Just a Wizard Girl living in a Muggle World

 

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If you were a Harry Potter fan growing up, I can almost guarantee that you were that kid asking your parents for an owl, a cat or a toad for your birthday and waiting for your Hogwarts acceptance letter when you turned 11. No? Just me then?

When I was about 12 years old, my mom picked up Sorcerer’s Stone from an airport bookstore. I blew through the first book completely fascinated with the Wizarding World that J.K Rowling created. Sadly, my Hogwarts acceptance letter never came, I continued attending my regular Muggle school.

Fast forward about 15 years, my good friend from Orlando reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in going away for a couple of weeks to visit Europe, I jumped at the chance! My only request, to visit the Warner Bros Studios Tour in London.

We booked tickets with City Wonders Tours; We left our hostel bright and early in our Wizard gear, took the tube to Euston Station where we met the rest of the group and driver who would be taking us to Leavesden, about an hour and a half away from Central London. The tour itself included entrance into the studio and came with a private tour guide that bore a huge resemblance to Luna Lovegood, one of my favorite Harry Potter characters.

Nothing could have prepared us for the next four and a half hours, from the moment you step into the studio you are greeted with posters, costumes, the giant chess pieces the trio play in Sorcerer’s Stone. We were given headsets that were connected to a microphone speaker that our tour guide had so even if we ventured off behind the rest of the group, we could still hear all of the facts she was sharing.

There was a coffee shop that served Starbucks as well as some other treats you could snack on prior to to the start of the tour and a huge gift shop as well. Our tour guide recommended picking up anything we might want for souvenirs during this time because if we waited for the tour to finish, we would get overwhelmed with the crowds trying to shop; boy was she right! The crowds were similar to those you’d find at Disney or Universal during peak season.

We saw The Great Hall and its enchanted ceiling, the Weasley twins after they attempted to put their names in the Triwizard Cup in Goblet of Fire, the actual earrings that Evanna Lynch made specifically for her Luna Lovegood character, the tour guide was full of knowledge on the series and included tons of behind the scenes facts that you would only find out on the tour itself. We learned all about the concept art and MinaLima, the graphic design duo that produced all sorts of props such as book covers and posters for the films (we happened to come across the MinaLima Design studio in London completely by accident the following day while just strolling through the streets!).

Dumbledore’s Office, Snape’s Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, Griffindor Dormitory, Forbidden Forest, Diagon Alley, Malfoy Manor, Professor Umbridge’s Office, you get to see all of these and so much more during the tour and take all the photos you want. I did not take as many photos as I probably should have because I really just wanted to take all of it in.

The big shock factor came when we got to see the model used for all of the aerial shots of the Hogwarts Castle. It was so much bigger than you might imagine and with the theme song playing in the background at the same time, I might have shed a tear or two.

I also highly recommend visiting House of MinaLima, it’s a completely free museum with 4 stories of concept & graphic art from the films.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and a must do if you’re a huge Harry Potter fan and happen to find yourself in London. My childhood dreams came true and I left an even bigger fan than when I went in.

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An Introverted Extrovert

8669C292-C6DD-48B3-895C-A3DB84517611Is there such a thing? I always thought that was a bit of an oxymoron but it wasn’t until I started flying that I realized that term described me perfectly.

From the moment I step onto any airport property, I’m “on stage” so to speak. People walking though the airport will stop to ask you where baggage claim is, you’re sitting down in the gate area enjoying a hot meal or talking to a friend or family member on the phone in the 10 minutes you have in between flights and you’ll get asked why a flight is delayed or if they’re going to make their connection to XYZ city.

I live in NC but commute up to Boston for all of my trips and because I travel with all of my suitcases , I usually end up wearing my uniform on my commutes. I do this so I do not have to worry about the long lines at security, taking toiletries out of my bag or the four days worth of meal prep I have in my lunchbox. Commuting by airplane usually means I’m sitting next to a full fare revenue customer who loves to ask me if this is my regular route, how my boyfriend or husband feels about me being gone and then there are those who cannot understand how I can live in one city and work out of another. I used to go into a long story about how I managed it all and now my response is “I fly all over domestically”, “I’m not in a relationship but that’s by choice” and “I get to take an airplane to work instead of a car”. I very politely give them a smile and put my headphones back in order to deter them from asking any other questions, even though I’m not technically working I am still in uniform and representing my company.

Since I am a commuter, meaning I don’t live in base, I don’t get to go home every night after a trip. Instead, I work multi day trips which range anywhere from two to four days and then I’m off for a few days where I’ll go home. My seniority allows me to bid for productive trips which means high flying hours and shorter layovers and other times I prefer to bid less productive trips with longer layovers if I’m wanting to spend some real time in a new city; it really just depends.

In a perfect Aviation world where everything goes as planned, i.e no delays, no emergency landings, no medicals etc, you’re still dealing with the over 400 different personalities a day not including those of your coworkers (fellow flight attendants, pilots, gate agents etc). In a non perfect Aviation world where at least one of the above occurs, you have to remain professional at all times and in the day in age we live in where social media is so popular, you have to be extremely careful with what you say or do.

I don’t always get to work with the same people all the time so that means I’m constantly meeting new people which I actually really enjoy.

There are times after a long day of flying that my fellow crew members and I will go enjoy a drink or a meal together as part of our debrief or we’ll rent a car and drive to the beach for the day and then there are days where we’re just so emotionally and physically exhausted that we “slam click” (a term used by airline crew which means you slam your hotel room door closed and click the deadbolt) and don’t reunite until the next day when we’re scheduled to operate our next flight.

I’ve had many meals alone, worked out in the gym with my entire crew, laid out by the pool by myself with a book, gone shopping at an outlet mall to help a crew member find the perfect outfit for a wedding her ex boyfriend was going to and just stayed in my hotel room to have a mini solo spa day that consisted of facial masks, deep hair conditioning and pedicures; it’s all about balance and listening to your body.

Now homesickness doesn’t hit me all that often, I’m usually okay if I’m only gone for about 3 or 4 days. However if I work trips back to back and it’s been over a week since I’ve had a chance to sleep in my own bed or see my dog, my energy levels go down and I find it a lot harder to keep smiling. I find a way to go home for day to “recharge” in between trips in hopes that it’ll get me through my next set of trips. Now when I’m homeward bound after being gone for a while, the first 24 hours I speak to no one. I’m in pajamas, I don’t leave my apartment with the exception of taking my dog out for walks and picking up pizza or Thai food for dinner and I catch up on all the television shows I’ve missed while away. My own mom that I talk to religiously everyday even knows this and gives me my space.

And then there are times when I’ve been home for a long period of time and I get the itch to go back to work; I look forward to getting back in my uniform and introducing a first time flyer to the pilots and having their photo taken in the flight deck or I’ll meet someone who is curious about the industry and wants to know how to get started.

I constantly struggle with being a social butterfly and being “antisocial” all at the same time. I love being surrounded by people but sometimes I crave solitude. I used to think it was part of my Gemini charm but the more I talk to other flight attendants, the more it seems like a “norm” in the industry.

So the next time you see a flight attendant or a pilot off in the corner somewhere rushing through their meal, chatting on the phone or simply sitting in solitude, don’t take it personal if they give you a quick response to your question and don’t wish to stick around to chat. Chances are that’s the only real break they’ve had all day and they’re enjoying their quiet time to “recharge” before their next flight.

Music City

One of the places I have always wanted to check off my list and visit is Nashville, Tennessee. While it is known as Music City or Nash-Vegas (thanks to the many Bachelor and Bachelorette parties), I really wanted to check the city out for its Nightlife & Southern Cuisine. Over the past few years, what used to be one of the South’s best kept secrets, has grown tremendously. On average, the city receives about 90 new residents every day & quickly becoming more and more expensive.

I convinced one of my flight attendant friends to come with me for the weekend. We went the beginning of December, by this time, hotels were already pricey & since we knew we weren’t going to spend time much time there, we really just needed a place to sleep, to save money (that we rather spend on food & drinks), we ended up booking a hostel. I ended up finding one right in the heart of downtown (actually called Nashville Downtown Hostel), average cost was $30 a night, within walking distance to the main strip of touristy bars & local restaurants. We were booked in a room with 4 bunk beds (8 total people) but the hostel had such low occupancy during this time, we had the room to ourselves the first night & the following two nights we shared the room with two other gals (friends from Australia). The hostel itself was very clean, the staff was informative, helpful and rather knowledgeable about the city. I’d highly recommend it & wouldn’t hesitate to book with them again.

We opted not to rent a car just because we didn’t want to worry about finding parking everywhere & we wanted to be responsible since we knew we were going to be going out at night so Uber and Lyft were our best friends for places that we weren’t able to walk to.

We’ll start with the restaurants/bars that were on our list:

  • Biscuit Love – location: in The Gultch
  • I ordered the “Easy Nasty” which is a just regular chicken biscuit with cheddar cheese while my friend ordered the Biscuit & Sausage Gravy and we shared a side of Alma’s potatoes & their Chronic (Sweet and Spicy) Bacon.
  • This place probably had the longest line we had to stand in during our whole trip, a little over an hour but according to reviews, sometimes it’s upwards of 2 or 3.
  • The food was delicious, reasonably priced and definitely worth the wait.
  • Loveless Cafe – location: 8400 Highway 100
  • I ordered the Chicken & Waffles with a side of Hashbrown Casserole while my friend ordered a traditional Southern Breakfast.
  • Originally a Motel & Cafe when it opened in the 50’s, now just a Southern Cafe & a very small little shopping area where you can purchase handmade gifts from local artisans. You can take photos outside with the original “Vacancy” sign and check it off your list.
  • There wasn’t a line at all for this place but we were there during the week and around Brunch time as opposed to early morning. All in all, it’s definitely worth a visit.
  • Hattie B’s – location: 5209 Charlotte Pike
  • Known for their Hot Chicken which is a Nashville staple.
  • I am a huge wimp when it comes to spicy food & personally don’t find any enjoyment in not being able to feel my tongue when eating so I opted for the “Southern” which is their No Heat chicken tender meal with a side of their Pimento Mac & Cheese and Red Skin Potato Salad … yall, if you go with friends, get different sides to try them all because if they were anything like the sides I got, you’re in for a treat. I paired my meal with a nice local Stout, highly recommended!
  • Pancake Pantry – location : 1796 21st Ave S
  • I tried them out for the first time a couple of years ago in Gatlinburg, Tennessee & I really enjoyed it. The portions are huge so go hungry.
  • There’s almost always a line to get in but it is worth the wait.
  • “S’more Love Bakery” – location : varies
  • The sweetest little S’mores food truck ever wasn’t on our list & came across it by accident while strolling through 12th Street. Their menu had five different s’mores you could order, with quirky names like “The happy camper” and “The Elvis”. Probably the best s’more I ever had! Since they are a food truck, they aren’t always in the same place but you can follow their adventures on Instagram (@smorelovebakery).

I researched dozens of local coffee spots but was overwhelmed with the amount of amazing restaurants & bars that it wasn’t high on my list. For those that know me, that’s a huge deal! We stumbled upon Frothy Monkey which is a Coffee/Bar place & we actually ended up ordering pints instead of coffee. There was a lot of coffee drinking in the trip though, while standing outside making lines for restaurants or bars to stay warm, just not any from any places that stood out. During my next trip, I’ll be sure to add a few to my list.

As far as Nightlife & Bars, we checked out too many to really remember & after a while they all sort of blended together. If you’re looking for cheap drinks, good music and entertainment, then you’ll find no shortage of bars in the heart of downtown. You can walk for many blocks and still find new places to check out. The ones that we made a point to check out based off our Pinterest list were Acme & Tootsies. I recommend visiting Acme twice during your stay if you get a chance, once during the day & once at night to admire the Nashville skyline from their rooftop bar. The drinks were a little on the pricier side but delicious. Tootsies is a bar with several different levels, all of which featured both local & famous artists. It’s definitely a touristy spot & extremely crowded, lots of pushing & shoving, getting drinks knocked out of your hand or spilled on you are just a few of the things to expect but it’s one of those “Must See” spots to check off your list.

We made time in our itinerary to check out some places recommended by locals, we got to see our first ever Burlesque show at Skulls in Printers Alley. There was no cover charge but we did arrive a little early to make sure we had good seats & watched the show while enjoying a couple glasses of wine. It was a very nice and tasteful show, we even managed to take photos with some of the gals. If you’re looking for something a little different than your typical Country Music bar, I’d recommend checking out this place.

What’s a trip to Nashville without stopping by The Bluebird Cafe? This little venue was on both my & my friend’s list because having seen it on the TV show, I think both of us were secretly hoping that Deacon or Avery were going to make an appearance. You have to get there ridiculously early because the venue itself is so small, it only seats about 60 people. If you are lucky enough to get in, you are in for a treat. You get to listen to some amazing local artists that are looking to make it big in Music City. A lot of the famous artists today got their start at The Bluebird. There’s no cover charge for the venue but you are asked to spend at least $15 in food/drinks while you are enjoying the show. A small price to pay for some amazing entertainment.

We checked out The Parthenon, a real live replica of the original right in the middle of a park. We didn’t purchase tickets for the museum portion of it but we did enjoy the park itself, definitely a sight to see.

“Instagram worthy” murals were on our list as well so we checked out one of Kelsey Montague’s Angel Wings located in the Gulch area. “I Believe in Nashville” mural located on 12th Street and directly across that mural was Draper James, Reese Witherspoon’s shop with a basic Blue and White striped wall that makes for some adorable photos as well.

In the three full days we were there, I feel like we were able to accomplish a lot. My only recommendation would be to pack loose clothing because your clothes will fit a little tighter coming back home. Eat, Drink, Be Merry.

Happy Anniversary!

Five years ago today, I embarked on the greatest adventure of my life thus far – I started training to become a Flight Attendant, a job I’ve always dreamed of having since I could remember.

I remember like it was yesterday, I was working at a Convention Center Resort in Orlando at the time, in their Reservations Department when I was referred by a friend of mine to apply for a position as a Bilingual Flight Attendant. I applied & within a week received an email with instructions on completing a “Telephone Interview”, I found the whole thing rather awkward, you were supposed to answer questions asked by a recording, record your answers & submit. I did not expect much, rather convinced that I had tanked the interview to be honest. About another week later, I received a phone call that I had been chosen to attend an “in person” interview in NYC, to take place just 4 days later. I immediately said “Yes, I’ll be there!” not realizing just how much a last minute plane ticket & hotel in the city would cost. I told myself that I was investing in my future & that if it was meant to be, I would get my money back in all the leisure travel I had planned to do.

My mom gave me as a gift, a book called “How to Be a Flight Attendant” by Kiki Ward, an ex – American Airlines Flight Attendant & I studied this book religiously. It had tips & tricks for interviewing, what to do, what not to do, what to wear for an interview, makeup ideas, all wrapped up in a short memoir. I took it with me on my flight from Orlando to New York (the lowest fare ticket was actually on the airline I was interviewing for), I spent the entire flight observing the crew, highlighting notes in my book, & trying desperately not to stress out.

The interview process began promptly at 9am the following day, with a huge group interview, there were at least 50 of us who were eventually split into smaller groups & given ice-breaker games & activities to participate in. We met some fellow instructors from the training academy, supervisors, human resources personnel & some fellow Flight Attendants. I went through a series of tests, interviews, fingerprinting & background checks during this 8 hour day, completely exhausted, nervous & way out of my element but I kept telling myself that I could do this!

The end of the interviews came & I was told that if they were interested, that I would receive a phone call or email within the next few weeks, I was a bit discouraged having read that a lot of airlines offer you positions on the spot but I was hopeful & optimistic.

About two weeks later, I was sitting in my Housekeeping Management class when I received a phone call from a New York City number I did not recognize. The call went to voicemail, I stepped out into the hall so I could have a listen; it was from the Human Resources Department offering me a position with their company! I must have listened to the voicemail at least 10x before I finally gave them a call back. I was given a training start date of May 30th which gave me about a month or so to get my affairs in order & give my current job notice.

Fast forward to training, I was an emotional wreck during those three weeks. We had class from 8am-8pm six days a week with only Sundays off & even on our Sundays off, I’d spend them studying our door drills, commands, evacuations etc. We had testing every other day & were required to pass them with a score of 90% or better, we had an opportunity to retake a test we scored below on & if we weren’t successful on the retake, we were to pack our bags & head home. My mom would spend countless hours studying with me over the phone, quizzing me on airport codes, emergency equipment etc. As much as I loved my classmates, she was definitely my favorite study buddy.

We had a class of 44 people, retired firemen, police officers, nurses, students, previous airline employees, we were a huge melting pot of a class. I was the third youngest, having just turned 21 about a week prior to training. We received our base assignments (where we are required to start & end our trips) about a week or so into the program & I had my heart set on New York City. I ended up being based in Fort Lauderdale which some would think it’s great but since I was already living in Florida, I didn’t see it as much a change – I wanted this job to be a fresh start for me, a brand new chapter.

All of us but one completed & passed our training, I joke that I never studied as hard in college as I did in training  but it was an intense three weeks & it should have been because it’s a job that a lot of people don’t realize is more than just serving drinks & snacks 37,000 feet in the air. We are trained to stay calm & evacuate an entire aircraft within 90 seconds in the unlikely event of an emergency, we are trained in basic first aid but we’re medical professionals in the sky until the pilots can land an aircraft & we can get paramedics on board if a medical emergency were to arise, we’re babysitters for parents who often need a break from their children or they don’t want to buckle their seatbelts, mechanics for when your TV’s aren’t working properly or the internet connection is spotty, therapists for passengers who have a fear of flying or are going to bury loved ones, bartenders for special occasions, geographers “What state are we flying over?” or “What lake/river is that down there?”, psychics “Am I going to make my connecting flight?” — we have to wear many hats with this job, no two days are ever the same for me & while some questions & situations do get rather old at times, I think that’s one of the reasons I love my job so much.

In my five years of flying I’ve transferred bases a total of three times, (currently based in Boston), had some rather frightful medical emergencies, experienced my share of scary turbulence, logged hundreds of thousands of flight miles, laid over in cities I’d only ever seen in movies & meet some of the most amazing human beings (both fellow coworkers & passengers) on this planet. Many ask if this is a job I can see myself doing for the rest of my life, I’m not quite sure if I’ll be doing this when I’m 70 (I hope by then to be retired somewhere in the Mountains, flying with my retiree benefits to see my grandchildren) but I do know that there really is no other job like it in the world & I am truly blessed to be doing what I love.

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“For once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci

 

 

Three years ago…

 

IMG_6220I embarked on my first solo trip to Europe, I am a huge Harry Potter fan so I chose London. I remember when I told my mom, she was so nervous. It’s one thing to travel all over the US for work but to go to a completely different country where I didn’t know a single person, that was a little terrifying for her.

I went with no itinerary, the only thing I booked was the hostel I was staying at, to try to give my poor mother some sort of peace of mind, but when I mentioned hostel, I think that probably made things worse.

I flew into Heathrow, which is one of the largest airports I’ve ever been to & followed the signs for the “Heathrow Express”, a train that takes you into Central London. I could have taken the “tube” (subway) into the city which would have cost about a fraction of what I paid for the train but taken twice as long. While waiting, I met a nice Irishman on the platform who gave me some tips for what to do during my visit. I was trying terribly hard not to smile, I’m a sucker for an English or Irish accent (any accent for that matter) & it didn’t hurt that he was in fact rather handsome.

After parting ways, I made it onto the train, exhausted from the flight, I had flown all night & been up roughly about 24 hours but I was running on adrenaline and just overwhelmed with emotion to finally be there. I got off at my stop with my backpack, suitcase & a local map in hand trying to find my way to the hostel so I could drop my bags off & explore the city. I walked around lost for about 45 minutes, by this point my feet were killing me, note to others, wear comfy sneakers or flats when traveling, save the fancy boots for a night on the town. I turned around, looked up from my map to realize I was staring at Big Ben. I stood frozen for what felt like an eternity & then I lost it. Tears streamed down my face, I just knew that in that moment, that’s exactly where I needed to be.

I was there for a total of three full days, I saw The London Eye, House of Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Square, Chinatown, Canarby Street, London Aquarium, I had (several) pints with locals, took the Tube all on my own without (much) help, came across some beautiful cafes & met some amazing strangers in my hostel – some that were traveling through there to get to their next destination & some who were also traveling solo in search of something. To this day, it is still one of my most memorable trips.

I will never forget that feeling. I went through all sorts of emotions, nervous, anxious, excited, happy, you name it, I experienced it – I felt fufilled, THIS was the reason I became a Flight Attendant, to see the world.

Today is my birthday, a new year to celebrate my life & I’m making a promise to myself :

* I promise to say YES to New Adventures.

* I promise to say NO to what no longer serves me.

* I promise to continue to push myself & step out of my comfort zone.

* I promise to drink all the coffee.

This is my journey in keeping these promises.

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