#920458 by marshy11
26 Apr 2016, 12:04
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the recent Box Set by Sealink, I had the winter blues. I also had serious TR envy.

Inspired, we scoured the BAHolidays website to book something for a weekend. Actually when we got out the diary, it looked like it may not be possible but Mr M cancelled a cycling jolly with this cycle club to Brittany (he's been before) and we cleared the decks for the weekend 21 April. With a parents' evening in Dorset at 5pm Sunday evening, this would be a good way to break up the journey and avoid the normal 4 hour round trip for a 30 minute meeting.

Living down the pointy end of the country in Cornwall the schlepp up to the London airports feels like a break in itself and it always adds a significant cost to the holiday - another night for the dog in kennels, another night for people to look after chickens. I had some business in Swindon and a free IHG night, so we doubled-up and booked in. I won't include Swindon HI in the TR and I can't say I would recommend it, but, it was a freebie and it meant we were only an hour from Heathrow.

Leaving Swindon at 7am on a bright Friday morning we drove to the Hilton T5 where Mr M had arranged our parking. The £25 parking fee was for 3 days parking on site and included 2 adult returns on the Hoppa. A bargain I thought.

We were at the airport just after 8.15am. Flying Y with BA - something we haven't done for years meant we had no lounge access. With a recent Gold Card referral from Bretty, we did have Lounge Pass but they don't currently have a T5 lounge and as we are working hard on BA Avios, the only cards we do have are all geared up to that. Never mind, we would slum it with the best of them. Actually it wasn't too bad and having had breakfast in Swindon we grabbed a coffee and utilised the free wifi whilst doing a lot of people-watching.

I have to say it did feel very weird not being in a lounge and not having the luxury of travelling at the better end of the plane.

We had used the BA app to check-in online and I found it very easy and I'm now a convert. Virgin could learn a thing or two. This trip was going to be lots of firsts/new experiences and I opted to use the app as my boarding pass. Something I have never contemplated in the past.

Security was a little slow even though we chose the less busy end. It was thorough and as usual I was selected for the body scan, shoe removal, shoe swab and poke & smooth body rub. :-O

We had a bit of shopping time, grabbed a drink and I finished off some work using the free wifi. Time to board.

As we approached the gate we heard the gate staff announcing the flight was full and cabin luggage space would be at a premium. We were told to check our luggage as a strict boarding policy was in force and if we tried to board with oversize hand luggage we may be ejected - ok it wasn't quite that harsh but it wasn't welcoming. We were fine, one small case, a laptop bag and my handbag. My handbag was tagged at the gate as being 'guaranteed cabin'. Albeit I found out this actually means it HAS to go under your seat and NOT in the overhead locker. Failure to abide would result in all sorts of problems. Oh how I missed VS UC boarding right now.

We boarded and took our seats 20B and 20C near the back, middle seat and aisle.

The flight was non eventful, an A319 where the first 7 rows were business and the rest economy. For those that don't know it means the same seat pitch but the first 7 rows have a vacant middle seat, which is converted into a tray type rest. We had an all male crew who seemed more at the twilight end of their career. They were swift, pleasant and as there were only 3 of them, 2 being the Y crew, it meant a fair bit of work for them.

Drinks and a chicken & bacon roll were served almost as soon as the seat belt signs were off. It was tasty and although we missed the champagne, the wine was acceptable. Tables cleared and as some pax were having another drink, we too opted for another round of wines. :blush:

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I'm 5'10 and found the leg room was sufficient, Mr M is 6'3 and it was a bit of a squeeze. Both pax in front of us did recline but although a little cramped it didn't really make a difference and the flight was only 90 minutes.

My legroom & tagged bag
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His legroom.
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Quiet landing onto a sunny runway. Doors opened and we disembarked into 26c heat, onto the transit bus into the terminal building. Within 10 minutes we were on the airport shuttle from Linate to Milan Centrale Station and our hotel, Hilton Milan was just a short walk away.

We had booked an executive room with lounge access. I was surprised at how large the room was for central Milan. The bed was a super kingsize and was very comfy. Although I am Hilton Gold, as I hadn't booked direct I wasn't expecting the free in-room wifi, but we had it so that was a bonus. Wifi was speedy and the room was newly refurbed.

The Executive lounge wasn't huge but was welcoming. There is an outdoor terrace for exec lounge holders only and it was beautiful. You could see the snowy alps in the distance. Happy Hour is 6pm to 8pm where the usual wine, beer and sparking wines are out. Food was tasty and not the normal samosa type offerings, instead we had aubergine salad, feta salad, salmon carpaccio and the most delicious tomato bruschetta.

You can just see the snowy Alps in the distance.

Having grabbed a very nice coffee in the lounge (it is Italy and they like their coffee) we headed for the Metro.

We'd only booked a few weeks before and had scoured the trip-advisor forum for ideas on sightseeing. We had a couple of places we wanted to visit but really, had no plans as such. Da Vinci's Last Supper was one sight we wanted to visit but it evaded us. Tickets go on sale on the website (IT was worse than VS) three months in advance. Although I had checked periodically, nothing became available for when were there. They limit viewings to strict times of 15 minutes in a small group of 15 people. As we were here, we decided to make our way there to see if there was any possibility of a viewing. There wasn't. The home of said painting is Santa Maria delle Grazie and although not spectacular was very interesting and peaceful.

Over the rest of Friday and all of Saturday we managed to walk a fair distance. We also utilised the public transport system and for €4.50 each you get a full 24 hours on the buses, trams and metro. Another bargain and as most of the trams are old, it was very nostalgic and a great way to see the city. I should add that the system isn't too easy to navigate and we did go 14 stops in the wrong direction once!

Highlights of the sight seeing were the (Piazza del)Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, both of which are absolutely stunning. The Galleria is beautiful and stuffed full of designer shops. A great opportunity to hide from the approaching skies. It went very dark very quickly, within 5 minutes the skies had cleared.

Castello Sforza was spectacular and the heart of the old city.

With the temperature in the mid 20's a much needed beer was called for. Sitting watching over the busy Piazza is wonderful. Not only because the beer was cold but because it came with a huge serving of olive and rosemary focaccia. Unfortunately we had two beers which meant two huge servings. Lunch went by the way-side.

There was a discreet security presence in the form of local police, carabinieri and army. Although the carabinieri appeared to be there more in the form of a PR exercise!

More sightseeing, a visit to the Navigli - Milan's canal area. I expected more in the way of bar/restaurants but it was pleasant.

Sunday morning, after the Exec room breakfast we checked out and made the 25 minute journey back to Linate.

A reasonably busy flight back into LHR and for us a leisurely drive down to Dorset. School supplied a supper for the parents' evening and we said our goodbyes to our son and drove the 2 hours home, kicking our shoes off about 9.15pm.

Overall it was a fantastic trip and one that we wouldn't have even thought about but for the inspiration given by the aforementioned Box Set author. It's very easy to feel we live too far away to make a short trip enjoyable, but it was worth the effort. The flight was scenic and we even managed to see Mont Blanc on the outward flight, poking it's nose above the cloud. On the return, the skies were clearer and the Alps in general stunning.

For those interested, the BAHolidays price was £220 each. This included the flight in Y and two nights in an Executive Room. Had we booked the room and flight separately, even with HHonors discounts and upgrades, it would have been double that.
Last edited by marshy11 on 09 Nov 2016, 14:28, edited 1 time in total.
#920469 by marshy11
26 Apr 2016, 15:25
Vegascrazy wrote:Fantastic trip report Marshy, many thanks!

Lounge Pass is accepted at T5's Aspire Lounge I think? This lounge is getting good reviews from what I can see.
https://www.loungepass.com/index.cfm?fu ... de=LHR5SPA

You are right, it's me in the time-warp! Oh well, another time.....
#920470 by pjh
26 Apr 2016, 15:36
Another message of praise and thanks for the TR, and a note to self to check the BA Holidays website more frequently. If and when MrsPJH retires this sort of trip will become far more possible for us...
#920477 by marshy11
26 Apr 2016, 18:18
I forgot to add, we picked up 148 avios each e/w for the flights and 864 bonus for the hotel booking, as well as the Amex bonus. For the two of us, the total avois came in at just shy of 3k.
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