This past trip to London (my 4th time visiting the city!) was one I’ll never forget! Visit Great Britain invited me to experience the best of British luxury (pinch me!) to coincide with their #LuxuryisGREAT campaign and it was four days of absolutely incredible travel, dining, shopping, and sight-seeing. Luxurious living at it’s finest! But let’s dive right in, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover…
Traveling to London
I flew Virgin Atlantic to London in their Upper Class cabin and it made the time change an absolute breeze. Virgin Atlantics’s Upper Class experience was so much more elevated than any other time I’ve flown business on an international flight! (Which has honestly only been a handful of times, to be totally honest. Usually I’m slumming it with the common folk in Economy Plus, haha.*) My overnight flight from New York to London was honestly like being in a hotel 30,000 feet above … Full lay-down beds, comfy duvet covers and pillows, a wide menu selection (of actually really tasty food!), turndown service, and even a full bar area. At the bar, you could actually help yourself to light breakfast options in the morning if you were opting to sleep through the full breakfast service. (Continental breakfast, anyone? You know me, though, I obviously opted for the eggs, bacon, coffee, & OJ.)
*Actually though, blog post on surviving long haul flights in economy coming soon!
There wasn’t a detail that was left unattended … Long-sleeve pajamas, socks, toiletry kits (from Rituals!), over-the-ear headphones, you name it. It was honestly like I didn’t need my entire carry-on bag of all of my essentials that I had packed myself… Virgin provided it all! And I loved how my crew member (hi Daniel!) took the time to ask the important questions before the flight took off. You know, like, “Would you prefer to be woken for meals?” YES. The answer is always yes, Daniel.
It’s a pretty ‘short’ flight from JFK to LHR* (just over six hours!) and I wanted to maximize my snooze time, but part of me honestly didn’t want to fall asleep in fear of what I’d be missing out on in the Upper Class cabin. (*Short for an international flight, let me clarify.) I may or may not have been battling some extra bouts of sleepiness on Monday because I was too busy enjoying my flight to actually put my eye mask on. Whoops! FOMO, talking me into making poor life choices since 1989. JK, kind of, haha.
Anyway, I landed at Heathrow around 6am on Monday morning and could have never imagined what was to come next! I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’ve probably never heard of Heathrow VIP, I know I sure as heck hadn’t. It was, hands down, the most luxurious travel experience I’ve ever had. Picture this, I’m deplaning with my eyes half open and there’s a woman in the jetbridge with my name on a sign. Whoa, wasn’t expecting to see someone until I was at least *in* the actual airport. From there, I was whisked away through a private side door, down a flight of stairs, and before you know it I’m underneath the plane with a black BMW waiting for me (and only me) to get in. My bags were placed in the car, my checked baggage tags were given to someone who was going to fetch them, and I was being driven through the tunnels under Heathrow. Blame it on the jetlag, but it all happened so fast that I honestly had the thought, “Am I being kidnapped?” And if this is how it goes, I’m all in.
After about 10 minutes in the car, we arrived to my private (very chic) suite while I waited for my bags and for the border patrol officer to come to the suite to check my passport. Umm, what? Yes, you read that correctly. They come to you with Heathrow VIP! While I was waiting, I was able to place an order for breakfast, watch TV, get a newspaper, and freshen up in my private bathroom. It was my second breakfast of the morning so I just went with coffee and fruit, but the whole menu looked incredible. (It was created by chef Jason Atherton!) The whole experience felt like a dream and my trip had barely just begun!
I hopped into the car (another black BMW, if we’re keeping track) to make my way into the city. I’d been to The Berkeley once before for tea, but I was excited to stay for more than an hour or two this time around! I figured there was no chance I’d be able to check into my room since it was only 8am, but service is the name of the game at The Berkeley. I was able to promptly get into my room, which was an incredible suite on the 5th floor. I was so thankful to have plenty of time to unpack, shower, and get ready for the day with the Visit Great Britain team!
Day 1: Monday, October 9th
We kicked off day around noon with lunch at Sketch. You’ve probably seen their gorgeous pink tea room on Instagram (I’ve been a few times!), but they also have another dining room downstairs (the Glade) where the decor is completely switched out every few months. When I was in London this past April, the room was a tropical paradise… Wicker chairs, palm prints, etc. But this time, the room was transformed with green shag carpet and velvet upholstery. Such a fun place to have a meal! I had the Mango, Passionfruit, Gojiberry, and Pomegranate Juice with a salad, I believe it was the Pierre’s Salad. So tasty!
See my outfit here!
From Sketch, we walked over to Charbonnel et Walker for a chocolate tasting and it was the perfect pick-me-up! Do yourself a favor and get a few boxes of their truffles to take home. I just finished the last of the three boxes I brought home (Hey, they’re small, okay?! And I had some friends who helped.) and I’m already sad they’re gone. My favorites are the Milk Sea Salt Caramel Truffles, but you have to also get an assorted selection of their milk and dark chocolates. The Crowns, Praline Noisettes, and Truffle Cafés are soooo good. But have yourself a tasting in store to see what you like best! Oh, also worth mentioning… The boxes are *so* chic. You can easily use them for organization of jewelry or makeup or house little trinkets around the house when you’re done!
Post sugar-high, we made our way to The House of Elemis to try their Biotec Facial in the Penthouse! To start out, my esthetician took a photo of my skin with their facial mapping tool to see the areas where I was dry, oily, showing signs of aging, etc. You guys, I would love to tell you more about the facial, but it was so dang relaxing that I fell asleep. At the end of the facial, kind of embarrassed, I was like, “How long did I fall asleep for?!” She politely responded, “You pretty much fell asleep two minutes into it.” Yep, beauty blogger of the year over here. I will say, though, my skin looked super radiant afterwards! 😉
Once I had a little nap, we headed to Paxton & Whitfield on Jermyn Street, one of the oldest and largest cheesemongers in England. If you’re thinking, “Oh my goodness, this sounds like heaven,” you would be correct. Much like I feel after any time I spend time at wineries, I left Paxton & Whitfield wanting to become a cheesemonger. What can I say, I just really love learning about things I’m passionate about. Wine and cheese, specifically. We got to sample some of the most incredible cheeses and I so badly wanted to ship some home, but when you live alone, that’s probably not the best idea for the waistline. Next time for sure! I’d highly recommend swinging by the shop for some samples of the different cheeses and picking up some provisions for a little picnic in Green Park or St James Park.
If you get overwhelmed in the shop, here’s a list of my four favorites that we tried… Bosworth Goat Cheese, Stinking Bishop (a brie), Lincolnshire Poacher (cheddar), and Cropwell Bishop Stilton (blue). My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
That evening, we had cocktails at The Blue Bar at The Berkeley before heading to dinner at OXO Tower. Yep, more eating… It’s a wonder my clothes still fit the next day! All I can remember from dinner was bone-marrow-crusted fillet (!!), delightful red wine, and pumpkin cheesecake to finish. I’m sure there were some appetizers in there, but I was too busy chatting with the group to write them down. Again, blogger fail. The city views from the restaurant are phenomenal, though!
See my outfit here!
Day 2: Tuesday, October 10th
Day Two might have been my favorite day! I started off with breakfast in the Collins Room at The Berkeley before heading to Jo Loves on Elizabeth Street, which was an easy walk from the hotel. I can’t even put into words how fun and inspiring the morning was. Jo Loves is Jo Malone’s new fragrance brand and it’s the cutest (and most delicious-smelling!) store.
But oh my gosh, guys. WE GOT TO MEET JO MALONE!! And not even like a little, “Hey, how are you?” We literally spent the entire morning with her and I cannot say enough nice things about her. Her energy was simply infectious. I had tears in my eyes when she was telling us her story of being diagnosed with cancer and leaving her Jo Malone brand, goosebumps when she was chronicling the synchronicities of her career, and I probably had tears in my eyes again from laughing so hard at other points throughout the morning. She’s so witty, an incredibly innovative business woman, and I can’t tell you how many inspiring “one liners” I wrote down in my phone throughout the conversation. But the best part was that she wasn’t trying to be emotional or give inspiring quotes, you could tell she was just being her (very cool) self. In fact, as we were walking outside for a photo afterwards, I whispered to Gregory and Ryan, “I REALLY LIKE HER!” Typical Jess, I didn’t realize she was standing right behind me. Haha! So she knows how much I was fan-girling. 😂
I have to tell you more about the brand, though. Jo Loves is her newest fragrance concept and the products are so fresh and fun! Sure, there are candles and colognes, but the in-store experiences are not to be missed. We got to create our own custom candles with Jo, Shot Candles. You can see a few combinations online, but in-store, you can select your base and your “shot” for a bespoke fragrance that changes as you burn it. So cool! (See more in the video below!)
Jo’s newest creation is Fragrance Paintbrushes. They’re essentially a whole new way to wear and layer fragrances! They’re gel-based fragrances that are applied by, you guessed it, a paintbrush. So, so cool. You’ve got to check them out… You can find them at Sephora! Great for travel and easy to toss in your bag during the day.
From the cute little shop on Elizabeth Street (a great area for shopping, wandering, and eating!), I took home the Pink Vetiver fragrance, the Pomelo Fragrance Paintbrush, Jo Malone’s book (cannot wait to read!), and my custom Shot Candle creation, a base of Tahitian Gardenia and a shot of Saffron Oud. I could go on for days, but you’re probably getting hungry at this point. I know I was after our fragrance tapas experience after the candle making!
Afterwards, we went to lunch at Thomas Cubitt next door and it was one of my favorite meals! We basically tried the entire menu in the upstairs dining room. We had oysters to start, I had the chicken for my main, and we got ALL OF THE SIDES… bone marrow mash, truffle fries, broccoli, and rainbow carrots, too. So, so delish. Highly recommend having lunch or dinner here!
We shopped at Heidi Klein afterwards (picked up the cutest striped swimsuit that I can’t wait to wear on vacation this winter!) and then got picked up in vintage mini coopers for a tour around London with smallcarBIGCITY. I’m not one for tourist attractions while traveling, but this is an experience I would do again and again! There’s no better way to see the sights quickly. And I mean, vintage mini coopers… Say no more! (There’s also a Harry Potter tour… Noted for next time. ✔️)
The cars dropped us off at Halfpenny for a fitting with Kate Halfpenny herself, and the fan-girling continued. Kate’s bridal designs are stunningly beautiful (she designed Kate Moss’ wedding dress!) and it was a dream to spend time in her atelier. Earlier this fall, Halfpenny launched The Black Edit, which is a collection of some of her most well-known silhouettes reimagined in classic black for endless wearing opportunities. We each got to borrow a dress for dinner that evening and I chose a sleek silk gown with an open back and a big bow-tie at the neck. How could I not?! And to top it off, Kate suggested pairing this stunning chiffon cape with a bigger-than-life bow at the front of the neck. Does it get any better?!
Wearing this black-tie ensemble to dinner at City Social on a Tuesday evening brought new meaning to “Goin’ up on a Tuesday!” It didn’t feel like real life, that’s for sure. Dinner was INCREDIBLE… You have to go to City Social next time you find yourself in London. The chef, Jason Atherton, came out to greet us and I’ve never been more giddy. (Pictures prove it.. What a cutie!) We had a giant sampling menu and honestly tried it all… It was a group of about 20 of us at dinner! I’m convinced you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. But do yourself a favor and get the Espresso Martini after your meal!
Day 3: Wednesday, October 11th
We were up bright and early on Wednesday morning for a train to the English countryside! We took the train from Marylebone Staton to Wycombe to the EJ Churchill estate, less than an hour away. I’ve only ever spent time in London, so it was really fun to see a different side of Great Britain. We got to tour the estate and even take a clay pigeon shooting lesson. I’ll be honest, I was scared sh*tless for the shooting lesson… I’d never held or shot a gun before! But the guides at EJ Churchill were SO GOOD. I can’t say enough good things. They made me feel so comfortable and confident! Naturally, I totally missed my first few shots and Daf instantly told me to look a little to the left of the clay. Got it on the next one! How he was able to pick that up in a matter of minutes is beyond me. It ended up being *really* fun, actually! Just goes to show how good it is to get out of your comfort zone sometimes. (It was also really eye-opening to learn about Great Britain’s gun laws… Not going to get into politics here, but look them up if you have the interest!)
We made our way back to the city and went straight to the City of London Gin Distillery. This was such a fun experience! If you’re visiting London when it’s chilly, spend an afternoon here making your own gin in their gin lab. Another one of those moments where I wanted to go into the gin business! (The owner may or may not have voted my gin the best out of the group! 🎖I’m a pro, what can I say.) We learned that most all gin has varying amounts of Juniper, Coriander, and Angelica Root. I then added Elderberries, Lemon, Pepper, and Orange Peel. We distilled it in the gin lab, sealed the bottle with wax, and even put a printed label on it! The bottle of “Dirty Sturdy” is now proudly sitting on my bar cart here in Chicago. (And yes, I saved my award-winning measurement sheet. So if you need a recipe, hit me up. It will cost you though! 😉)
We raced back to The Berkeley for afternoon tea with Jane Lewis (founder of Goat Fashion) and Samantha Conti (head of WWD in London)! The Berkeley’s fashion-inspired Prêt-à-Portea is not to be missed! This was actually my second time getting to have it, but the company this time absolutely made the experience. Expectedly, Jane was one of the chicest women I’ve ever gotten to sit down and talk to, and it was so, so inspiring hearing about the evolution of her brand, Goat Fashion. (PS: I got to take this sweater home with me and it’s incredible… Such a great shape and it’s SO soft.)
I feel like a broken record using the term “inspiring,” but there’s no other way to sum up the trip! While this was such a once-in-a-lifetime few days with unforgettable experiences, my favorite part had to have been the conversations with such inspiring women. Getting to meet and spend time with Jo, Kate, and Jane was so motivating, uplifting, and refreshing. A whirlwind of a few days that I’ll remember for years and years to come! Thank you a million times over, Visit Great Britain. xx
While you’re at it, don’t forget to check out my Travel Guide… The London section has been updated with all of these recommendations!