Saturday : From St. Helier to London

For those who have read my previous few posts, this is the highly advanced touch controlled lock to get into the hotel that I was staying in, which worked perfectly other than the touch bit. The lock bit worked like a dream, keeping the door locked was not a deficiency for this piece of kit.

Despite having been opposite the Howard Davis park all week, I hadn’t popped in, so this seemed a useful time since the sun was shining and it was clear this was going to be a beautiful Saturday in Jersey.

The park opened to the public on 30 September 1939, which is a few weeks after the outbreak of the Second World War, and not long before the Germans occupied the Channel Islands.

The statue of King George V, designed by Sir William Reid Dick, was unveiled at the same time as the park was opened. It survived the war though, with the Germans deciding not to destroy it.

In the background is St. Luke’s Church. There’s a lot more history about this park at https://www.theislandwiki.org/index.php/Howard_Davis_Park, which has a particularly interesting anecdote about how the house that once stood here was demolished.

In front of the church, the park was used to bury British servicemen who died during the Second World War, many of whom were known only unto God. There’s something always quite deep and sad about that phrase, positive that at least these men were given a burial, but sad their relatives and friends never got to know their final resting place.

Walking back into the town centre, I went go see the Jersey Cows, a series of sculptures that were placed here in 2001 and which were designed by John McKenna.

The little calf on the left is looking at a frog, with the whole artwork being a reminder of the Jersey Cow, a breed of cattle which produces large amounts of milk and can also tolerate some quite warm temperatures. These are definitely a popular addition to the square with lots of people wanting to be photographed by them.

Some street art in the centre of St. Helier. I won’t try and overthink what the meaning of this is, but it added some colour to the street.

The entrance to Millennium Park, which was planned in 1998 to open in 2000. That would indeed make sense for a park named after the millennium, but then things went a bit wrong. There were arguments about the cost of the park and it wasn’t until 2009 that a decision was finally made to make the funds available to build it. And that vote was farcical, as it was passed by one vote, including that of Alan Maclean. This clearly political titan managed to vote the wrong way as he pushed his ring binder and accidentally pressed the wrong button. They changed the buttons after that. As for the park, there wasn’t a great deal of excitement to be had there, although it was all well presented, with no informational boards about the area, the park or the items in it. It’s nice though to have a park to mark the millennium which opened in 2012, something a little different for the island.

I popped into the Soleil pub which stocks neither real ale nor any moderately decent keg beer, and perhaps unsurprisingly it was nearly empty on a Saturday afternoon. Service was polite, but the atmosphere was dead and I was stuck with a Best Bitter from Liberation Brewing which was the best of a bad lot. I’m not too concerned about what glass the beer is poured in, but it’s not ideal to use a different brand. All very bland unfortunately and it didn’t seem as though the pub was serving food when I visited either.

Lunch was at the Vienna Bakery in the market, where there’s a separate unit over the passageway where they make these decadent treats.

There’s not just a cake selection, there’s also a hot selection with sausage rolls and pies. There was a bit of a queue to get in, although was mostly just because the shop was busy rather than them being inefficient. The service was engaging and conversational, this would certainly be a regular haunt of mine if I lived in the area. From what I could tell, these were locals enjoying their regular purchases, but I can imagine when the tourists arrive in the summer that this becomes a veritable goldmine for the owners.

I went for a sausage roll, which had a rather pleasant tasting and flaky pastry, although the sausage filling was a little generic.

And a chocolate eclair, which was suitably creamy and chocolately. All quite cheap, total for the two items was under £2.

What is now the Liberty Wharf shopping centre, but this used to be the railway station in St. Helier and its associated buildings, including an abattoir. In retrospect, I think that the closure of the two railway lines was a mistake, as one went from St. Helier to the west of the island, the other to the east. It would haven’t been a huge project to encircle the entire island, perhaps instead installing a tram to whisk people around quickly and efficiently. But, all that is permanently lost now.

There’s a plaque to mark the former use of the building.

It was then time to get the bus back to the airport, although this was a busy one as it goes through the towns to get there, where there was a large group going to a party and several people going to watch the rugby. There were only about three of us actually using the bus to get to the airport. The sheer number of passengers on this bus perhaps shows just how useful a tram would have been in shuttling people around quickly, as if the bus services are struggling to cope on a Saturday in March, I can’t quite imagine what they’ll be like in the busier summer months. But, I always like trams, so I’m quite biased on this matter.

The entrance to Jersey airport, the newer departure terminal is behind me in this photo, the arrivals terminal is in the centre. I still haven’t really caught up on Bergerac, which I’ve felt the need to keep thinking about, but I think it’s in the first episode that this airport terminal is visible. When I finally stop travelling (which will hopefully be long into the future) I’ll catch up on television and things like Bergerac. What an exciting retirement I’m planning for myself….

It’s not a large airport, but everything was clearly signed and felt well run.

There are a couple of food and drink options, alongside the usual shops, car hire kiosks and currency transaction shops. Security took only a few minutes to get through before I got chance to traipse through the duty free shop, something which is seemingly a requirement of airports now.

The entrance to the lounge which is used by British Airways, although I think it’s the only lounge in the airport.

It wasn’t a busy arrangement and the friendly staff member said that it was fine to come in more than three hours before my flight. Although my doing that certainly didn’t cause any capacity issues as there was no-one else in it.

There’s no hot food, although there’s some quiche (a food which frankly scares me, so I avoid it and try not to get too near to it) and slices of cakes that have been laid out, along with plenty of snacks (a food which frankly excites me, so I rush towards them).

I can only comment positively on this little selection, I very much approved. A range of Mini Cheddars should be the aspiration of every airport lounge.

The fridges had a range of soft drinks, alcoholic drinks and the usual collection of spirits and hot drinks options.

There’s been an effort made with the beer, with several local beers alongside the more traditional national options. I was quite impressed with the choice here, it’s a small airport and so this is a useful selection and I like the nod towards having regional beers and ciders from the island. I found the whole lounge experience here relaxing and comfortable, the wi-fi worked, there were plenty of power points and it all felt calm and relaxing.

I always leave the lounge earlier than I need to (even though they were making announcements on when to leave), which meant that I managed to get to the gate before it actually opened, although a friendly member of staff checked my boarding pass and let me in anyway. She said that it would be a quiet flight, there were under 40 people on it, something which makes everything feel more relaxed.

Here’s the aircraft, BA G-EUYJ, an Airbus A320. A quick check of my own blog shows that I’ve never been on this aircraft before (or not least in the last few years) and it has been part of the BA fleet since 2010.

I was a little sad to be leaving Jersey, it had been a relaxing and productive week in terms of work, it’s an island that I’m sure I’ll come back to. It was a shame that so much was shut in terms of museums, even in March, so I’ll like to return as far outside of the main holiday period as I can, but during a time when museums and attractions are actually open. The war tunnels and castles looked exciting and my sort of thing, so I feel the need to return.

I had selected a seat towards the back of the aircraft, which is where I’m entirely happy on a short flight. It was quiet to say the least and a crew member came over and mentioned to me that she thought I’d be more comfortable on the emergency exit row as the load was so low. I hadn’t opted for there initially as there’s sometimes an effort required to find a space in the overhead lockers, as bags can’t be on the floor on the emergency exit row, but since it was so quiet there was no issue. I went for the window seat since I had the aisle to myself.

Waving goodbye to Jersey. I usually opt for aisle seats, so sitting by the window is rare for me, but when I do I somehow feel compelled to take photos.

After having several packs of crisps in the airport lounge, this perhaps wasn’t ideal in terms of variety, but I certainly wasn’t going to turn them down. BA now always give out something to passengers in Euro Traveller and this is more than sufficient for the 40 minute flight.

During the flight, the crew member came up to me and asked if I would like a free cup of coffee, and, always willing to have drinks that don’t cost anything, I went with that option. The crew on board were really engaging, another very comfortable flight with British Airways. If only the airline could sort out their appallingly understaffed customer service arrangements, which seems to so hamper them at the moment.

Coming into London Heathrow T5, all on time.

This is a really lovely thing to see, so many flight arrivals in Heathrow, and this is positive from the perspective that airports are returning to some form of normality now after two years of crisis.

Then it was time for the journey to the Mercure London and I won’t recount my tales of woe about when I last tried to visit that hotel, but the matter is now all resolved. I got near to the hotel on the number 423 bus, and then Richard, who is joining me for a few days, collected me to take me to the Mercure.

The beer choice at the Mercure London was bloody dreadful, the draft option was Stella and the bottled options were Peroni and Corona. As one of my pointless asides, they’re offering a worse choice than most Ibis hotels, although I guess that most customers don’t visit a hotel for the beer. Anyway, there’s more to life than the beer options in hotels, I must stop dwelling on that. Although I might stop next year, as I enjoy exploring this theme.

But, after a day of airport excitement, it was time to look forward to the next day, which I hoped would contain even more airport excitement….