#Globetrotter: How My Recent Travels Led To Rediscovering London & Scotlandby | November 07, 2019
"I came to London. It had become the center of my world and I had worked hard to come to it. And I was lost." –V. S. Naipaul
There are some destinations that always remain close to your heart. Even when you’re away, they make their way to you, through friends, gifts brought back and often, through stories. London will always have a piece of my heart because the city has made me whole. I moved to the British capital when I was 20 and lived there for about 16 years; you could say that I practically grew up in the city. This is why every visit is special and every experience is personal, memorable.
A few weeks ago, I opened the London chapter of my book again. The prologue always has one name on it: Virgin Atlantic. I have been flying on Virgin Atlantic for two decades now—the airline had just launched the flight from Delhi to London when I moved to the city, a newly-wed and, ever since, I have always relied on it, trusted it with my little ones’ travels, and made it a part of my journey. This time, too, I took a pause and recapped my life in London—flying on my favourite airline, staying at a hotel where I had my first photoshoot, and escaping to the solitude of the countryside.
Flying High With Virgin Atlantic
The story behind the airline’s first flight is as interesting as its distinctive name. Stuck at an airport and unable to fly to his destination, Richard Branson rented an airplane, split costs with other passengers, and made the seemingly impossible possible. The result—Virgin Atlantic’s debut flight. The story has impressed me for long, and with a backdrop as powerful as that, it’s no wonder that the British airline lives up to its name, presenting its flyers with top-notch services. Then, of course, there is always the unparalleled experience of flying in the Virgin Atlantic Upper-Class cabin. Complete with a journey that begins with chauffeur-driven car services and clubhouses to unwind in before you board, I’m always flattered by the care and attention with which I’m treated. There’s an array of in-flight entertainment options and dining in the air is another experience worth flying for.
Add to that the plush, detailed interiors with a focus on comfort, the spacious accommodation, and things as minute (and yet relevant) as the mood lighting. And how could I possibly forget the in-flight connectivity! For someone who has to be in touch with her team constantly, it's a real boon. Having flown with Virgin Atlantic for almost 20 years now—solo and with my kids, since they were toddlers—I can say I am a lifelong loyalist!
A Hotel With A History
After landing at Heathrow, I was chauffeured straight to Hotel Café Royal, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, on Regent Street. At Café Royal, history comes alive in the vibrant property that has for long been a cultural landmark in the capital, visited by stalwarts such as Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, David Bowie and more. To anyone with a penchant for the bygone, I would recommend one of the signature suites. With interiors inspired by historical references, each of these signature rooms, from the regal Tudor Suite to the elegant Presidential Suite, are a class apart. At Café Royal, the grandeur of the yesteryears and convenience of new-age technology come together to give the guests an unparalleled experience. A sweet-tooted treat at Cakes and Bubbles is definitely a must, and for connoisseurs of wine, it houses over 50 varieties of wines and champagnes. It’s hardly a surprise that an evening at the Oscar Wilde Lounge comes highly recommended; named after its famed regular who was often spotted here sitting at the bar.
The big city lights definitely tempt me, but there are many reasons to chalk some down-time at the hotel; one of them is the Akasha Spa, which is one of the best in London. With holistic treatments combining western and eastern practices, the spa offers massages, hydro-treatments as well as a private hammam. I have been doing Pilates for many years now and here, I can get personalised classes, which is a big bonus for me!
Luxeva Recommends: An epicurean delight, the ‘Savoury Lunch Menu’ includes delights ranging from a Salmon Tartelette and King Crab Salad to sweet nibbles whilst an extensive brunch menu is on offer at ‘Laurent Grill & Sushi, put together by Chef Laurent Tourondel, featuring delicacies such as pork Kimchi fried rice, Chermoula salmon, and must-try country-style pancakes.
A Scottish Retreat
The UK experience is so much about the great outdoors—and I have never missed a chance to escape to the countryside on long weekends or holidays. So, after a blissful stay in London, I packed up and moved north, to Scotland.
Gleneagles, rightfully known as the ‘riviera in the Highlands’, is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. The property has been around since 1924, playing host to visitors from across the globe. The top-notch luxury suites need no validation, but if you are looking forward to a gourmet delight, the full Scottish breakfast spread at The Strathearn, complete with vegan alternatives, is second to none.
Relax with some much-needed spa time or spend time outdoors choosing from the plethora of outdoor activities for kids and adults alike. Golf, tennis, riding, cycling, off-road driving, fishing, and archery are all up for the taking. But, keep some time aside for falconry, as I did. In the company of an experienced trainer, I (almost) made friends with a hawk! Interestingly, Gleneagles houses the British School of Falconry since 1992 and continues to be Scotland’s leading destination for falconry lessons, so consider yourself in safe hands.
In addition, Gleneagles has a Scotch whiskey tasting experience that soon acquainted me with the best of them all. For anyone looking to enjoy this and all that’s unexplored in Scotland, the property has apt package tours that will make sure your stay is luxurious. Gleneagles’s ‘Three’s the Magic Number’ and ‘Save on Seven’ offers give visitors enormous discounts and these are a godsend for those looking to explore the Highlands.
London with all its wonders, continues to beckon. And every time I visit the city that will always have a piece of my heart, I am enamoured, all over again. But then, that’s what home does to you.