Stephanie Blackmun (pictured, below), our Sales and Customer Service Supervisor, has just returned from the sun-kissed Channel Island of Jersey. Read all about her first experience of post-lockdown travel in the latest instalment of Staff Stories.
Where it all began
Call me crazy, but from a young age I’ve always loved going to the airport: for me, this is where your holiday starts!
However, with everything that has been going this year with COVID, I must admit I felt a bit anxious before this trip, as it was the first time I’d travelled since the pandemic hit.
Questions raced through my mind as I travelled to Gatwick: Will everyone be wearing masks? Will people keep their distance? What will it be like at the airport? Will it feel normal?
It’s the unknown that gets you: not knowing what to expect and what it will be like once you are there (and I knew this would be the same for our customers too). Luckily, my concerns turned out to be short-lived!
As soon as I got to Gatwick I started to feel more relaxed. Everybody was wearing their masks and practising social distancing. If anything, things in the airport seemed to be more efficient and I was through security in no time: safety protocols and procedures were well explained and everyone adhered to them.
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Once through security, the departure lounge was busier than I expected, although not as busy as usual. The flight was almost full, and everybody was wearing their masks. Before take-off, the cabin crew informed customers that masks were to be worn for the duration of the flight, and no more than two people should queue to use the toilet at any one time.
Drinks and snacks could still be purchased, but there were no brochures or menus on board. The menu could be viewed via the EasyJet app. Having said that, the flight was only 35 minutes so by the time I had finished my coffee we were coming into land! Everything went smoothly and everyone stuck to the new safety guidelines.
Before travelling to Jersey, we all were asked to complete a short registration form online. The form included personal details, date of arrival and departure, where you had travelled in the last 14 days and a declaration of health.
If you hadn’t completed the form in advance, it wasn’t a problem. The staff at Jersey airport were handing them out to customers just after they collected your luggage. Upon arrival to Jersey passengers (excluding children under 11 years) must either provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arriving in Jersey or be swab tested at the airport.
I was swab tested: the test was free, pain-free, quick, and very efficient! I was in and out in 5 minutes. Customers who were swab-tested agreed how quick and efficient the testing was, and were pleasantly surprised by the process.
I shortly received an email from the Jersey Government thanking me for taking the test and explaining that my test results would be with me within the next 48 hours. They advised me to limit my social contact and avoid public transport during this time. Currently, the results take up to 48 hours as they are sent back to the UK for processing. However, Jersey is looking at trying to get the testing done on the island so that they can the get results back within 12 hours.
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On with the show
We met our tour manager, Angela, who was very happy and enthusiastic to meet the first group back to Jersey! Angela was brilliant, friendly, down-to-earth, and very knowledgeable about all things Jersey, having lived on the island before.
The tour was a small group (12 including me). Two passengers made their own way to the island by ferry. The group were staying in two hotels in St Helier: the Pomme D’Or (where I stayed) and the Merton Hotel. The transfer was short and we were at our hotels early enough to enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
The Pomme D’Or, located across the road from the bus station, is ideal for those who like to explore. If you’re interested in the history of Jersey, the Pomme D’Or Hotel is part of the fabric of Jersey life: it was on the balcony of the hotel where the Union Jack was raised marking the liberation of Jersey from the German occupation after World World Two. The hotel is on Liberation Square, across the road from the Harbour and the Maritime Museum, not far from the Jersey Museum, with plenty of bars and restaurants within easy walking distance. I walked up to the Merton Hotel, which was about a 15-minute walk away.
Safety measures at the Pomme D’Or included screens at reception and contactless payment only. We received a letter upon arrival explaining these procedures. Staff wore masks and social distancing was adhered to. Rooms were not cleaned until test results were received, and even then, guests could not be present. The manager told met they accommodated a lot of key workers including NHS staff prior to reopening, and their thank-you messages were on display near reception, which I thought was a lovely touch.
The rooms at the Pomme D’Or had great facilities, and the breakfast was excellent, ranging from avocado on toast and eggs benedict to kippers on toast and full English breakfast. There were three restaurants in the hotel, all of which were reasonably priced. The Harbour Room was my favourite: it had beautiful views over the harbour and serves wonderful fish and chips!
The Merton Hotel is located across the road from the Howard Davis Park, a 10-minute walk from the high street. They have an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool, which were both open, to the delight of the customers as the weather was hot whilst we were there! The facilities were open to guests of the Pomme D’Or.
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We received a daily morning text from the Jersey Government asking us to reply WELL if they have no symptoms or COVID. The test results were back within 24 hours and were all negative.
On our first day, we explored under our own steam, enjoying a walk around St Helier, looking around the local high street and shops, and the Jersey Museum.
The next day our driver Barry, who has lived in Jersey his whole life, picked us up just after 10am for a tour of the island. Barry was fabulous, informative, funny and very knowledgeable – he had many stories to tell and what he didn’t know about Jersey wasn’t worth knowing.
The minibus stopped every 25 minutes or so, to give everyone some fresh air. The first stop was at St Aubins Bay, then we made a stop at Ouasine Bay, which was stunning and not normally included in the tour as large coaches can’t get down the narrow roads, however we were in a small minibus.
We stopped at St Brelades Bay for coffee, cake, ice cream for 30 minutes, which was one of my favourite beaches – the west is certainly best! Watch out for the seagulls though, they won’t think twice about stealing your ice cream or food!
We made several more stops including for lunch at Greve de Lecq in the north, then an ice cream stop at St Catherines Bay (where they sell the best Jersey ice cream) and finally a photo stop in Gorey, before returning to the hotel in the late afternoon.
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Jersey War Tunnels
The following day Barry picked us up at 10.30am for a thought-provoking visit to the Jersey War Tunnels. Customers experienced and learned about one of the most difficult periods in Jersey’s history, when the Germans occupied the island during World War Two. I’d recommend comfortable walking shoes and a jumper as it does get chilly in the tunnels.
We had plenty of time to walk around the tunnels at leisure, and to read the literature (audio guides are not available at the moment). It was very interesting to read about the lives of the people affected and how they lived. Customers were asked to stand outside the tunnel entrance and each household was called up one at a time in order for them to give their details for the track and trace system, before entering the tunnels with a 2-metre distance. Some of the corridors only allowed one household in at a time, or a maximum of 4, 6 or 8 in at a time. This was not a problem and worked really well.
We got back to the hotel about 2pm and spent the afternoon at leisure. Some customers decided to get the ferry to Elizabeth Island, whilst some hit the shops. I walked to St Aubin’s bay, which took an hour each way. It was a lovely walk that many residents of Jersey do on a Sunday.
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All good things…
On the fourth day Barry took us to Jersey Zoo, which was founded by author Gerald Durrell in 1959. The zoo is home to over 130 of the most rare and endangered species, including bears, orangutans and gorillas.
I came home that afternoon, but the rest of the customers stayed on the tour for another day, which included a boat trip to see Elizabeth Castle, St Aubin’s Bay, Noirmont Point and the southwest coast of Jersey.
After having been a little anxious before the trip, my break to Jersey surpassed all expectations. Jersey is a great place to visit, especially during COVID times as it is remote, small and cases are low.
As soon I got to the airport, I felt my worries drift away. We all felt really grateful and relieved to be travelling again.
Everybody was really impressed with how all the suppliers had adapted their practices to be COVID-friendly, which I felt gave the customers that extra reassurance they needed to have a great break.
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