“Would you like to go on a trip to London with Brititsh Airways?” asked the PR lady on the phone. I had met her only once, during an interview, but I didn’t need a second to answer her. Of course I would love to go, I replied.
The whole trip would be very short: leaving on Monday morning with the first British Airways four-cabin Boeing 777 and flying back on Wednesday evening. We would fly first-class and stay at the charming and central Langham Hotel, located at the top of Regent Street and right next to the BBC’s Broadcasting House.
Together with four other journalists and someone from the PR agency I left in the beginning of April to experience another episode of my rich–girl life. The flight was beyond expectations, I could say. Of course I had expected a very comfy journey, but who would have thought I would have a private suite with flat screen, a seat that reclines to a fully flat bed, bed linen, complimentary travel kit full of creams, lotions, and moisturisers, PJs and slippers, power socket and USB port, and an extensive list of à la carte dining options! I was sad the flight lasted only five hours or so.
At Heathrow, I bumped into a Saudi lawyer who immediately recognized me. Turned out I had interviewed him about a year ago, when he started a partnership with a British law firm, and he had always wanted to thank me for the good job. It kinda surprised me, because I had just began working as a journalist at that time and had been incredibly nervous every time I interviewed someone and had an article published.
But back to my three days in London. We were picked up by the Langham Hotel, which is a lovely 5-star hotel that radiates Britishness: from the fresh roses brought in every single morning to the wallpaper and furniture, and from the polite staff to the world-famous afternoon tea served daily at the restaurant lobby.
The days in London had not been stuffed with activities, which made it possible for me to do some sightseeing on my own and have a morning run in Regent’s Park. We visited Harrod’s and met charming perfumer Roja Dove, who briefed us with passion about his Aoud collection. Aoud, usually spelled as “oud,” comes from the wood of the tropical Agar tree, originated in India, and is extremely popular in the Middle East.
A highlight of the trip, the following day we got the chance to fly in a Boeing 777 flight simulator! Although I had never really felt the ambition to fly a plane, I was so much fun to learn some basics and be able to take off and land the plane safely. And the simulator did feel incredibly real!
In between these activities the two other female journalists and I did some shopping (where better to shop than in London?!) and I spent a whole morning running from one monument to another! I managed to see 30 St. Mary Axe (a.k.a. The Gherkin); the Monument, a remembrance to the Great Fire of London of 1666; Leadenhall Market, where aristocratic bankers can be spotted enjoying their lunch; and St. Paul’s Cathedral, built after the Great Fire on top of the Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the city.
Subsequently, I crossed the river on the pedestrian Millennium Bridge, from where I got a glimpse of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. On the river’s south bank I saw the reconstructed Globe Theater, where Shakespeare’s playing company used to perform; Tate Modern, Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art; and London Eye. Then I crossed the Waterloo Bridge towards the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I turned right on Whitehall to get a glimpse of 10 Downing Street, the official residence and office of the prime minister, and of Horse Guards Parade right next to it. I ended up at Trafalgar Square, from which I had to hurry back to the hotel for the flight simulation.
While writing this, I can hardly believe I spent only three days (or 2.5 actually, considering we arrived Monday afternoon and left Wednesday evening) in this metropolis, because I did much more than I wrote down! I found the time to see Buckingham Palace’s changing of the guards, take plenty of flower pictures at Green Park, St. James’s Park, and Hyde Park, did a morning run in Regent’s Park (my favourite park by far!), and had a spa treatment at Langham’s spa Chuan.
The only thing I did not do (and kind of regret not doing) was go for the afternoon tea at the Langham Hotel. Appearently, this is the best and most famous place for a high tea. The hotel even claims having invented the custom!
Prior to our overnight flight back to Jeddah we enjoyed our time at the luxurious First Class Business Lounge of Heathrow airport. Unfortunately, the spa was already closing its doors, but I enjoyed the restaurant at the lounge. The flight back was as comfortable as the outward trip, although I was sad it was an overnight flight and I was, thus, supposed to spend it sleeping. You can’t blame me I wanted to enjoy my time on the plane!
Naturally, once back in Jeddah I wrote an article about my trip for the Saudi Gazette, which you can read here.