After a night at the Mercure in Heathrow, it was time to get to the airport. Richard, who had bought enough baggage for a family of six, didn’t feel that he was mobile enough to get on a bus. So he ordered a taxi to take us the 300 metres to the airport, which I thought was very decadent. I’d add here that I hate the stress of taxis, I find it quite a hassle looking for the taxi (the thought of ordering one via an app fills me with dread), getting out of the wrong taxi to get in the right one, knowing where to sit and all of that. I’ve become very good at managing to know where to sit on a bus, so with Richard taking the strain of finding the taxi, getting in and so on, I just jumped in the back of the car and waited feeling quite tense at this stressful situation. I’m really a public transport sort of person.
After Richard tutted privately that the taxi driver didn’t put his bags on the kerb for him (whereas I kept my McCain’s bag well away from the driver), we meandered into Heathrow T3. For reasons mostly relating to greed and avarice, I prefer taking BA flights from T3 rather than T5, because there is a multitude of lounges to choose from. My BA silver status, earned using perhaps the cheapest method possible back in January 2019, means that I have access to all of the Oneworld lounges in the terminal. That usually means Qantas, Cathay Pacific, British Airways and American Airlines, although the lounge of the latter is currently closed. I could also guest Richard into these lounges, so we had a morning and early afternoon of bouncing around these different locations. To add to the huge excitement, as I’m very easily pleased and that’s particularly true when there’s free food and drink, Richard also has access to the Amex Centurion lounge which I don’t, but he could guest me into there.
A board with information about the lounges. What a time to be alive and all that.
We started off at the Cathay Pacific lounge, which has traditionally been my favourite of the T3 options. It’s a peaceful and quiet lounge, plenty of space and a variety of different seating areas. There were also plenty of power points dotted around the place, which is useful.
The croissants and pastries, all of a decent quality.
The fridges contained pre-packaged salads, cold meat things and the like.
On the right is the Dim Sum Basket, which is served from the counter where food is freshly prepared, with other options including the Wonton noodle soup, the Dan Dan Mian, the Chicken & Shitake Congee, Kimchi fried rice and vegetable miso soup. And the Dim Sum was tremendous, I nearly ordered another one, but thought that might be excessive.
The teas are suitably classy, although they were a bit refined for my liking. There’s fruit (I panicked) as well.
One of the seating areas in the Cathay Pacific lounge, but there’s also a section of individual seats which I didn’t take a photo of as that was a busier area.
With that we tried to see if we could get in the Centurion Lounge, but unlike the Oneworld lounges, they only accept customers three hours before their flight, unless they’re transiting. With that news, we returned to the Oneworld arrangement and went to Qantas.
The Qantas lounge is located over two floors, this ground floor level has some self serve items, but is mostly table service from a cooked menu. More of which in a moment.
There’s an upstairs area as well, which has some similar items, as well as a help yourself English breakfast buffet arrangement.
These were surprisingly lovely, but we were quite hot upstairs (Richard had brought his Christmas jumper) so we went back down to the table service area. Again there were a range of different seating areas, along with plenty of power points.
The brunch menu.
The staff member recommended a gin, which the lounge specialises in, as well as a latte. The service was friendly and the gin suggestions were pro-active, with the fruity one she brought me being suitably delicious.
I opted for the salt and pepper squid from the menu, which was well presented and everything was at the appropriate temperature. The best squid that I’ve ever had was at the Qantas First lounge in Sydney, where it just melted in the mouth, so I thought I’d see if Qantas in London could match that experience. It couldn’t, but the food was still of a very decent quality, just lacking that melt in the mouth texture. Richard enjoyed his Eggs Benedict very much, with the service being efficient and helpful.
Then back to the Centurion Lounge and I liked this board room type arrangement and so we opted to sit here during our visit. There are some quiet phone rooms to the side, which is handy to keep the lounge itself feeling at least a little peaceful.
One of the limitations of the Centurion Lounge, which is something that is rarely of a concern to me as a solo traveller, is just how many of the seating arrangements were designed around the business customers who were alone. There were of course tables for larger groups, but relatively far fewer than in other lounges.
The bar selection at the Centurion, all nicely presented.
The draft options in the Centurion, with at least some thought to having keg choices that were reasonable, alongside the bottled options. Alcoholic beverages were served at the bar, with a strong focus on cocktails, which is what Richard went for.
Clicking on the image should make the menu options readable, this is mostly the salads and desserts section.
And the main courses selection, all really beautifully presented. My friend Nathan would have loved to see the cauliflower, it’s hard to stop him ordering that in restaurants.
I went for the sea bream, the Moroccan fennel salad and the Back to Black dessert. The menu has a Middle Eastern flavour to it, which I thought was an unusual choice, but it was executed well.
Richard with his cocktail.
I left space for the cheeseboard.
And of course extra space for the Malabi rose water milk pudding.
The lounge was suitably impressively decorated, some considerable expense has gone into this. It’s probably not a lounge I’ll visit again, as they remove guesting rights at the end of this year, so Richard won’t be able to get me in. I don’t have the Platinum credit card from Amex that I’d need to visit here, much as that would be rather lovely.
Before leaving, a quick tart and a London Pride.
Richard looking like an executive. I was a little sad to wave goodbye to this lounge, perhaps for the final time.
The last lounge we were to visit was that of British Airways, which was by far and away the worst of the options, but only in terms of the others that we had visited. As a lounge, it’s entirely fine with its range of spirits and soft drinks, it’s clean and functional, but the choices for food and drink aren’t as good and the lounge design is quite open plan and not as modern as the others. The beer options are effectively non-existent, just Heineken, which is an insult to all of the British beer brands. Food is also poorly presented and there’s an air of dilapidation about the whole arrangement. British Airways should really be doing more here.
I didn’t need any more food (but wanted this blog to have a photo), but I thought I’d order the Coronation Chicken sandwiches, which were a little dry but had a pleasant taste and are a reliable favourite of mine. The presentation of the cake was, well, without much attention. Richard gorged on a pasta dish. Unlike all the other lounges, there is no food that can be picked up by customers themselves, other than snacks such as olives.
There’s a refectory feel to the whole BA set-up, with few quieter corners and niches for customers to sit. It was though better than the American Airlines lounge, because that was shut. As an aside, this wasn’t a particularly profitable exercise for British Airways, as I understand they have to pay other lounges when I visit, but the T3 round of lounge visits is commonly done and I’m sure it’s all priced in. I fly again from T3 in a few weeks and will repeat the experience, which will no doubt surprise and delight British Airways if they do get charged.
After all of that food and drink excitement, we then went to board our flight. There was a little bit of a drama at the boarding gate as one of the doors in the terminal to the aircraft had been left open which the pilot later explained was a security risk. That meant that the aircraft had to get additional checks, which added around 25 minutes to the departure time. Without going into too much information, this wait for a toilet wasn’t ideal and I decided to go and see if I could be let out of the secure gate area to visit the facilities in the terminal. This isn’t really usually done, but for me and another passenger they took our passports (so they could work out who we were if we didn’t reappear) and let us out. I’m pleased to say that I was let back in.
Speedbird always looks beautiful to me, it signifies the beginning of another exciting adventure, or at least the soothing closure of one. This is flight BA0856, on board the Airbus A320, registration G-EUYE, not an aircraft I’ve been on before.
The flight to Prague was full, so all of the other emergency exit row seats were taken, but I had my aisle seat on this row which was comfortable enough. There was the usual packet of crisps and small bottle of water provided, which was more than sufficient after all of the exuberance of the lounges. I had plenty of leg room which was handy, a useful feature of the exit row.
And welcome to Prague, we arrived just a few minutes later than expected.
Richard really wanted to get a taxi from the airport to the hotel, but I didn’t think they’d have a van large enough for everything that he was taking, so only a bus would suffice. We got the tickets from this machine so that we could board the express bus to the railway station in Prague.
And here’s the bus safely at the railway station in Prague. There was a friendly young local man on board who was conversational and helpful, that’s always a pleasant first impression to a city. I was also pleased to notice that I could read a fair few words, as although my Polish really isn’t very good, there seems a fair amount of crossover.
I thought I’d get a photo without the bus in front of it. More about this railway station later on in the week, but I’ll note here that there’s a great effort being made to help those refugees from Ukraine who have made it here. The city of Prague made very clear in signage and in its actions that they have so much support for Ukraine.
There was then a metro journey to get to the Hotel Duo, where we were staying. It’s an easy process to board, and there are no ticket barriers, just validating tickets when going through the gates. It was all clean and organised, with metro trains arriving every couple of minutes.
The front of the metro station Střížkov, which was just a one-minute walk to the hotel.
The front of Hotel Duo, which I hadn’t realised was so large. Not that I’d given much thought to it, but usually the cheap hotels that I get with BA Holidays are smaller affairs. We faffed about a bit finding our way in, which was slightly embarrassing when we noticed the next morning (when it was light) that it’s actually really obvious.
I was moderately annoyed to discover that Richard’s room was next to mine, which is what the receptionist pointed out was a big coincidence as we had booked at different times and they had 650 rooms. I was worried that he might get important business phone calls throughout the night that I could hear through the wall, but fortunately the walls were thick and I heard nothing all week. Incidentally, I had booked this five night trip away, including the flight and hotel, for just under £200 with BA Holidays, which I thought was reasonable. I did that as there’s currently a double tier point offer for every trip booked with BA Holidays, so that’ll hopefully help me hit silver status again this year, as I only have until 8 November to achieve that.
We popped down to the hotel bar, which was a little expensive and had a choice of exactly one beer. The beer was entirely adequate, but the whole bar set-up lacked slightly in ambition and the prices for food and drink were relatively high. Richard rushed off to McDonald’s at this point, but I’m very careful about what I eat, so I went back to my room more than content with what I’d eaten during the day.
And the first beer of the Prague trip, which was to be one of many as Richard is so focused on his beers, and I do my best to support him in his endeavours.
It had felt like a long day, not least because of all the bouncing around of lounges at T3 and of course the two hour flight, but we were pleased to have made good time from the airport to the hotel. We were also pleased that the hotel actually looked relatively decent, although it was a four star hotel and so should have been. It’s all a privileged thing to note of course, but my favourite lounge was the Cathay Pacific one, but Qantas wasn’t far behind and it was a delight to see the Centurion Lounge.