“CONGRATULATIONS!!!! You are one of the four selected finalists to take FLIGHT next week to London with Travelstart & Virgin Atlantic Airways….
You will be provided with flight and hotel for a five day whirlwind trip to London from May 17 – May 21. We have a packed itinerary which includes seeing a play, visiting Windsor, learning how to make bespoke high tea with Virgin Atlantic’s Eric Lanlard and going to flight school!”
Excitement, worry, confusion, anxiety, agitation and a roller coaster of emotions is what I felt when I got this message from travelstart Nigeria. Yes I can be spontaneous but I’m almost never spontaneous when going on a trip. I’m always calculated in terms of the actual planning and maybe spontaneous when it comes to activities. A normal trip takes me at least 3 months to plan and this time I had 3 days literally! I began to pack my bags in faith. Maybe I was confident travel start will choose me. I let my family and my besties know I’ll be embarking on this trip. Everyone was genuinely excited for me!
I finally got the confirmation and headed to the travelstart office on a fine Wednesday afternoon. We got a full itinerary of everything we’d get up to in London as well as travel kit with some basic essentials.
Packing my bags was not as easy as I thought because I had to put my house in order. I dashed to the store to ensure my toddler had her basic school supplies and then I headed home to pack. Finally, at about 2am on the 17th, I was all packed and ready to head to the airport.
London was home for over a year and it was in this city I fell in love with travel. I hadn’t been in over 3 years and it was great to see how much the city had changed. We arrived at the airport around 7.30am. A Virgin Atlantic staff welcomed us. My travel buddies for this trip were Ozzy Agu, a Nigerian actor, Afua Osei Co-founder SheLeads Africa and Bukky Akomolafe, Commercial Manager Travelstart Nigeria.
We did the usual airport routine; checking in and going through security and spent a couple of minutes at the ALML Oasis lounge. We grabbed quick breakfast, had a mini photo session (because #contentcreators) and boarded our flight to Heathrow, London.
The flight was pretty smooth and for the first time in forever, I actually enjoyed what I was served on a flight. Virgin even goes an extra mile and gives you crushed peppers in case the food is too bland for you! They understand the Nigerian palate is all about pepper and spices so they surely got that right.
We met with Darrin, Marketing Manager of Virgin Atlantic Airways and took a drive to Stratford, a town in East London where our hotel was located.
I had googled the hotel but nothing prepared me for what I saw. It was such an amazing spot! Very funky and different in every way. They blew me over and took thinking outside the box to another level. The reception was such a VIBE and I went down every morning for inspiration! From the breakfast set up to the music, books, library, sitting area etc.
Our five day stay in London was bucket loads of fun and we surely experienced a different side of the city. We tried our hands on baking scones, macaroons and financiers with Eric Lanlard, watched a Thriller live, a west end musical, went into the city for a scavenger hunt, took a day trip to Windsor Castle and explored the Virgin Atlantic head office in Crawley.
GOODBYE LAGOS, HELLO LONDON
Day 1 was pretty much travel day and our 5 man team did not get up to much. Right after our flight and checking into the hotel, we decided to explore the high street of Stratford in search of dinner.
We spotted a Mexican restaurant, Mexi Casa, and decided to give it a try. The 4.6/5 rating on google told no lie, I’ll probably give this spot a 10! The food tasted so authentic. We had quesadillas, tacos, mixed grill, chicken wings, guac and everything was perfectly made.
With our overly satisfied bellies, we called it an early night around 9.30pm. We had a full day the next day. We were scheduled to meet with Eric for the baking classes and watch Thriller Live at Lyric Theatre in West End.
TAKING ON LONDON DIFFERENT: BAKING CLASSES AND A WEST END SHOW.
I’ve never tried my hands on baking before and I was certain this baking class was going to be a disaster. Our class held at Cake Boy, a boutique patisserie located in South West London, owned by Eric Lanlard.
We were all so excited to see him, tap a bit of his baking knowledge and learn his craft. He gave us a little background to how he started and fell in love with baking before we kicked into the class.
Thankfully all the ingredients were measured for us before we got our hands messy. First came salmon and black pepper macaroons which we thought was a bit weird. Macaroons are usually sweet but a savory macaroon? I was skeptical about that. Right after our macaroons went in to “laboratoire” we tidied up and started our pistachio financiers (which is pretty much a cake baked with almond flour). We rounded up our classes with scones made with bee pollen.
Right after baking we had afternoon tea and my diet went out the window! The spread was to die for and everything on the plate tasted like heaven! Initially I was skeptical about the savory macaroons but it made me a firm believer in the Eric Lanlard ministry, haha! When you think of afternoon tea you do not expect a feast but boy, the spread was to die for! This life was definitely made for me!
It was an amazing afternoon and something different I’ll totally recommend to do in London (even if you don’t like baking). I was not expecting a fun class but Eric put a lot of soul and personality into this session!
Catching a west end show was next on the itinerary. Thriller Live was just as expected; throwback into the life of the King of Pop via his music. It was enjoyable and exciting to watch. You’ll appreciate how much work goes into stage plays and productions.
The night ended with dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant where most of us tried Vietnamese food for the first time. It was a great way to end the night and prepare for our “free day”.
Ever been to London? What do you love about the city? The concluding part of our London experience where we visited the Windsor castle and explore the Virgin Atlantic head office would be up on the blog soon!
P.S Travel Start is the ultimate plug for cheap flights so if you’re considering London or any other destination this summer, that’s your trusted online travel agent!