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

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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!

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  • 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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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(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

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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‘.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Pornic Scenery: A Must-See

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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!

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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:

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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

Reflecting On The Big Apple | World Tour 2018 #5

My story with New York City started some 20 years ago, which is about as far as my memory can get.

The City Of My Dreams And Tears

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Growing up, every wall of our home was filled with pictures of New York, mostly beautiful, huge puzzles that my Mom had assembled and hung on our walls. And I remember dreaming about jumping inside the pictures, seeing in real life what seemed to be this perfect place, with colours and lights everywhere…

My parents actually went on their honeymoon in New York City, some 27 years ago. In that faraway time, the Twin Towers were still standing, and terrorist threats were only an possibility, not so vivid in the minds of all inhabitants of the world.

I actually remember where I was that day in 2001, even though I still was very young, and I also remember the minute of silence we did at school. Even then, my eyes teared up, although I didn’t have any idea of what was really going on, except the essential: that people, lots of people, were killed.

Five years later, as my mom and I were huge film-lovers, we went to see the movie United 93, true story about this plane filled with civilians, that ended up crashing in the countryside rather than on the Pentagon, which it was aiming at. I cried my eyes out. This was heartbreaking.

The 9/11 Memorial

So, when we went to the 9/11 Memorial… and of course, I cried again. All those names, written down on the sides. Those huge holes in the ground, where the towers once stood. All those trees planted in memory of those who have died. The new tower, symbolically surnamed the ‘Freedom Tower‘. All those people reflecting, families praying in front of the name of their loved one, flowers put inside the carved names of those whose birthday it was that day… This was all too much. But I needed to see it, be there. Experience it. And try to understand, as best as I could what the scar that that day had left on the world was like.

If you ever go to NYC, I urge you to experience it as well. If your memory of this horrific event is blurry, either because you were too young when it happened or just not even born, please, document yourself. Because I believe it is our history that shape us, and the collective memory we share that makes us humans.

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The One World Observatory At The Freedom Tower

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The Freedom Tower, ending its course in the skies above…

We took time to visit the One World Observatory, which was one third of the price of the Empire State Building and just as good, if not better, for the view of the City. The tower is very futuristic, and the explanations on its observation deck pretty good. We stayed at a presentation given about the City and its history, and it was great!

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Conclusion: Until Next Time…

All in all, my time in New York City left me the feeling I imagined it would, but was truly unexpected as for its visual and some of its vibe. When we first got there, every minute I was thinking to myself ‘What the hell! this building is too big/short! this isn’t at the right place! this isn’t the right colour! this shouldn’t be here!…‘ What happened is that I had gotten a mental image from movies, TV shows and documentaries over the years, and that image was completely wrong. I just felt like everything was off, not as I imagined it, and it made me feel very sad for a few days…

But after a while, almost as if an adaptation had taken place, I just knew what everybody was looking for there: the energy of the place. Its incredible energy. One that can drive anybody, one that can touch anyone, and most of all one that can adopt any of us! Any colour, race, religion, politics, age, tastes… are accepted there.

New York truly is a haven, and although it might not be the case anymore in the future, due to the closing of frontiers, people who live there are the most eclectic I have ever seen in my life, coming from absolutely all horizons…

I definitely have a lot I still need to see and experience there, because in that sort of place, you’re never finished, and it still amazes you after decades of knowing it…


Hope I gave you enough insight, and transmitted you the will to visit New York City!

Signing off,

Lilly, aka The French Hat

Winning The World Cup & Enjoying Manhattan | World Tour 2018 #4

We had a total of 6 days in New York City: from July 12 to 18. In the first three days we spent a lot of time walking, at an average of 20 km per day, under a heat of 33 to 37°C! So for the last three days, we took it easy:

FIFA World Cup

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Waiting for the match to start…

On Sunday morning (July 15), we woke up a bit later, and went to a nearby pub to watch the FIFA World Cup final match between France & Croatia. It was such a good experience, and even more as France won!!! Since then, every person we’ve met in NYC has congratulated us for that win as soon as they understood we were French haha! We got to Times Square just in time to see french supporters singing their joy and  walking down the street screaming their joy!

Times Square Market: Cheap/Great Stuff

Sunday brought more closed streets in NYC creating more pedestrians areas, and street markets: there was a big one on Broadway, all the way from Central Park to Times Square. We wandered around, purchased cheap sunglasses & jewellery, and just enjoyed being there.

Chinatown: Not What It Once Was…

full-time-explorer-day-on-a-dime-how-to-spend-a-day-in-chinatown-for-under-30-new-york-city-budget-street-pagodaWe headed towards Canal Street, directly by subway. Originally we wanted to see the morning street market on Canal Street on Sundays, but we arrived there too late. That wasn’t a problem as we were still able to visit Chinatown for a while. My parents were very disappointed as it had changed a lot since they last visited. There was a pagoda in particular that they remembered brighter and cleaner…

As for me, I didn’t imagine Chinatown like that, and in retrospect that was the Chinatown I least preferred in the whole trip!

Little Italy

Little Italy was right next to Chinatown, and was so small I barely noticed it. We walked through it for about 20 minutes, purchased ice creams… and that was it. Aside restaurants, we didn’t see anything interesting. I’m sure the place is great when you live in NYC and want to get Italian food, and specialised supermarkets.

The Cloysters

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Going to the Cloysters, in northern Manhattan, was an experience in itself as it was so far: it took us nearly 45 minutes by subway to get there. Once we got out of the subway, everything outside had changed: we had left the noise and the smell of Manhattan behind us, and were now wrapped up in silence only broken by forest sounds… which was very nice.

We went to visit the buildings of the Cloysters for about 30 minutes as they were closing early, at 5 pm.

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The Met Cloisters, located on four acres overlooking the Hudson River in northern Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, is the branch of the Museum dedicated to the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe. Deriving its name from the medieval cloisters that form the core of the building, it presents a harmonious and evocative setting for more than 2,000 exceptional artworks and architectural elements from the medieval West.

We then took the bus to go back downtown: we enjoyed the long ride as it took us through Harlem, and all the way back to Central Park.

Carriage Ride in Central Park

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IDK why but I kept wanting to call one of them Philibert as in The Beauty And The Beast haha

On Monday we had the chance to get on a 20 minute carriage ride in Central Park! This was a bit pricyn especially for tourists like us but we take it upon ourselves! haha

The driver was extremely friendly and he told us all about the parts of Central Park we were visiting. He also congratulated us for winning the World Cup, and took lots of photos of us inside the carriage!

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I love this one despite my cringy pose because our horse posed as well!!!

Tour Bus: City Sightseeing NYC

Yes… after almost a week of walking around on foot, we finally gave in and payed A LOT to go on a tour bus. We chose the red company (not sponsored) and it was actually great!

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We sat on the upper deck, even though it was pouring rain at some point: we had raincoats that they gave us and a lot of courage that day! We laughed a lot because we were completely drenched in the end… good times!


This concludes (almost) all the activities we got around to do in New York City, but obviously I wouldn’t conclude like that without talking about the One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial; so stay tuned for the next article!

Take care & have a good one,

Lilly, aka The French Hat