and other languages issued forth over the PA system at regular intervals, but nothing about our flight.

Eventually an announcement blared out that the Easyjet flight to Edinburgh was delayed, and they would endeavour to update us in 30 minutes’ time. A collective groan went up from behind the masks of the waiting passengers, but there wasn’t a lot we could do about it. At least when you have an iPad and/or phone, there is plenty of entertainment in the form of books, magazine, games, music and even movies if you wanted, so I wasn’t too bored.

It was about 45 minutes later that another announcement was made regarding the Edinburgh flight. Unfortunately, it was identical to the first announcement in that the flight was delayed and they would update us in 30 minutes’ time! 😦

Everyone sat there fidgeting and pulling at their masks. These masks are not meant to be worn for hours at a time and my face felt uncomfortably tight with the condensation from my breathing. I decided to go to a nearby vending machine and buy a soft drink; at least it would allow me to remove my mask for a while.

Looking at the FlightRadar 24 app it said that our particular flight was delayed and it gave an approximate time for takeoff, which was an hour from now. It was more than we’d been told over the PA! We could see fitters in overalls working on one of the aircraft engines, and we wondered what was going on.

Eventually, finally, the announcement came that the plane was ready for boarding, and we all trooped back down the stairs again and onto the shuttle bus. This time we were allowed off the bus to board the aircraft, and we loaded our carry-on bags into the overhead lockers and thankfully took our seats. Once everyone was seating and the aircraft doors closed, the pilot’s voice came over the intercom and apologised for the delay; apparently on the incoming flight the aircraft had suffered a small amount of birdstrike, and some of them had been ingested into the engine, hence the reason why the engine was disassembled, thoroughly cleaned, and put back together again. Where’s Sully when you need him? πŸ˜€

We took to the skies, over two hours late. When the refreshments trolley made an appearance Trevor and I had a beer each so we could remove our masks. In the aisle seat was a lady travelling with a baby about a year old; the little girl was as good as gold and we never heard so much as a peep out of her in the whole two-hour flight.

Eventually the aircraft began its descent into Edinburgh airport, where the sky looked dull with a threat of rain. Once we landed and collected our luggage, we made our way to the bus stop and called the airport parking to let them know to send the shuttle bus. It arrived about 15 minutes later, and off we went, back to the car park. We collected our car key from reception, and were soon back on the road.

But we weren’t going home yet; we were extending our holiday by another day by going to the Northumberland market town of Alnwick to spend the night. Already we’d lost at least two hours because of our delayed flight, two hours less that we would have to explore Alnwick. I called the hotel to let them know we would be checking in later than planned, about 6.00pm.

It was a couple of hours’ drive to Alnwick. The Friday afternoon traffic was not too bad, and we made good time. We were looking forward to staying at the White Swan Hotel, Alnwick, and we drove slowly down the main street looking for somewhere to park. We were lucky and managed to get a parking spot at the rear of the hotel.

To quote from the White Swan’s web site: “In the heart of the historic market town of Alnwick and only a stone’s throw from Alnwick Castle and Gardens, The White Swan is a charming 300 year old coaching inn that blends its unique heritage with superb accommodation.

But there was another reason why we wanted to stay here, and that will become evident later on. We trundled our case round to the hotel’s main entrance, and in through the revolving door to reception, where we checked in. At the same time, we asked to make a reservation for dinner at around 7.30pm. “I’m afraid we’re fully booked” the receptionist told us. What?! She advised there was a free table at 8.45pm if we wanted that? We’d be starving by then, particularly as we hadn’t had any lunch.

We told her we’d try and find somewhere else to eat in the town and, if not, we’d take the 8.45pm booking. She gave us the name of a couple of pubs/restaurants where we might be able to book for dinner.

Going up the winding, creaking staircase to our room, we felt a bit deflated. We dumped our bags, had a quick wash and brush up, and left the hotel in search of the pubs the receptionist had recommended. We went in the first one, asked about dinner, and were told they were fully booked all night! We couldn’t believe it! Apparently, because of the pandemic and more people staying in the UK for their holidays rather than going abroad, Alnwick was doing a roaring trade with visitors.

We then called the next recommended pub to be told the same thing – no room at the inn. Feeling even more deflated, we went into a nearby pub, ordered a pint of beer and a bag of crisps each, and phoned the White Swan to tell them we’d take the 8.45pm dinner reservation if it was still available. Indeed it was, so at least we would do what we came for, and experience dining in the Olympic suite.

RMS Olympic is probably most famous for being one of the sisters of the Titanic. She was built in 1910 and scrapped on the Tyne in 1937. Before she was dismantled completely, many of the fittings and artworks were auctioned. The then-owner of The White Swan bought the Olympic’s first-class dining room and transported it to the hotel, reconstructing it in all its splendour. It now serves as the hotel’s restaurant and function room.

As a self-proclaimed Titanic aficionado, this was, to me, the main attraction of staying at the White Swan. πŸ™‚

Back in our room, we rested for a while, watching Coronation Street, before making our way to the Olympic suite for our dinner reservation. We were shown to a pleasant table for two in the corner; all the socially distanced tables were occupied by other diners and there was the sounds of muted conversation and the clink of cutlery and glasses. Waiting staff flitted busily from table to table, trays held aloft, as we looked around and marvelled at our surroundings and tried to imagine the rich and famous people who had dined at sea in this very room on board the RMS Olympic.

The restaurant and function room at the White Swan Hotel
Leaded panes and fine oak carving
What a fabulous place to enjoy dinner. The original first class dining room from the Olympic

We were good and hungry by now, so we enjoyed a superb three-course meal washed down by crisp white wine and served impeccably by our waiter. It was a pity we had been held up at the airport and had arrived here late, as we wouldn’t really be able to have a good look around Alnwick. Nevertheless, here we were in the Olympic suite, something I had wanted to do ever since finding out about it around 30 years ago. πŸ™‚

Afterwards, we retired to the bar. It was a marvellously old-fashioned place full of old furniture, overstuffed armchairs and heavy tables, which made it all the more charming. Looking around, it was hard to believe there was a world-wide pandemic happening; in fact since we had left home we found that the social-distancing and mask-wearing had been but a minor inconvenience and hadn’t spoilt our enjoyment of our rather-unusual time off work.

We went to bed quite late, after midnight, for a comfortable night’s sleep in the White Swan. We’d woken up this morning in Poland, now we were in Northumberland, and we still had breakfast in the Olympic suite to look forward to in the morning, before the drive on the road for home.

The original staircase leading to the dining room, complete with pineapple newel posts. Spot the 2020 signs!
A photo of the RMS Olympic adorns the wall in the White Swan Hotel

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