Familiarization Trip Courtesy of Japan Airlines, Hyatt Regency Kyoto, Andaz…
I flew to London on Virgin Atlantic, and was very fortunate to be upgraded to Upper Class. What a very nice surprise that was! I understand that the remodeled Terminal 2 at LAX will be extremely nice, with upscale restaurants and shops comparable to the Bradley Terminal, but it should be noted, that the entire terminal is currently under major construction. All of the airline lounges are currently closed and there are no restaurants. Also to be noted, there are no charging stations in the gate areas, so make sure your electronic devices are fully charged before you head to the airport!
The “Across the Pond London FAM” was hosted by Hickory, Virgin Atlantic and Accor Hotels. We stayed at the Novotel London West Hotel, a mid-range hotel, which is convenient for business travelers as it is only about a 15-minute drive from Heathrow and only a five minute walk to the Hammersmith Tube station.
After arriving in London, we had a few hours of free time before meeting back at the hotel and taking off for inspections and dinner in the Waterloo area. The first hotel we looked at was the Sofitel London St. James. This is a five-star luxury hotel that is rich in history and is a beautiful location (between Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square). I would not hesitate to book even my most discriminating clients or high profile celebrities here. It was just beautiful. After the Sofitel, we headed over to the Novotel Waterloo Hotel. The hotel was in a great location, right across from the river, with views of Big Ben. It is also very close to the London Eye and House of Parliament. This is a great hotel for families, as well as, your corporate traveler. The dinner in the private dining room was wonderful, but most of us were jet lagged and exhausted by this point. No nightlife for us this evening…we all headed back to our hotel after dinner and called it a night.
The next morning we met for breakfast and headed out for several site tours. This day we looked at The Mercure London Bridge, the Ibis London Blackfriars and the Novotel London Blackfriars. All three of these hotels were clean, comfortable and perfect for your corporate traveler. After our site tours and lunch, we had the afternoon to explore on our own. I hopped on the Big Bus and took in some of the sites. I ended up in the Covent Garden area, and could have spent all day here! It was my favorite area of London. After a few hours of exploring, I had to get back to the hotel to get ready for our evening site inspections and dinner. When I got back on the bus, the first thing I realized was…London afternoon traffic is as bad as Los Angeles! I feared I would never make it back in time, so I quickly came up with a plan B. I hopped off the bus and headed the underground station. Truth be told, I am a born and raised California girl…we don’t have subways! Not to mention, I had NO clue where I was going, so I was a little intimidated. The kind gentleman at the information booth directed me, and within fifteen minutes, I was back to my hotel. I was told this would have taken about 1 ½ hours by taxi during this time of day. I highly recommend using the Underground. It is fast and so convenient!
Our evening began with a site and dinner at the Pullman St. Pancras. This hotel is perfect for anyone in the entertainment industry. It is very hip and upscale. The location is perfect and one of the greatest features is that it is literally next door to the Eurostar St. Pancras Station. You can get from your hotel room to Paris in just a few short hours. We had a wonderful dinner hosted by the Pullman.
The next morning we headed back to Heathrow where we got to experience the Virgin Atlantic Drive-Thru Check-In and enjoy the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Clubhouse before our flights home. What an impressive experience this was! Check-in was such a breeze and the clubhouse was just spectacular. It offers free Wi-Fi, complimentary Bumble & Bumble salon appointments, a pool table, an outdoor deck and even a hot tub! It is the holy grail of airline lounges and the absolute perfect way to end our wonderful whirlwind of a trip.