The days of airlines blocking seats to make passengers feel safer about flying during the pandemic are coming closer to an end.
JetBlue is the latest to indicate it is rethinking the issue. A spokesman for the carrier said Thursday that JetBlue will reduce the number of seats it blocks after Dec. 1 to accommodate families traveling together over the holidays.
Southwest Airlines said last week that it will stop limiting the number of seats it fills after Dec. 1. Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines say they will lift caps on seating early next year.
The pandemic and resulting border restrictions caused U.S. air travel to plunge 95% in April. Some airlines promised to block middle seats to create more distance between passengers. Others, notably United Airlines and American Airlines, did not, arguing that ventilation systems and air filters made planes safe without social distancing.
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The Canary Islands in Spain were added back to the travel corridor list last week. The move was welcomed by Britons, opening up new half term holiday destinations for Britons. Now, prices for holidays from the UK to the Canaries have dropped, according to the latest data from TravelSupermarket.
According to pricing analysis of thousands of package holidays searched by holidaymakers between October 13 and October 27, the average price of a winter holiday from the UK to the Canaries has fallen by as much as third year on year.
Despite being added back to the travel corridor list, the industry is struggling due to suppressed traveller demand.
The average price of a seven-night package holiday between November 1 and December 31 to Fuerteventura has dropped by 33 percent.
Average prices have also dropped to Tenerife by 27 percent, to Lanzarote by 24 percent and Gran Canaria by percent.
The data from the holiday price comparison site is across the outbound travel market from a large range of providers including Jet2, TUI, Broadway Travel and Blue Sea Holidays.
Other destinations which have seen prices drop between November and December include Cyprus, Crete and Madeira.
The Canary Islands are usually a popular winter sun destination as they have one of the best climates in winter and are in close proximity to the UK.
Temperatures often peak to highs of 23C in November and 21C in December.
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As a result of the island’s new place on the travel corridor list, Tenerife is again, like last year, the most popular destination to escape to from the UK for a November or December break.
This time last year, Lanzarote, which is in third place this year, was the only other Canary Island in the top ten preferred overseas holiday destinations for a break between now and the end of the year.
This year, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria are also in the top ten.
Emma Coulthurst, travel commentator from TravelSupermarket explained that people are willing to pay more for holiday away in the autumn or winter to escape the British winter.
She continued: “Despite significant increased demand for holidays to the Canaries on the back of last week’s announcement, a lot of the travel industry is reporting that traveller numbers are less than half where they would be normally.
“A lot of competition in the market for business means you can find a seven-night package holiday from the UK to Tenerife starting from under £150 per person at the moment.”
She added: “The hard-hit industry is probably hoping that it won’t have to cut prices to long-haul destinations like the Maldives, where holidaymakers are prepared to pay for luxury and remoteness and limited occupancy.
“Holiday providers will be hoping that the high-end isolated island experience and spaced-out accommodation and outdoor eating opportunities, which make it easy to socially distance, will be enough to encourage bookings and keep prices static.”
In the last fortnight, for departures between November 1 and December 31, Britons are mainly choosing destinations on the travel corridor list.
Compared with last year, the rankings are mainly for destinations in the Canary Islands and Greece.
Last year, New York, Malta, Krakow and Amsterdam were all included.
This is where people are searching for holidays now:
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On Monday, it was revealed that British Airways and M&S would be parting ways. M&S food had been catering British Airways’s inflight menu since 2017. British Airways announced the partnership in 2016 following backlash that they were not offering enough food options.
A spokesperson for BA said: “We proudly launched our buy-on-board catering in 2017 with high street favourite, M&S.
“After a successful journey, we are headed off on a new flight path.
“We look forward to announcing our exciting new buy-on-board proposition with a great British brand that customers have told us they love.”
An M&S spokesperson said: “We are proud to have been a supplier to BA’s short-haul food service since 2017.
“Our partnership was always due to end this year and we have agreed not to renew.
“M&S Food continues to focus on developing its wider franchise partnerships.”
The Sun is reporting that British favourites Greggs and Waitrose are the frontrunners for the inflight food contract.
However, this has not been confirmed.
Waitrose has been contacted by Express.co.uk for comment.
Greggs has declined to comment.
Greggs is a British bakery chain that specialises in sausage rolls, bakes and sweet items such as doughnuts and vanilla slices.
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The bakery has become a favourite over the years, now catering to vegans with its famous vegan sausage roll.
Waitrose & Partners is a British supermarket brand that sells groceries as part of John Lewis.
Waitrose are known for their quality groceries and “upmarket” reputation.
Earlier this year, British Airways and Tesco ended their partnership.
From January, British Airways Avios points can no longer be collected by shopping at Tesco.
By converting at the right time, Tesco customers can get 600 Avios points for £2.50-worth of Tesco Clubcard points.
However, British Airways is set to terminate its partnership with Tesco on January 18, 2021.
BA has told Executive Club members: “The contract between Avios Group Ltd and Tesco PLC is terminating on January 18 2021, after which British Airways Executive Club Members will no longer be able to convert their Clubcard points to Avios with Tesco.”
Shoppers will still be able to collect Avios with Tesco up to and including the January date.
Memberships in the British Airways Executive Club remain unaffected by the change.
All Avios collected with Tesco will remain in customers’ British Airways Executive Club accounts and will remain valid for at least 36 months.
Avoid points can be used to book flights, hotels and hire cars.
BRUSSELS (AP) — Bars and restaurants across Belgium shut down for a month and a nighttime curfew took effect Monday as health authorities warned of a possible “tsunami” of new virus cases in the hard-hit nation that host the headquarters of the European Union.
The new measures aim to limit social interactions to slow down the exponential growth of the pandemic in the nation of 11.5 million people. The new surge of coronavirus cases has already prompted several hospitals to delay nonessential operations to focus on treating COVID-19 cases.
“We are really very close to a tsunami,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told broadcaster RTL.
According to AP figures based on data collected by Johns Hopkins University, Belgium recorded an average of 73.95 daily cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, the second-worst record in the EU behind the Czech Republic.
As autumn progresses and the festive season approaches, plenty of Americans are faced with COVID-complicated decisions about traveling to see family and friends around the country. Because quarantine mandates and requisite public hygiene measures are still being determined jurisdictionally, U.S. states have adopted a hodgepodge of various rules applying to travelers, often depending upon which state you’re traveling to and where you’re coming from. Some still require out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival or provide proof of a valid negative COVID-19 test to enter their states. Here’s a rundown of the latest guidance on travel restrictions by state.
All non-Alaskan residents coming from another state must either:
—Present proof of a qualifying negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departure, and upload the results to the Alaska Travel Portal, and submit a travel declaration and self-isolation plan through the online portal;
—Purchase a COVID-19 test for $250 upon arrival in Alaska and self-quarantine at their own expense until results are reported; or
—Adhere to the work plan that their employer filed with the State of Alaska.
Out-of-state visitors spending more than a week in Alaska are also requested to take an optional second test between five and 14 days after their arrival.
In Connecticut, any traveler coming from a state that has a high rate of infection (positive testing rates higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average) is required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Travelers from affected states and territories may be able to shorten or bypass quarantine by providing a negative COVID-19 PCR test result to Connecticut’s Commissioner of Public Health. The list of impacted states is updated on a weekly basis every Tuesday. All interstate travelers must also complete an online Travel Health Form.
Following several postponements, Hawaii finally launched its pre-travel testing program on October 15, enabling interstate visitors to bypass the 14-day quarantine by providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of their arrival.
But, note that the rules are very specific: the Aloha State is only accepting results of a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) performed by one of the trusted testing partners approved by the Hawaii Department of Health. Visitors must upload test results to the state’s online Safe Travels form and complete a health questionnaire within 24 hours of departure.
In addition to the statewide pre-travel testing measure, the Big Island is also requiring a second rapid test to be taken by all passengers (ages five and over) upon arrival at the airport. Maui and Kauai are also offering optional secondary testing for visitors. Hawaii will also be conducting random surveillance by testing ten percent of travelers four days after arrival.
While Idaho hasn’t imposed statewide travel restrictions, out-of-state visitors to Ada County, which includes places like Boise, Meridian, Eagle, Garden City, Star and Kuna are “encouraged” to quarantine for 14 days if they are traveling from an area with substantial community spread or case rates higher than those in Idaho.
Though Illinois likewise hasn’t imposed statewide travel restrictions, the city of Chicago has issued an Emergency Travel Order requiring returning residents and travelers to Chicago coming from states that are experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases to quarantine for 14 days. At the time of publication, its list of impacted areas included 25 states and Puerto Rico.
Kansas has placed restrictions only on very specific sets of travelers. Returning residents and visitors who attended an out-of-state event or mass gathering of 500 or more people, at which individuals did not socially distance and wear masks are required to quarantine for 14 days; as is anyone who has been on a cruise ship or river cruise since March.
Kentucky is recommending that travelers coming from states with a positive testing rate of 15 percent or higher self-quarantine for 14 days. At the time of publication, 11 states were on its list of impacted states, but travelers can always check the current positivity rates for each state on the Johns Hopkins website, since those numbers are in constant flux.
Out-of-state travelers must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival or sign a Certificate of Compliance indicating that they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 (PCR or antigen tests both acceptable) within the past 72 hours. Visitors arriving in Maine from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont are exempted from both quarantine and testing requirements.
All visitors, including returning residents, who do not meet exemption parameters must complete the Massachusetts Travel Form, plus provide negative results of a COVID-19 test taken up to 72-hours prior to arrival or self-quarantine for 14 days. Travelers coming from lower-risk states, as designated by the Department of Public Health, are exempt. Lower-risk states are defined as those with average daily cases below ten in 100,000 residents and positive test rates of under-five percent, based on a rolling seven-day average. Failure to comply with these orders may result in a $500 fine.
Travelers to New Hampshire from surrounding New England states (Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island) are exempt from quarantine orders. Those traveling from non-New England for an extended period of time are still “asked” to self-isolate for 14 days.
The governors of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut continue their joint incoming travel restrictions on visitors from states with significant COVID-19 spread, and visitors or returning residents coming from the impacted states must quarantine for 14 days.
Impacted states are defined as those with 1) an average daily new case rate of higher than 10 in every 100,000 residents or 2) a 10 percent or higher positivity rate, both measured over a rolling seven-day period. The list of affected states is updated online regularly, but, as of October 13, included 38 U.S. states and jurisdictions.
Those coming from affected areas are also asked to complete a voluntary online survey to provide information about where they’re traveling from and their destination.
New Mexico is requiring travelers from states considered high-risk, based on COVID-positivity rates, to self-quarantine for 14 days following their arrival or the duration of their stay, whichever is shorter. The list of high-risk and exempted low-risk states is updated every Wednesday. As of October 14, low-risk states included only Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington state.
In line with the Tri-State area’s joint travel advisory, New York is requiring a 14-day quarantine of all travelers coming from states with a significant degree of COVID-19 spread—defined as a daily case rate of more than 10 in every 100,000 residents or a positive testing rate of higher than ten percent, both criteria being based on a rolling seven-day average. As of October 13, the list included 38 impacted U.S. states and jurisdictions.
Those arriving by air from impacted states must complete a Traveler Health Form before leaving the airport or face a $2,000 fine. Those traveling to New York via other transportation methods, such as car or train, must fill out the form online.
Ohio is advising travelers coming from states with positive testing rates of 15 percent or higher, based on a rolling seven-day average, to self-quarantine for 14 days. As of October 14, affecting states included Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The list is updated online every Wednesday.
Pennsylvania recommends that anyone visiting or returning from areas with high incidences of COVID-19 quarantine for 14 days upon entering the state. As of October 16, impacted states included Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Rhode Island is requiring travelers from states and jurisdictions with positivity rates of higher than five percent to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. While the website notes that quarantining is always preferred, travelers can bypass quarantine by providing their negative results of COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival, or may test after entering the state and remain quarantined pending their results. As of October 12, the regularly updated list was up to 32 impacted states and jurisdictions.
Out-of-state visitors must also complete a Certificate of Compliance, attesting to their fulfillment of quarantine/testing requirements, which they’ll need to provide to their hotel or rented accommodations upon check-in, as well as an Out-of-State Travel Screening Form with their contact information and intended itinerary.
Most out-of-state visitors to Vermont will need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The state is allowing travelers from any country with less than 400 active cases of COVID-19 per one million residents to enter without quarantining. An online map of Northeastern and New England states, updated every Tuesday, identifies those counties subject to quarantine and those that are exempt.
Non-Vermont residents traveling in a personal vehicle are allowed to complete their 14-day quarantine in their home state, or complete a seven-day quarantine in their home state and obtain negative test results in order to enter Vermont without restrictions. Those arriving by air, train or bus, or from further than a direct car ride, must complete a 14-day quarantine upon arrival or undergo a seven-day quarantine, followed by a negative test taken at their quarantine location in Vermont.
The nation’s capital requires persons who’ve participated in non-essential travel to or from designated high-risk states to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Last updated on October 5, the list of impacted states includes Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
A few dozen Disneyland enthusiasts and cast members gathered outside the park on Saturday to protest its continuing closure, which has prompted the loss of more than 28,000 jobs across both of Disney’s U.S. theme parks.
Disneyland has been closed since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, while Walt Disney World in Florida reopened with reduced capacity in July. The U.S. has reported more than 8.1 million cases and 219,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data.
“If the other parks have opened safe, why can’t Disneyland do the same?” read one protester’s sign.
Some protesters, donning Mickey Mouse masks or mouse-ear headbands, held signs that called for the park to reopen with Disney references. “Tell the guards to open up the gates,” one sign read, quoting a line from “Frozen.” “Oh bother! Why is Disney still closed?” another one asked with a picture of Winnie the Pooh.
USA TODAY has reached out to Disneyland and the protest’s organizers for comment.
When will Disneyland reopen? Disney slams California governor after he slows reopening of California theme parks
There’s no doubt that coronavirus has changed the world. But this isn’t the first time the planet has faced a global pandemic. In 1918, Spanish Flu spread across the globe, claiming millions of lives and altering the daily routines – and travel patterns – of people from all corners of the planet. Here we take a look at the pandemic that rocked the world in the early 20th century and what it meant for travel.
A global pandemic
What’s in a name?
Because of its name, many assume this 20th-century pandemic began in Spain. However, although there are several theories pointing to various other parts of Europe, China or the US, its starting point remains unconfirmed. The name Spanish Flu came from the fact that Spanish press reported on the virus in a timely and thorough fashion, while there were still media blackouts in other European countries due to the First World War. One of the earliest reported cases was at a military camp in Fort Riley, Kansas in March 1918. A hospital ward at Camp Funston is pictured here during the outbreak.
Travel, then and now
Travel was a different beast in the 1910s. Aviation was in its infancy and leisure travel was far less engrained in people’s lives than it is today. The absence of jumbo jets whisking passengers to all corners of the globe meant that the disease spread slower than it would have today, not reaching countries including Canada until September 1918. People still took precautions when traveling locally – this 1918 photo shows a man cleaning a London bus during the pandemic.
The journey of a disease
Travel still had an impact on the way the pandemic spread. According to a 2020 report, Spanish Flu can be “described as the first ‘modern’ pandemic characterized by rapid movement via a global transport system”. But rather than by jumbo jets, the disease was carried across the world via ships and railways. Pictured here is a notice from the Anti-Tuberculosis League advising train passengers on ways to deal with the influenza outbreak.
Travel with caution
There wasn’t a cohesive global response to the pandemic and, even within nations, different cities took vastly different approaches to controlling the disease. But when the outbreak hit its peak, the general consensus was that the public should avoid crowds, limit contact with other people and, by extension, avoid non-essential travel. In New York, for example, business hours were altered in order to reduce congestion on public transport. Here a passenger without a face mask is refused entry to a Seattle street car.
Cities in lockdown
Places that might usually attract tourists – including restaurants, theaters, cinemas and saloons – were closed in many places, including, eventually, in Philadelphia, where a large public parade had previously led to a shocking death toll. This 1919 poster in Chicago, Illinois reminds those with symptoms to stay at home.
Some places closed their borders altogether, restricting access in and out of their community, and also shutting schools and places of worship. These included the city of Egegik (pictured here in 1917, before the outbreak) on Alaska’s Bristol Bay, an area devastated by the pandemic. Australia also required those people traveling into the country to quarantine for a period during the outbreak.
The Spanish Flu pandemic and, of course, the First World War led to a period of financial hardship for many. Post-war recessions caused high unemployment in the United States and, after a brief economic boom in 1919 to 1920, Britain had a similar fate. For many families, a vacation was the furthest thing from their mind. But with large crowds no longer an issue, some sun-seekers still found their way to local beaches. Here women and girls wade into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Massachusetts circa 1919.
A new attitude to travel
Despite the economic circumstances of many in the UK and US, there was a shift in attitudes towards travel after the pandemic and the First World War. This tumultuous period, according to Leonard J Lickorish in British Tourism, “took millions of people from their normal home environments, tossed them into a feverish activity and change, and moved them frequently in the UK and abroad.” He continues, “Traditional perceptions of home, village and town boundaries were broken,” laying the foundations for a new age of travel and tourism. This 1920s shot shows Blackpool Pleasure Beach, UK.
The true cost
After the Spanish Flu and the First World War had run their destructive courses, there were leaps and bounds made in aviation technology. According to Smithsonian, during this period, “aircraft evolved from First World War-style biplanes into sleek, high-performance modern airliners” that somewhat resemble the planes we’re used to traveling in today. This shot shows passengers waiting to board a Handley Page W.9 aircraft at UK’s Croydon Airport in 1926.
You’ve got mail
It wasn’t until the late 1920s, and through the 1930s, that commercial aviation began to flourish and regular passenger services were established. Early US services included Transcontinental Air Transport’s route between New York and Los Angeles, which launched in 1929. British airlines such as Imperial Airways also operated during this time, serving destinations including Northern Europe and South Africa. Passengers are pictured here in the 1920s boarding an Imperial Airways service from London to Paris.
A bumpy ride
Flying in the years after the Spanish Flu pandemic was costly and, as such, it was an activity reserved for the most privileged in society. However, plane rides during this time were long, uncomfortable (due to noise and turbulence) and ultimately dangerous – accidents involving commercial aircraft were not uncommon in the interwar years. Here a bunch of wealthy passengers brave a plane ride in 1931 and enjoy some in-flight entertainment.
Having said this, airlines went the extra mile to ensure their affluent passengers were comfortable, with top service, plush cabin lounges and fine food served seat-side. You were even allowed to smoke. Here a couple relaxes with a cocktail or two on the Imperial Airways Empire flying boat passenger plane in the 1930s. Now check out how air travel has changed since 1920.
Out to sea
A splash of luxury
A true escape
Beyond their decks and lavish lounges, cruises gave wealthy passengers the opportunity to explore far-flung destinations on organized excursions. Here American tourists from the Cunard liner Scythia are pictured wandering the ancient Giza pyramid complex, near Cairo, Egypt in 1923. Take a look at more vintage photos of the world’s most famous landmarks.
On the right track
During the Spanish Flu pandemic, trains were seen as a vessel for transmitting the disease and some members of the public were wary of using them. Longstanding trade publication Railway Age said in a 1918 editorial that “crowding in passenger trains should be avoided as much as possible” and railways should take “every possible measure” to ensure the safety of trains. But by the 1920s, passengers once again felt safe to travel on the railways for leisure. Here vacationers leave London Paddington on a “land cruise” to the West Country.
Full steam ahead
The pandemic saw some rail routes altered or halted altogether. But during the interwar years, train travel boomed, as shown by this crowd pictured at Waterloo Station in 1922. In fact, in the book British Tourism, these are described as the “glory years of steam trains”, with vacationers enjoying “relatively fast and efficient services”. Take a look at these stunning photos of the world’s most beautiful train stations.
An easy ride
The American railroad
There was a similar post-pandemic trend in the USA. According to Railway Age, “In 1920, the US system would see its highest total, 47.3 billion passenger-miles – this just four years after the entire network reached its peak mileage of 254,000 route-miles.” Here a young woman alights a train in California, ready for her vacation, in 1927.
A spotlight on the seaside
Some of Britain’s seaside towns – including Blackpool in Lancashire and Margate in Kent (pictured) – also had fun, family-friendly amusement parks that drew yet more people through the interwar years. In fact, British Tourism estimates that by the late 1930s, having mostly recovered from the devastation of war and the Spanish Flu, “one third of the population, or 15 million people, took one annual vacation staying away from home within the country”.
Close to home
The post-pandemic vacation looked similar in America too, with many families staying close to home during their leisure time, either by choice or due to financial constraints. This trio of beach-goers build a sandcastle on New Jersey shores in 1934. Take a look at more vintage snaps of family vacations throughout the decades.
While most British vacationers stuck to home shores, the number traveling abroad by the end of the 1930s, more than a decade after the pandemic ended, was not insignificant. By this time, it’s estimated that the number of travelers setting their sights abroad, usually to Europe, had reached one million, according to British Tourism. This vintage snap shows a busy beach in Valencia, Spain.
On the road
Post-war and post-pandemic, the motor car industry boomed in both the UK and the States. Although they remained the preserve of the wealthy upper and middle classes, vehicles opened up the USA and countries across Europe, providing easy access to previously hard-to-reach destinations. Now take a look at what the future of travel could look like after COVID-19.
The joy of the open road
The war- and disease-ravaged years previous had taken away freedoms for many people so, in the decades that followed, the open road beckoned. The idea of the road trip soon became a romantic notion, particularly in the USA, where the motor industry played a major part in rebuilding the country’s suffering economy. Here road-trippers enjoy a country road in Yellowstone National Park in the 1920s. Take a look at nostalgic pictures of America’s most historic attractions here.
The road to somewhere
Britain’s caravan boom
Tin can tourism
There was a similar pattern in the States too. The Tin Can Tourists Club – a trailer and motor coach club – formed in the wake of the pandemic, in 1919, and light trailers and caravans continued to grow in popularity. A Tin Can Tourist camp in Gainesville, Florida, is pictured here in the 1920s. Now look at retro photos of America’s oldest attractions in their heyday.
A site for sore eyes
Innovation in recreational vehicles would continue right up until the late 1930s, when the Second World War would take hold. And as more and more Americans began owning motor vehicles and trailers during this decade, caravan sites continued to spring up. This one is located in Dade City, in Florida’s Tampa Bay area, and is captured in 1939. Discover classic Hollywood stars’ most charming vacation snaps here.
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It was February, and while there was gradual awareness of the silent killer out in Wuhan, we were still more than a month away from lockdown. Pandemic panic had yet to grip the nation by the throat and halt life as we knew it.
No, the headlines were dominated by Storm Ciara, the powerful force of nature set to sweep the country with gusts of up to 130mph and widespread flooding. And we had a date with the Lake District, no raincheck considered.
So it was that we found ourselves in a tower room at the Old England Hotel & Spa in Bowness-on-Windermere as the gales battered the windows while raindrops like bullets sought out every crack and crevice in the masonry.
The jetties bordering the hotel gardens disappeared under the rising water as the lake was whipped into a white horse stampede; pleasure craft were secured; the lake’s famous cruisers ceased to run – such was the ferocity of the storm. We felt smug in our spacious room, survivors with a tale to tell back home.
But surprised? No, not at all. I don’t care what the weatherman says, when you visit the Lakes, you pack your waterproofs. Every time.
This is cagoule country. The Macdonald Old England Hotel& Spa is the grande dame of Bowness, a sturdy Georgian mansion beside the lake, with requisite views from many of the 106 rooms, and from the restaurant and terrace bar.
In better weather, the gardens must be inviting and there’s an expansive sun terrace where you can sip summer cocktails with little umbrellas rather than the industrial-strength rain protection required by Ciara.
Rooms are unashamedly old-fashioned, although a recent refurbishment has brought many of them up to date.
And here’s a tip. Ask for Room 224 when booking. It’s huge – almost a suite without the price tag – with a big bed, sofa, armchairs, writing desk and chair, long coffee table and thoroughly modern en suite with monsoon shower.
There are tea and coffee-making facilities, fresh milk, wall-mounted large screen TV, free wifi, crystal glasses, USB chargers, ironing board and windows on two sides, offering views up and down the lake.
We could happily have stayed in the room all weekend watching Ciara visit her worst upon Windermere. But, like the Lake District itself, we’re made of sterner stuff and, besides, there’s plenty to do on the hotel’s doorstep.
Just walking in the wind and rain can be a joy if you’re prepared for it, and an amble through town, past all the anorak and umbrella shops, throws up surprises.
Just 100 yards or so from the hotel, The World Of Beatrix Potter celebrates the Lakes author’s adventures of Peter Rabbit and his pals – timeless tales that continue to enthral young children.
And while the stories are gently old-school (albeit with the occasional glimpse of malice inwonderland), the family attraction is anything but.
Clever use of light and sound makes a warren of rooms much more than it actually is.
You’re never quite sure what’s around the corner, with traditional tableaux rubbing shoulders with interactive fun.
It’s such a clever use of space that the designers must have worked on Doctor Who’s Tardis too.
Partway along the trail – allow around 45 minutes for your visit – you can step outside into the Peter Rabbit Garden, a small but lovingly planted real-life kitchen garden straight from the books.
It’s not all for show – produce is used to create dishes in the family-friendly character cafe – and you’ll need more than one visit to spot all the little references to the books hidden among the fruit,veg, herbs and flowers.
Designed by Chelsea Flower Show gold medallist Richard Lucas, the garden clings to the side of the attraction and is crafted from local materials such as Honister slate and Furness bricks.
Here too you’ll find an impressive 15ft tall statue unveiled in 2006 by Hollywood Oscar winner Renée Zellweger, and depicting three children releasing Beatrix Potter stalwart Jemima Puddle-Duck.
But, like the garden, there’s moreto it than at first meets the eye.
Look carefully and you’ll spot characters from every single one of Potter’s 23 tales, a depiction of her lakeland home and the mysterious code she used in her personal diary.
Almost next door you’ll find another cuddly character, this one a tribute to Lake District ingenuity and determination. It’s Herdy the sheep, a firm favourite for visitors from around the globe who flock to his home.
Inside a Scandi-style shop are Herdies galore – on mugs, plates, tea sets, umbrellas and much more.
The Herdy Company was born in 2007 in Kendal, created by designers Spencer and Diane Hannah to offer visitors to the Lake District andlocals a choice of responsibly produced, high-quality giftware.
“Herdy launched amidst the second outbreak of foot and mouth at the Westmorland County show,” says Spencer.
“We were hoping for thousands of visitors, but instead we launched among empty pens due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
“This wasn’t the event we’d dreamed of and it did make us very nervous about what we’d done. But despite the lack of visitors, those who did turn up liked our products.”
He need not have worried. Word spread and from just an operation based in a shack, the company now has four shops and worldwide exports online.
There’s also a charity, Herdyfund, which not only offers financial support but also brings togetherthe community to back uplandfell farming.
Herdy himself is named after the region’s famous Herdwick sheep and, to bring things full circle, Beatrix Potter herself was a champion Herdwick breeder.
Spencer and Diane keep things fresh, by the way – since Covid, Herdy smile face masks have been added to the range.
There’s wildlife of a different kind some 20 minutes away by car, or by ferry, at the Lakes Aquarium, which boasts Britain’s largest collection of freshwater fish among many exhibits, some of which can be viewed in their natural surrounds from a transparent tunnel.
But we were saving that for another day. We had an appointment with afternoon tea back at the Old England, which has made the tasty treat something of a specialty with sweet and sour options on offer.
Take a window seat in the terrace bar, sit back and watch the world go by.
It’s £32 for two, or you can add fizz for another tenner. Come rain or shine, it’s a relaxing self-indulgent hour like few others in the Lakes.
The hotel restaurant offers a menu majoring on local produce without breaking the bank.
It’s good, honest fare without being overly fussy. Just don’t tell Herdy about the lamb!
There’s a modest gym, a pool and a spa offering treatments if you want to really pull out the pamper stops, but check for Covid restrictions.
As we prepared to check out, the weatherman was getting excited again. A check online revealed that all the roads bar one out of Bowness were blocked by flooding or fallen trees. Sadly, the open road was our route home.
Thanks, Ciara, for a memorable weekend. If only you’d managed to close the road south too, we wouldhave stayed put for some more Lake District hospitality.
Autumn and winter breaks at the Old England Hotel & Spa in Bowness-on-Windermere, Lake District, start at £195 a night on B&B. macdonaldhotels.co.uk/oldengland 01539 487894.