“We will shortly be landing so we ask you to return to your seats, secure your tray tables and fasten your seatbelts…” said the air hostess on my BA flight as excitement started to build.
Yes it was that time of year again... I was on my way to Blighty, to the land of hope and glory… I thought about all the plans my sister and I had cooked up for my 8 days there and it was going to be fun!
I’m a nervous flyer to say the least. I do the journey without any pills and end up befriending the person next to me so that they don’t think I am having an epileptic fit when the plane takes off – my worst nightmare! That feeling of weightlessness, helplessness and your stomach lunging back and forth because you are not in control… I wish I could sit in an enclosed place until the plane takes off and is at the recommended altitude. After that I’m fine… well that’s until we hit turbulence and I urgently look around the plane to see if there is anyone as nervous as I am… eyes darting around the cabin like a deer caught in headlights!
Anyhow this time round was no different but it was a pleasant flight. The lady sitting next to me also lived in the same county as my sister so she and I chatted most of the way, exchanging stories on various things… until the overhead lights blinked on and the voice of the first officer crackled on the speakers telling us we were descending on our landing to London Heathrow.
After our safe landing and never ending walk to the baggage reclaim, I had my suitcase and strode out towards my eagerly waiting sister! Let the fun begin! We had an entire week planned of fun and frolics, plenty of shopping, rest and relaxation.
The first day of my UK extravaganza was a planned trip to the shopping outlet Bicester. It’s about an hour’s drive from us to Oxfordshire and is one of the Collection of ‘Chic Outlet Shopping’ villages which was founded in 1992. It homes about 1,000 designer outlet boutiques of the world’s leading fashion and lifestyle brands. It’s become a tourist destination as well as there were tens of coaches lined up in the entrance which were letting off Chinese and Japanese visitors.
Imagine that you are dropped into a little ‘village’ which instead of small homes for people, houses most luxurious goods at 50-70% off their retail prices. Brands from Gucci to Burberry, Balenciaga to Ralph Lauren, Prada to Chanel, and Vivian Westwood to Michael Kors line the village which are dotted with food stalls and coffee shops and restaurants which offer a welcome respite. Now I know I could probably be talking in Swahili to some of you with my brands but those of you who know will understand that it’s like entering a cave of treasures.
My sister and I were not there to necessarily shop… Window shopping mostly… But anyone who knows us will know that we have never left Bicester Village empty handed. It was a warm, sunny day and at around midday, the village was bustling with shoppers. Bicester Village to me is as amazing as Diagon Alley is to Harry Potter… Only much brighter and more expensive! Being so close to fashionable items which are probably worth the GDP of a small African country is both scary and yet tantalising. You know you can’t afford these things, yet you still go into a shop just to be able to look and feel.
I won’t go into the detail of the damage that hit our finances that day but I can say we left happily as the shutters on the shops were being brought down for the evening.
The next day we had a leisurely morning because the rest of our day was going to be busy with a reunion at our old school and dinner in London in the evening. We got ready excitedly and despite the fact that I kept in touch with a group of my girls and been back for a reunion, my sister had not seen hers nor gone back to the school for nearly 25 years. The school never stops to amaze me however as we drove into the grounds of our old convent school… the lush greenery, the quiet of the grounds and the pounding of our hearts in our chests all rolled into one made the anticipation even more. We walked to find the register and our name tags and tables dotted on the green outside the old geography room.
There were Pimms waiting for us and the nuns who used to teach us… Sister Irene, Sister Theresa and of course our old Head Mistress Sister Cecile… we had lost one of the sister this year – Sister Janet who had passed away earlier this year. There were several teachers present as well and one in particular we had not seen since leaving the school, Mrs Burrows our science teacher. I always found it strange that the teachers remembered surnames more than names and if you happened to have a strange surname (like some of ours was) you were not easily forgotten… Having said that if you were a particularly ‘troublesome’ student, you were remembered even more.
As we sat and chatted animatedly, I couldn’t help but feel a little melancholic and old… One never appreciates something when they are doing it until much later in life and we all commented that our parents had done the best thing by sending us to this private school… It was a good school and we were privileged to have attended there. We walked around the grounds and some of the classrooms each of us reminding the other of what they remembered… The smell, the small corridors and staircases; it was as if we were transported back in time and I could feel the girls running around us, screaming and giggling… We entered one room to find ladies much older than us in there and were amazed to discover that they were past pupils as well. These ladies must have been in their 70s and it was interesting to hear what the school was like for them in those days. It was an amazing day. We are now gearing up for the centennial year in 2017 as it promises to be a great event!
After returning home, my sister and I had a couple of hours to chill before we headed out on the town to an exclusive restaurant in known as ‘Home House’. Home House as its name says is located across 3 Georgian town houses in Portman Square and is a private members club. One of my friends arranged a table for us to experience their sumptuous menu. Upon entering we were escorted to the garden for some drinks and three of my friends were already there waiting… A wedding party was on-going as many of the guests had spilled out on to the patio. Donning our best heels, we walked to our garden table. A round of Pimms later we were ready to take our table for dinner. Lots of oooo’s and mmmm’s across the table confirmed that we were satisfied with our choices. The company was the best yet again coupled with an amazing restaurant and club. London is an astounding city and I can never draw my eyes away from its wonders. I always find something new whenever I visit; but old haunts never tire me either. I can truly say I love London and can’t compare it to anywhere in the world…
Next week: a majestic spa in the UK’s ancient Roman city of Bath…