Thursday : From Norwich to Warsaw, via Greggs

And my several days in Norwich were up, it was time to get the 06:00 Megabus coach from Norwich bus station to London Stratford. That wasn’t an ideal form of transport, nor an ideal time of day, but the fare was under £10 and the rail fare was much more, so my decision was made. And at least dawn had just broken at 05:30 so I didn’t have to walk through Norwich totally in the dark.

And safely at Norwich bus station, with the Megabus and National Express stops being to the left hand side of the above photo.

This confused me, it pointed Megabus towards a stand they weren’t meant to go from. I sometimes wonder how hard it really is to just get signage right, rather than keep adding confusion for passengers.

I decided I didn’t know where to wait, behind me is the gate where the sign painted on the floor told me to go, and at the back of the photo is where the Megabus was meant to go from. I had decided to wait in the middle, with my tactics being rewarded as that’s where the coach stopped, so I was the first to board. I suspect the coach driver didn’t know which group of people to drive up to, hence his taking the same decision to head for the middle.

The leg room on the Megabus wasn’t ideal, and I’m used to companies doing this, but their seats are all at odd angles. Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em once said “a trouble shared is a trouble doubled”, so I messaged my friend Nathan so he could be annoyed at my lack of leg room as well. I like to share things early in the morning.

The load was very light, so customers had plenty of space by sitting sideways, but this seems far from ideal. I also think this is a mistake, as to cram say eight extra seats in they make a significant number of customers uncomfortable, albeit varying degrees of uncomfortable depending on their size. But this service rarely needs those eight seats given how quiet it apparently regularly is, so there’s no revenue uplift. Although I’ve used Megabus a lot in the past, in the United States and in the UK, I’ll probably avoid using them again until they fix this situation. I’ve been lucky with all my recent National Express trips that I’ve managed to get the emergency exit row seat, but the odd layout of this Megabus coach means they don’t have a seat in that area.

I got into London at 08:30, and had to make a decision on whether to spend £2 extra for the peak underground fare (it’s cheaper from 09:30) or faff about at Westfield in Stratford for an hour. I decided to spend £1.60 on a Greggs chicken bake, which I haven’t had for several months, and sit in the food area for an hour and try and be productive with my laptop. That saved me 40p and I got a free chicken bake as far as I was concerned.

There’s a Popeyes in the food court now, a chain that I really like in the United States, recently arrived in the UK.

I jumped on the Jubilee Line to Bond Street, which wasn’t where I was going, I was meant to get off at Green Park to change to the Piccadilly Line but I fell a bit asleep. So I got the train back one stop, which gave me the unexpected treat of standing opposite Matt Hancock, who I thought was quite bravely using public transport when I was sure he could claim for taxi fares. I was suitably impressed with that at least, but I then switched to the Piccadilly Line was I had originally intended and was rewarded with a mostly empty carriage to Hatton Cross.

This is Hounslow East, where the train announcements went wrong and kept saying “this train is to Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 5, this train terminates at Hatton Cross”. Both those things couldn’t be true and the driver didn’t provide any useful indication as to where the train was going. More confusion for passengers, but I think most people on London Underground are used to it.

As can be seen here, the train was going to Hatton Cross, with a service going the extra couple of stops arriving a few minutes afterwards.

This was probably the busiest that I’ve seen Terminal 5 in quite a long while, with what seemed like bag drop queues that would take some time to wait in. Back in the day, when I did work for British Airways, I had to take a bag to check-in, so I’m glad those days are over. As I had no bags to drop, so I glided straight to the priority security line where my boarding card was promptly rejected by the machine, which made me look like I had gone to the wrong place. The polite, but slightly harassed looking, staff member looked at my boarding pass, said “sorry about that, the machines aren’t working very well at the moment” and waved me through. There’s a lot of BA technology not working very well at the moment, as an email from Sean Doyle to staff revealed this week.

Back to the airport though with my tale, I’ll really remember the security process on this occasion as a lady placed her young baby in one of the trays to go through the machines. It wasn’t clear to me what she was planning, but a staff member came flying over (note the pun) and explained politely that babies could be carried through the security arches (or whatever those arch machines are called). A disaster was averted.

Safely in the lounge, this time the Galleries South Lounge again.

The menu was the same (it changed on something around the 27 March) as when I visited to fly to Jersey earlier in the month, so little new to report here. The chicken with pepper and garlic is my favourite of the dishes here though.

Olives, vodka and lemonade, coffee and Fanta. All rather decadent.

I thought I’d get some sandwiches, as I was in the lounge for several hours. So here we are, Coronation Chicken sandwiches and plain crisps. What a time to be alive, especially with that cake at the back of the photo.

BA have numerous copies of old posters dotted around the lounges. The lounges were getting quite busy, people are definitely returning to airports at some speed, this concern that people wouldn’t travel again never seemed likely to me. I’m sure that some business travel is still down, but the number of leisure travellers seems higher than ever.

I haven’t had this before, but it’s effectively fake chicken, so a Katsu curry with Garden Gourmet plant based fillets served with rice. To be honest, it was near enough to chicken for me, the texture and taste was nearly there, it was really quite pleasant. I like that BA are trialling a few things similar to this.

The horse lamp, an iconic part of the lounge’s decoration.

My flight to Warsaw was delayed for 50 minutes, which wasn’t ideal as I was already getting into Warsaw quite late as it was. When the gate was announced as A10 I must admit to being slightly disappointed, as the bus gates aren’t an ideal way to board. And, the boarding staff did make quite a mess of the whole arrangement. They were encouraging customers to pre-board who were willing to put their bags into the hold, which around ten people did. But then a deluge of people joined the queue as they thought anyone could board, which then confused everyone. I heard a staff member say “shall we send people back?” but they decided to just open up boarding to all. They always seem to have this mess at bus gates, but I’ve long learned just to stand out of the way and let them get on with it.

I boarded the second of the three buses and the aircraft was literally nearer to T3 than to T5, so it was relatively quite a journey. The drivers of these buses nearly always seem to have the issue that customers try and stand near to the centre so that they could get off first, which means the driver has to ask people several times to go to the back of the bus. For those who are frail, are with children or have 83 bags, this whole situation was all a bit Ryanair.

And finally boarding service BA0800 to Warsaw, although that flight number apparently has now been changed to being the service to Reykjavik. Anyway, it’s aircraft G-GATU (which means it is usually used at Gatwick), originally purchased by India’s now defunct Kingfisher Airlines in 2007 and part of the BA fleet since 2016. As I’m interested by things like this, here’s what it looked like when it was part of Kingfisher, aircraft registration VT-KFT.

The flight was very comfortable, I got an emergency exit row seat and there was no-one sitting next to me, although the airline was at near capacity. The crew were friendly, the service was efficient, the aircraft was clean and I was comfortable throughout. The usual packet of crisps and small bottle of water was handed out for free, not that I really needed much after spending several hours in the lounge.

I hadn’t been happy about landing so late as I was worried a little that the hotel would sell my room on (although I think over-booking is more common in the UK) and I did miss the last train into the centre of Warsaw by just a couple of minutes. I found a bus though that went nearly directly to my hotel, which all meant that I made the best possible time I could have reasonably done, arriving into the hotel at 23:45. There were times that I wondered whether delays would make that nearer to 01:00 and the airport felt a little stressed as a couple of passengers didn’t have the test results that they needed, and were being diverted off to take them. The staff member I encountered at Warsaw border control was the usual helpful, engaging and well-natured person I expected (I find that the customer service in Poland is about as good as it gets anywhere I’ve been in the world), it’s always good to be back in Poland.

The bus journey was uneventful, and it was good to be back at the hotel that I was last at in November 2021. I actually booked this hotel back in November, as I wanted a trip to Warsaw to look forwards to, although at the time I didn’t know whether we’d be allowed to travel, I hadn’t predicted at how quickly things have opened up. This is a rather jazzy decoration in the Ibis Budget hotel room, a location I’ve stayed in numerous times before. I was really rather pleased to be in the room by midnight, it had been ultimately a really quite relaxing and productive day.