Kerr's Corner

Kerr's Corner is a regular feature in East Antrim and Newtownabbey editions of The Wizard. David Kerr would like to hear your memories of life in your own area. Maybe you'll trigger some thoughts for a future column. kerrscorner@ulsteronline.org.uk

Friday, December 09, 2005

Around and About

Around and About

A BRAND new feature in Wizard Ads is our Around and About travel feature page. Here we’ll be looking at various hotels, restaurants, theme parks and so on. Our team will visit these establishments and report back. This is sure to be a very popular feature. Therefore, we’ll also tag onto the Kerr’s Corner Blog site.

I’d appreciate any feedback on this travel section. Just e-mail: kerrscorner@ulsteronline.org.uk



WE'LL BE BACK!

McMillans of Sleepy Hollow Restaurant, 15 Kiln Road, Netwownabbey.Tel: 028 9083 7144
I'VE MADE plenty of restaurant reservations before but never via an answering machine! Yet that's what I did with McMillans of Sleepy Hollow. I phoned on a Monday and was a little concerned that by mid-week no one had returned my call. However, a very brief call to McMillans on Friday confirmed our booking later that evening.

McMillans of Sleepy Hollow is on the Kiln Road, not too far from the centre of Glengormley. Yet it appears to be set in the middle of the country. It's surrounded by open farmland. Indeed, when we arrived a cow was lazily munching away in an adjacent field!

The restaurant itself looks like its been a farm building of some kind. With brick and flint walls plus exposed beams, it's a look that people would pay thousands of pounds to achieve. And this all looked real to the Travel Buzz team.

As soon as we arrived we were greeted by a couple of relaxed but very efficient staff. They immediately took our coats and showed us to the lounge. Drinks were ordered and served straight away. A few minutes later, menus were brought over to us.

The lounge is magnificent. It's sull of very comfortable settees and chairs. In fact they're a bit too comfortable. I got the impression that if I put my feet up I'd drifted off to sleep within a couple of minutes.

The decor of the lounge is very homely. It has the most realistic fake open fires I've seen. It took me a few minutes to realise that there was no smoke, spitting or the sound of cracking logs normally associated with a real fire.

The menu was fairly extensive but everything was meat based. The Travel Buzz team who visited McMillans were vegetarians! Therefore, we were a little concerned that there was no vegetarian option on the menu. However, there was no need to worry. A member of staff soon found out what was available and we both plumped for the Mushroom stroganoff with rice.
After about 20 minutes relaxing in the lounge we were shown to our table in the upstairs restaurant. Again the decor was out of this world - real rustic charm.

Our meals were brought out and our eyes nearly popped out of our heads. There was enough food to feed a small army! Imagine our surprise when more food was brought out for us - large portions of chips and vegetables.

The meal itself was absolutely delicious. It’s probably the best stroganoff we’ve tasted in a long time. It was really tasty and absolutely roasting hot. And the generous portion of rice was cooked to perfection.

To accompany our meal we had a couple of more drinks. For our dessert we both had strawberries and ice cream. This was absolutely gorgeous.

Just when we were fit to burst a member of staff came over and asked if we’d like a free liqueur called Sambucca. We’d never sampled it before so we decided to try it. Sambucca smells and tastes like aniseed. We knocked it back in one and beads of sweat immediately appeared on our foreheads! This stuff was so hot you could actually feeling through your body. Lovely!
After a brilliant evening out we reluctantly left to get our taxi home. The bill came to just under £40 for the both of us – and this included about £15 in drinks. We thought it represented excellent value and can’t recommend McMillans highly enough. To paraphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger – ‘We’ll be back!’



FLY ZOOM ACROSS THE ATLANTIC TO CANADA

Zoom-Air - direct flights from Belfast International Airport to Toronto via Halifax, Nova Scotia.
TORONTO is a popular annual destination for thousands of Ulster holidaymakers. Many, if not all of these travellers have family connections in or around the city. In the past they have flown on charter flights or gone via Dublin or airports in Scotland or England.

This year it has been possible to fly on a scheduled airline directly from Aldergrove to Canada. The Canadian airline, Zoom-Air must have realised that it had the opportunity to make money by offering good value flights to Halifax and Toronto. these flights ran in 2005 from June to October and will run again in 2006. Zoom have also announced flights to Vancouver in western Canada. Fares can be checked out on the airline's website.

This year Zoom flew out at 13.45 each Wednesday afternoon. There was some confusion on the day I flew as the Zoom website gave contradictory advice, suggesting that the flight might be departing at 11.30. the same aeroplane was supposed to leave for Halifax at 11.30 and for Toronto at 13.45! Advice from Servisair was similarly confused. One caller of my acquaintance was told 11.30. another was told 13.45. To be absolutely sure of boarding the flight I turned up at Aldergrove well before 10.00. Here the display boards read 11.45 but this changed to 13.45 once the check-in desks opened. I was first to check in. I wasn't going to miss my flight. Aldergrove is a comfortable place to hang around these days so the time soon passed.

Security was brisk and efficient without being rude or unpleasant. I was a little disappointed to see that the tunnel that ought to connect to the aeroplane door at Gate 22 was left unused. The poor passengers had to climb an open set of steps in driving rain. This made us all the more grateful to take our seats but this is surely something that Servisair or the airport's management should be able to sort out. There was a proper boarding tunnel at the Toronto end, so why not at Belfast?

Facilities onboard the Zoom Boeing 767 were excelent and the flight attendants were pleasant and helpful. I'm quite a large chap and legroom on many flights I have travelled on in the past has been very cramped. Zoom have provided a lot more legroom, even in the economy seat I was occupying. This made all the difference for a pleasant flight when you are sitting in the same place for upwards of eight hours. Top marks for Zoom for this.

Passengers could watch the progress of the flight on large video screens displaying the height, spedd, outside temperature, time at place of departure and time at the next destination. An animated GPS map showed the areoplane's progress across the Atlantic Ocean. Passengers also had the option to buy a set of headphones and watch two films on the large screens, or listen to ten music channels. I didn't bother as I had chosen to read of Ian Rankin's latest Inspector Rebus book, Fleshmarket Close.

I had pre-ordered a vegetarian meal when I made my internet booking back in July. From past experience with British Midland, I had expected that I would have to tell the flight attendants about this when they came around with the food. I was pleasantly surprised to be served a rice and chilli bean hot meal right away. Apparently my seat number and meal orders were all co-ordinated by computer. Impressive stuff!

The old story of it being a small world is very true. Waiting in line to use the lavatory - well I couldn't hold it in for the whole journey - I was amazed to see my old form teacher from Rathcoole Secondary School emerge from the cubicle. Mr Alan Campbell has now retired from teaching and was travelling to Toronto for a Christian conference. I think that he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him!

The facilities at Terminal Three of Lester Pearson Internationals Airport were excellent. There was an access tunnel right up to the side door of the airscraft. Customs and immigration formalities were efficient and friendly. A regular bus service connects the airport to the TTC subway system at Kipling station.

If you are contemplating a visit to Canada next year you could do a lot worse than fly by Zoom. We give them 9 out of 10 for effort. It would have been full marks without the confusion over the flight departure time.

Zoom are already taking internet bookings for Summer 2006. If you are fairly sure that you want to travel next year now's the time to grab a bargain.

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