Grape Expectations for British Airways’ New Port

British Airways has added Graham’s Six Grapes, the Port favoured by Sir Winston Churchill, to its business class (Club World) drinks menu.

Mr. Churchill looking very relaxed with a glass of Graham's after lunch

Mr. Churchill looking very relaxed with a glass of Graham’s Six Grapes after lunch.

Back then it was known as Graham’s Vintage Character Port and was served to his guests at Chartwell House, his country home. The historic Port has a rich bouquet of ripe plums and cherries and will pair particularly well with the desserts and cheeses on board, in particular the Roasted White Chocolate and Hazelnut Tart and the Cheddar and Camembert with Spiced Mulled Apple Jelly.

Colin Talbot, British Airways’ head of catering, said: “Port is incredibly popular in Club World – last year alone nearly 41,000 bottles were served to our business class customers, so we are delighted to be adding Graham’s Six Grapes to the menu.  At altitude it holds its flavour well, thanks to its good structure and with the long lingering finish, it will wonderfully complement the dessert and cheese selection on flights.”

Additionally, British Airways launched a new restaurant-style premium dining service in Club World, with display trolleys allowing customers to select dishes from a choice of freshly prepared starters and desserts served on beautiful new table settings. The airline also announced a sleep partnership with The White Company and the British retailer will supply bedding and amenity kits in Club World to ensure customers get a good night’s sleep in the sky.

The new style dining and bedding is part of British Airways’ multi-million pound investment plan to benefit its customers, with a focus on excellence in the premium cabins and more choice and quality for all.

Four hundred million pounds will be spent on Club World with an emphasis on improved catering and sleep, as well as a new seat in the future. At Heathrow a First Wing check-in area with direct security and lounge access has launched and lounges around the airline’s network are to be revamped and improved. The Club Europe cabin has also been introduced on UK domestic services and all customers can look forward to the latest generation Wi-Fi across British Airways’ long-haul and short-haul fleets over the next two years.

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Get out, look up & be amazed

Winter evenings in South Africa can be chilly, but if you spend all your time inside, you’ll miss out on one of winter’s famous attractions – the night sky. The clear, cold winter nights of the Southern Hemisphere often offer perfect conditions for stargazing.

Shaun Pozyn, Head of Marketing for British Airways (operated by Comair) suggests the following places to do some amateur astronomy, as well as other attractions for each:

Stargazing in winter

HOGSBACK

Just over three hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth, this small town in the Amatole mountains of the Eastern Cape often has snow in winter and is frequently misty, but because of its many very clear nights and very few artificial lights, it can offer good stargazing opportunities.

Some visitors say Hogsback reminds them of The Shire in The Lord of the Rings books and movies, and the area is said to have inspired the more idyllic, pastoral parts of JRR Tolkien’s epic works. While you’re no more likely to see short people with hairy feet there than anywhere else, it does have many other attractions.

Mountain-bikers love the trails in the area. There are also hiking-trails to suit any fitness level and local restaurants offer everything from pub-grub to fine dining. See www.hogsbackinfo.co.za

SUTHERLAND

Star-gazing can be very rewarding with just the naked eye and a flask of something to keep you warm, but if you want some technology on your side, you can head to Sutherland, about four hours’ drive from Cape Town. Sutherland is world-famous for its stars and its SALT (Southern African Large Telescope), one of the biggest optical telescopes in the world.

The SAAO (Southern African Astronomical Observatory) has set up several telescopes for visitors, and the Sterland guesthouse, for example, offers telescopes for guests’ use. Day-time attractions in the area include hiking and four-by-four trails. See www.sutherlandinfo.co.za. Sutherland is often one of the coldest places in the country, but that hasn’t stopped a steady flow of visitors going there to stare into the universe and to, appropriately, give the experience 4.5/5 stars on www.tripadvisor.com

NAMIBIA

Away from its towns, Namibia has very little light pollution. The desert climate boasts very few clouds, allowing for excellent stargazing. In fact, alongside Hawaii and Chile, Namibia as among the world’s best places to do so. There are many guided tours and a number of guesthouses have telescopes for guests’ use, like Hakos Guest Farm and Tivoli Southern Sky Guest Farm.

Straddling the border between South Africa and Namibia, the ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park has a starkly beautiful mountain-desert landscape and is essentially uninhabited. This means no light pollution, or pollution of any sort, creating ideal conditions for astronomy. Visitors have also found the lack of cell phone coverage liberating. (Also see our post about Digitial Detox). There are plenty of campsites, but you’ll need a four-by-four vehicle to traverse the park. The Orange River has some excellent fly-fishing too.

British Airways boosts seats to Lagos

Refurbished Boeing 747s offer more seats, lie-flat beds, state-of-the art inflight entertainment, enhanced interiors.

British Airways is increasing the number of seats to Nigeria, introducing its newly refurbished Boeing 747-400s to Lagos from September.

The aircraft are larger than the Boeing 777s which the airline currently operates and will add an extra 343 seats a week on the busy route between London and Nigeria’s commercial capital.

As well as a refreshed interior, with the look and feel of British Airways newest aircraft, and state-of-the-art entertainment system, the revamped 747s also have a larger Club World cabin, with 16 more lie-flat beds.

British Airways

The refurbished jumbos are already in service on routes including New York, Chicago, Johannesburg, Dubai, Boston, Riyadh, Kuwait, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Washington DC.

Kola Olayinka, British Airways commercial manager in Nigeria, says: “We know customers who fly in these aircraft appreciate the improved interiors, with their mood lighting, updated  seating and the new entertainment system.”

The aircraft are equipped with Panasonic’s next-generation eX3 entertainment system, which will give customers a choice of over 1,300 hours of entertainment, including more than 130 movies and 400 TV programmes on larger, high-resolution screens, with touch and swipe functionality, giving the system the familiar feel of using a tablet.

As part of the upgrade, customers in World Traveller Plus will now have access to a universal power socket at every seat, capable of accepting plugs from the UK, US and Europe. In addition, World Traveller customers will have their own USB sockets to power phones and tablets.

New seat foams have been installed in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus to increase customer comfort and updated seat covers fitted to match those on the A380 and 787.

Seats on the new Boeing 747 service are on sale from 19 July 2017. The flight numbers and schedule will remain the same with BA75 departing Heathrow at 11:30 and landing in Lagos at 17:55. The return service operates as BA74, leaving Lagos at 22:55 and arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 at 05:25 the following morning.

British Airways has also launched its multi-million pound investment plan to benefit its customers with a focus on excellence in the premium cabins and more choice and quality for all.

Four hundred million pounds will be spent on Club World with an emphasis on improved catering and sleep, and a new seat in the future. At Heathrow a First Wing check-in area with direct security and lounge access has launched, and lounges around the airline’s network are to be revamped and improved. The Club Europe cabin has also been introduced on UK domestic services and all customers can look forward to the latest generation Wi-Fi across British Airways’ long-haul and short-haul fleets over the next two years.

Put big snores, pummelled curries and licked folds on your UK bucket-list

The UK offers many attractions for all tastes, but a look at a map of the island shows some pretty unusual and intriguing place-names. Sue Petrie, British Airways’ Commercial Manager for Southern Africa, offers the following selection of oddities, along with clues as to how the names came about, and diversions and attractions nearby.

Travellers take selfies in front of signposts for Pratt’s Bottom (the London borough of Bromley), Bell End and Minge Lane (Worcestershire), Brown Willy (Cornwall), Boggy Bottom (Hertfordshire) Twatt (Orkney), Nob End (South Lancashire), Fanny Barks (Durham) and Scratchy Bottom (Dorset).

But, Petrie suggests starting with the capital, which has a population of around 8,6m people. London has a world-renowned public-transport system to move everyone around, and visitors can get access to all its modes of transport with an Oyster Visitor smartcard.

London Tower Bridge

One of the easiest ways to commute around London is by Tube, the underground railway system, which is a massive, busy and efficient artery running through the city. It’s an excellent way to access the capital’s many wonders and find places with some pretty bizarre names.

Monikers that have teenage boys nudging each other and sniggering include Mudchute, Cockfosters, St John’s Wood, Lickfold and Shepherd’s Bush.

Origins? Cockfosters seems simple enough: it was named for the chief (cock) forester, later shortened to “foster”.

Nearby, at the former Hendon Aerodrome, is the Royal Air Force Museum. As you’d expect, there are plenty of aircraft on exhibit, along with modern, interactive displays. A bonus is the flight simulator, which offers a variety of exhilarating rides, including aerobatics with the Red Arrows team and an air-race from the pioneering 1930s. The museum has a small restaurant, but if you fancy something more substantial, Skewd Kitchen offers Mediterranean and Turkish food and has had good reviews.

Goodge Street, in Fitzrovia, Soho, sounds like slang for something saucy, and it’s also two minutes’ walk from the Salt Yard, a tapas-style eatery that also offers charcuterie and cheeseboards. Its expansively-named Hot Smoked Gloucester Old Spot Pork Belly with Smoked Apple and Cider Glaze has helped it score four stars on TripAdvisor.

Golders Green is pretty straightforward: it was the surname of a local landowner and the “green” simply refers to the open land on which housing was later built. Golders Road was the site of the Lido Picture House, a cinema beloved by locals and known for a bit of unintended humour in 1988. One night a high wind blew the ‘t’ off the sign advertising the screening of the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, much to the mirth of the area’s predominantly Jewish population.

Some visitors and locals joke that another Green – Turnham Green this time – is the ideal place to meet environmentally friendly people (greenies). It’s also where you’ll the find Sipsmith Distillery, which has been making London gin since 1820. Nearby is the Fuller’s Griffin Brewery, reputed to be the last family-run brewery in London, operating since 1828. Both venues offer tours and tipples.

Curry Mallet is in picturesque, rural Somerset, so not on the London Tube-line. The name has nothing to do with tenderising ingredients for a korma though, as any of its 300-odd residents will explain.  The tiny village’s history is intertwined with events that shaped Britain, like the Magna Carta and the Battle of Hastings and it was mentioned in the Domesday Book (essentially the first survey of land and population in Britain) in 1086. The area also has plenty of Roman history.

Also noted in the Domesday Book was the North Norfolk village of Great Snoring, slightly larger than its neighbour, Little Snoring. Both are small, but neither are particularly sleepy.

No Man’s Land Fort looks like the lair of a Bond super-villain, but it’s also a luxury hotel. It juts out of the sea just off the Isle of Wight, near Portsmouth, like a concrete-and-steel cupcake that belies the opulence within. It was built 150 years ago in response to the threat of invasion by the forces of Napoleon III. Being stationed there at the time, and in the conflicts that followed, was pretty grim and the garrison was selected on the basis of being unable to swim to freedom. Now a luxury hotel and spa, its most sought-after accommodation is the lighthouse suite, with 360-degree views over the Solent.

UK Taxi

One way to help decipher some of the UK’s names, is to understand their origins in the languages of yore. For example, a “chester” or a “caster” was a fortified Roman camp, hence Manchester, Doncaster, Gloucester and so on.

“Mouth” refers to a river-mouth: Cockermouth in Cumbria is so named because it’s where the Cocker River flows into the Derwent River. Not only does the area offer splendid views for hikers and road-trippers, but Wild Zucchinis Bistro gets 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor for its crispy duck wrap and other fare.

“Beck” also refers to a river, hence Troutbeck, Holbeck, Beckinsale and the delightfully named Tooting Bec. “Aber” in the prefix to a place-name refers to a river-mouth, hence Aberdeen, Aberystwyth, Aberdyfi and so on. Aberfeldy is a small town in the Perthshire Highlands of Scotland, so scenic that the Scottish nation’s national poet, Robert Burns, wrote a poem about it. You can hike through a forest – the Berks of Aberfeldy – to a bridge directly over the Falls of Moness.

On your return to the village, you can reward yourself for braving the great outdoors by visiting the Dewar’s Distillery, which offers tours, interactive multimedia exhibitions on whisky, and of course, tastings galore.

British Airways flies to the UK from South Africa daily.

British Airways