If you’re a temporary Londoner searching for a sunny holiday, you might first decide to stick to the shores of England. Cornwall, maybe. You’ve read it boasts the only sub-tropical climate in the UK, so you’re hopeful you’ll find the sunshine you’ve been craving while enduring the damp early summer of London.
In Cornwall, though, you might experience gusty winds and sheeting rain – the likes of which send you back to London colder, paler and more sickly than you were when you left.
Obviously, you’ll need an antidote to that seaside vacation, and when you hear someone’s offhand remark about warm weather being guaranteed in Portugal this time of year, you’ll slavishly search online for a long-weekend deal.
You’ll book a flight on easyJet, which, with its cheap rates and direct flights, is the only option that makes good use of vacation funds and paid time off left after Cornwall.
You will conclude that easyJet’s brand name is only half true, as you will be forced to submit to a series of draconian measures before you even leave for the airport. easyJet will charge you roughly the equivalent of your actual fare if you try to check in at the airport – you must check in online at home, and print out your boarding passes at home. It will also charge you the equivalent of your fare if your carry-on luggage doesn’t adhere to the strict geometry of the airline’s overhead bins, so you will use one of your kids’ little yellow rulers to measure, to the millimeter, the height, width and depth of your wheelie bag.
Once you have cleared these hurdles, you will take a car from your house in Southwest London to Gatwick Airport, which, being in West Sussex, not London proper, is at least an hour away.
While en route, your son, a notorious sufferer of carsickness, will threaten vomit. Your entire family will be subjected to hearing the driver misuse the word “fuck” several times while talking about his own children and their travels around the world, marking the first time in your life that you were uneasy about someone’s first language not being English.
When you get to Gatwick’s South Terminal, you will realize that the spirit of southern New Jersey, your home state in America, is very much alive in the heart of West Sussex, because the ambience is reminiscent of an Atlantic City casino. (Notice you didn’t think of Vegas, because Vegas casinos are world-class, sumptuous affairs that draw high-rolling patrons from around the globe, and that’s more like Heathrow.)
The four of you will look around the terminal with nostalgia for the Jersey Shore, admiring the tall, tanned twentysomethings with blonde hair extensions and stiletto heels, the buff young men in shorts and sports jerseys, the faint scent of cocktails wafting on the air. You’ll see that even the man maintaining order at the security gate is wearing a black suit vest over a white button down, a jaunty bowtie at his neck. With his sparse hair gelled upwards into a tufty Mohawk, his overall look is befitting of the most dedicated blackjack dealers.
Some of these passengers will be, like you, flying easyJet to Faro on the quest for sun. Others will go to places throughout Europe you can’t pronounce, but sound pretty good. Catatonia? La Vida Loca? Coitus?
You’ll follow a group of swarthy young men wearing matching t-shirts that read “Bru’s Stag: Albufeira, 2015”, onto the plane, and sidle into your seats. Once you are airborne, you will realize that the illuminated seat belt sign’s only purpose is to provide mood lighting, because all the passengers are up and about, chatting and enjoying their cocktails as though you are all flying Virgin Atlantic or something.
You’ll begin to understand that even though the pre-boarding process for Easyjet is a pain in the balls, the onboard vibe is fun, which makes you more forgiving. When the drinks cart comes around, you will hear a man order tea, to which his seatmate will scoff: “That’s bollocks! I’ll have a gin and tonic!” at the top of his lungs.
You will ask one of the flight attendants (they’re all smiling…smiling) if it’s always this convivial on Easyjet flights. They will tell you, “It depends on the route. But this one is usually pretty cheerful.”
The pilots will wait until they are low enough to visibly use sign language with air traffic control before they announce the descent into Faro, so that all passengers can continue the general merrymaking. This will make your nip to the loo a bit challenging.
When you land in Portugal, you will be bitterly disappointed to discover weather conditions very similar to those in Cornwall. You will lay on the beach anyway, persevering through the rain and clouds that you’re convinced Mother Nature has conspired to dangle right above you. You will eat Cataplana at shitty tourist traps, and be filled with despair.
Until the last night. You will seek out Sunday dinner in this Catholic country and trudge through town in the pouring rain, and you will come upon an amazing place that’s actually open and serves you one of the best meals you’ve ever had in your life. While you’re all eating, a nice man at a nearby table makes it a point to tell you how well behaved your children are. This has never happened to you before, and you will look around to confirm that the man is talking to you (he is). Then, the rain will stop and an honest-to-God rainbow will come out, lifting everyone’s mood.
You are reminded of the reason why you came to Portugal, and realize that, at least figuratively, this might be the closest you’re going to get…to finding a sunny holiday.
Thanks, Laura Numeroff, for the inspiration for this post.