27 June 2012

Chinatown: Backstreets of New York City

Sandwiched between New York City's Garment District and World Trade Center area stood Chinatown. A melting pot of smells, sights and situations stayed ready to attack my senses. Depicted in countless big budget blockbuster movies, well not exactly so but from I saw was enough of a surprise. NYC's honest Chinese corner had me gagged from the very first moment! Yes, NY! 

Being brand new to New York City, myself and my colleague made our way from Newark Penn Station to Canal Street deep in the heart of New York City's Lower Manhattan area. I was particularly excited to try some interesting food and to see a potential film that had given me one more reason to choose my Newark placement. The energy and shadiness of Canal Street hit us in the face, fake Rolex watches and Chinese gift shops fronted us as we made our way to one of the themed Chinatown backstreets. We had a laugh at some of the shop names, they were just too good not take a photo outside of. The cold February day was difficult to handle but we powered through. The Chinese writing and fire escape stairwells looked just as they did in the films, no I wasn't living a dream I was in a real place in real time. I felt awe-struck by the opportunity that I being given to visit such places on my day off from airport life. Yes, BB!
The PATH train didn't take us directly from Newark Penn Station to the heart of NYCs Chinatown, no because we got off our first train at One World Trade Center otherwise known as WTC. In the heart of New York City's Downtown core felt indescribable, walking past Wall Street and the Bull just like Birmingham's one was magic! From the heart of NYCs financial heart we took a further Subway train towards Chinatown. My colleague and friend Paolo hadn't taken the train to that part of town before so we trusted the NYC Subway to guide us to Canal Street, being a short distance we were fine. That was another thing to fathom, I was on the NYC Subway in such normal circumstances and it wouldn't be the last time! The characters and vibe within the world's most famous or infamous transportation system gave me everything and more! Chinatown had plans for us, we hoped lunch would be on the cards. London and Sydney have great Chinatowns, I was living for the vibe of NYCs own! 

It's not just Chinese establishments that frequent New York's Chinatown. The name of this area could be seen as misleading as on each street corner there's a different restaurant from South-East Asia. I found it quite a task to warm to a specific Chinese restaurant so I chose to eat Vietnamese food for the first time in my life! Vietnamese and Thai eateries make their mark on the centre streets of the Chinatown district in NYC. During my first visit to New York's Chinatown me and my friend Paolo sampled a interesting Vietnamese restaurant, we weren't really sure what we had ordered but it tasted mighty fine! Pho 88 Vietnamese Restaurant, located just on Bayard Street showed me that Vietnamese cuisine is just as good as Chinese food. The unknown dishes that were written in a strange language tended to be a definite winner with my taste-buds accepting it. Truthfully, it was an experience like no other P! 

Was I in food heaven? Quite possibly, yes! I like to try new and interesting dishes that taste different from the norm, something that I quite liked about the Vietnamese food. The rolls served with the satay sauce were divine and the Pho noodles were just amazing, the iced coffee that accompanied the meal was just the right touch. Telling the truth on a recent visit to Wo Hop, a small Chinese cafe-like restaurant I experienced a pit-stop dining experience that I don't want to experience again. It was the real and raw side of Chinatown, I wasn't ready for the gritty service or lack of it. Choices! Comparing the rushed service of Wo Hop to the friendly atmosphere of Pho 88, I know for certain that I will be back to sample the delicacies of Vietnam soon. The experiences were worth it, no matter the lack of service in Wo Hop I know the Vietnamese flavours will be back in my life during a future visit to NYCs Chinatown. U.S life has taught me to take chances! 

If I'm completely honest about one thing I have noticed about the younger population of Chinatown, New York City that I have seen all looking cool rather trendy.  The guys and girls all seem to have cutting edge fashion forward hairstyles. See my current barber shop on Ferry Street really isn't making the right cuts for me. So I'm going to play with fire and go for a change by trying one of the many ultra modern hair salons to hopefully achieve the dream barnet. Well, I'm sure that I shall report back if this brave new decision makes me look any less mundane than my current hairdresser does at the moment. Also I will add that the range of opticians on offer look fantastic, I probably would have to forfeit a trip if I had bought a pair of designer specs from one of these premium eye stores. I'll probably stick to Ferry Street because the price is right and its what I know, but never say never! Yes, those fire-escapes! 

Most definitely, I'm not going to be a stranger Chinatown, New York City because I can't get enough of its edgy exterior and your beautiful cuisine. Don't get me wrong because NYCs Chinatown is a must for any tourist visit as it shows New York City is a place that's quite different from New York City inspired films that I had watched before my initial visit. Not blogging at the time after my first visit allowed me to return to Chinatown for a whole other experience that brought me back those very first moments. I have sometime before I fly back to England, I know that it will be a natural thing to find myself back in New York City's gritty and honest Chinese neighbourhood within the heart of Lower Manhattan. The signs, dodgy goods and seriously good Vietnamese food served everything and more for that first Chinatown NYC experience. Little Italy was interesting but something all attracts me to a Chinatown, wherever in the world it might be. Until next time, stay on your game Chinatown!

Ooh, Vietnamese Food!

Joseph Harrison

26 June 2012

NYC Pride March 2012

New York City dragged itself up in aid for a fabulous cause. Shining with the six bright colours of the freedom flag, the beautiful people came out to play. This month just keeps on giving, I've only been back from Las Vegas three weeks! I certainly wasn't prepared for what I was about to see! Let's just be true to ourselves and enjoy the day because after all its NYC Gay Pride 2012! 

New York City was ready for the Pride March 2012, I made my way back to Greenwich Village! All lined up in our thousands the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgendered folk of New York City waited for this year's Pride March to begin. Flying the rainbow flag for the community, everyone waited out in the beautiful sunshine on New York's Christopher St. Until that glorious Sunday I had never been to a Pride March before, so what a great opportunity for my first to be in no other place like NYC! Waiting in our perfect spot on Christopher St. I had managed to trade a shift from work to make it to the march, I do have some lovely co-workers for sure! I noticed that the pavements were beginning to get increasingly busy, filling up with more excited pride goers. I did feel slightly over-dressed compared to the other guys who were rocking their super small tank tops and cut up t-shirts, I have my own flex! Some of these pride goers were dressed in a crazy fashion, I suppose one can't define the appropriate dress code for Pride?

Like Christmas this event only happens once per year so the reason behind people's way of thinking must have been to categorise this celebration as our LGBT Christmas. I'm certain that this Pride event will be the first of many for me, its just to good to miss! Long live Gay Pride for it's the epitome of fabulousity! Work has been crazy but I'm really enjoying myself, I'm not going to lie that it's been difficult to adjust from the craziness of Las Vegas so the hype of the parade really helped balance that out. I have been lucky making new friends from outside work, well from my co-worker Anthony. Me and Dean made our way from New Jersey to Greenwich Village for the Pride March. I'm new to this Pride lark so I just had a great day, I embraced the energy that could be felt along Christopher Street, after meeting Dean's friend we found a spot to wait for the March to make its way down to our side of town. I'm looking to go on another holiday but I need to work some hours first, without being hasty I just got on with my day in NYC!

Once the parade began the volume of campery and fabulousness could not be contained, Pride had been unleashed! Cyndi Lauper made her mark quite early on in the march as it made its way down our street. The Pop Icon didn't look a day older than 40, something somewhere tells me that she's had a bit of help in that department? Well, I suppose girls just want to have fun? Another appearance was made by Drag Superstar Manila Luzon and her drag new Drag Daughter. Manila looked stunning in her outfit, she out-dragged the other queens at the March that I saw, and I tell you there was a lot of competition. Other famous faces did appear throughout the March but they weren't really as fabulous as Cyndi or Manila. Advertising is big business at Pride events for the Gays have a bigger capacity of disposable income compared to our Straight counterparts. money makes the world go around! Many sponsors used their logos when marching, but incorporated perfect components centred around the cause to make things go by great. 

Delta Air Lines flown through with their band of enthusiastic staff, some of which were quite easy on the eye. The dancing cowboys from bar "Flaming Saddles Bar" made their entrance onto Christopher St with much gusto. If nothing else made you gasp about this Pride March then I would have to say the talent was exceptional! You had to appreciate the real meaning of this March, It was really good to see the couples that had been through Gay Liberation and the Stonewall Riots. To honestly have to imagine of living in a world where your committing a crime for loving the person you are meant to be with. Aside from seeing the Eye Candy it was great to see the golden oldies that make Pride so significant. As we get a step closer to having Marriage Equality, we already live with so much freedom to be with the person that one is meant to fall in love with. I've not been out in NYC for a night on the tiles for my crazy working hours mean that I'm going to work when people are finishing their night in the early hours so that's my story. Oh life! 

We had been standing for ages but the momentum of the March was really quick so it was easy to forget that time was racing past. I was loving the fit bods and the dangerous amount of disco pant wearing! I want some disco pants now! Drag Queens worked it past our spot, some of them were flawless but others needed to sashay away! Even though I missed Birmingham Pride I know that I'll make it sometime soon! From the muscle bound bodies dancing on the outrageous floats, to the Transgendered Divas there wasn't a second where I thought this March was nothing less than amazing. There were parts I do admit that weren't too great but I will not go into details! Please don't make me! I would have to say that one community in-particular knew how to strut their stuff! This group had to be the Puerto Rican's. Now the dancers that I saw were absolutely amazing! I suppose the saying rings true Puerto Rico does it better! Every single person worked it through the march considering the weather was very hot! 

So as It goes my first Pride experience was amazing, something truly great that I will not forget for a long time. From all the campery and fabulousness I'm still thankful that I got the day off work to enjoy the Pride event, after seeing Cyndi Lauper as the Grand Pride Marshal made my day. Like I mentioned I haven't made it to Birmingham Pride yet but its going to happen eventually, I'm going to get the most out of this year. Talking of the Puerto Rican's, I'm going to look at United for some flights from Newark Liberty because I want some sunshine within a holiday environment. Will I hit the town for a night out in NYC? I honestly don't know but I've fallen in love with this maniac city so I know full well I'll make my return when the time feels right, well when I have the funds to do exactly what I want to do! Pride was amazing, now I must get back to the airport grind to work for some dollars and to get the most from my placement. Now I do say that New York City is definitely one amazing place to begin my memories of Pride!

Flying The Flag All Over The Rainbow World! 

Joseph Harrison 

21 June 2012

The United Nations - Fighting for World Peace

The United Nations play a huge part in fighting humanitarian issues across the world, using their peacekeepers to restore calm in places like Palestine and Libya. I decided to take an unplanned trip to the United Nations Headquarters in New York to see for myself what Ban-ki Moon and his colleagues are doing to make the world more peaceful. Somehow I do not think I'll forget this day of sightseeing in a hurry! I think we all need to do something to help!

Sitting on the banks of the East River the Headquarters of the United Nations stands proud with a procession of flags flying for each nation that plays a part in this non-for-profit organisation. Generally speaking its not the most traditional pick for visiting during a holiday or in my case a day off. I was going through another stressful time at work and my Brit lads had finished working at Hallmark so I needed something to take my mind away from things. I found that the security at the Headquarters mirrored the procedures at any international airport. Baggage screening and body scanners checked each visitor, there was even a whole different entrance for visitors to enter due to the nature of the UN's operation, no person could enter without their purpose of visit defined.

I look back and think to a time where I tried to write a series of short stories about a group of peacekeepers who are called the 'Bedazzlers' these strong women are sisters and fight peacefully with power of their spirituality. Visiting the United Nations Headquarters made me think that if I was talking about real life 'Bedazzlers' what would they be like? Eh! They would be glamazons! I may have transitioned my writing into my Blogs, but I shall revisit the lives of the heroine I created one afternoon when I have nothing better to do. Belisha and her girls were watching over me, I'm sure I saw one glamourous employee who could of been a Bedazzler?

I was all cleared to enter the visitors centre, so I took some time to view the exhibits on display, most of which could be described as thought provoking and somewhat sobering. Its not difficult to work-out that our world has troubles that affect people in the poorest corners of the globe, to see the facts in large print was quite an eye-opener to say the least. I really found the exhibits really quite something that made me take stock of my sheltered and trouble-free life because the world isn't such a happy place for lots of people in other continents. The amount of tourists capturing photos on their cameras almost seemed disrespectful because their manner was just so rude and quite inconsiderate comparing to what issues that were on display. Such issues like poverty, terrorism and past atrocities such as the Holocaust were highlighted for visitors to see as a reminder. I think you would agree that these sensitive issues deserve a little bit more respect. I know that I conducted my behaviour in a respectful manner and took my photos with a level of knowledge that they would be used appropriately for this blog publication.

My wait was finally over as the audio tour which, I booked the previous day was about to begin. As shown in the picture captured to the left, I got the chance to sit in the assembly room that's used for debates and conferences to solves global humanitarian issues. Unfortunately, I didn't see the United Kingdom's desk but Turkey's was in clear view so all was not lost. It wasn't exactly Times Square but I want to believe that I'm quite a cultured soul with an appreciation for things that are a little deeper than the norm. This value for money tour lasted just over one hour, showing me various visuals and displays that showed hope for the future. Such issues like sending school boxes to remote places around the world to ensure children are literate showed that the United Nations has a clear and concise plan to help specific problems facing a large magnitude of people. Listening to some of the terrible things that have now been stopped by the United Nations with the help of their peacekeepers was great to witness.

As my afternoon drew to a close I sort of knew that I would have visited a place like this, one could say the outcome was nothing but positive. From the fluttering flags to the ever so predictable gift shop it was a pleasure to have seen the things that were on offer that day. In actual fact the Headquarters of the United Nations is currently undergoing a major overhaul, captured to the right is a photo of the ongoing construction work. I loved that some of the cement mixers were from Portuguese contractors, I live in an area that's highly populated with Portuguese and Brazilian people so it was nice to see that. Hopefully a new chapter for the buildings of the Headquarters could well mean that more positive movements can be accomplished. New York City has a lot to offer in terms of tourist attractions and things to see but if the usual haunts like Times Square are passe to you, I would strongly recommend choosing this establishment. Looking back at my political day out I would wholeheartedly say that a visit to the United Nations Headquarters is well worth it. It might have took me an age to find this place but I suppose nothing comes easy, plus I can be dreadful with directions sometimes and I say that I work in the travel industry?!

Let's All Wish For World Peace ! ! !

Joseph Harrison

12 June 2012

Road Trip Los Angeles

Ever wanted to just pack up the car and take a road trip? Well that's what me and my two friends did whilst holidaying in Las Vegas. Our destination would be Los Angeles in the state of California, luckily Paolo could drive as this road trip wouldn't of been too successful. Now, Marlene please get us there in one piece please!

The Las Vegas three set off into the Nevada desert for the four hour drive to the land of showbiz err Hollywood, Los Angeles. Paolo drove us all the way through the Nevada desert, to be honest it was quite bizarre going from the grandeur of our hotel to the barren desert within thirty minutes or even less if I remember correctly. Marlene sped through the searing heat of the desert, it was amazing to view the searing desert scenery. Our previous day in Sin City had been pretty full on to say the least so the early drive had some negatives, thankfully I can't drive because if truth be told I did have a snooze on the way.

Around two hours into our trip we needed some time to grab a little breakfast, my McDonald's orange juice just didn't last longer enough from 5am. In the middle of nowhere we found Peggy Sue's Diner, a truly bizarre place that felt like it had stopped in time. Our breakfast was quintessentially American, we were piratically American anyway, so we felt right at home. The mayhem of Las Vegas had begun to catch up on me as I just wanted to be tele-ported to Hollywood Boulevard already. Fueled and raring to drive onwards, I was really excited to reach the state border of California as we wanted to experience a brand new state! 

We soon left the desert behind us for the scenery started to change, civilisation seemed to be kicking in for it was a blessing to pass through the California Inspection post without any trouble. It was insane to think that we had passed through the Nevada desert! I was over the drive by the time we saw road signs for Los Angeles, bring on Sunset Boulevard! The sprawl of hills and trees slowly turned into houses and sooner or later we could see the urban sprawl of Downtown Los Angeles. I love the Downtown but we weren't going anywhere near that for certain! Growing ever restless to see the Hollywood sign for a second time in my life, I was like "Marlene go a bit faster please oh! It's the horrendous Los Angeles traffic!" 

I couldn't believe my lucky that I was about to be part of the 'Hollywood' vibe once more and see the towering palm trees that act as a focal point in the city of angels! How would I learn to adjust back to New Jersey life after this crazy day?! I honestly never thought that I would be making my 'L.A.' comeback anytime soon, so I could not believe my luck! Anyway, patience is a virtue and all that sensible stuff. I knew that I, Britney would become an even bigger star because we were going to the celebrity capital of the world! You better work Bitch! 

A star is born! Well we reached Hollywood safe and sound and with good time considering our break took up to one hour. The Hollywood Walk of Fame had not changed one bit since my first visit back in 2005. The shear amount of tourists going about their business really annoyed me, I just wanted to take in my new environment in peace! Trying to take pictures of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre took some patience as the hurricane wave of tourists made it impossible to execute the simplest of tourist duties. Me and the boys found a great deal to see the homes of the stars in Beverly Hills. I'm not being funny but a certain Christina A's house didn't impress me much...ah Britney's "Strong Than Yesterday!" Drama over. We also saw the house that Sonny and Cher shared during their famous marriage and the security post at Brad and Angelina's huge Beverly Hills mansion! How the other half live! Our tour took a quick interval by Rodeo Drive, it was like stepping into another world completely! I know one day I'll be back and shopping at the high fashion boutiques whilst getting my fix of Botox too! Los Angeles was fantastic even though our original plans had changed me and my friends still loved our day. Get me back to the excess of Las Vegas, I need to live life back in the fast lane! That's a Demand! Britney and her Boys !!!

Driving, Deserts and Hollywood ... The Perfect Combination for Another Great Day on Our West Coast Adventure

Joseph Harrison

8 June 2012

Viva Las Vegas!

Las Vegas, its Nevada's devilish deserts paradise that boasts casino's, hotels and wedding chapels. Not having lived long in New Jersey, I was so excited to be experiencing a whole new state! Sin City was the choice for my friends 21st birthday celebrations, being a complete freeloader I gatecrashed this trip that ended up to be a lot of fun! Hand me a tequila, please?

Las Vegas would be two flights away for the three of us friends, I chose Southwest Airlines whilst Tom and Paolo had already booked up with Delta before I had arrived in New Jersey. I reported early for my Phoenix bound flight with plenty of time to spare. Being a passenger for the first time since arriving into Newark Liberty International Airport felt amazing, the trip had been hyped up and then some! Visiting the check-in desks of my placement location to see my co-workers had to be done, I was mad excited to be on my way to Sin City! Taking my extra self from Terminal B to A via the Air Train had to be done. Boarded with cabin crew that were the friendliest I had met before that flight, I knew that I was in good hands for those flights to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport! Southwest Airlines kept me on time, for my Delta friends they were delayed from Newark Liberty! Yes, Southwest was the right choice! Fly B!

In place of a hot meal, Southwest Airlines did things differently with cute snack boxes and free non-alcoholic drinks from their debit card friendly cabin service. I hadn't had much breakfast so Beverly helped me out with a few extra Nabisco snack packs! The flights purser gave such a reassuring pre-flight announcement and throughout that first flight her country drawl set the relaxed mood of the flight. I was thirsty and on my way to a crazy place, getting a gin for less than bar prices I enjoyed my first mixed drink nicely. One of the crew members had me covered for the flight over to Pheonix, needless to say I was on the right level for my Las Vegas arrival! Switching places in PHX allowed me to refuel with a Pizza Hut treat, boarding and negotiating another drink allowed me to arrive into LAS feeling just right, or down right on it? Clocking the Delta baggage claim belt I took a seat, set my alarm and initiated my first disco nap of the trip! Seeing slot machines in arrivals was so mad!

I don't stay in hotels that are squalid, so our accommodation the Monte Carlo Hotel Resort & Casino gave us the perfect pad to rest after our Las Vegas Strip escapades. I never had a reservation so I waited in the lobby area while the boys checked-in, I had to live up to my Britney B*tch persona from the very beginning of that Vegas trip! Las Vegas lures gamblers from far and wide, manipulating their wallets to give that extra dollar to win the jackpot, I was wiser! No sleep for the Nevada trio, we hit the Vegas Strip to seek out the countless range of casino's to try our luck and to just have a general nose around. I didn't quite understand the whole politics of the gambling games that were on offer in such venues like the MGM Grand and Planet Hollywood. Being extra in my own way, I embraced those Las Vegas experiences to their fullest! I just needed another tequila to keep that Vegas state of mind going! Lime and salt BB!

Throughout our time in Las Vegas along the strip, we marvelled at the amazing landmark hotels. Each hotel had its own personality, I loved the Stratosphere for its towering vista of the strip! Having a hire car allowed us drive away from the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Boulevard core tourism area, I was living for the street feeling that kept us aware at all times. We were used to the craziness of Newark, New Jersey so the wilder side of the Las Vegas strip made us feel closer to our mad placement home. Going with the flow, I didn't need to dictate where we went because it was Paolo's birthday and his choice took precedence for that trip only! We hopped from one casino to the other, I also loved the grandeur of the MGM Grand! As mentioned before I never envisaged going to Las Vegas, it was all meant to be that it all happened! Las Vegas is definitely a destination that's for the gambling first but having a great time applies to all, I'd return for something extra! I need a Cosmo!

Our epic assault that incorporated visiting at least seven of the provincial casino's was amazing! MGM was out-of-this-world I couldn't believe my half-drunken eyes, yes I had been drinking all day! Myself and my friends had hit the Las Vegas strip like the stars of 'The Hangover' movie! During a short break from gambling in Excalibur's casino I ran off to buy a vest that displayed a suggestive design, it was a Vegas moment! Collecting an array of poker chips, the feeling of this immense place exceeded all my expectations. You can't get away from the slot-machines in Las Vegas, I just decided to embrace every single experience because I desperately seek adventure! This time last year I was finishing my first semester at University College Birmingham getting ready to embark on my International College Program in Orlando, Florida. Did I mention that Tequila was my best friend for the whole weekend? Another shot, please?

Now, the stars of "The Hangover" film featured such casino's like the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace which takes centre stage out of all the other casino's on the Vegas Strip. But none of us were about to get married nor arrested! Suited, booted and ready to take on the night as the lights shone bright through the Las Vegas Strip we made our way to the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace to gamble the night away. Those casino's produced my biggest win of $106.00, which was not too bad for me. I loved the system in the casino's! I kept putting coins into the slots, those drinks were free-flowing for that period! Naturally, tequila became my new best friend as the waitresses' made their way around the casino floor. I didn't care for the big money tables as I was just loving and living for the moment for the memories I made that night could never have a price tag! From night to day the Las Vegas Strip did its business, we enjoyed our time but on our own terms! Come on, I just wanted to see that sign LaVe!

On Tom and Paolo's final day before we took our hire car back, we saw the world famous Las Vegas sign! Stopping for the perfect photo opportunity I didn't care taking any photos of myself in front of the sign, I was content with the photo captured above. It was a bucket list moment, I had never envisaged travelling so early into my placement period! The whole situation was meant to be! The sign sealed the experience, it begs the question if I would ever return to Las Vegas in the future? Yes, I never made it to the Grand Canyon and with the pace of the Strip I know that the residency shows will continue to evolve further. Bidding the boys a fond farewell, it was time for them to take the hire car back before they caught their overnight flights back to Newark. I wasn't about to fly via Memphis to arrive back into LaGuardia when we lived so epically close to Newark Liberty, I didn't have the time for that! That sign though! Love it!

Spending one extra night in the city I relaxed to the max in my New York, New York hotel room before my breakfast time flight headed back to Newark, New Jersey. The whole trip had been everything and more, even though I didn't make it to the Grand Canyon I had freeloaded onto an already planned birthday trip! I'll definitely make another trip to Las Vegas to see it from my own perspective as a solo traveller! The rest of the final day was a pretty sedate affair, the week had been mental with the drive to Los Angeles and back to Vegas in one day. Feeling refreshed and ready for another drink, the flight back to Newark Liberty via Pheonix got very boozy but I was good enough. All I needed to know was that my flights were on time and that the connection would be seamless just like the outbound sectors were. Making it home to Lafayette Street was a relief, this independent travel lark is still relatively new to me! Vegas was well worth it, Vegas was amazing and yes I loved it baby! Yes!

Bright Lights, Big City!

Joseph Harrison 

6 June 2012

Flying High... Southwest Airlines!

Flying from Newark Liberty, NJ to Las Vegas, NV via Phoenix, AZ with Southwest Airlines allowed me to see 'No Frills' from an American perspective. Whilst my friends Tom and Paolo flew with Delta Air Lines, would my budget Southwest Airlines experience champion their series of unfortunate events? So, America's answer to 'easyjet' impressed me for several reasons.

I must admit it was quite strange to be at Newark Airport as a passenger because my Industrial Placement takes up most of my time spent at the airport. Nevertheless holidays my Vegas holiday had arrived, after printing my boarding card and clearing TSA screening I felt the holiday vibe kick in! Bound for Phoenix, AZ with my Las Vegas experience about to begin my Southwest jet boarded in a manner that was both organised yet crazy. As I've had the pleasure of travelling with Ryanair, I was pleasantly surprised not to see passengers running to the boarding gate after the first announcement to wrestle for a seat. As I work for an airline the usual questions from passengers like 'is this the boarding gate for this flight?' Yes, I did the unthinkable by making the same mistake, to then later find out that on US domestic flights I.D doesn't have to be checked, even UK domestic flights require passport checks! But do they?

Southwest Airlines amazed me by not charging for their non-alcoholic drinks and snacks, well when I'm on my holidays soft drinks are simply a mixer, please! I was embarking on my very first holiday since starting my Industrial Placement and I wanted my flying experience to be as good as my holiday time! Our crew passed through the cabin shortly after take-off with their quirky clipboard and debit/credit card machines to take drinks orders, no trolley dollies on-board this Phoenix, Arizona bound flight. Due to the light load of passengers on this flight I made myself comfortable lounging in my very own row. Beverly, one of the lovely crew members fulfilled my request that was a Gin and Tonic, only $4 dollars as the tonic was free, what a bargain! As I neared the end of my first holiday drink I requested another Gin and Tonic brandishing my debit card to be told "Honey, don't worry about it" looking like it was free drinks, I was living my Southwest dream! No, Ryanair it was not!

Touching down at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport feeling very boozy, making my way to the transfer screen to see which gate my Las Vegas bound flight would board from. Grabbing a small pizza, I needed to keep it together because my Newark flight to AZ had been boozy indeed. The experience transferring flights with Southwest was fine, I didn't have to change terminals or concourses so I had no stress, if truth be told I was quite apprehensive about changing planes. Boarding my Las Vegas flight I had to move because a passenger needed to sit by the window with his oxygen tank, I bargained for another drink because I was in that crazy Vegas mood, or just feeling like I had too many Gin and Tonics by that time? A bit of both I protest! Meanwhile Tom and Paolo had been delayed in Newark and had been transferred onto another flight, I didn't pay any mind because I had a smooth trip without any hitches at all! Yaass, SWA!

Looking back at the time when I booked my Southwest Airlines flight it was a very rushed decision, I wanted to fly from Newark direct with United Airlines but my budget would not allow those ridiculous prices, I know that making my Southwest choice to fly via Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to Las Vegas was meant to be! United, thanks for being so damn expensive! I also looked at the possibility to fly on the same flights as Tom and Paolo but their flight times via Memphis were crazy and their return flight landed into New York La Guardia Airport! Newark Liberty International Airport only being twenty minutes or so from my Ironbound residence had me ditching any LaGuardia arrival! I am proud to say that all of my Southwest Airlines flights pushed back and arrived bang on-time, which worked great because I was pretty worse for ware on the return leg from Phoenix to Newark, actually I almost missed that flight! Oh Phoenix, you already know that Tequila was the one! Not good Joe!

No meal service for Southwest Airlines, that's just not the way this airline does things. Southwest Airlines like to mix things up by offering snack packs, mind you I was starved so the crew slipped me a few extra treats. My special pre-Vegas cocktails kept coming throughout the flights, adding that my friends were on a different flight amazingly made the crew take care of me more. It was like no other set of flights that I had experienced, our flight service manager from Newark to PHX looked just like Dolly Parton with her country talk and bouffant hair style, comedy was served up in place of a hot air-plane meal. Southwest, an airline that serves every beverage with a smile, rivalling their budget Irish cousin Ryanair. Arriving at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport before my friends, I found a little spot in the middle of baggage reclaim to have a nap! I was a mess but it was completely justifiable because it was Vegas!

Honestly, speaking I usually travel with Delta Air Lines domestically within the United States so I've had the pleasure of transiting through the monster that is Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport so I know to keep my cool and look for the correct gate. Delta had my friends delayed and their inbound flight was just not something I wanted to deal, no overnight flights before work! The meal service might have been non-existent but I embraced the budget service, those snack boxes contained yummy treats like Oreos, Ritz crackers and more things I can't quite remember because I was so boozy. In-flight meals aren't usually very good so I was able to deal without one on Southwest. Would I fly with Southwest Airlines again in the future? The service was great and I arrived at my intended destination and back to Newark Liberty bang on-time! It goes without saying that Southwest Airlines are awesome, so I know I made the right decision over their market competitors! Fly S!

Fly Southwest Airlines!

Joseph Harrison