And so, continuing the tale of luxury hotels in the air, in the form of flying British Airways First Class. As you board, the top person on board notes where you are sitting and ushers you to the left, which brings back tales of those who ‘have never turned right when boarding a plane’, no names mentioned of course. On a B777, there are 12 First Class seats, set in three rows of four. The side seats are best as they are slightly angled, give you two windows and more storage space. Each seat, your private space, has its own built-in wardrobe. You are offered a glass of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle, and brought a washbag, designed by Anya Hindmarch. This has a range of goodies, D.R. Harris & Co Ltd, and Ren, and proper taupe socks – handy afterwards, says the gal, when hiking.
You are offered fleece-type pyjamas – jolly useful later if trekking in the bush or going to a safari camp where it is cold at night, and proper slippers. You have a mammoth, like 35-inch diagonal, screen, and as well as listening to Helene Grimaud playing Mozart you can watch Daniel Craig playing James Bond in Skyfall. You can also merely opt for Your Journey, what used to be called Air Show, and watch progress on a map. At one stage the little plane icon over the Atlantic reminds me of the real plane in the air as we drove to Heathrow, all that long time ago (actually only a few hours but time means nothing when you fly – always change your watch, by the way, to arrival time as soon as you board).
Another essential tip, exercise as much as you can, arm twists, leg twists and so on. This really helps, and anyway, now it is food time. Instead of the dinky little toy-town trays you get in the back of the plane, here they set up a big – about three by two feet – table, with crisp white linens and Wedgwood china, and silver-topped salt and pepper mills, and the butter rolls my mother used to make with two wooden butter pats. The breads are warm and delectable, as are the hot nuts. An amuse comes, and the drink you ordered, and the starter you ordered. One of the best I have had lately is this tower of hot-smoked salmon bound with avocado and crème fraiche, on a bed of cucumber. Any luxury hotel would be proud to serve this.
Next, what I consider the ideal meal for an always-on-the-go health-and- fitness-fixated Girlahead, pasta and a no-dressing salad. Look at it – lovely to look at, hot and scrumptious, and cooked a la minute by the woman in the kitchen (called, in a plane, the galley, obviously a heritage from shipping days). After I had eaten it all I felt, well, wonderful, and plugged in my laptop and created a few words. Of course there are sockets by each seat, and of course there is now WiFi but I suspect it is jolly expensive and, anyway, it is great to get away from the rest of the world. I am temporarily in an airborne wonderland.
The meal is not yet finished, however. I am offered a box of 24 chocolates – are they all for me? They are from a company new to me, Lauden, and the flavours, left to right, and four of each, are single origin (67% Madagascan), passionfruit, fresh mint, raspberry, lemon and salted caramel (with French fleur de sel). Stop stop, all this food is just too much. My new friends the flight attendants in this cabin say actually they prefer traditional chocolates.
One thing so far is missing, sleep. Your controls easily allow you to flick three lights on and off, and lower or raise window blinds, and you could make your own bed, but they do it for you. This is five-star service. Your chair slithers down to be completely flat, linking with the jump seat at the end. Plastic bags are opened to reveal first a mattress, then a big white linen-covered pillow, then a quilted duvet. Hey presto, gal, time to sleep, in this luxury hotel in the sky… all too soon you will be coming back down to earth.