Brian’s Travel Spot: Back to Boston in Premium Economy

My British Airways Boeing 787-900 at the gate at Heathrow Terminal 5, waiting to take me to Boston.Welcome to another Travel Spot, all about my first trip of 2022. I’m starting 2022 as I ended 2021, heading back to Boston, once again flying with British Airways in World Traveller Plus (premium economy to you and me). In a change from my usual habit (on trips to the USA at least), I’ll also be returning from Boston when I fly home in mid-February (World Traveller Plus again). It’s not quite a repeat of the trip I made at the end of last year, since on that occasion I flew to Atlanta, but otherwise it’s pretty close.

The reason I’m off is to spend three weeks in Maine with Amanda (as opposed to spending those three weeks by myself in Guildford). As I did when I flew to Atlanta in November, I’ve already written a separate post about the various pre-flight processes now in place when flying to America during the COVID-19 pandemic. This Travel Spot will therefore focus on the flight, along with the usual bits and pieces about getting to/from the airport, etc.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying to America (Again) During the COVID-19 Pandemic

My online boarding pass for my flight to Boston with British Airways, departing at 16:40 from London Heathrow. The bulding in the background is the Massachusetts State House.In what is likely to become a common refrain this year, I’m heading back to America, this time flying to Boston in World Traveller Plus (premium economy to you and me) with British Airways, returning the same way in mid-February. This isn’t quite a repeat of the trip I made at the end of the last year, since back then I flew to Atlanta (with British Airways, in World Traveller Plus), so that’s something. And for those who are keeping count, this is the first time I’ve flown to Boston in World Traveller Plus (albeit I’ve done the journey a few times the other way).

I’ll be spending three weeks in Maine with Amanda (as opposed to spending the same three weeks by myself in Guildford) and I’m actually flying today, so this is a pre-flight post (rather than the flight itself, which will be the subject of its own Travel Spot) detailing everything you have to do before flying during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not quite as involved as last time (when it also merited its own post), but it’s worth explaining the process, particularly for those who might be travelling for the first time in the near future.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: From Boston to Portland by Bus

My Concord Coach Lines bus waiting at the gate at Boston's South Station Bus Terminal before taking me up to Portland, Maine.Welcome to the third and final instalment of this mini Travel Spot series about my impromptu trip to Washington DC back in November, itself part of my wider month-long trip to America. Part one covered my journey to Washington Union Station on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional 65 sleeper service, travelling overnight from Boston South Station. The second part, meanwhile, was all about my first time on the Acela service, travelling from New Haven back to Boston South Station. That just left the small matter of getting back to Portland from Boston, the subject of today’s post.

In an ideal world, I’d have completed the journey by train, taking Amtrak’s Downeaster from North Station. However, as much as I like travelling by train, the Downeaster is not very convenient compared to the bus. Although the same price (a very reasonable $24), the Downeaster runs once every three hours, compared to the bus’s hourly schedule. Plus, while the bus leaves from South Station, where I’d just arrived, to catch the train, I’d have to get myself over to North Station (admittedly a short tube ride or a 25-minute walk through the city centre, but an unnecessary additional step). So, the bus it was.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: First Time on Amtrak’s Acela Service

Power car 2022 pulling my Amtrack Acela service into New Haven on the way to Washington DC.Last week I wrote about my impromptu trip to Washington DC for a friend’s funeral, and how I took Amtrak’s Northeast Regional 65 sleeper service overnight from Boston South Station to Washington Union Station. That got me into DC first thing on Sunday morning, in plenty of time for the funeral, which just left me the small matter of getting back. My options included flying, which would have got me back to Portland on Sunday evening, or taking the counterpart of the train I caught on the way down, the Northeast Regional 66, which would have got me into Boston early on Monday morning.

The Northeast Regional was my fallback option, but since a mutual friend was driving back to Connecticut after the funeral, I took the opportunity for a ride as far as New Haven. I spent the night there, before carrying on to Boston by train on Monday morning, completing my journey to Portland by bus that afternoon. To get to Boston, I had a choice of the Northeast Regional service, or Amtrak’s premium Acela service. Since I’d never taken the Acela before, it seemed like this would be the ideal time to see what I’d been missing.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Amtrak Northeast Regional 65

Amtrak Locomotive 629, a Siemens Sprinter ACS-64, which was at the front of Northeast Regional 65 at Washington DC's Union Station.I had expected to spend most of my month-long trip to the USA at the end of last year in Maine with Amanda. However, the death of a close friend necessitated a weekend there-and-back trip to Washington DC for the funeral. The obvious choice was to fly, but a combination of factors, including my dislike of flying internally in the US, plus a lack of (reasonably priced) direct flights, led to me taking the train, by far my preferred option anyway.

Initially, I looked at travelling down on Saturday (the funeral was on Sunday morning) but that would have involved spending all day on the train (from Boston, the quickest service, the Acela, takes seven hours, while the regular Northeast Regional takes eight hours). While exploring my options, I noticed the Northeast Regional 65, a train which leaves Boston at 21:30 on Saturday night, arriving in Washington DC’s Union Station at 06:30 on Sunday morning. That would give me plenty of time to get to the funeral, as well as avoiding an overnight stay in the DC area. And, as a final bonus, it meant I could spend Saturday with Amanda. So, the Amtrak Northeast Regional 65 it was.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Day 2 PCR Test

The entrance to the Collinson test centre at London Heathrow.This is not a Travel Spot that I particularly wanted to write, since it very much ended what had otherwise been a very good journey on a down note. Exactly two weeks ago, I landed at Heathrow having flown back from Boston with British Airways at the end of my trip to Atlanta (Georgia) and Portland (Maine). However, that wasn’t quite the end of my journey. On arrival in the UK, everyone has to take a COVID-19 test within two days, with the test booked in advanced. When I left the UK, the requirement was for a lateral flow test, but during the trip, this was changed to a PCR test.

That in itself was nothing new: I’d taken a Day 2 PCR test on my return from Iceland. There was, however, one crucial difference. Another rule change means you now must self-isolate until you’ve received a negative test result. That wouldn’t have been an issue had my PCR test result come back within the stated 48 hours. Unfortunately, it didn’t. And the rest of the process, with the honourable exception of the staff at the testing centre, was a complete shambles, my problems starting as soon as I left the terminal.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Returning from Boston in Premium Economy

My travelling coffee kit at the British Airways Lounge in Boston Logan Airport, Terminal E. Back row, from left to right: my Frank Green ceramic cup, Knock AerGrind hand grinder and Espro TravelPress. The tub holds a pre-weighed dose of beans.Welcome the last leg of my trip to Atlanta (Georgia) and Portland (Maine), which included an unexpected weekend round-trip to Washington DC. Today’s Travel Spot covers my return to the UK last weekend, flying World Traveller Plus (aka Premium Economy) with British Airways. Having arrived in Atlanta almost four weeks earlier, I continued my USA tradition of (hardly ever) flying to/from the same airport by returning from Boston Logan.

This post starts with my pre-flight preparations (an essential part of travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic). Even though the rules changed mid-trip (due to the omicron variant), things were nowhere near as onerous as when I flew out, when the process was sufficiently complex that I dedicated an entire Travel Spot to the experience.

The remainder of the post is more traditional, covering the journey to the airport, the airport itself, and my flight. In the last few years, I’ve taken the early morning flight from Boston (either British Airways or Virgin Atlantic), but that disappeared from the schedules at the start of the pandemic.  Instead, I flew back overnight in World Traveller Plus, my first overnight economy flight since 2017, when I flew from Chicago to Manchester with American Airlines.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying to Atlanta in Premium Economy

Making coffee on the plane (again), this time with my Frank Green ceramic cup, Espro TravelPress and Knock Aergrind.Welcome the second instalment of my Travel Spot covering my current trip to Atlanta, Georgia, and Portland, Maine, which began on Monday last week when I flew to Atlanta, travelling in World Traveller Plus (premium economy to you and me) with British Airways. Coincidentally, this (8th November) was the very first day that the USA eased its restrictions, finally allowing vaccinated passengers from around 30 countries, including the UK, to travel to America. As a result, I dedicated the first post in this series to all the procedures I had to go through and all the (electronic) paperwork I had to fill out before I could take my flight.

This post is more traditional, covering my flight out, which departed from London Heathrow in mid-afternoon, arriving in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport in the early evening. This is the third time that I’ve flown to/from Hartsfield-Jackson, having made a pair of visits at the start of 2020, one enroute from Phoenix to Portland (Maine) and the second when I flew from Atlanta to Chicago in March 2020. However, this is the first time that I’ve flown into Terminal I, which handles all Atlanta’s international flights, my previous three flights all being internal.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying to America During the COVID-19 Pandemic

My British Airways Boeing 787-800 on the stand at Heathrow Terminal 5, waiting to take me to Atlanta on Monday, 8th November. However, before I could get to the plane (and even to the airport), there was a lot of paperwork to get though...Welcome to just the second Travel Spot of 2021 that deals with my actual travels this year, rather than reliving previous trips. I’m currently in Atlanta, Georgia, having flown out on Monday (8th November), coincidentally the exact same day that the USA eased its restrictions, finally allowing vaccinated passengers from around 30 countries, including the UK, to travel to America.

I flew direct with British Airways, this time in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy to you and me), my flight departing mid-afternoon and arriving in Atlanta in the early evening. Today, after a couple of days in Atlanta, Amanda and I are driving to Portland, Maine, a trip that should take us three days in all. Then, after three weeks in Portland, I’ll fly back from Boston, again in World Traveller Plus.

Usually, my Travel Spots cover the journey itself, but I’m going to save that pleasure for a follow-up post. Instead, since this is the first time that I’ve flown to America under the new travel restrictions, this post is dedicated to the various procedures and (electronic) paperwork that, these days, are a requirement before taking any international flight (with a particular emphasis on the requirements for the USA).

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Amsterdam to London by Thalys/Eurostar

The front power car, No 4538, of a Thalys TGV-R waiting at Amsterdam Centraal before the start of its journey to Lille-Europe in June 2018. Last week I wrote about my first (and, so far, only) trip to Amsterdam by Eurostar, which I took in June 2018 to attend that year’s World of Coffee event. Sadly, it was only a short trip, with just enough time for a day at World of Coffee, 2½ days exploring Amsterdam’s speciality coffee scene and the annual off-season gathering of the Surrey Scorchers’ TV Commentators’ club. Then, the following Tuesday afternoon, having spent the morning visiting more coffee shops, I was back at Amsterdam Centraal Station to catch my train home.

At the time of writing, Eurostar runs two direct services a day (afternoon and evening) from Amsterdam to St Pancras International, but three years ago, with the service only having just started, you had to take a Thalys high-speed train from Amsterdam to Brussels-Midi, where you changed onto a London-bound Eurostar service. This is because on Eurostar, you clear passport control and customs for both countries when you board the train. At the time, Amsterdam Centraal didn’t have the necessary facilities, so Eurostar allowed you to book a through ticket, combining the Thalys and Eurostar services, an option which is (slightly disappointingly) no longer available.

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