Thursday, July 29, 2010

London Bound

After every trip with EasyJet Airlines, I always step off, promising myself never to take another flight with them. Flying with EasyJet is anything but easy. If you manage to get a flight that isn't cancelled (which happens often) and you're patient enough to wait through hours of delays (which happens always), then you'll find yourself onboard, mid-air, hoping that this much turbulence is normal and it's not too late to restore your faith in the religion that you doubt on a regular basis. But because their fares are reasonable and their flights are frequent, you continue to book flights.

This particular evening, I found myself in the EasyJet queue because my fellow Au Pair, Ife, had just finished her demanding nine months with her host family and was en route back home to London. As the devoted and dutiful friend that I am, I was there to help with her luggage. I was there for moral support. I was there for the free place to stay and personal tour guide around London. What can I say?! I'm a giver.

We met back in February at the language school. Two months later, I invited myself on her trip to Barcelona. I have since invited myself on her vacation to Provence, London, vacations with her British friends, and all future trips with her family to Nigeria. We bonded over Au Pair life, over French culture, over our unmet expectations of Lyon’s charm, and our love for all things involving shoes and intelligent men. She rescued me when I needed to escape the chaos of my host family and assuaged my frustrations. In return, I’d go kidnap her up when she couldn’t stand anymore of her French farm life. We talked, we shopped, we dined and we wined. Somewhere in between hiking up the hills of Casis and counting down our days until freedom, a lasting friendship was formed.

But it hasn't always been blue skies because this particular person, when I travel with her, falls victim, every time, to Murphy's Law of if something can go wrong, it will. When we went to Barcelona, our flight was cancelled and we had to drive eight hours back to France. We got lost. We get lost often. We hit traffic. We end up facing the wrong direction on one-way streets. We drive down bus lanes. We use GPS. It rarely helps.

I should've known better than to fly with her.

And there we stood at the EasyJet counter; Ife was reduced to fictitious sobs as she pleaded with the EasyJet employee to make an exception for the extra weight of her luggage, which included the last 9 months of her life. I was (unsuccessfully) trying to turn my tears of laughter into tears of condolence as I watched her One Man Show. For 16 extra kilos, EasyJet was demanding an extra 190 Euros, which for an Au Pair, is an unfeasible amount. Let’s break it down. That is the equivalent of two roundtrip flights to London; 47 Starbucks Grande Lattes at French prices; 40 bottles of good French merlot; potentially 5 pairs of Nine West heels. Lastly, that amounts to enough baguettes to last a French family of five, every day for six months.

There’s something to be said though, about traveling with someone and encountering undesirable situations. You truly get to know that person; how they react; how they handle stress; how many espressos they need to combat exhaustion or how many drinks they need to battle customer service representatives. The person I got to know is the self-adoring, idiosyncratic, overly dramatic, assertive but calm, go-getter that eventually did get her luggage through Check-In without paying a cent extra. As she described, “You forget I’m Nigerian.”

But since she is who she is and she stays true to Murphy’s Law, we entered the security line to board our plane, only to find out that our flight had been cancelled. Of course, why wouldn’t it be?! In the end, we found ourselves in a paid hotel suite across the street, which wasn’t so bad after living on a farm or in a house full of kids.

The next morning, we made our way to London. The airlines fought again, to refuse her luggage and this time she lost. I suppose you can’t win them all. Minus the hiccups, we proceeded to have a fabulous time in London being tourists, being independent, being without host-families, without stress. So Ife, thank you for an incredible vacation! The friendships that come from traveling the world are nothing short of amazing.

Just as the trip started, it ended with me in line again for another Easy Jet flight. This time to Croatia. Solo.

  • Good friendships
  • Summer time in Europe
  • Gelato.
  • Starting a new book

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Away Message

I jumped. I jumped and guess what happened. I landed on two feet; or more accurately, I landed on a flight from EasyJet, but more on that later.

You can delete my previous French address from your iPhone, Blackberry and address books because no longer am I living with the American family. They went their way and I went mine (And not to boast, but my way still includes Europe, Nutella, and good wine). Will I miss the kids? I think so. Did they thank me for the anxiety provoking round-the-clock care of their children? Sure didn't. Can I let out sigh of relief? Finally.

I wish them the best.
I should have left earlier; not waited until July. I've known this for a while. But I also should've not trusted a French woman to cut my hair two months ago; should've drank more water; eaten less sugar; should've put on sunscreen yesterday; ordered the fish instead of the chicken; and should've doubted my mom in 1996 when she suggested I perm my hair. But, today is a new day. So with my sunscreen already applied, I'm off to explore; sans children; sans Au Pair services; sans anyone else's direction but my own. And with that, here's what happens:
Hi. You've reached Lauren. Sorry I'm not available (even though I'm not) to return your call, text, Facebook message or email (unless, of course, it’s my dad, wanting to send money). I am currently traveling at the moment (and by "moment," I mean "The Entire Month of July"). London, Croatia, Provence, and then heading up to Paris where I will finish my solo travels and meet my dear California friend Rachel. We will proceed to dance our way through France, ending in Cinque Terre, enjoying everything Italian influenced and garlic infused. I invite you to leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as my tan has developed, wine glass is empty, and/or I find the motivation to leave my view of the Adriatic Sea. Ciao.