Tag Archives: flight attendant diaries

Croatia Direct Flights from Toronto and Montreal Continue into 2016-2017 with Air Transat

All photos and article by Paula Erskine

One can book an Air Transat ticket for a direct flight to Zagreb, Croatia right now for as early as next year, for example, May 30th, 2017 at a price of approximately $871 Canadian dollars and enjoy the comfort of Air Transat’s Airbus 330 fleet. Visit http://www.airtransat.com to book ahead and take advantage of cheap flights to Croatia flying directly out of Toronto, Canada and Montreal, Canada. Air Transat will likely add a second flight weekly to Zagreb, Croatia as of May 2016. Book early to get the deals! Here are some places to visit in Croatia that may delight your senses.

Below, Plitvicka National Park, known to visitors as “paradise,” is less than 2 hours away from Zagreb and enjoyed year round. Easy hiking, hundreds of waterfalls, 16 turquoise lakes.

Rastoke Village, in Slunj (above), is 1 and a half hours from Zagreb, Croatia on the way to Plitvice Park. Imagine opening your window shutters and overlooking a waterfall below your window, with the sound rushing through your veins and the fresh, cool mist rising up through the atmosphere. In this valley, one is surrounded by trees whose roots run deep, taking a drink from the rivers they call home. Eat at Petro, visit Unique Rastoke park (just that part is closed on tuesdays) and eat there too,  the food is fresh and authentic throughout the village…or stay at many of the apartments built on waterfalls in this fairy tale mill town on pristine waters. Simply unmissable and picturesque, any time of year. A peaceful place. Take advantage of the pleasant off season weather with more elbow room than mid-summer to enjoy Croatia even more.

If you are still on the fence, wondering if Croatia is the right destination for you, let me share with you some favorite places to visit that are off the beaten path. Even within the usual hot spots, there are great tips to be shared on how to get the maximum value and enjoyment from your Croatian vacation. For those who travel yearly to the motherland, direct flights to Croatia this summer of 2016 have been a dream come true. In addition, Zagreb has proven to be a great hub for native travelers of Serbia and Bosnia and bordering nations visiting their families. It is very moving to see people of all these nations “going home” to introduce their children and grandchildren to the beautiful lands, lakes, rivers, mountains and the crystal clear Adriatic Sea which were their playgrounds.

It was especially convenient for the older generations to travel “home” on direct flights, most of them wanting to look out the window or watch the air show rather than the individual movie screens at each seat. The atmosphere on board is one of gratitude, appreciation and social friendliness without borders. Although the blocked time of the flight is 9 and a half hours, depending on head and tail winds, the average flight to Zagreb, Croatia from Toronto on Air Transat’s Airbus 330 consistently took only around 8 hours!

Air Transat flights were packed all summer with added adventurers from Quebec and Greater Toronto Area as well as Americans enjoying the tour packages that were very reasonable and action-packed! Below, Ozujsko Pub in Zagreb, beside the Naive Art Gallery Egg in Upper Town serves tasty meats stuffed with cheese and prosciutto (pershuto), grilled vegetables and chicken shishkebabs wrapped in bacon. Tender, fresh, tasty and very reasonable!

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Vinodol Restaurant, lower town, superb eating, Zagreb Croatia

Vinodol Restaurant (lower town), Zagreb Croatia above was absolutely superb eating, with a wonderful indoor skylit atmosphere and outdoor seating too. Below, Kava Tava (upper town)…find an excuse to eat palacinke (palachinke) the Croatian stuffed crepes, dessert, cappucinos, breakfast or sandwiches. Then,  for all you airline buffs, Kava Tava’s decor boasts passenger seats and airplane tables. 20160621_192442

Zagreb’s Upper Town can be reached by Funicular or stairs and is full of incredible places to eat with no lack of creativity, history, architecture, naive and modern art, fountains museums, bird’s eye views, Lake Jarun, shoe shopping in particular in the lower town, and delicious food everywhere. To say Zagreb is hip would be an understatement.

A hidden gem in Zagreb is MS Grill run by Olga who will cook like only a mother can, and specializes in Bosnian dishes such as cevaps (barbecued chevaps are mixed meats, usually lamb, on home made grilled bread served with kajmak (k-eye-mahk) cream cheese, chicken paprikash, and many stews and famous crepes.The truth is, I ate most of the mouth watering meat before I remembered to take a picture. The secret to all the juicy meats, especially the grilled chicken, is the time they take to marinate it all…and I enjoyed it very much on my flight. The portions are too generous, and the prices are ridiculously cheap! You can find them around the corner from the Sheraton Hotel, Zagreb, with the orange canopy, simple. Olga is open from 7 or 8 am till midnight and serves fresh, home made food, her most evident ingredient, is love, warmth and enthusiasm. I do not leave the restaurant without my goodbye hug.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ms-Grill/1549760118614667 This is the facebook page.

Air Transat flights were packed all summer with added adventurers from Quebec and Greater Toronto Area as well as Americans enjoying the tour packages that were very reasonable and action-packed! See you in Zagreb! Check out my other posts for more great places to visit in Croatia! This is StrossMarte, at the top where the Funicular station stop is. Very artsy, great views, puppet shows, and very whimsical somehow.20160906_18551320160906_18555220160906_185448Sveti Marco Square, tiled roof, straight ahead from the Funicular. Many ways to see the city, including a vintage car ride. Fresh fritule, powdered mini doughnuts sometimes filled with jam at a window in upper town. We drop in on an orchestra practicing amid rows of fountains, it was lovely. The architecture, the old gate to the city, is so interesting. I hope to visit Lake Jarun where locals swim and bike in the near future. Until we meet again, Zagreb, I will enjoy my memories. See you in Croatia until early October of 2016 and May 2017 onward.20160906_18491320160823_18350320160823_19023920160906_18403120160906_18503220160817_19534320160906_19051620160906_18185320160906_21042620160817_191813

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Cameroon to Canada-Flight Attendant FAQs-Interviews

Logbikoy, Cameroon

Logbikoy, Cameroon


When I returned from living for 6 months in Cameroon, a west African french colony, I was somewhat versed in French after many years of struggling and mixing my English/Croatian background up with every other language I tried to absorb. I booked a tutor at a french language school in Ontario, Canada and asked to have my french assessed to see where I was at. The teacher pulled out a book and pointed at pictures as I rattled off the objects en francais, then answered questions. She concluded that although my French vocabulary was very good, I was stuck in the present tense. In retrospect, it was very kind of everybody not to correct my tenses as they saw me struggle to communicate day by day. A year or two after getting into the airline business, I picked up a book on African culture and discovered a very interesting fact. That many Africans have no words to refer to the future because for all of us, it just doesn’t exist. It’s not even in their vocabulary. They speak of what has already happened, and seem to live in the present because they have no concept of the future. That would explain why every flight we ever had departed late. Pourquois, why, we asked, is Cameroon Airlines late? Unless it was 10-20 minutes after the time of departure, the staff could not conceive that the plane would leave late. So we learned to factor this in to our schedules and not run around in the blazing equatorial heat trying to westernize their ways.

Back in Canada, I brainstormed all the airline terms I could muster and all the questions I imagined I would encounter on a plane. Then I asked the tutor to help me speak about my experience in Cameroon in the past tense so I would be ready for the interview. The airline interview began in English and after a few questions, I was asked if I speak French. I took control of the interview and recited my memorized experiences that had happened to me in Cameroon. It worked, and no more random questions were asked of me in French.

I was passed on to the second interview, where I was asked to choose one of 5 announcements to make in French. I think I had to choose between making an announcement to the passengers that someone has lost a pair of glasses or inform the passengers not to smoke in the lavatory.

When I was done, the second interviewer congratulated me on my French. My advice is talk about what you have to offer and perhaps a customer service incident that you handled very well to sell yourself. If I am honest, the third airline interview did not go so well. I was asked to rent a car in French, and since I had never rented one in Cameroon, I was totally lost and explained that I only knew the airline terminology as this was my direct experience in French. Renting a car might be a question, but it shouldn’t be, in my opinion, since it has nothing to do with the airline industry. But of course, I didn’t say that. I asked if they could ask me another question. Fortunately, they could see my potential. They also asked me what would I do if a particular passenger constantly rang his button with special requests all flight long. What I didn’t understand then, was that larger airlines had standard services and timelines to complete and such a person would distract the whole team from attending to the flight as a whole. I had worked on a Dash-7 aircraft, 48 seats, with 3 flight attendants and a security agent. There were no trolleys, just a tray of drinks and sandwiches in no particular order. So I answered that I would probably invite the passenger to sit in the cockpit, as was our custom pre-911 at the time, and settle them down with an amazing view of take-off and landing. At this answer, I got my appointment for my medical and uniform fitting. The rest, as they say is an ongoing history of flying the friendly skies.

A Heartfelt Latte

A Latte With Heart

Calgary’s Artsy Cafes

I love supporting non-chain cafes that offer individuality and artistic touches to boot. I found this one in downtown Calgary (Alberta, Canada) offering a view of all the street action below. My latte came with a heart design on top which put a smile on my jet-lagged face. It is well appreciated by locals who realize that if they have to meet on business, make it over a latte, with an architechturally pleasing, cozy atmosphere. Just below the cafe is a marvelous flower market, several jewelry makers, clothing designers, art galleries and many other budding and established artists. I felt like a justified voyeur, totally at ease sipping solo. All the patrons seemed united in pressing the pause button to elongate the present enjoyment. The giant floor to ceiling windows made me feel like a justified voyeur. DeVille Cafe is located in the Art Central building #200-100 7th Avenue East in Southwest Calgary.’Tis the season for Alberta layovers and this heartfelt cafe made me feel comforted in an airport base away from home. It will make you want to jot down some words of inspiration and sink into the sunny surroundings.

One of the Best Lattes Ever

Jetlag Cure

Putting Self Respect on the Front Burner

 

Article by Paula Erskine
Photo of Paula Erskine by John Vanderschilden

Last summer,  I watched a reality modeling show in the England called something to the effect of “Models, Misfits and Mayhem.” Drama started to become a real creep show when two young teen-age, twin sisters got very upset at the prospect of wearing lingerie in a photo shoot. It was going to be a 40’s style calendar, but still the outfits left little to the imagination. The girls tried to refuse, but the head honchos running this modeling contest, (may the least dressed win?), were told that even though they were uncomfortable, they would not be able to refuse such a job.

They were told they were unrealistic, uncommitted and unprofessional. The twins decided to gracefully end their top model journey because they refused to participate in this photo shoot where they would be exposed. They were heavily criticized and cast out from the show. There was no attitude, but a quiet, firm no, delivered with grace to the judges. The girls were just so uncomfortable, and such innocents that they did not think it was worth winning the contest. Nobody, not one “mentor,” on the show recognized their innocence and nurtured it. They were only encouraged to “obey” this task.

Perhaps they looked like adults, and show co-ordinators wanted them to grow up fast and reveal themselves to break them in. The girls were upset and wanted nothing to do with exposing their bodies for the show or for fashion. Does everyone see what is wrong with this picture? What if this 14 year old was your daughter, your sister? Shouldn’t they be treated as such by all of society? Shouldn’t their innocence be protected and respected?

“Like Stars on Earth,” starring Aamir Khan, is an Indian movie that reveals how one teacher or mentor reflects the notion that all children should be nurtured and protected. (watch the trailer here “http://www.youtube.com/embed/DBg6HSMF9X8?rel=0“)

The quality of  innocence must be put on a pedestal. How many times have we learned wise words coming out of the mouths of children simply because they see the world unjaded, and without pretense? The twin girls of  “Models, Misfits and Mayhem” showed such gravity when finally deciding to leave the show quietly. They had their feet firmly planted even though everyone was telling them they were the ones that were wrong not to pose half-dressed. They knew they had a choice, and could not be manipulated.

This is how the media dictates that we must put self-respect on the back burner. From my personal experience as a plus size model, I can tell you that I was never given an ultimatum regarding the subject of lingerie modeling. Nobody told me I had to comply or lose my job. Models can set their own standards as actresses have always stipulated not to reveal too much of themselves onscreen. This is an accepted practice. Not everyone is suited for lingerie modeling because they do not fit the sample sizes or they don’t have the right proportions. I was lucky because when I chose to model lingerie, the plus size pieces were conservative and shot for conservative catalogues. I had trustworthy people around me. We knew we were paving out new territory and I had agreed to it before hand. I was very interested in pushing real size images into the media mainstream and was proud to be part of the changing face of fashion. I wanted women to know I was proud of my voluptuous figure and that they could buy these items in many stores. But I also had the choice to tell my agent what I would, and would not do. I have refused, for example, to model lingerie and bathing suits on television without a proper cover up. At the time, there were few, if any, media images featuring plus size models  because fashion for us was designated to “oversized” items that were boxy, girdles, or business suits. When you don’t see yourself represented in the media, you can’t sew with two left hands, and all around you are people size 12 and up, then something’s gotta give. So the success of the first bold full figure marketing campaigns had “average and up” size women breathing sighs of  relief.

An agent works for the model and makes a commission, not the other way around. Once the agent knows the model’s limits, they can work within it. To start, don’t showcase on your composite card (a model’s business card with sample photos) what you’re not willing to wear for a client. A model who is specializing in lingerie likely is providing her measurements, a professional sample photo and is only introduced via the agent to a trusted client. What you don’t pose in, won’t come back to haunt you.

If you are uncomfortable, you can protect yourself by not providing such a photo in the first place. Unease can signal a warning that it is going against your core beliefs on some level, so listen and heed your own principles. This is never a deal-breaker. There are plenty of other things to model fully clothed. If a model does not want to pose in fur, bathing suits, lingerie, audition for seedy ads or work out of the country, one can simply say no thank you from the get-go.

 So if anyone in this modern society does not support a young girl’s right not to expose herself, to listen to her gut extinct, to refuse what makes her queasy and what attacks his/her innocence, then one should question what is the basis for their morality? Is it what the media or colleagues tells us it is? Are we going to swing in any direction the wind blows us, or are we going to stand our ground and have some limits that protect us? Innocence exists to protect what is so special in every human being. And how young or old does that innocent have to be for us to see the point? I have witnessed innocence in my husband’s love for nature, a senior citizen’s fight to protect their independence, a rebelling teen-ager finding his/her way in the world or  a passenger conquering their fear of flying. It is the innocence that gives us the power of wisdom to make choices based on the  innate boundaries that protect us. Read more about the root energy centre’s qualities and the innate guru principle we have within us at www.free-meditation.ca.

What if she were 21,14, 10 or 4…would it be ok to pose half naked in suggestively sexual lingerie? Let’s face it, lingerie is linked to sex. When children pose in clothes created to arouse men it does not evolve mankind in any way and actually numbs us to what should be preserved. It is innately unnatural to sexualize children. And doesn’t the lingerie on an innocent child sexualize the child to the media and spoil our perception?

Modernity should not be confused with lack of personal boundaries. I applaud these young, innocent, 14 year old girls for sticking together and refusing, politely, to pose in sexy lingerie. They weighed the pros and cons and risked the loss of a major modeling contract offered through the TV show. A pat on the backs to their parents who instilled something that stuck. A bunch of circus agents and judges couldn’t lure, convince or destroy their principles. Dignity won.

Personality has everything to do with being a successful model, and these girls had a whole lot of good character. It is these twin girls that are the heroes, and this sham of a show, which encourages models who want to “make it big” to obey their every command for the sake of ratings. How was the balance of mentors represented? Nobody came forward to tell them they had a choice! There were no parental type figures or anyone who could provide another point of view. It is complete propaganda not to offer more than one point of view, or more than one way of presenting a story. This is the only way to start to know the unbiased truth. Tainted truth is harmful to our community and creates a false sense of what is nourishing for the soul and spirit.

If you are grooming young girls to obey everything a client tells them to do, are you not setting them up to be manipulated, exposed and put the needs of others above their own sense of boundaries? There’s a reason for stage moms with a conscience. Someone has to represent vulnerable young people and give them an alternate point of view of the consequences. If we don’t protect the innocent then we are also predators with a perverse agenda. Money and fame may get the headlines, but are they society’s gurus? These girls should be celebrated for shining a light on their inner principles and proving their worth is not equated with following the crowd into the mud. Examples of such good character should be the norm and provide models for self-esteem, not fame and fortune.

I wonder how many other viewers saw the blatant disregard for the young teenagers’ welfare?  The girls could not be bought. And frankly, they could be offered a modeling contract anyway by a legitimate agency and have their lawyer advocate their terms. Or simply outline their preferences to their agent to avoid interviewing or accepting such jobs. Nurturing self-esteem of each individual influences our communities like an ever-widening ripple in the water.

Innate limitations exist within each of us to protect us from danger and keep the collective consciousness on the right track towards evolution (www.free-meditation.ca). Inner growth is the real success and the toolbox we need to cope with life’s challenges. These are not the limits associated with consumerism. If we compare ourselves to celebrities or our neighbor, we will never be satisfied. If marketing creates the need for us to have a Prada purse, then it continues to create new materialistic needs that have us shopping insatiably. These wise boundaries actually create a freedom to navigate through the muddy, marketing manipulations that are targeted to destroy our happiness. It is a protective parameter that maintains balance and inner peace.

What is free-thinking about spoon fed propaganda about how to judge, how to think, how to criticize? Is it not divisive to “judge” models, to find faults in them physically and have nice girls pitted against each other and encouraged to war with words? I have a friend who was offered a show and asked to be a bitch to young girls trying to model and she simply refused to do it. Not only has it been done, it is not the message she wanted to convey. She really wanted to be the role of a nurturing mentor.  She fulfils her desire to mentor with her co-ownership of  an agency and writing.

To paraphrase Maria Shriver on the Oprah show, it is the parent’s job (or mentor) to build up the self esteem of children as much as possible because society will do what they can to chip away at it. So let’s be the society that protects each other with the built in caring chip we have for a sibling or a child. Let’s recognize that the quality of innocence we are trying to defend may be hidden in an adult frame of any age. If we can’t have that angle reflected in the media right now, then let’s at least express another point of view that is rooted in common sense. Fully clothed, we can build on that little voice inside of us that has the right to go with our gut and stand up to this kind of media oppression. Today’s role models can influence the self-esteem of others by celebrating those that collectively put our own self respect back on the front burner, where it belongs.