What 30+ Hours Spent On Planes Have Taught Me | Tips & Tricks #1

You see, I have social anxiety, always had, and it’s pretty bad, enough to be a real pain in my life. It manifests itself even more during holidays, because my confidence always reaches a low point.

So when I had to leave home for the World Tour I did this summer 2018 – which I talk to you about here – with my parents and then only my dad, I knew I would have to be stronger than usual, at least to survive on long-haul flights.

To give you a bit of a context, before that, I had never been on a long-haul flight. Now  I shall say I’ve become an expert, as I’ve successfully survived through 7 (out of 9 flights in total) in only 1 month.

keep_calm_and_travel_on_poster-r16ddfc74a0bf4670a3ca14e018493477_wvg_8byvr_540Our first flight from Paris to New York was more than 8 hours long, which at the time seemed to go on forever. For me it rhymed with hell on earth (well actually hell in the air): 8 hours, stuck in a confined area, 10,000 feet up, in a uncomfortable seat, without any space nor air to breathe properly, surrounded by strangers mostly nervous and uncomfortable too… To be honest, it does sound like the beginning of a horror movie.

And of course, my anxiety levels were up to the roof for this first flight. But I managed to find things to keep me calm throughout all the 9 flights, and here are 5 of my most efficient tips, real tips that actually helped me survive this month of travel!

1. Bring Your Own Stuff

20180801_144105

This is by far my most efficient tip. If you suffer from social anxiety like me, you would need to bring:

  • your own pillow and neck-pillow,
  • your own blanket,
  • your own comfortable socks,
  • your own headphones,
  • your own games, books, magazines or anything else that will keep you occupied as usual.

I cannot stress enough the ‘as usual‘ part as this is what makes this tip so efficient: you need to trick your brain into thinking you’re home, or in a place you know, in order to tackle anxiety and make the hours go faster and more smoothly.

Of course I know most of the stuff I’ve listed is provided by most companies, but trust me when I say you’re better off with your own, and not only because some companies actually re-use the same stuff already used by other passengers, sometimes without even washing it, presenting it to you in a closed plastic bag. Yes. And the same goes with the seats, the armrests, and headrests, which hardly get washed. But I’ll talk about hygiene in another tip: for now the point is to bring your own, washed, clean, stuff.

Pillow-tip: Also, if you’re wondering how to bring your own pillow without being too encumbered at the airport, just bring a folded pillowcase with you, which DSC_1633you can then load with clothes (thereby reducing the weight of your luggage at the same time). But really you can make it out of anything: my own pillow was made of my big Sostrene Grene black linen tote bag, filled with the stuff I wanted to have with me on the plane, wrapped up in my hoodie, which I then closed by tying the loops together!

2. Don’t Stress Over Your Seat Too Much

The number 1 tip some people give is to choose your seat carefully. I’d say okay, but following which criteria? There’s as much criteria as there are people, and I would say the best place on a plane really much depends on yourself, and your preferences!

EF-seat-map-2

  • If you know you will be most anxious about being in a confined area, like me, I’d suggest to get a window seat, to be able to see what’s going on outside! Definitely do not get a aisle seat, and on bigger planes that have rows like ones above, avoid sitting in the middle area D/E/G/H because you won’t be able to see anything and it will for sure make you anxious, especially during take-off and landing!
  • Avoiding the middle seats also goes if you don’t like being stuck between people: I would suggest avoiding the B, E, G, and K seats. Be aware that sometimes airplanes only have 3 seats in the middle, or none at all, depending on the type of flight: don’t go too fast on the website when you’re choosing your seats, as every plane has its own specifications!
  • If your main concern is space, then also get an aisle seat to be able to stretch your legs, or even better, a seat at the front row, right after a dividing wall: just know that those seats do have a retractable table in the armrests, but don’t necessarily have a screen. Their main plus is that there is nothing in front of them so you have a lot of space to stretch your legs!
  • If you’re most anxious about being able to go to the restrooms quite a lot (because you know you will be anxious, because you know you just pee a lot, or simply because you’re pregnant!), then definitely get a aisle seat, whether on C, D, H or J: this way you’ll be able to stand up and go without disturbing anyone! Obviously, if you can, get a seat that is closer to the restrooms. There usually are at the front and the end of the aircraft, and on big planes there are also restrooms in the middle, on each side.
  • If you would like to sleep without being disturbed, then get those seats in the middle, or window seats.
  • If you would like to incline your seat as much as possible without disturbing the person behind you, then get a seat in the last row before a dividing wall, at the end of the aircraft or just at the end of an area (first, economy, quiet area etc…) on big planes.
  • If your main concern is the noise, you should avoid seats directly behind reactors, and prefer seats right at the front or at the back of the plane: those areas are usually quieter. On some flights, there can be ‘quiet areas‘ which you have to pay a bit extra for, but they are worth it. This is like a in-between first class and economy class. They are closed by curtains and dividing walls, and usually empty.

20180801_144630If you really want to get the best seats, go over to Seat Guru* after you’ve paid your plane tickets: this website allows you to know which seats are the best ones on your specific plane. Then go over to your registration site online, and simply book those magic seats!

I know you’re probably thinking ‘Well, you’ve entitled this ‘Do not stress over your seat’ but you’ve actually been saying the opposite!‘ and I would say you’re perfectly right, but here’s my conclusion (and my real tip):

 

All of what I’ve just said before doesn’t matter, because whatever seat you get on the plane, it will be uncomfortable, and there isn’t one seat or row that can be called ‘the best’. Why? Because the definition of good entirely depends on your preferences, which may even vary from one flight to another!

For example, if you know you’ll be tired on the plane because it is a night flight, then make sure you get a seat where you won’t be disturbed for the whole duration of the flight. But if your flight starts on early afternoon, make sure you get an aisle seat to be able to stretch your legs and go to the bathroom as you like!

Also, if you know your plane is going to be huge (Boeing 747 or Airbus A380) do not worry about anything I’ve said before, because those planes are so comfortable and spacious that you won’t even realize you’re on an aircraft.

airbus-a380-1
Emirates Airbus A380 – we took 2 of them when we got back from Singapore!

So the best place you can get depends entirely on you! Just be aware of all the possibilities you have and you’ll be fine!

3. Bring Water And Food

A 10-hour flight is long, very long. Especially if you anxiously wait for food.

cathering-thai

Usually you get 3 meals in a 10-hour flight. I don’t know the rule for sure but the company usually respects normal hours to eat.

For example, even if you cross on another time zone, flight attendants will bring you food when it lunch/dinner time in the place you’ve left. Same goes with breakfast and a small snack in the middle of the afternoon.

You could be thinking that’s more than alberto-ignacio-ardila-conoce-la-comida-de-avic3b3n-sin-tener-que-probarlaenough to stay fulfilled, but it actually isn’t: even for me the portions were too small. To give you a bit of a background, I’m french, therefore not used to big portions as in America for example, and I don’t eat that much anyway. But the portions were so small I always had to purchase food at the airport, after the security check, to bring on the plane with me!

The same goes with water: you usually get 4 or 5 drinks during a 10-hour flight, and you can ask a glass of water each time, but this cannot be enough under any circumstances. You need to double the amount of water you would normally drink: so for every 8 hours, you should drink up to 2 L of water to stay hydrated! This is due to the air-recycling inside the cabin, which is creating an extremely dry environment (see more details below).

Water tips: bring your bottle with you. I would suggest bringing a 1,5 L bottle. To pass the security check, present it empty: the security won’t say anything to you even if you see signs everywhere telling you to get rid of your bottles! What they don’t want are fluids, because you can have explosives in them. So if you have an empty bottle, that doesn’t interest them! Then, you can refill your bottle in any bathroom, or with any source you find, especially for that purpose!

On the plane, you can actually ask the flight attendants to refill your bottle for you when they pass between seats offering drinks! Not a lot of people know this, so there actually always is enough water for everyone because they have extra.

4. Always Go To The Restrooms When You Have The Chance

630x355

This is a small but efficient tip.

Go to the bathroom right before boarding the plane, right after take-off, and more generally, don’t wait to go: at the second you start to get cramps, because if you wait, you’re likely to get stuck for a long time in a queue that never seems to end..

People usually tend to go all at once an hour or two after take-off, and the line can go on forever! Imagine all 300 passengers or more all sharing 4 or 6 bathrooms at the same time?! And usually, the toilet paper is lacking after 2 hours in the air. So make sure you go before all that frenzy!

5. Stay Focused On Your Well-Being

Who said spending long hours on airplanes should equal to landing in a poor physical condition? In fact, if you follow the basic recommendations, not one spot is likely to appear on your face, nor your nose is going to be runny or your throat sore. It all depends on how much effort you put in your well-being during the flight.

travel-size-skincare-for-your-carry-on-luggage
(c) Beautygeeks

Firstly, be prepared, and bring your skincare and eye-care stuff: as long as you respect the size requirements for liquids, you can bring whatever you need/want:

  • hand cream,
  • face cream,
  • lip balm,
  • hand sanitizer,
  • eye drops,
  • eye masks,
  • face masks…

whatever will help your skin stay hydrated and your eyes not feel sore and be red. Because of course, the biggest enemy inside the plane cabin is dehydration.

Why is it that the inside of an aircraft cabin is so dry? It is due to the cabin pressurization, which is a process in which conditioned air is pumped into the cabin of an aircraft or spacecraft, in order to create a safe and comfortable environment for passengers and crew flying at high altitudes. For aircraft, this air is usually bled off from the gas turbine engines at the compressor stage.

Be careful though as the pressure will make your creams literally escape from their container as soon as you open them!

Secondly, drink the water you’ve taken with you! Nothing replaces water to be really hydrated, so drink as much as you can, even if it means you’ll go to the bathroom a lot: the choice is yours to make.


I hope those tips were useful to you, please make sure to like this article or leave me a comment if you’ve learned something or if you know you’ll be using one of my tips on your next flight! I’d be delighted to hear from you 🙂

Take care and have a good one,

Lilly, aka The French Hat


*Not sponsored

One Long Weekend In Pornic | Excursion #1

Don’t be fooled by the title: Pornic is the name of a small seaside town in west France, not an onomatopoeia derived from a rude word: in fact, it is derived from ‘pornit‘ which means ‘pretty, flourishing harbour‘.

MAP

Historically Pornic was part of Brittany, and the Duc de Bretagne even built a castle there in the 5th Century to protect the town from Vikings – although it is not there anymore, there’s still a beautiful castle right at the centre of the town!

20180817_211624

Anyway, I went to see one of my closest friends who has moved out there for work, and we spent five wonderful days sun bathing, seashore walking and cycling, watching theatre plays, eating ice creams, and just enjoying life at its fullest. Actually she also has a blog, about the cycling excursions she makes in the area, if you wanna check it out: Pornicavelo (in French).

Pornic City: Typical French Sight

My first thought when I arrived was that the scenery was absolutely incredible, the weather was perfect, and the vibe (end-of-summer like) truly amazing.

20180817_214119

The town is pretty small, even though it was coupled with two other nearby towns 40 years ago, Sainte-Marie-sur-mer and Clion-sur-mer, but it has everything you would need: a library, coffee shops, a great choice of restaurants, great places to eat ice creams, a hat shop (!!!), a casino, a cinema, and even a real castle, still inhabited by french noble descendants!

20180817_214008

All of this is gathered around a small harbour, the Vieux Port de Plaisance, which is lacking water most of the day due to the flow of the tide. From early morning, the ocean retires, only to come again rather late in the evening, each day.

Aside from going to various shops, and to purchase a delicious ice cream near the castle, we went to see a play, which was held outside in an amazing setting: right under the castle, in front of the harbour. The play was Scapin the Schemer (Molière), but not in a classic performance: it was played in a 60’s setting, with Elvis Presley music, big 60’s skirts for girls and leather jackets for boys!

20180819_224039

Pornic Scenery: A Must-See

20180818_164148

Aside from beautiful beaches and typical fishing huts on top of high stilts, you can actually see quite a lot of historical places in Pornic. In fact the town was a witness to the early Celtic culture, its first inhabitants being already settled there more than 100,000 years before our era… You can still see quite a lot of cairns and other megaliths, some of them being 5,000 years old!

20180820_184309

Cairns and megaliths are large stones, used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. The word megalithic describes structures made of such large stones without the use of mortar or concrete, representing periods of prehistory characterised by such constructions. For later periods, the word monolith, with an overlapping meaning, is more likely to be used.

The construction of these structures took place mainly in the Neolithic period (though earlier Mesolithic examples are known) and continued into the Chalcolithic period and the Bronze Age.

We spent one late afternoon on the beach, which was very nice, apart from the fact that I hurt myself pretty bad on one particular rock, hidden under the surface of the water… but one must see the glass half-full, so I should say that the water was extremely nice and hot (approximately 23°C, which is very hot for the ocean), and that I got to pick up about twenty gorgeous seashells on the beach!

Here are the other amazing pictures I took along the days:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I’ll be for sure visiting my friend again in the next 5 years, Pornic was an absolute must-see! A big thank you to her for having welcomed me for 5 days!

Signing off for today,

Lilly, aka The French Hat

San Francisco, Or The Fog City | World Tour #6

Around nine hours after leaving New York City on July 18th, we arrived in California and I set foot on the west coast of the United States for the first time in my life.


8 long hours on the plane helped me realize I wasn’t in New York anymore. The 7 magic days there were over. But I didn’t feel sad. A very different and beautiful place was awaiting me: San Francisco.

After a long-awaited dinner in a renowned Japanese sushi restaurant the night we arrived, here is what we discovered on our first day in San Francisco.

Getting Our City Passes

san-francisco-citypass-in-san-francisco-457585

This isn’t sponsored by City Pass® but I thought I would talk to you about them.

At first we were a bit worried those passes were just a rip-off for tourists, so we didn’t get any in New York. But we decided to get one each in San Francisco, as advised in my Lonely Planet® guide. What a wonderful choice we made: it allowed us to get around so easily and go on so many more adventures, not having to pay for it each time!

In short: we paid a rather small price each ($82) to get 4 tickets available in the listed attractions + 3 days of free MUNI public transportation as well as rides in the famous Cable cars! What more could we ask for? The price for the attractions were discounted at more than 40%, and they were:

  • The California Academy of Sciences
  • The Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure
  • The Aquarium of the Bay
  • The Exploratorium or The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

We did each and every one of these attractions and had the best time ever 🙂

To get our passes, we went to the San Francisco Visitor Information Center, located on 900 Market St, Lower Hallidie Plaza, near the Powell BART Station, but you can also buy them online, or before each of the attractions listed above!

Morning At Pier 39

20180719_103306

After getting our passes, we took the MUNI streetcar to Pier 39, one of the main spots of San Francisco. And it was everything we wished it would be.

20180719_103822

The sights were so typical, and to me it looked as if I had directly been taken to a movie set.

I mean there were just so many things to look at! So many cool-looking signs, shops, buildings, colours! This was definitely the hip spot, and I took great photos there.

Every single time I looked around I discovered something I hadn’t seen the first time.

Of course there were lots of people there, as this is definitely a must-see, and even though it was pretty early in the day, it was difficult to take pictures without anyone on them!

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to the Pier was to see the famous sea lions! The bay is notorious for being the habitat of many sea lions, that come and rest right next to the Pier!

20180719_111220

We looked at them for quite some time as they were so funny to listen to and observe! Very playful creatures 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bay Cruise Adventure

20180719_123002

We couldn’t come to San Francisco without going on a boat trip to see the Golden Gate Bridge up close. So that’s what we did, with the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure!

We hop on a big boat, which took us right below the famous bright orange bridge, and back around Alcatraz Island, all of this while telling us a bit about the history of San Francisco and those two sights specifically.

Although it was a bit cold, we had the best time, and you know I LOVE BOAT TRIPS!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Alcatraz Prison

20180719_124325

Even seeing it now of the picture I took gives me chills. To think that people were actually imprisoned there, even Al Capone, feels very disturbing. Also, seeing it in person after having heard all those escape stories is really strange: how on earth could inmates have gone past those sharp rocks, and jumped into the ice-cold water without dying?

Also, it was funny to see how so many shops were DEDICATED to Alcatraz goodies and clothes! I loved it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lunch At The Crab House

20180719_132338

You see those two huge crabs? Well they ended up in our stomachs, and I even wiped the melted butter off the pan (sorry, not sorry)! It was the most delicious meal EVER.

As neither of us had had to shell whole crabs before, we just had a few moments we’re not exactly proud of, as we couldn’t understand how we were supposed to do it! But then the waiter-in-charge came, cracked every part down, and we ate the whole thing(s)!

Afternoon At The Aquarium Of The Bay

aquarium-bay-san-francisco-attraction

I don’t have much to tell about this aquarium apart from this:

  • There is a freaking underwater tunnel with actual SHARKS inside the water. YES. They swim directly above your head.
  • You can TOUCH small sharks, ray mantas, starfishes and anemones. YES.
  • If you ever come to San Francisco, you have to visit it. YES.

That’s all I need to say! We had a great time!

Quick Visit To Chinatown

20180719_172701

After leaving the Aquarium, we took the streetcar again, and then the bus, heading out to Chinatown.

This district is only 3 streets large per 5 blocks long, but it was like we landed it China: I much preferred this Chinatown, compared to the NYC Chinatown: the colours were beautiful, it was well maintained, and there were actual Chinese people walking around!

As a matter of fact, when we arrived we were stopped in the middle of the street because a shooting was going on! That was a funny thing to watch for a while 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Evening At The ExplOratorium

Exploratorium_at_Pier_15

At first we weren’t sure what it was: a museum? A science institution? Well, we found out that it was actually both of those things.

Our love of science was fulfilled as we had the best time walking along those corridors, experimenting every science installation that seemed fun!!! Hundreds and hundreds of installations, designed to make you learn more about scientific facts and phenomena, gathered on 3 levels! This was HUGE, and full of people!

Exploratorium_HERO

After almost 3 hours spent there and LOTS of scientific experiments and discoveries made, we decided it was time to leave, because we clearly didn’t have time to see everything… So, we went outside, and had a breathtaking view of the Bay Bridge

20180719_203006

That day we had dinner at the Fog Harbour Fish House, the first restaurant located on Pier 39. My mother and I had a clam chowder in bread bowl, specialty of San Francisco, which was absolutely delicious and looked like this:

chili-clam-chowder-full

And then it was time to head back to our hotel!


Yes, we did A LOT of things that first day, as our first day in New York City, just because we were so excited to be here, and frankly we had the BEST time ever.

Hope this post made you wish you’d come with us!

Signing off,

Lilly, aka The French Hat