Travel days during my college years are always bitter-sweet. It’s the day where I’m set free to be my own person again, but it is also the day I say goodbye to my friends, animals, and family for another five to six months. This time, I will not be heading back to D.C. Instead, I’ll be spending a semester abroad in Rome, one of my favorite places in Europe. This travel day started at 3AM when I woke up and was too anxious to fall back asleep. I worried that if I went back to sleep for the extra half an hour I had left, I wouldn’t wake up in time to catch my flight. Finally, I dragged myself out of bed and, showered and headed for the airport with my mom. This goodbye is one of the hardest. It’s the one that makes me want to beg to stay another week. It’s the last familiar and comfortable face I see before I walk through security. However, once I’m through security and heading to my gate, an exhilarating feeling takes over. It’s the feeling of complete freedom, adventure, and excitement. I’m reminded that traveling is a piece of cake for me, and this trip was going to be the biggest, most wonderful piece of cake because I have been upgraded to first class.
Overpacking or under packing? Cat not included.
How did I get upgraded to first class? By being the spoiled niece. Shoutout to Aunt Pat for the upgrade! Economy will never be the same. I boarded my first plane to Newark at 5:40AM. It was an older plane but the seats were large and spacious. I was so close I could see all of the buttons in the cock-pit before take off. Right away, the people in first class were offered a beverage. The guy next to me ordered a gin and tonic, the surprising part was that he looked the same age as me and was not carded. I also thought about ordering a beverage but decided 6AM was a little too early. Once in the air, the flight attendants offer hot towels that smelled like lemons. I wondered what the point of these were. Then a flight attendant offered me some breakfast. Unaccustomed to such a luxury on a domestic flight, I almost asked if I had to pay for it. This food was edible and even tasty for being so early in the morning. It is probably one of the only times airline food hasn’t made me sick.
The Gods of travel have blessed me by not making me have to switch terminals. All I have to do is walk down the terminal to the United Polaris Lounge where I will spend my 8 hour layover reading, resting, and snacking at the buffet. I even brought quart sized baggies to take snacks with me. This is something I picked up in college. After two cups of coffee and some Irish Oatmeal, I settle down for a couple hours with Michelle Obama to keep me company.
Around 1PM, I headed over to the restaurant in the club where I started my meal with a fresh salad and some Chardonnay. Don’t ask what kind of Chardonnay because I don’t remember. I was just happy to be served at a restaurant/bar like any 20-year-old. Next course was Moroccan braised lamb served on a puffy rice cake and topped with a cool cucumber yogurt sauce. It was infinitely better than any other airport food I could get, but maybe that’s because it was free. After the second course, I was treated to the New York Trio, a small portion of cheesecake, tiramisu, and a cannoli. Around me were business men typing fervently on computers and couples chattering over a couple glasses of wine. As for me, I sat there, looking out the window and watching the planes taxi on the runway. Enjoying ever sip of wine and dreaming of all the things I will see and places I will go in Europe. I strategized how I will spend my four day weekends and the countries I will visit.
Moroccan Braised Lamb and Chardonnay.
After my meal, I found a giant cushion chair to sit in for a couple hours. I started writing and reading interchangeably. About 20 minutes prior to boarding, I left my cozy chair in the lounge to find my gate. It’s an odd sensation to be one of the first ones to board the plane. When I took the short walk to my seat, I was offered a mimosa. Again, they did not ask for my age. In my seat, there were two pillows, a blanket, and a small pouch filled with toothpaste, an eye mask, and some lotion. The seat was comfortable, and it reclined. I settled in to my seat and waited for take off.
When in the air, the flight attendant asked what I wanted for dinner. The lady next to me must’ve be accustomed to this kind of luxury because she knew right away. As for me, I responded “beef?” Apparently this was on the menu because the attendant wasted no time in moving on to the next persons order.
Mimosa and first class!
Moments later, three pieces of raw fish were set in front of me. Along with that, a salad and some bread. I thought it was weird, I didn’t order fish. Raw fish in general doesn’t sound appealing, imagine it coming from an airplane. Thankfully, they served me the beef I ordered, and that’s when I connected the dots that it is a three course meal. The flight attendant served me a yummy cut of steak on a bed of polenta with balsamic vinegar drizzled on top. I savored every bite, knowing I wasn’t going to experience such luxury for a long time. Just when I thought it couldn’t get much better, I had in front of me a beautiful and rich hot fudge sundae. Clearly, I lacked imagination before. After dinner, I watched Crazy Rich Asians, a movie I’ve been meaning to see and a book I’ve been meaning to read. Overall, the movie was cute and it looked good on my extra large screen. At some point I fell asleep, reclined in my seat and with a pillow supporting my head.
I awoke to an announcement that we were landing soon. I missed breakfast, but I didn’t mind because I was still full from dinner. Looking out the window, I could see the Tuscan country side with rolling, green fields with tree boarders. When the plane descended even more, I could see the outline of Rome and the dome of St. Peter’s basking in the sunrise. I had made it to Rome where I was greeted by a team from the university, my next destination.