London with Lisa

Agent Name: Lisa
Date: June 2012

Harrods - Lego man

Close on the heels of Sir Richard Branson’s much publicized visit to BC last spring to launch Virgin Atlantic’s seasonal Vancouver-London service, I was invited for my own personal and up close experience of what their in-flight services are all about.

With champagne, canapés and your own “sleep suit” it is like stepping back in time to the days when there was more than just your seat included in the price of your tickets. These were a few of the amenities in the Upper Class Suite, Virgin’s version of business class as we settled into our overnight transatlantic flight from Vancouver to London.

This fam experience was about the Virgin Atlantic flight experience and the Upper Class Cabin. Not only with our eastbound overnight flights and our sleep suits did the service exceed my expectations but on the return as well.

On our daytime return the same services abounded though there weren’t the same number of sleep suits available, so ask early if you didn’t get a kit when you flew into London.

High Tea

The menu offered you a full meal service with soup or salad, an amuse-bouche, your main and desert complete with choices. You could even opt for a cheese course for dessert. Wine was available and served for every course, with a selection of three whites and three reds.

I particularly enjoyed the afternoon tea that was served on our westbound flight and elected to let our flight attendant Julie create the Jules Special Plate for my tea choices. Complete with petite-fours, macaroons and cucumber sandwiches with the lightest of spreads and cucumber slices so thin you could use them for windows it was a treat along with a true cuppa brew.

Virgin is about the service that we remember used to be associated with air travel and it was a treat to have our flight attendants look after our safety and comfort without hawking headsets, pillows, beverages and boxed lunches in exchange for our credit card payments.

A visit to London is always fun but to be there during the grand 60th Jubilee celebrations for HRH Queen Elizabeth II and just a couple months before the opening of the 2012 Olympic Summer games London’s energy was different. You could feel the excitement of being

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part of unique experiences.

Windsor castle

Perhaps it was the bunting and Union Jacks hanging everywhere. There was reason to celebrate and we had arrived in the midst of the official Jubilee weekend and preparations were well in hand. It was a bank holiday weekend so traffic was lighter than I remembered from my last visit 3 years before, and the city somehow seemed much brighter.

I spent the better part of my free time walking London’s River Thames. The revitalization of the banks of the river makes the space a wonderful way to spend the day and explore the city. While it is a good walk, it isn’t an outrageous walk to traverse the city from Tower Bridge to the houses of Parliament. Take in a tour of the bridges as you stroll, as each are unique, including those with the familiar names of Waterloo, Blackfriars, Millennium and Tower Bridges.

Shopping stores abound and Westfield’s are popping up everywhere if you have the need to visit a shopping center. However a short ride on the tube up to Islington is a worthwhile venture to something a little more unique. Tucked

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among the unique one-off boutiques and pubs of the neighborhood I found Loop, a treasure of yarns, buttons, books and patterns in the 2 story shop filled with couches and tables to invite conversation and friendship among the shoppers. Along the street stalls were a treasure of antique shops with bits and pieces of all sizes and colors. At the same time you can find many of the North American brand stores if you need to do some designer shopping too.

Windsor - Phone booth

As a travel tip specific to arrivals at London Heathrow, unless you’re able to travel Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class, the Heathrow Express is a great way to get from the airport into the city. Running every 15 minutes you’re at London Paddington just 15-21minutes later, depending on your terminal of embarkation. You have the choice of First class 26GBP one way or18GBP Express class when you purchase them online. If you wait until you’re onboard there is a 5GBP premium.

Don’t be afraid to put on your walking shoes.

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London City itself is only 1 square mile so you can easily find your way around and there’s always a tube station to find you way back if you’ve just walked so much that you can’t imagine making the walk back to your hotel.

And as general advice for travel to the U.K., true English fish and chips with a serving of mushy peas are a must. And of course many of the locals will agree, a curry is in order, almost as good as visiting India itself. Finally, don’t forget your umbrella. You never know when the London showers will fall!!