Three summer vacation upgrade ideas

August 31, 2004 2:44 pm

Summer vacations are meant for a little indulgence, and for a relatively modest cost AME Info sampled three upgrading options available for visitors to Europe. Even if your holiday is now over, there is the pleasure of thinking ahead.

It is sometimes said it is pleasanter to travel than to arrive. That might be an exaggeration but there are ways to ease the pain.

This summer on the Dubai to Munich route Lufthansa was offering flat-bed seats in Business Class on its new Airbus 240-300. These beds are very similar to those that used to be the preserve of First Class passengers, and when flying at night a flat-bed is probably the most attractive upgrade available.

The seat itself is very comfortable and has a 10-inch entertainment screen and a wide selection of movies. Business Class passengers also get a better food and beverage selection and more luggage allowance, useful for shopping on the return leg of the trip.

On arrival what could be better than stepping into a Mercedes E-Class courtesy of Europcar at the airport? This premium car offers reliable, comfortable, air-conditioned transport and makes easy work of even the toughest driving conditions.

This August was the wettest-ever in the UK, and such novelties as automatic headlights and a self-starting window wiper system came into their own.

The only downside of an E-Class is that it feels a bit wide for some of the narrower roads in the UK. But it has to be said that this is the fault of the roads and not the car, and whether a smaller vehicle would feel much different is open to doubt.

Finally, when you get to your last night an opulent way to sign-off a summer vacation is a night of sheer culinary indulgence at the Michelin two-star establishment of master chef Raymond Blanc, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, conveniently situated a short motorway drive from Heathrow Airport in the countryside of Oxfordshire.

Resident Manager Andrew Thomason and his team of 200 staff do their best to keep guests in the 32 individually-designed rooms swathed considerable comfort.

We stayed in the Silk Room, lavishly decorated in the material of the same name. But apparently the Opium Room with an Asian theme is even more popular, and the Provincial Suite is big enough for small weddings.

Le Manoir is best known for its superlative restaurant, which relocated from The High in Oxford in 1984, and the seven-course Menu Gourmand is a popular choice.

A team of 50 labour in the kitchen behind the scenes, and at least some of what you eat is grown in the extensive gardens which also feature a collection of statues well worth inspecting. The wine list runs to over 1,000 bottles.

This is a wonderful experience to ease the passage back to life in the Middle East. And for those who are not staying in the UK, the same hotel group, Orient Express – which bought out Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels two years’ ago after the 9/11 debacle – has a range of similar fine hotels scattered across Europe.