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Flight to Madrid aboard Delta Air Lines Economy. Looks comfy, no?

I hate that moment when you get on the plane, lug your carry-on through Business Class and you see the people sitting in their spacious seats, sipping champagne, already settled, giving you that half-smile and a look that says, ‘Yeah…that’s right. My carry-on is guaranteed in the overhead and I’m going to sleep the entire flight. What’s up, capitalism!”

Sure, I may have been one of those people on occasion, but for the most part I’m hoofing it with my Economy brethren, damning the man and plotting the pitch-fork revolt from the back of the cabin.

This weekend I embark on a cute little 11-hour flight to Istanbul, Turkey. No, it will not be Business Class. So in preparation, I’m dusting off my little Economy Class Survival Guide, which I thought I should share with all of you.

1. Dress to De-Stress
I don’t know if this happens to you, but on long flights my body swells up to about four-times its normal size. Something about the water rising out of your tissues and sitting under your skin…I don’t know, someone told me that and I bought it. In any event, constricting jeans don’t really feel the most comfortable when your body is reenacting the scene from Willy Wonka when Violet turns into a blueberry. Comfortable clothing is key. Go for stretchy fabrics, and layers. Temperatures go a bit haywire on the plane. But please, I beg of you, leave the crushed velvet leisure suit at home. Comfortable does not mean Real Housewives of New Jersey.

2. Nurture Your Neck
Yes, Business Class has lie-flat beds. Economy seats recline a generous 10 degrees. Nothing says sound sleep like sitting upright mashed against the overweight gentleman next to you. I know they look goofy, but friends, those crescent-shaped neck pillows are incredibly effective. If anything, you won’t be the freak whose head lolls to one side as you awkwardly jerk yourself awake to prevent drooling on yourself.

3. Gimme the Drugs
Look, I don’t have a drug problem. I don’t use prescription medication for recreational use. I’m just saying that Tylenol PM, when mixed with a glass of red wine, will knock you out for about eight hours. I once slept the entire way to Israel, in Economy, on that combination. And I always use it on my flights to Europe. If it’s an unusually long flight, say, to China, go for the real stuff: Ambien. Seriously, it was like that 15-hour flight never even occurred.

4. Entertainment Options
Sure in Business Class the entertainment options are right in front of you. Hours worth of movies and TV shows. In Economy, we do not have that luxury, so you must be a little more creative. Don’t just rely on the iPod. Sometimes you get a little antsy and want to switch to a bit of light reading, so bring an engaging book. For those of you who need visual stimulation as well, load up your laptop with movies, or bring a few of your favorite DVDs on the plane. If you can constantly keep switching forms of entertainment, the flight will seem shorter.

5. Necessary Noshing
Most air carriers these days suck. If they aren’t charging you a ridiculous amount for the ticket, they’re charging you for checked bags, blankets and yes, food. It’s not uncommon to be undernourished on a lengthy flight, leaving us to fend for ourselves. Remember to load up on snacks at the airport, past security, so you aren’t awkwardly handing over your nibbles to the TSA agents. And remember – the stinkier the snack, the more likely you are making some mortal enemies. The cabin is shared space (and air), people. I don’t need your tuna salad wafting into my nose. Perhaps that turkey wrap is a better option, no?


New York is known for many things, but Southern BBQ is not one of them. As I consider BBQ to be some sort of epicurean gospel, when I hear of a new joint in NYC to scope out, you can bet that I’ll be there.

During last year’s Summer of Fun series, I wanted desperately to investigate The Smoke Joint in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, but alas, there just was not enough time. So this summer, it went to the top of my list…and I kicked myself for having not gone sooner.

Stepping into the restaurant is like pulling over to the side of a dusty southern road and stepping into a wood shack with smokers smoking and flames licking turning hunks of meat. However, once you get a look at the list of obscure bourbons and artfully concocted cocktails, it’s easy to remember that you are still in Brooklyn’s hipster-meets-haute center.

I sampled the pulled pork sandwich (because that is one dish I can never say no to). It comes with pickles and cole slaw, but be sure to leave room for sides. The mac & cheese is epic, as is the corn bread.

Some in our dinner party felt that the sandwich was a bit too greasy, but you can order the pulled pork as a platter without the bun if that is your concern. Personally, I don’t mind a little grease dripping down to my elbows, however when you’re off to see a lecture at the nearby Brooklyn Academy of Music (as we were), you may not want to be smelling of pork.

Anyway, this restaurant gets my vote and is yet another reason to venture outside of Manhattan.

Here’s the great thing about Montreal: It’s less than an hour flight from JFK. Wait, let me rephrase. It’s supposed to be less than an hour flight from JFK, unless both Delta Air Lines and JFK team up to turn your allegedly brief trip into an epic saga.

It all started when, after boarding the plane in record time, maintenance decided to check the tires only to discover that one of them needed changing (perhaps something to check ahead of time, boys?). After deboarding and reboarding (and another two hours of sitting on the runway due to signal chaos), finally we were airborne (and all a little cranky).

But despite the headaches of JFK and Delta, the arrival in Montreal is so pleasant that it’s easy to transition seamlessly into laid-back European mode.

How could you not love this city? It’s a destination for Francophiles, artists, musicians, foodies, barflies, young, old….the list goes on. Home to four universities, the city has 40,000 college students, which breathes energetic life into sleepy, cobblestoned streets. Case in point: Every Sunday night in the summer, Montreal is home to Piknic Électronik – an all-day outdoor festival with wine and electronic music that only gets more and more frenetic as the night goes on (and inebriation sets in). Around 10 p.m. the scene erupts into an all-out dance party – on a Sunday night. Who doesn’t love coping with the Sunday night blues by grinding up with their fellow neighbor on a wine buzz with a fresh suntan? Ahh youth.

Tomorrow is set aside for a full day of exploration, but this evening we were given a taste of local cuisine at Restaurant L’Autre Version. The restaurant sits in a building that dates back over two hundred years. Inside the atmosphere is modern and urban, while the back garden is more Provence-meets-Miami with ivy-covered walls and canopied daybeds. Chef Pascal Cormier came out to greet our table (and I was not disappointed…hello ruggedly handsome chef with a French accent…) to talk about his menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes. I opted for the venison tartare and grilled mahi-mahi served ‘puttanesca’ style with Kalamata olives and capers.

Tonight we crash at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal in the heart of downtown. Tomorrow is devoted to a culinary tour of the city and individual exploration. Not bad for a little taste of Europe just an hour outside of New York…assuming JFK will actually let you leave.

And Name that Skyline! continues. New to the game? Here’s how it works:

Take a peek at the skyline shot below. You have until 4 p.m. EST to make your guesses. (Remember to comment ONLY on the blog. Do not post your guesses on Facebook.) I won’t publish your comments until the contest is over, so feel free to guess as many times as you like. The first person to correctly name the skyline will win that coveted $25 AmEx gift card.

This is the last post until I head off to Canada. Stay tuned next week for posts from the Great White North.