Thursday, June 21, 2012

Where in the World - London!

My big surprise trip was a real surprise - until we checked in at the airport I had no clue we were headed to London! I have always wanted to go and because of a great airfare special in honor of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee Michael booked the trip of a lifetime.

He really wanted this to be a total surprise so he packed for me;I had no idea what was in my suitcase. I didn't even look to see if he pulled our passports, he really wanted this to be a surprise so I did my part to ensure it was. On the way to the airport the cab had a meter that wasn't working and the driver took a different route to JFK (the cab bit was just lucky - Michael didn't ask him to drive any particular route).
Once we were at the airport he showed me the board that had our flight and asked where I wanted to go - the choices were Las Vegas, Stockholm. Oslo, and London. I really wanted to go to London but I didn't want to pick it as my destination because I didn't want him to feel bad if he didn't pick it (Michael likes a vacation where his choices are do we sit on the beach today or by the pool). I had very incorrectly assumed we were going to Vegas, so that is what I said. His reply, "Let's head East." When we got to the ticket counter he pulled out our boarding passes for London! I was beyond excited and that wasn't even the best part - we were flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. What an amazing way to fly, it will be hard to go back to coach.

Michael made sure we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to enjoy the Virgin lounge. It had a full size pool table, open bar, several dining options, a Bumble & Bumble salon, and a spa. Various spa and beauty treatments were complimentary. I opted for a deep conditioning hair treatment (complimentary) and a blow out (which was definitely a reduced price from the regular Bumble & Bumble prices). I was so excited my hair would be sleek and beautiful headed to fabulous London. Michael opted for a massage.
My first drink was an ice tea. Look at how it was served - just fabulous. All ice tea should be served in fancy glass pitchers just like this one and fresh brewed just for me. The small white pitcher had simple sugar syrup in case you wanted your tea sweet.

The bathrooms were of course very nice as well. I loved the tribute to the Statue of Liberty on the door of the ladies room. Inside there were urban planning type drawings of New York City. The photo below shows Central Park's reservoir.

The lounge had lots of different seating options. We had plenty of time to sit and then enjoy a full meal.

I finished our late lunch with a special chef's dessert. It was a sampling of a few different items, just a small bite of each. There was a chocolate mousse, a grapefruit sorbet and a sponge cake topped with raspberries and Poprocks. I haven't had Poprocks in a very long time, the crackle was a really fun touch.

Once on board (we flew a 747 with the upper deck and our section had a bar in back) we found our individual pods. The seats had a footrest (my black bag is sitting on my footrest) and when you were ready to sleep they folded down completely flat. Of course there was an individual entertainment system with countless movies and tv shows. I only ended up watching one show and that was the London destination video.

They even provided us with a 'Sleep Suit' so we could change and be comfortable during the flight. It was basically a set of light weight sweatpants and a long sleeve top. We had dinner at the bar and the moved to our seats. When I was ready, the  flight attendant made my bed and I enjoyed about 3 hours of sleep.

Once we landed in London we took advantage of the Arrivals Lounge. Here we were able to eat a full, made to order breakfast and take a shower. They assigned you a lovely private bathroom with a sink and shower during your visit to the lounge. The showers were stocked with a fabulous local bath products by a company called 'Cowshed'. There were attendants who made sure no one else used your room and they cleaned it once you were done. It made it so much easier to take on our first day in London after a shower.

Michael had really wanted to take me to London during the actual Jubilee celebrations, unfortunately with my work schedule that just wasn't possible. As it turns out, our timing was much better. We had absolutely lovely weather with just one 30 minute rain shower during our entire visit and there were no crowds.

Of course the time flew by way too quickly. We made sure to arrive at the airport early on our departure day to enjoy the Heathrow Virgin Atlantic lounge. Upper Class has its advantages, we had our own customs and TSA line. We were the only people going through at that time and just flew through and straight to the lounge.

The London lounge was just beautiful. It also had a salon and spa with complimentary services, various dining options, a pool table, a media area, a library, and you could go up on the roof to see the planes.

We first sat in the area pictured below. I tried the hanging chair but it was about as easy to get in and out of as it looks - and I am just not graceful. One would think the hanging chair was the most complicated chair but the brown chairs had a really strange center of balance. Yes, as soon as I sat down the entire thing tipped forward and I was on the floor! You really can't take me anywhere - I hadn't even started drinking my Pimm's cocktails yet.

At 3pm they offered a tea service. I didn't have time to enjoy a proper tea during the trip so it was absolutely perfect. The scone was flaky and warm and the sponge cake was delicately flavored with lemon. I also had not tried Pimm's in London, I made up for that in the lounge as well. The Pimm's cocktail was pretty tasty and I think was basically Pimm's, ginger ale, and fruit - sort of English sangria.

The media area was really cool. The chairs had sets of headphones and you could tune the headphones to one of the channels up on the screen.

There were all kinds of great areas to sit in this lounge as well. The library had sort of an ocean beach house vibe and the dining room was sleek and modern. They kept putting out differnent magazines, I am a magazine junkie and ended up with about 6 of them in my bag for the flight home. I opted for a manicure as my complimentary spa service and Michael had another massage.

This is relaxed Michael after his massage - actually I just think he's tired of me taking pictures. 

I completely adored London and I can't wait to go back. It was an incredible trip!