Europe 27.05.15

Wednesday the 27th of May

“It is a pleasure to have you on board. We will do our best for you to enjoy our service and hospitality. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the flight.”

We had only just boarded the airbus 340-600 but this intercom announcement had already been substantiated. Every seat held a set of packages that came as a surprise to myself and my fellow passengers. Not only did we receive the plastic-wrapped headphones that are standard on all flights but also a sleep pouch containing socks, an eye-cover, a toothbrush, a neck pillow, and to my extreme delight, a wonderfully soft flees blanket. The treats continued with a menu featuring a delicious selection of food AND VODKA. Ahh speak of the decadent devil – the drinks cart just rolled by with a vodka solo and savoury snack in accompaniment. The plane is also decked with USB ports to charge my already depleted phone battery and, to top it off, there is WI FLY – the pun makes it that much better. Etihad Airways has amazingly pulled out all stops to make the passengers of this gruelling fifteen hour flight as comfortable as possible!

We had made the most of our time in the airport this morning. International flights require passengers to arrive at the airport three hours prior to the flight departure time. The taxi dropped us at the departure terminal at 11:30 where we proceeded to move through check in, baggage drop, luggage screening, customs and finally into the airport lounge where we sat down for a quick lunch. Both my parents and I felt the allure of duty free shopping calling us into the nationless area to which taxation tariffs are not applicable. Dad bought BOSE noise cancelling headphones; mum bought Roses by Chloe perfume; I bought Victoria’s Secret panties (I had to – I was under packed on underpants!) I don’t understand why some people become impatient with the time they are required to wait for take off. I would much rather wait and be assured that my luggage has been carefully loaded onto the correct flight than spend any less time in an airport, especially when there is plenty of duty free shopping to be done! Now aboard the plane, I realise this might be the last time I sit between my parents and link their arms with mine as we ascend into the sky to begin our adventure. Maybe next time will be different. Maybe in two years time I will have someone special sitting beside me – but not according to my father as there is no chance anyone would want to be with me so I am stuck holding hands with my family, as is tradition.

It hasn’t been long since I was last in an aeroplane. Just more than a month has passed since my parents and I journeyed to Bali for a cathartic week of relaxation. This trip exposed me to a culture I had not yet encountered that found balance between the soul and its surroundings. Through this experience I learnt a lot about myself and returned with an enlightened outlook. My purpose for this trip is to reconnect with my family overseas while I embrace my independence through solo travel and various european cultures. It may sound strange, but I want to see. I want to maintain an open mind in order take in all that is new around me with eyes untainted by former bias. The past month has been interesting and I expect the upcoming month to be likewise – watch this space to find out!

This holiday will be unlike any I have embarked on before. The first week will be spent in the Netherlands and Belgium visiting family and celebrating my grandmother’s 85th birthday. After eight days, my parents will fly back to Australia and I will stay a week in Antwerp and explore Belgium! Thereafter I’m off to London where my contiki trip will commence to then journey through the European highlights! I will visit Paris, the Beaujolais Wine Region, the French Riviera, Florence, Rome, Venice, Munich, Rhine Valley and finally Amsterdam where I will spend my final days until I fly back to Australia. I am beyond excited! I hope to document each adventure with many memories in this travel journal – I hope I can keep up to date!

My drink downed in a heartbeat, it’s movie time. First up is The Kingsmen featuring Colin Firth. Dinner arrived midway through the film – I was surprised at how much time had already passed. The main course of stir-fried hoisin chicken rice was complemented with a passionfruit cake and quinoa salad. Having grown quite hungry, I ate every bite of the aeroplane food whilst I watched the conceptually clever film that was action-packed till the very last minute. The coffee cart made its way down the aisle – it had come in good time as I felt my eyes beginning to lull and then close. Next film on the playlist: The Imitation Game. As always with the second viewing of a complex film, I grasped many plot twists and foreshadowed moments I had overlooked in the first.

In the month that has transpired between my last episode of air travel and today, I have kept very busy. Having deferred from university before we left for Bali, narrowly making the census deadline, I have been much happier with all aspects of my life. Since our return, I have been working full time (sometimes 45 hours a week) at a cafe that is walking distance from my home and have enjoyed every minute with the friendly team and loyal customers. I began counting down the days as of Mother’s Day on which we treated mum to Gold Class Cinema after my long day at work. The following week was my friend’s birthday and the week thereafter my birthday. A party comprised of my parents and best friend took to Star City on the evening of my birthday. A wet pussy shot and tequila sunrise kicked off the celebrations in the rustic bar near the edge of the casino. It was dark but unmistakably barren which was not surprising of a Thursday night, but this desolate atmosphere was almost pleasant in comparison to the main casino. I had always envisioned a casino as a glamorous venue visited by worldly individuals at home in the vibrant atmosphere. Instead we were confronted with an empty room of tackily decorated machines and tables that were sparsely inhabited by tired-looking asians in sweatpants. My imagined scene was far from the reality – I was disappointed I had ever believed in the romanticised projection of this gamblers’ trap.

They. Keep. Feeding. Us. Barely halfway through the flight we have been served a savoury snack, a dinner meal, caramel popcorn and now a muffin! This is more than I can digest. I’m up to my third movie, this time something more light-hearted as opposed to the previous complex action flicks. What We Do in the Shadows is a highly entertaining mockumentary exposing the lives of three flat mate vampires – this brings back memories of Nosferatu and the study of Dracula in year 11. The final movie for the flight was Fury featuring Brad Pitt. The plot revolves around an American tanker and its advances against Nazi Germany throughout World War Two. Now more than ever, I am very aware of the reality of the genocide as in a few weeks I will be viewing the remains of one such scene of warfare.

I woke to the intrusive poking of an air hostess. I had fallen asleep with my head face down in my travel pillow on the folding table – it was time to stow it away for our descent and landing. Had only half an hour passed since our final Etihad Airline meal? I had not slept more than one hour throughout the fifteen hour flight; not slept more than one hour since the night before; tiredness was getting to me.

We disembarked into the Abu Dhabi Emirates International Airport. Having come from Australian winter weather of 15 degrees and having prepared to transition into European 15 degrees summer, the climate of Abu Dhabi was unexpected and somewhat uncomfortable. I tied my parka around my waist, thankful that the air-conditioned building sheltered us from the 30 degree ambient heat. The ceiling of the central terminal was composed of correlating hexagons that smoothly flowed into a funnel to the floor. The resident men wearing long white garments were a glimpse of culture in the mutual territory of the airport but apart from this there was little to see. I took a nap on the bench outside our boarding gate for the short time we had to wait. Approximately after midnight, we boarded our flight.

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