To commence my Cabin Crew chronicles, I think it’s best if I take you on a journey around the world, to a few of my favourite places that I have visited so far. Being Cabin Crew is simultaneously the most interesting and often the most challenging (and messy) role I have ever had the pleasure of securing. Flying is not always as glamorous as it may seem, but sometimes, the roster Gods smile on us we are blessed with nice layovers. This means barely any turn around flights (they are exactly what their name suggests, we fly to a city, stay on the ground for a few hours in the aircraft, and then turn around and fly straight back on the same day!).
The past year has been huge for me. I trekked the Great Wall of China, climbed the Eiffel Tower numerous times, played with lion cubs, kissed a crocodile, went bungee jumping….and was lucky enough to operate flights to Madrid, New York, Rome and Johannesburg to name a few. I will attempt to take you back with me to the cramped and delicious Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, the enormity of Times Square in New York, heat of the jungle Johannesburg and the charming, dusty cobblestones that are quintessentially Rome. Bite by bite, step by step, you can take a walk in my cabin shoes, virtually travel the world, (hopefully with much less rubbish collection and jet lag than I did!
The first stop on our ‘round the trip is Madrid, the capital of Spain, and according to my stomach, the capital of food, too. After a very busy and productive flight (Spaniards love a good chat!) I ventured out with a colleague of mine in an attempt to navigate the Spanish metro system and brave the rain in search of tapas, sangria, pretty photo opportunities and Enrique Iglesias. Only kidding… but if he had offered to show us around then I would not have objected! We followed the dark blue metro line from the Cuzco station and eventually alighted at the Vodaphone SOL Vodafone station in the centre of town. We were met with beautiful buildings on every corner, and after a few photos we set of to our destination, the Museo del Jamón, better known as the “Ham Museum”. We dined on fresh jamón, with a Spanish tortilla and some wine on the side. A very fulfilling snack, yet the prices were quite touristy so I would recommend a visit to the Mercado San Miguel, a kind of indoor food market that has every kind of cuisine you would wish to feast your eyes and tastebuds on! For around 3 euros, you can sample a tasty sangria and varied selection of tapas, small little snacks with a multitude of flavours and textures. The markets featured shredded fish, fruit, sushi, jamón y queso (ham and cheese), sweets, churros, olives and many, more!
After lots of food shopping, we made our way back to the train station, and then back to the hotel for a relaxing bath and an early night. Although it seems as though we didn’t do very much at all, after a 3am wakeup call and being on your feet all day, sometimes you just have to listen to your body and relax, which is all part of the lifestyle of being crew.
Please fasten your seat belts and remain seated at this time, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride over the North Pole! Next stop: NEW YORK!
After a few days of rest (read: unpacking, washing and re-packing) it was time to jet off to New York for the very first time. Even though it wouldn’t be my longest flight (Sydney is 14.5 hours from Dubai, New York is 14 on the way there and around 13 on the way back), I was still so excited to fly to the United States for the first time since obtaining my US visa! The flight departed at around 2am, so I set my alarms for 11pm. Luckily I was far too excited for sleep, because once I saw that it was time to get up, I realised that I had failed to set my alarms properly, and they were actually set to 11am the following morning. Had I made that mistake, the closest I would’ve gotten to New York would’ve been watching Friends while waiting to be pulled out on standby (which is a very real possibility if you miss a flight!). Thankfully, I made it to the briefing on time and before I knew it we were taxiing onto the runway and onwards and upwards to JFK. The flight was again, very busy and physically demanding, but when we landed in New York over two hours late, I was still dying to explore!
Another crew member and I set out for some pancakes at a typical American diner, in Times Square. One hearty meal down, many to go! Next, we moseyed through Times Square, and I was overwhelmed not so much by the amounts of people in the vicinity but by the construction sites everywhere! It was almost like Dubai! We saw the Naked Cowboy amidst the rubble and I must admit I was very impressed given his attire and the almost freezing temperatures! On the agenda next was a stroll through Central Park, to admire the beautiful colours of the season and try an authentic hotdog. Not exactly what I had in mind, very yummy but very tiny and so I may or may not have had two to satisfy the craving! I would’ve loved to have spent hours in Central Park just sitting on the grass and reading a book, but we had other plans. I am a massive fan of Audrey Hepburn and her films, in particular the 1960s classic, Breakfast at Tiffanys. For this reason, it was imperative that we visit Tiffany and Co on 5th Avenue so that I could walk the same pavement as my idol and buy myself a little keepsake. I wandered around in a daze, and even tried to recreate the moment with my own version, having “afternoon tea at Tiffanys” instead! Shopping always features in my layover plans, and New York was no exception!
Prices in the states are much more kind to the Cabin Crew budget (even though New York is on the more pricey side) and so I bought some Nike running shoes and spent a silly amount on highly necessary literature (bags and bags of romance novels and fairy tales) from Barnes and Noble. By this time it was only 5pm and after a being awake for almost 35 hours, my eyelids were starting to droop and the spring in my step had definitely sprung away, to bed, where I should’ve been. Not one to give in to tiredness or pass up an opportunity to enjoy a meal out (in Times Square of all places!) we headed to a little bistro for a New York strip steak and some “fries” (not chips!) and cocktails. Once I had also had dessert and had gone shopping at M&M’s world, I was finally satisfied that I had run myself into the ground and it was time for bed. In the city that never sleeps, neither did I! Supreme tiredness and the central location of our hotel made me feel like I was trying to sleep in a bar rather than a comfy hotel bed, but I wouldn’t change a single element for the world. New York really is a concrete jungle where dreams are made of (well, mine anyway!). I also highly recommend a visit to the Empire State Building even if you are travelling solo, the 360 degree panoramic views from the 82nd floor are worth every second of the wait!
Over now to the other side of the world and the final stop on our world tour for today, Johannesburg, South Africa. Welcome to the land of meat, wine, rugby and lions (what more could one ask for on a layover, really?). Upon our mid morning arrival, the rest of the crew and I decided to take a tour to the lion refuge centre and meet some of the locals there! We journeyed on a “safari” of the reserve, that is used only for rehabilitation and conservation purposes (often a rarity in Africa), and I was thrilled at the myriad of African animals that we were able to observe in their local habitat! Zebras, baboons, wart hogs, gazelles and springbok just to name a few. The second part of the trip was a lion experience, half of which was conducted from the safety of the car, we got to witness a lioness and her cub playing less than a metre from our vehicle. These animals are everything you would expect them to be: regal, playful and huge! The highlight of the day for me was when we were sent into the lion cub “nursery” where we got to play with baby lions for about 5 minutes. These beautiful little creatures were very boisterous and mischievous, and in order to not tire them out we only get to play with them for a little bit so they can have proper rest. A truly breathtaking and awe inspiring experience. After a nap, I ordered a famous banana and peanut butter milkshake from room service. Then, the crew ventured out to a favourite restaurant of mine, the Meat and Company. All in all a great layover in a very fun and surprising location.
So, there you have it. A few highlights of the year of being Cabin Crew. I don’t think that there are many people my age that have been offered (and have been able to accept) the opportunity to travel to such foreign locations as a part of their job. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to see some of the world at such a young age! I hope you have enjoyed this virtual journey around the world and back with me, from the comfort of your own home! I have another list of my Top 10 layovers on my personal travel blog, which I’m sure you’ll love…assuming you like to look at pictures of scrumptious food and hear tales of a very determined (and often absent minded) 20-something-year-old attempting to make her way around the world. Whether they are out in the world or from your desk, wishing you safe and happy travels!