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It’s just like old times. Sipping a glass of good Sauvignon Blanc in the British Airways lounge while I wait for my delayed flight to Asia.
As a result of my recent illness, it’s many months since I travelled through Heathrow Terminal 5 and I’d forgotten just what a pleasant and efficient place this has become.
Now that I’m (gently) back on the travel treadmill, I’ve decided to use this Blog to track my experiences of airports as an ordinary consumer. I’ll let you know how I’m treated as a shopper or diner and highlight any shortcomings or positives that I see.
Today, it’s all a case of the latter. I browsed or shopped in three outlets – Expo Fine Art Gallery, Boots and World Duty Free’s comparatively new ‘Wine Collection – Rare & Vintage’ store.
Each, in very different ways, was top-notch. The Expo Fine Art Gallery (above) is an oustanding new addition to T5 and airport operator BAA should be shouting about it from the rooftops, it’s that good.
The exhibition honours the best of Britain’s sportsmen and women in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. All net profits from the works on sale are donated to the British Paralympic Association.
The very helpful Gallery manager (Peter, I believe) talked me through some of the works (I think I know of a buyer for at least one of the wonderful bronze sculptures I saw, shown below) and the cause they are supporting. A lovely man and a lovely project. And it’s exactly what the much-cited, less often executed concept of Sense of Place is all about.
Next stop, post-security this time, was the ubiquitous Boots for some travel essentials. Ubiquitous but not boring or bland. T5’s is a fine execution of the Boots brand with plenty of aisle space, an outstanding product selection, and knowledgeable, friendly staff (my sales assistant was called Ratilal and couldn’t have been nicer).
Not knowing my plane would be delayed, I rushed through the rest of T5’s commercial offer, stopping only (I thought) to admire the excellence of World Duty Free’s liquor and fragrances/cosmetics offers (below). But as I gazed in passing at the distinctly underwhelming confectionery department (below), I noticed something new, World Duty Free’s ‘Wine Collection – Rare & Vintage’ store, opened a few months ago.
Since Berry Bros & Rudd closed up shop at Heathrow I have long bemoaned the lacklustre wine offer at the London gateway. No more. This new store is just great. Some top wines (plenty of first growth Bordeaux, for example, if they take your fancy), displayed elegantly (and temperature controlled in the case of the best wines), with a nice blend of old and new world. It’s my kind of shop and the sort of environment and offer that could give airport retailing a seriously good name.
Today, for once, I did not buy (I am moving around a few Asian airports in coming days) but I certainly browsed. And I was helped greatly by a very engaging sales assistant called Monica (pictured) who knew and loved her wines and had a delightful, genuine personality to boot. Give her a bonus World Duty Free, such gracious staff are hard to find!
At least my flight delay has allowed me to complete this Blog in the excellent BA lounge while sipping first on a nice Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and then an even better Dry Creek Fumé Blanc from Sonoma County in the US.
Heathrow Airport T5, take a bow.
[BELOW – SNAPSHOTS OF HEATHROW, 11 MAY 2011]
[Big crowds gather inside and outside perennial favourite Dixon’s Travel]
[Royal Wedding fever with Welsh jewellery brand Clogau Gold]
[Spirited promotion: World Duty Free’s ‘Whiskyfest’]