Writer’s BLOC

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Me, completely glued to the view from our suite at the BLOC Hotel, Gatwick

With a holiday booked to Malta in the late summer of 2017 and a very early morning flight (6:30am to be precise) with British Airways from London’s Gatwick Airport, I was dreading that 3am wake up call that I’ve never been accustomed to. Imagine my amazement getting a phone call from my other half to say that he’s arranged a little treat; a night at the BLOC Hotel, located slap bang on the top of the South Terminal Gatwick. Okay, so it might not be everyone’s idea of a romantic evening in a plush hotel but for any plane geek like me, this was just what the doctor ordered.

Having first opened it’s doors in 2014, the hotel is a renovated office block, with four floors and 245 rooms – and we were booked into the “Runway Suite”. With it’s stunning views across the airport’s apron and single-runway, I was in my element. The interior of this quirky modern hotel is also cutting edge for the everyday traveler passing through the airport.

As soon as we arrived, I was glued to the window of our room – a panoramic view – watching the comings and goings of the variety of aircraft carriers that Gatwick hosts. While the other half cracked open the beers from the mini-bar and bedded down for the evening (he’s not a plane geek), I could not tear myself away from the view. I was transfixed at seeing British Airways, Norwegian, Thomas Cook Airlines and Monarch (RIP) to name a few lined up.

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“The Runway Suite” at the BLOC Hotel, Gatwick. Photo Credit: helloworldtravel_rob

This exact same view I had not seen for at least twenty years and it would send me straight back to my childhood. For as long as I can remember my dad took me to Gatwick’s then spectators viewing platform and there walking out on that deck I could smell the jet fumes, the vibrating sounds of the different aircraft types and seeing the tails of the likes of British Caledonian, Dan-Air, Air Europe, Air New Zealand lined up. This was Gatwick in the eighties and I loved it.

Looking out at the view from our room and slightly below us, I could see the now defunct viewing platform. Having closed down almost 18 years ago, the canteen and plane enthusiast shop were both boarded up and the deck that was once jammed packed full of spectators was sadly empty and looking abandoned. As I peered down at the platform, images of the past came back; my dad picking me up and putting me on his shoulders, pointing at the various aircraft: “Look Bob, British Caledonian”, he would say. Or “Cover your ears, it’s going to get noisy”. Although slightly tinged with sadness, I loved the memories flooding back and it is thanks to my dad that I have this life-long obsession of planes.

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1980’s Gatwick, the Viewing Platform. Photo Credit: Longreach

Living, working and breathing in London can at times, be stressful and hectic to say the least. The majority that live and ride the violent jolt of the capital will no doubt say the same, so for me thinking about planes, seeing planes keeps me grounded (if you excuse the pun). They calm my nerves and help with my anxieties – just a simple thing like that. I recently told a friend this and her advice was: “If this helps, then keep doing what you’re doing, keep collecting the model planes, keep traveling on planes and going to airports, it’s the tonic you need”. Those words have now stuck.

And so back to the BLOC; watching a Norwegian 787 push back, an Azores Airlines A320 land, an Emirates A380 take-off, I was able to forget; forget about the stresses of what life can sometimes bring. So really this is a huge thank you to my dad for what he started back then and to my other half (even though planes are not his thing) – for what he continues to do, he knew what he was doing when he booked the BLOC.

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The view from “The Runway Suite” at BLOC Hotel, Gatwick. Photo Credit: Simon Kent

Prices at the BLOC Hotel Gatwick can start at around £100 per night depending on which room/suite you intend to book. 

For further details please visit:- BLOC Hotels Gatwick

After Berlin

Next to Paris and London, Berlin is the most frequently visited city in Europe. However, more tears have shed here and more admiration expressed than anywhere else, not only by the city’s 3.8 million inhabitants, who still continue to discover their city, but also by over 13 million annual visitors who flock to Berlin – myself being one of them.

Steeped in history, I learned more in one weekend during my visit to Berlin than I ever did studying for five years in the subject of History at secondary school. Drummed in to me was post-war Britain; the VE Day celebrations, rations continued, the East End was a rubble and a new young Queen took to the throne bringing in a new Elizabethan era. As for Germany; sure I knew there was “a wall” that ripped through Berlin. I understood that West Germany’s citizens drove around in Mercedes Benz and BMW’s while East Germany had to make do with that “old banger” the Trabant, I grasped that there was a rich and poor divide and of course, I hadn’t forgotten, witnessing as a child, those flashing news images of German citizens climbing “The Wall” celebrating and taking hammers, pick axes, anything they could get their hands on to bring it down in 1989 however, shamefully that was as far as my IQ went on post-war Germany.

“There is a tipping point at which unmitigated evil is no longer visible” (Tom Buchwald)

As I headed to the Berlin Wall Memorial, the actual physical monstrosity was still visible, albeit just a small section for “keepsakes” purposes. I imagined what if this was London; a huge wall ripping through the middle – separating the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing in the West from Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Barking and Dagenham in the East. I soon became fascinated by the ideology behind this “Wall” and why was it put up in the first place?! Stretching back to the end of World War II with the Americans, British, French and Russians marching victoriously in and splitting Germany up for their own control, the penny finally dropped. I suddenly discovered the GDR (German Democratic Republic), mass emigration from east to west Germany, Soviet occupation Zones, FRG (Federal Republic of Germany), Allied Zones of occupation, the Cold War and “The Wall”. I completely got it. The news images I remember in the 1980s of Germany; the West Germany and East Germany football teams in the World Cup, the classy Mercedes Benz and BMWs in the West and the tatty Trabant car in the East – I suddenly worked it all out. Checkpoint Charlie – tick, Brandenburg Gate – tick, Alexanderplatz – tick. Germany I got you and I felt bad for you.

Besides being a world-city of culture, politics, media, science, universities, museums and an infamous nightlife scene, Berlin is the place to go, see and do. As I came away from this beauty I could not help but ask myself why? All this history; Nazi occupation, Soviet and Allied occupation, The Wall from 1961-1989, full sovereignty from as late as 1994, what was it all for? Generations have suffered post-war and for what?

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that neither the United Kingdom nor Western Europe wanted the reunification of Germany.

“We defeated the Germans twice! And now they’re back!” (Margaret Thatcher, 1989)

The fear was still there, long after World War II had ended. A stark reminder that what shaped this city, or rather, destroyed this city, can never happen again. Germany was not the only state that had been separated through the aftermaths of World War II. For example, Korea as well as Vietnam have been separated through the occupation of “Western-Capitalistic” and “Eastern-Communistic” forces, after the defeat of the Japanese Empire. However, Germany is the only one of these countries that has managed to achieve a peaceful reunification.

Pulled from the monstrous product of war and the humdrum of divide and communism, Berlin offers a magnitude of creativity and the success of this has been the catalyst for the city’s thriving music scene, active nightlife, and bustling street scene all of which have become important attractions for the German capital.

For details please visit:- visitBerlin