On My Way to Italy
Brandy Falconer, grapelive

bf.jpgMy first taste of grape-y goodness ‘OCONUS’ (A Military flashback acronym: ‘Outside Continental US’) came at the First Class British Airways lounge in the new deluxe Terminal 5 at Heathrow in London. My friend had greeted me at the security gates after I arrived from San Francisco and told me he was taking me to a magical place. At the entrance to the lounge, I passed the star of BBC’s “House Doctor,” Anne Maurice, a California-based interior designer specializing in home staging for real estate sales who took her talents to the UK to create this very interesting show. I took that to be a good sign that what was beyond the entrance was something outside the everyday travel experience. I wasn’t disappointed.

(There were) At least 10 food and beverage stations waited for hungry travelers as seasoned professionals lounged about on the couches and living-room like arrangements, staring out at the bustle of the airport runway, possibly trying to decide between the wine, beer or cocktail bar. As we rounded the corner (the place is huge), my friend introduces me to the “magical place”, a glistening simple bar with a clever crystal-ball type chandelier hovering over 3 different types of bubbly. Not just bubbly, but French champagne, and not the run-of-the-mill, but the likes of Pol Roger, and Bollinger “Grande Annee” 1999 , which is my choice because of the obvious “Absolutely Fabulous” reference. How can I be in London living large (thanks to my friend) and NOT have some ‘Bolli Dahling?’

t5.jpgMy queasiness from the turbulence of the previous flight gave way to relaxation, as the atmosphere in the lounge almost demands it. Private bathrooms, showers and every convenience available could really get your mind of travel, hence the check-in process so the concierge knows when to usher you out to your flight. Nibbles from delightful finger sandwiches to hot rice and veggies got me back on my feet and the champagne offered just the right bubbles to settle my stomach. This was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ (most likely) treat but I’m convinced it is the only way to travel to Europe, what a welcome! My baggage liked Terminal 5 so much it decided to stay overnight…but that’s another story… Now on to Italy!

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