Friday 10 February 2012

Airport Reviews: LHR Terminal 1

I have spent much, oh much time over the years in London Heathrow Terminal 1.  It’s where all the flights to and from Ireland are based, plus several of the Star Alliance carriers are there too.  It used to be that the Irish flights and domestic flights went from a ghetto with one café and a tiny newsagents – to add insult to injury, you had to walk as far as Wales to get there.  Now, they’ve upgraded the departures lounge and integrated it so that, no matter where you’re going (Cape Town, Belfast) you can – wait for it – shop!  Have edible food!  Buy a book!

The business end
Security can be slow (as throughout Heathrow because of the volume of passengers), so give yourself plenty of time.  If you’re travelling within Britain or to Ireland there’s an extra security measure whereby you get your picture taken before security and then have to pass through an additional checkpoint before getting to your gate.   Leave time.

The fun (?) part
For shopping there are some of the $$$ luxury brand shops that Heathrow delights in, but also a decent sprinkling of high street shops (and all tax free!) including French Connection and LK Bennett.  There is a WH Smith bookshop as well as several newsagents.  For pressies, I recommend checking out Chocolate Box which stocks Artisan du Chocolat and buying some of their sea salt caramel chocolates, possibly the best chocolate creation ever to come out of the British Isles.

[There is also a Dixons electronics shop and, if you don't know already, many airside electronics shops have a service where you can ring up the shop, order your new laptop (or whatever) and arrange to collect it next time you're flying.  Given that VAT on a new computer can be over €100 this is worth taking into account.]

Foodwise (I get so excited about this because I remember when the only option was a very ordinaire chain pub serving bog standard wine and plastic toasties) I would recommend Giraffe as your best bet for a meal: the food comes pretty quickly and is good, although the service can be a wee bit erratic.  Coffeewise there are branches of Pret a Manger (also good for take away picnic food), Nero and Costa.

Extra tip
I don’t know how long they’ll be there, but once you get to the corralling area immediately before the Irish departure gates there are some fairly comfortable sofas.  These have proved very valuable to me when en route from Australia and jet-lagged to falling-over point.

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