City Break

Belfast Street Art

My quest to escape continues.

This time the experience is very different to the Outer Hebrides – Northern Ireland.

I took an Aer Lingus flight from Edinburgh to Belfast. That experience was also very different to my Inverness – Stornoway one last month.

Edinburgh is a large airport by Scottish standards. It is my local airport. Until the pandemic I was using it several times a year. I know it well. It was a busy and crowded airport.

Quiet

Now it is virtually deserted. Almost none of the shops are open. A few of the food and coffee outlets are, but not all. It felt weird… but safe.

Empty

The park and ride bus I usual use to get there is on an hourly service, as compared to every 20 minutes before. It is inconvenient, but perfectly understandable. The Scottish Government is picking up almost all the costs.

My flight was on a 72 seat ATR 72. I would say it was 60% occupied. Flying with Aer Lingus is more mainstream than on one of Loganair’s wee hops. We were told not to touch anything in the plane unless absolutely necessary. We were told there would be no cabin service (a 45 minute flight, so no hardship at all.) We were told to ring for the cabin crew if we absolutely had to use the toilet. We disembarked by seat row number (very challenging for Covidiots, sad to report.)

As an aside, on arrival in Belfast City Airport I was pulled aside by the police and interrogated about where I work, where I will be staying, and why I have come here. No health questions, oddly enough. Well, it was easier to get into Armenia with an Azerbaijan stamp in my passport.

Probably the thing which bothered me most was the way he pawed my passport as he took pictures of it.

I had carefully checked the Northern Ireland health regulations (different from the Scottish ones) before arranging the trip, and again before leaving, to make sure I was not breaking the rules. I even did my Covid -19 test on the morning of departure.

So was it a routine security check or a pandemic related one? If the former, why me?

At Last

As in Edinburgh, the 600 Bus from the airport to the city centre was running hourly rather than every 20 minutes. I had a 45 minute wait for the next one. I could have taken a taxi. I see a taxi as more of a virus risk than an almost empty bus, so I opted to wait for the bus.

Belfast’s Titanic Quarter

Well, I wonder how the return journey will be. So far, despite minor inconveniences and the usual scattering of Covidiots (tiny minority*), I have felt comfortable and relaxed about the travel.

ⓒ iain taylor, 2021

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🇪🇺🇮🇪

  • One of them was on my bus to Edinburgh Airport. A man in his late 60s. No mask. He was on the flight to Belfast too, wearing (half) a mask but not covering his nose. I do ask myself what goes through the minds of people like that. “Nothing much” is probably the answer.
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2 Responses to City Break

  1. Sarah Wilkie says:

    Very interesting to read about your experiences of flying. I hadn’t thought of Belfast as a staycation because of the water between us but it could be a good idea when we want to try flying again 🙂 I’m completely with you on the Covidiots, and get especially frustrated with people who wear masks over their mouth but not nose – what is the point?!!

  2. CliffClaven says:

    I was asked on arrival in Armenia about the Azerbaijan stamps in my passport. Fortunately, the immigration officer found my answer amusing and believable: “Well, I just collect countries…”

    Getting into Northern Ireland in post-Troubles and pre-Covid times was a walk in the park, or at least a walk straight through the Terminal. Perhaps my most difficult airport experience was at Edinburgh many years ago. I was a student and had spent the whole summer in the Mediterranean. I arrived skinny and dark-skinned in Scotland. The passport officer looked at me and asked me to wait while he processed all the other passengers. He then asked: “And are both your parents British” – pause -“sir?” He eventually accepted that I wasn’t a South Asian with a well-forged passport and let me in.

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