Post-Covid overseas travel is back and Hunter broadcaster Tracy McKelligott and her 15-year-old daughter Mia couldn’t wait to go.
Tracy had previously gone overseas for one or two trips each year, but Covid restrictions put an end to that, so it was off to England using a base in London for four weeks in September and October.
“The start of the journey from Sydney airport was quite strange,” she said.
“We’d checked into an airport hotel the night before for a 5am flight, getting one of the last hotel rooms that were available.
“The first sign that things were not back to normal was hotel room service, which was limited to one order at 45-minute intervals because of staff shortages – many were affected by Covid and isolating.”
Up bright and early the next morning, Tracy says there were some odd things happening at the airport.
“Once we go into airport shopping area, it was depressing – only one-in-three stores was open. One of the MacDonald’s was closed – when you see MacDonald’s closed, you know something is wrong!’
Tracy said she and Mia had to negotiate huge queues at Sydney airport with only certain gates open at certain times, despite being on a full flight.
“Only a few people were wearing masks in the huge line-ups. But everyone seemed to have the idea that travel was different, and people had a certain sense of patience.”
When Tracy booked the trip earlier this year, she presumed it would be “touring as normal”, but she arrived at Heathrow Airport on the day before the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
“There were people everywhere at the airport, which was quite confronting for us and for some of the other passengers who’d flown in from Australia and New Zealand.
“Getting through immigration and customs was easy, but it took an hour to get our luggage!”.
Tracy said driving from the airport to her accommodation was a challenge, as many of the roads were closed with the set-up underway for the royal funeral.
“It was so quiet and strange, eerie and reverent.
“We had afternoon tea at The Shard and then walked back to our accommodation, but we realised we were at the start of The Queue.
“It was crazy, but everyone was so friendly — and talking to each other, and showing respect.”
“To stand in Westminster Abbey was fascinating after watching the royal funeral on television.
“And I saw a side of London I hadn’t seen before. I was blown away by the changes to the horrible industrial side of the Thames. The change has been inspiring and if we could do something like that in Newcastle, it would be amazing.”
Tracy offered a tip for people wishing to travel to London.
“We spent three weeks in an apartment in London in Vauxhall. It was great value – up to $8000 Australian for three weeks, but when you consider most hotel rooms are $500 to a thousand a night, it was great value and we had a two-bedroom apartment and could cook for ourselves.”
Being a sports nut, Tracy lists two stadiums as making a huge impression.
“Tottenham Hotspurs stadium – new stadium – and after a multimillion-dollar refirb, it’s one of the world’s best. More than 120,000 people were there to see an NFL (American football) game.
“I went to Manchester to see Man U stadium and that was incredible – it has an amazing history, being 102 years’ old and we got to tour the inside and the tunnels.
A highlight? Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Chelsea. Amazing beef that melted in your mouth. Three courses cost $300 Australian, but the desert was “to die for”.
A lowlight: Harry Potter World. “So many people. It felt like too many and we skipped some attractions because of the crowds,” Tracy said.
While Tracy and Mia were ready to come at the end of the trip, their timely visit made it a once in a lifetime holiday.