How would you spend a weekend getaway in London? That very question was posed to us by Virgin Atlantic, which challenged us to design a dream itinerary for two days of gallivanting in London, one of the world's most exciting and attraction-rich cities, and a favorite of BonVoyageurs since we first moved to the Greater London area with our baby daughter and our French cat in the late 1970s.
To make the dream weekend in London even more interesting, Virgin Atlantic sent us a travel bag of inspiration, full of paraphernalia to be used as building blocks in designing our dream itinerary (these items are marked with an asterisk and bold letters in the text below).
Needless to say, we could not resist the opportunity to revisit old and recent memories of our years in England and our many trips to the British capital since we moved away. Foraging deep into the richness of London's vibrant heritage, life and culture, we collected some of the best attractions London offers its discerning residents and visitors alike into a dream itinerary for a luxury weekend getaway to London.
Flying to London in Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic's new Boeing 787-900
Our dream weekend in London starts with a flight from Washington DC to London Heathrow on ... the Dreamliner! The suitably named Boeing 787 Dreamliner is an incredible airplane with advanced technology and many new features, but the version of the Dreamliner flown on the Washington to London route by Virgin Atlantic adds some exciting enhancements, particularly in Upper Class, which are of special interest to us:
1. WiFi on board!
Anyone who follows the travels of BonVoyageurs knows that we go to great lengths to stay connected. Newer Virgin Atlantic planes such as the 787-900 Dreamliner come equipped with WiFi!
2. Long Lie-flat Beds in Upper Class!
Some of the longest lie-flat beds in the air, 6 1/2 feet (78cm) long! The success of our getaway weekend across the Atlantic depends on how rested we are when we land on Saturday morning so the choice of flight and seat are crucial.
3. Seat Layout in Upper Class!
Every Upper Class seat is next to the aisle! Consequently, there is never an issue of being woken up by someone trying to get to the aisle by stepping over you as is the case for business class seating in most other airlines.
4. Time of departure and of arrival!
Virgin Atlantic flight 22 leaves Washington Dulles Airport at 8pm on Friday and lands at London Heathrow shortly after 7 in the morning London time. This is really ideal timing for getting a good night's rest on board, transitioning to the new time zone seamlessly and starting our day at the same time as the Londoners will be doing in their magnificent city!
Custom ("Bespoke") shirt-fitting on Savile Row
Amidst the many things for which London is famous, the custom tailors of Savile Row stand out as one of the most long-lasting and world famous symbols of British excellence. Despite unrelenting competitive pressure from lower priced alternatives, the "golden mile of tailoring" still enjoys the loyalty of the royalty, the rich, the famous and those with discerning taste from around the world.
As soon as we leave Heathrow Airport and drive into London, our chauffeured car heads straight to Savile Row and the shop of Dege & Skinner, tailors to the rich and famous, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William and Prince Harry. In business since 1865, Dege & Skinner was the first and is still the only firm to provide one-stop onsite custom, or as the British say "bespoke" shirt tailoring on Savile Row!
Dege & Skinner is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2015 and we intend to be part of those celebrations! We have an appointment with Robert Whittaker, the celebrated shirt tailor of Dege & Skinner, to place an order for a dozen of his top-quality custom shirts. I am bringing one of my off-the-rack white long-sleeved shirts* for Mr. Whittaker to use as a point of reference.
Spa, Massage and Lunch at the Spa of the Four Seasons at Park Lane Hotel
After checking in at our hotel, the Four Seasons at Park Lane, we change into bathrobes and a pair of sandals*, and head for the 10th-floor one-of-a-kind rooftop Spa at the Four Seasons, one of the world's top 30 spas. What better way to get rid of jet lag and relieve the stress and fatigue of a transatlantic journey than to book the Sky Suite of the penthouse-level spa and enjoy "The Sky's the Limit" luxurious spa treatments, such as the ultimate indulgence, the "Four Hands at Four Seasons" signature massage! The included luxury fruit basket, champagne, and a spa lunch at the outdoor patio cafe (which offers an unbeatable panoramic view of the city of London), should make our four-hour spa day truly memorable!
Watch a football match at Wembley Stadium
The British take their football very, very seriously, and the grand temple of British football, Wembley Stadium in the greater London area, is the largest stadium in the UK and the second largest football stadium in Europe. I cannot think of a dream weekend in London without joining 90,000 Londoners as they watch a FA Cup final or cheer their cherished national football team at Wembley Stadium. Naturally, we would hope to receive an invitation to Club Wembley, the plush tier of private luxury boxes and restaurants which provide the best seats and views of the action. In any case, I am bringing to the match my mini frame air pump* just in case. Should British footballs be found to be under-inflated, I will be the stadium's hero!
Dinner and Concert at Royal Albert Hall
A dream weekend in London would not be complete without a concert at Royal Albert Hall. The famed London concert venue, in continuous use since 1871, is known the world over for the annual Proms classical music festival held every summer and, more specifically, for the performance of the moving British anthem "Britannia rules the waves", sung on the last night of the Proms by thousands of very, very enthusiastic Londoners. In deference to this hallowed hall, I am wearing more elegant clothing, bow tie* and all, to attend a performance as well as enjoy a pre-concert dinner with my wife at the classic and stylish Coda Restaurant, one of many food facilities at Royal Albert Hall. A superb way to end the first day of our luxury weekend in London!
A Sunday morning walk through Mayfair to Selfridges
Sunday morning in London can be glorious, even when it rains! Following our luxurious breakfast in bed at the Four Seasons Hotel, we head out for a brisk walk through the fascinating streets of Mayfair. I am sporting my new UP activity tracker wrist band* to monitor my every step and ensure that we work off last night's dinner! We head north towards Grosvenor Square, past the US Embassy, all the way to our destination, the Selfridges department store (which opens at 11:30am on Sundays). Why? Because Lynn wants to see its famous window displays and I want to stop by Selfridge's shoe department, the world's largest at 35,000 square feet! After buying the most perfect shirts money can buy, I need the shoes to match!
Plus, I must confess that we have been watching the BBC production of Selfridge's, and have realized that Harrods is not the only "destination shopping extravaganza" in London!
Afternoon Tea at the English Tea Room of the Brown's Hotel
Afternoon tea is one of those quintessential British traditions which only seems to get better with time. And there is no better place to enjoy afternoon tea than at the English Tea Room of the Brown's Hotel in London. If the English Tea Room was good enough for Queen Victoria, who was a regular customer, then it is good enough for us! Besides, how many other eating establishments anywhere in the world have maintained a reputation as being among the finest in the world for over a century? (If you know of any, please share in the comments section below!)
Attend a matinee musical in a West End Ttheater
What better evokes London than its world-famous West End theater? Our dream weekend in London includes a Sunday matinee performance at one of the many reputed theaters of the area. In almost all likelihood, we will enjoy a smash hit as well as performances from one or more of London's superb character actors.
Dinner at The Ivy restaurant in the West End
A table at the Ivy is one of the most sought after pieces of furniture in London, someone once said. Still London's favorite theater restaurant, The Ivy will be our post-theater dinner venue, fresh from its recent renovation. Just like at Sardi's on Broadway in New York, you never know which celebrity will come in and sit at the next table! Just in case, I've got a pen and notebook* sitting on the corner of the table for the sought-after autograph!
Play the night away at the Hippodrome Casino
What better way to end our elegant and luxury weekend getaway in London than playing and partying the night away at the Hippodrome Casino of London. Not only London and the UK's biggest and busiest casino, the Hippodrome Casino is also London's most popular entertainment venue, with a constant stream of theatre, cinema, shows, ... In other words, that is where millions of Londoners go to be entertained! Hopefully, I will leave with my bucket* full of coins from my slot machine winnings!
Sleep all the way home in Upper Class cabin of Virgin Atlantic
The Upper Class of Virgin Atlantic comes with a complimentary chauffeured car transfer to the airport. Exhausted but utterly enchanted by our weekend in London, we let ourselves be transported to Heathrow for the 11am flight back to Washington DC. Our dream weekend in London will probably end with us sleeping and dreaming all the way back home in those comfortable Upper Class lie-flat beds!
If you decide to make this itinerary your own, we hope you will have the time of your life. I am sure we will! And please let us know what your dream London vacation entails in the comments section below.
Waiting for us at home will be our patient writing companion, our cat Beaudelaire (Beau for short). Before we left, Beau jumped right into our travel bag* as if to say "Bring me too!"
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for more countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes, cruises and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe, places like Paris, Nice France, Provence and the Cote d'Azur (French Riviera), Tuscany and Florence, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal, and so many more!