Sunday, November 2, 2008


A highly attractive part of living in Europe is the ease and the affordability of traveling to other countries. And you have the vacation time to do it! (But I can't join my fellow Americans in this complaint; NYU was very generous with days off, and I'll certainly miss this perk.) I don't know how they do it and stay viable, but there are many discount, no-frills European airlines that offer cheap fares to a range of European destinations, if you book your flight well ahead of time.

This past month, I took three flights on easyJet, an airline which Paul in Basel told me about: Berlin to Madrid, Madrid to Basel, and Basel to London (Luton). I didn't save as much money as I could have on these routes because I am totally incapable of making a commitment to a flight in a timely manner, even if I know that the fares will only go up in price. I don't know what I hold out for. I think that I am fearful of locking myself into a date until I am absolutely sure of where I want to go and when. Unfortunately, coming to this level of surety takes a while. We all have our issues.

After several anxious days in Berlin and Warsaw, driving myself absolutely crazy trying to decide where to go in my two free weeks between the marathon in Berlin and the arrival of my mother and her husband in Madrid, I finally took the plunge and booked my tickets. Exactly two weeks after my arrival in Berlin from NYC, I was on an easyJet flight to Madrid, with organic Cheddar, a pumpkin seed roll, rose and aloe yogurt, and apple in my black NYU canvas tote bag for my mid-flight lunch. It was a miracle I was on the plane, or at least in my mind it was. The morning of my flight I had to wait over 20 minutes for my S-bahn train to Berlin's secondary airport, and I made it to the check-in line with only 10 minutes to spare. EasyJet leads you to believe that if "you're late, we won't wait," and I was really afraid that I was going to be late and they wouldn't wait. Sweaty and worked up after checking in, I guzzled a bottle of water, which I had planed to refill before arriving at the departure gate, but after security, I made a beeline for the gate, afraid again that they wouldn't wait for me. In the lounge I remembered my empty bottle, but I didn't dare leave. I didn't want to miss this flight. Without any water on hand, my hydro-anxiety kicked in. How was I going to survive my two-hour flight without water? Well, I knew I could, but I also knew that I would be uncomfortable.

On board and in the aisle seat that I scored (there are no assigned seats; its first-come, first-served on easyJet), I leafed through the menu of beverages and foods on offer. To my great relief, the water was actually a Euro cheaper than the bottles in the vending machine in the departure lounge. I splurged and bought a can of Perrier and happily tucked into my Cheddar sandwich.

Continuing to leaf through the menu, I was really excited to see that there were some Cheddar-flavored snacks on sale. Proof, at last, that Cheddar is an international cheese. Here in airspace that wasn't exactly Cheddar friendly were familiar orange-colored snacks, keeping company with green olives in a vacuum-packed bag. And then I realized that easyJet was an British company. So of course they had something with Cheddar. Hell, they even offered Ribena. I can't imagine anyone else but the English wanting this black currant fruit drink. As a child, I never liked it, but I did name my Rub-a-Dub dolly after it. A strange drink, but an attractively exotic name.

No Cheddar on the flight to Basel, but I could have enjoyed some mountain-dried beef.

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