Let’s face it, until you do that victory face-plant onto your hotel bed, your holiday hasn’t started. If you’re anything like me, the build-up usually involves playing Tube Tetris with your luggage, enacting full-body pat-downs every half an hour to ensure you still have your passport, standing in a check-in queue that you’re never quite sure is the right one, eating regrettable pre-flight snacks and fighting nagging doubts that you’ve forgotten to pack something vital. Not really a soothing precursor to what’s about to follow.
So, as soon I was met by a top-hatted doorman at Heathrow‘s hidden-away Windsor Suite, I knew returning to such travel traumas was going to be hard. My luggage and passport were whisked away and I was ushered into a handsomely styled private suite where it took me precisely three seconds to forget I was anywhere near an airport.
When Mrs Smith arrived a few minutes later I was, it would be fair to say, in holiday mode – sipping a cold beer, snacking on plump olives and pretending I wasn’t enjoying a Taylor Swift article in Vanity Fair. Then the panic set in that I had, in fact, forgotten something vital.
‘I need to get a birthday card for my mum,’ I explained. ‘I fancy some new sunglasses, while we’re at it,’ Mrs Smith chipped in. ‘No problem,’ said our hastily summoned (and unfailingly lovely) personal shopper, leading us through Terminal 5’s backstage labyrinth and out into the crowds of its designer shopping strip, where a new pair of Ray-Bans was located with hawk-like precision.
I’d considered a hurried Hallmark purchase until our shopper correctly pointed out that mums deserve better. So Smythson it was, for the most ornate hand-crafted treat of a card. You’re welcome, mum.
Then it was back to our sumptuous suite for more champagne and a tastebud-delighting three-course feast – although if it were Big Macs we’d craved, that would’ve been no trouble either. Nothing is when you travel this well – my card was dispatched to a postbox for me, 100ml bottles were procured for last-minute suncream decanting, glasses were topped up seemingly by the power of thought.
It was only when our passports were returned, boarding cards tucked neatly inside, that we remembered we still had to get on a plane. After a stress-free stroll through a carpeted private security area, we realised we’d got so used to our VIP experience that we’d barely have noticed if we passed the Clooneys or the Clintons in the corridor. Hell, maybe we did.
A waiting BMW (tinted windows, chilled mineral water) took us the final stretch from suite to plane. At the other end, our zen-like demeanour couldn’t even be troubled by a surly Mallorquín taxi driver. In fact, as nice as our hotel-bed-dive was that night, it didn’t have quite the same restorative powers – we’d been on holiday for quite some time by then.
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