25 May 2011

Archive - STN-BHD with Ryanair Daytrip - 14/06/08


Firstly, I'd booked another Ryanair daytrip for STN-SNN, but in the end couldn't go - I'd arranged to take my mum on her birthday for the trip to Ireland. We checked in online, but on arrival at the airport I realised I'd forgotten my passport! D'oh! Thinking that as it was Ireland, and UK citizens don't need a passport to travel there, I didn't think it would be an issue. However I was refused boarding. They kindly said I could go back to checkin, and be reissued with a normal boarding pass for the next flight, but that was in the evening and we were only on a daytrip so it wasn't worth it. We went down to Southend (where she used to go on holiday as a child) and Ikea instead. I've since rebooked a daytrip to SNN for us in November, for the princely sum of £0.02 each, including all taxes and fees Smile

Anyway, back to the main event. My wife having booked herself a trip back to South Africa to visit her parents and family (route: NWI-AMS-JNB-DUR on KLM and Kulula), I decided to do some flying on my own. I booked a return online, for £12 including taxes. I checked in online as early as possible (5 days before) and received sequence number 1 for my outward flight and 2 for my return. I remembered to keep my passport with the printed out boarding cards in order not to forget! It was an early start on Saturday, especially as I'd taken my wife to NWI at 5am the previous day before going to work. I set my alarm for 4am, and dragged myself to the shower when it went off. I packed a day pack, including an umbrella, novel and a Lonely Planet guide, and headed to the car to drive to STN. I saw outside the house a cat that appeared to have adopted us the week before, after it spent a whole night meouing outside our back door - it must belong to one of the neighbours whose house looks like ours. We hadn't seen it for a few days but there it was. I patted it before heading to the car.

The roads were generally quiet at that time of day, and I arrived in the Long Stay car park in plenty of time. It's the cheapest option, especially as the BAA website won't let you prebook one day in the long stay, directing you to the mid stay - long stay drive up is £8.30 per day. The shuttle bus was waiting so I got about and headed to the terminal.

Security was busy but my queue was moving slower than most - there was only one x-ray machine working, when the other queues had both online. I eventually made my way through to WHSmith and bought a magazine, before going to F&B's Deli for breakfast. I'd previously had a bagel there, and it was quite dry, so I took the Breakfast Foccacia with bacon, sausage, egg and tomato. I was very impressed, I may have found my STN breakfast of choice Smile I settled down with my magazine, breakfast and cup of tea. About 45 mins before the flight I headed to the departure gate. Being a domestic departure, I crossed the bridge to see not only was my flight at the first gate, it was already boarding! I'd purchased my ticket before Ryanair discontinued the free priority boarding. The priority queue was half done, so I joined it and made my way onto the aircraft. EI-CSS was one of the older generation of 738s, with cloth seats that recline and normal tray tables. The bulkheads were the normal grey colour. I settled in to a seat over the wing, 2 rows infront of the overwing emergency exits. The flight was about 90% full, and an African couple sat next to me, the wife immediately to my right and the husband at the aisle. They were going to a wedding, and were dressed up for it, she in traditional dress and he in a smart suit. All the while there was an annoying jingle advertising a prepaid phonecard.

The flight took off on time, and was largely uneventful. Noone around me purchased anything from the inflight service, nor did anyone buy any of the "childrens' charity scratchcards". I couldn't really see much out of the window, as it was very cloudy. The clouds ended over the Irish Sea, so I could watch our descent into George Best Belfast City. We approached down the lough, and landed rather roughly. The airport is rather small, and there is just one jet brige. We pulled up in front of the terminal and disembarked via stairs - I went to the rear, to see the registration number of the aircraft (EI-CSS as already noted). As soon as we were inside, I took a shot of the aircraft through the window:

I noticed a cafe upstairs in the terminal building overlooking the apron, so after passing through the baggage reclaim area I went upstairs to find it. I took another picture of EI-CSS:


I also spotted another aircraft, that featured in a recent trip report:


Our aircraft had a quick turnaround, and was heading back to Liverpool. I then had a few hours until my return flight so headed into the city. Options are either train, or bus. The train station (Sydenham) was about 300m walk from the terminal, down a busy road then over a footbridge. I had just missed a train that I saw whilst walking to the station, but there was
no idea when the next one would be - I vaguely remembered on the Translink NI website seeing that the train was every 1/2 hour, so I waited for the next one. At this point I saw our aircraft taking off, heading to Liverpool, but I was too slow with my camera Sad Opposite the station was a large mural, done as a war memorial. There was also a large union flag, union jack bunting and a "red Fist of Ulster" flag hanging from a streetlight. I'm guessing that it was a unionist house! The train came and at £1.50 for a single ticket to the main station at Gt Victoria St, was a bargain! The bus was even cheaper, at £1.40, which I took on my return. Belfast city centre is quite pleasant, with good shopping, and lots of modern art scattered around the city. There was also a flying fox set up with a crane accross the river, for kids to go accross on for charity. I had lunch in St George's Market, that every saturday has a farmers' market. I can highly recommend the green fish curry from the veggie stall! I was thinking about taking a taxi tour of the main mural areas, but decided against it due to cost. One thing I did like was that some east-west streets, looking west you can see the mountains at the end of the straight streets.

Eventually it was time to head back to the airport, and as mentioned I took the city bus. It is good when airport links are at the normal tariff, as sometimes airport services have a surcharge on them. I went up to the cafe where I took some phots from before, to have a drink and read my book for a while. Whilst there, I noticed that landing aircraft approach and land from the sea direction, and aircraft taking off take off in the same direction! So one of the two directions is with a following wind, unless on the day the wind was exactly crosswise to the runway. Does anyone know if this is normal for BHD?

I went through security, just the one x-ray here, and had a look around the departure lounge. It's not very big, with 4 doors, leading to a passageway adjacent to the apron. This passageway has the "gates" on it, actually doors leading out, except the one with an actual jetbridge. Our flight was called, so our boarding cards were checked at the door and we were asked to queue in the relevent queue at the gate, for priority and non-priority boarding. I took a picture from this queue:


I boarded eventually though the rear doors, and saw that the first and last four rows were blocked off. Evidently a lighter load on the return. I also noticed that we were on the same aircraft, EI-CSS, as the outward leg. Here are a couple more shots from before takeoff:

The cafe is visible in the upstairs windows:


Flybe ERJ bound for Manchester (I think):


We took off, and headed out to see. Soon we were over the Isle of Man:




Our route then took us over Liverpool. Here is Blackpool from the air:


We then headed south, before the clouds started to cover everything up. We passed over Stoke (only noticable from Port Vale's football ground) then the next landmark was Rockingham Motor Speedway poking through a gap in the clouds. We eventually landed without incident.

EI-CSS on the ground at STN:


It was a quick trip over the bridge and out of domestic arrivals, to wait for the shuttle bus back to the long stay car park. There was quite a queue, and it was the 2nd bus that I eventually caught. I was quite tired by now, so headed to the M11 Services by the Stansted turnoff for sugar, caffeine and grease - a cheap KFC. It had by then started to drizzle, and was raining quite hard by the time I arrived home and went straight to bed.

Finally, here are a few pics of Belfast:



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