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What’s it like to stay in a hotel on the first day of lockdown being eased?

PUBLISHED: 12:07 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:09 06 July 2020

The busy beach at Aldeburgh. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The busy beach at Aldeburgh. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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On the first day of lockdown restrictions being eased, editor David Powles headed to a hotel on the East Anglian coast and found that the experience was able to be be both relaxing and safe.

A summer stay in  beautiful AldeburghA summer stay in beautiful Aldeburgh

Several months of lockdown confinement with two young children has brought with it both benefits to the family, but it would also be fair to say the odd challenge as well.

Therefore, when Boris Johnson announced the partial easing of restrictions, including people from two households being able to be inside together, I’m grateful my parents sensed we needed a short break from the demands of the youngsters.

And as much as we love them dearly, their bags couldn’t have been packed quicker once the suggestion was made of a Saturday evening sleepover with my parents.

So, rather than head back to the same house we’d been constrained to since the March lockdown began, the wife and I decided to head to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast for a short break at the Brudenell Hotel and to catch some much needed sea air.

But it wasn’t without some trepidation.

What once seemed such a normal thing to do, now comes loaded with ‘what ifs’ and key questions, like ‘when and where should we wear face masks’, ‘would it be rammed full of people and we’re we ourselves putting others at risk’ and, less importantly, would the restrictions that have to be in place render the whole experience more stressful than it was worth?

I’m pleased to say, that on this basis alone, that was not the case and you can still enjoy a break away and take the necessary precautions designed to prevent a much-feared second spike.

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So what was different?

The first thing you noticed upon entering the hotel were the plethora of hand sanitiser stations and signs reminding you to use them regularly. It’s funny how quickly this is something many have grown used to doing already - so that was hardly felt like a chore in this instance.

Approaching the front desk, the ‘new normal’ suddenly looked very different as a member of staff wearing a face mask approached and spoke to us through a perplex screen. While I didn’t see any guests wearing masks, every single member of staff was, which was initially a bit unnerving but something you soon became used to.

In fact, the wearing of face masks makes you realise just how much people smile with their eyes - and I’m not sure if it was a conscious decision but all of the staff during the stay appeared to be making an extra hard effort to smile, be reassuring and make eye contact.

As I gave the receptionist our details, the wife pointed out that I was slouched over and leaning on the counter - probably not the best thing to be doing in current circumstances. At least one positive, therefore, might be to improve my own dreadful posture and slouching.

Key handed over and room occupied, the remaining differences, it has to be said were subtle and in no way impinged on the ability to have a good time.

The hotel was busy, but not full, and staff were being careful during the late afternoon and evening rushes, to put people on tables away from each other, with an empty table in between. We chose not to dine inside just yet or head to the nearby pub where crowds had spilled out onto the street, instead purchasing fish and chips and a bottle of wine to be taken on to the beach where social distancing was much easier to maintain.

The same distancing rules applied to breakfast, the only difference being that there was no buffet and instead you simply had to order what you wanted. It felt like a good way to keep check on those portions and still enjoy a trip away without piling on the pounds.

Like a lot of things right now, it’s a personal choice as to whether you feel safe taking a trip away. However, it was heartening to know you can still take a little break from the children - without it being just as stressful an experience as it can be staying in their company.


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