Here we are at London Heathrow getting ready for the flight to Washington DC. As we had a lot of Avios points (thanks to Tesco!) and a companion ticket (thanks to American Express!) we decided to fly First Class.
We arrived at the airport and went to the First Class check-in desk at departures. We were greeted directly by a British Airways agent, and the process turned out to be very smooth! The lady explained that we could use the Concorde Lounge in the terminal and told us that our aircraft would depart from B Gate, just a short ride by train from the main Terminal 5 building.
The security process at Terminal 5 was fairly swift, and we were able to go straight into the Concorde Lounge, which was located immediately after security. The British Airways staff member in the lounge checked our boarding cards and we were in!
The Concorde Lounge is very spacious, with a dining area, Elemis spa, shower facilities, lots of seating and a business centre. There is also a terrace area overlooking the Departures Hall of Terminal 5. No favouritism, but Terminal 5 is quite an impressive, well designed building, and to just stand at the balcony watching people heading to their flights was great!
As we had left home early, we decided to go for breakfast in the Concorde Lounge dining area. The service was excellent and very quick. The full English breakfast was very tasty, and the other options, such as porridge, eggs benedict, fresh fruit salad, boiled egg and soldiers…. also seemed nice. As we had a bit more time before boarding our flight to Washington DC we decided to go to the terrace and have a glass of champagne. It was a real treat to have a glass of rose champagne at 10:30 in the morning! Certainly anything but a normal day.
The transfer from the Terminal 5 main building to Satellite B was very quick and easy and the boarding gate was just next to the escalator. We boarded the flight directly and we were met by the Customer Service Director and shown to our seats. The seats in First Class are very spacious with lots of storage space, wardrobe, kitchen sink and room for a pony… Ok, maybe not the last two, but it felt like it! The crew came around straight away and offered us champagne, newspaper, pyjamas and a wash bag. Of course, we accepted the lot!
The plane departed on-time and just after take-off we were handed the menu for the flight and an aperitif to keep us going. For lunch there was a choice of three starters, then soup, salad, a choice of three main courses and then deserts and a cheese plate. All very tempting! The food was good, and served slowly over about ninety minutes.
After all this extravagance it was time to have a rest! There was an amazing selection of movies, comedy programmes, documentaries, music, radios and heaven knows what else to choose from. All this helped pass the time very well, as did a couple of hours sleep. About one and a half hours before landing we were offered afternoon tea with a selection of sandwiches and scones. Were we really still hungry?!
About 40 minutes before landing in Washington DC, we had some amazing views of New York; there was lots of sun, blue skies and also lots of snow! The landing was smooth and we were at the gate a few minutes later. Dis-embarkation was fast and we boarded a ‘people mover’, which took us to the arrivals hall.
Immigration was a bit busy, but thankfully was quick, and our bags were there waiting for us just after we cleared immigration. Once through Customs we proceeded to the ‘Supershuttle’ desk to wait for our transfer into the city. We had booked this in advance, and it proved a quick and cheap way to get from the airport to town. There is a metro line currently under construction, so in the future it should be cheap and easy to get from Dulles Airport into central Washington.
The ‘Supershuttle’ dropped us at our hotel, The Palomar, which is part of the Kimpton Group of hotels, and located near to Dupont Circle. What an amazing place! Check-in was done in no time and the staff were welcoming and somehow seemed to prompt any questions we had. We had chosen this hotel, which was located about a twenty minute walk from The White House. Pretty central, so it would be easy for us to explore. The check-in staff grabbed a city map and started telling us where we needed to visit, where to eat and where the main attractions were. The map had been almost fully coloured in, and it was obvious these people loved Washington DC!
So, there we were, just arrived, a bit tired and in need of a good shower. Then the next surprise came along; our room was actually a suite! Dining area, living room, bedroom and bathroom (with a huge Jacuzzi!). We could have moved into the place and basically lived there. It was massive! The shower was a god-send and woke us up.
The hotel offered a ‘wine hour’ between 5.00 pm and 6.00 pm. During this time we met and chatted to Letizia, the International Sales Manager from ‘Visit DC’. Yes, the trip does have a serious note, and this was an opportunity to find out more about the city, various events, how things work and what business opportunities there are. All very interesting…
Letizia suggested a restaurant called ‘Daily Grill’ about ten minutes from the hotel for a quick meal, so that’s where we headed. There was a nice choice of American style food, all at a reasonable price. We were not really that hungry, but going to the restaurant got us out and into the fresh air for a while. Ok, it was minus ten, with a wind-chill factor that made us feel like someone was slapping our faces! It was so cold!! This was our second wind, and the walk out did the trick.
Back at the hotel it was warm, the beds were huge and welcoming and that was it, the day was over and we were in Washinton DC!
**Alain’s top tips of the day**
1. Arrive at the airport early. Check-in, pass security, grab a coffee, sit and relax. Anything to avoid the stress of rushing!
2. Upon arrival in the USA be sure to have planned your exit from the airport. Write it down and keep the paper handy
3. Try to stay up and awake as long as possible. You need to get into the correct time zone and be careful that a quick nap does not become a night’s sleep at about four in the afternoon!