Around the world in a bit less than a month

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Around the world in a bit less than a month


Last week I re-created a blog post that I inadvertently deleted, one part of our 2013 Australian walkabout when we drove around the continent in about a month. That meant checking the website to see if I’d mislaid the item and one thing led to another, as these things do, and I found I’d deleted quite a lot of posts. I’ve moved my website a few times over the years, so I’ve ‘tidied up’. But really, sometimes that’s not a great idea. I’ve blogged about my travels for a long time now, going back to 2010. But since nobody had opened any of those posts for a number of years, I deleted them.

The reasoning is sound except for one rather large detail – essentially, I’d written them for us – Pete and me. They were memories of a journey for which the photos are illustrations. More than once I’ve read back through my travel posts, reliving the trips we’d done. Pete noticed the missing segment in the 2013 walkabout story because he was reading them, looking for a detail which should have been on that missing page. I’d started my ‘Travel’ page in 2013, a place where I’ve grouped posts into collections about individual trips. But anything earlier than 2013 was gone.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Now in July 2019, I’m going to re-create some of those journeys as best I can, starting with Around the World in a bit less than a month, which we did in May, 2011. We planned to fly to Amsterdam, where we would spend four nights. Then we’d fly to Copenhagen and join the Norwegian Sun for a nine-day Baltic cruise, returning to Copenhagen. After two nights in Copenhagen we’d fly to New York for three nights. We’d catch a train to Washington and spend four nights there before flying across the country to San Francisco for three nights. From there, we were headed home via Los Angeles. Trains ‘n boats ‘n planes.

The journey begins

We flew Singapore Airlines to Singapore, relaxed in the lounge at Changi airport, then flew Lufthansa to Frankfurt, where we’d catch a flight to Amsterdam. Long distance travel has its ups and downs, and this one was no exception. Singapore Airlines is one of the world’s best, with great beds (we flew business class), good food, and good entertainment. Lufthansa’s business class wasn’t in the same class but it was better than being down the back.

Frankfurt airport has been upgraded since that flight and it sure needed it. The young man at immigration welcomed us to Europe and we passed through to find some coffee and kill several hours before our flight to Amsterdam. Where was the airport lounge? We eventually found somebody to ask and discovered that the lounges were in the International section, and we were now in Domestic. “But… but we’re going to Amsterdam. In the Netherlands. International.”

The woman refrained from rolling her eyes and explained, “Yes, but that’s part of the European Union, so you fly domestic.” She pointed at a closed-off area. “The cafeteria will be open soon. You can get coffee there.”

I would have thought a huge international airport like Frankfurt would have eating facilities open 24-7. But no. We kicked our heels until the place finally opened so we could grab a coffee.

From there it was off to the gates, via the security checks. The buzzer went off as I went through the scanner so I was called to once side. I know they’re just doing a job but I knew the only metal on my person were the underwires in my bra, a point I made to the security lady. At least she was pleasant. She asked me where I’d come from and when I said Australia, she sympathised. “That’s a long flight,” she said as she patted me down. Meanwhile, I noticed somebody apparently taking Pete off somewhere. I collected my carry-on bags and looked around for him. One of the security guards glared at me as if I was standing around in a suspicious way and I (probably foolishly) glared right back. No Pete. I gazed around, wondering wht to do next. I didn’t have a plan B. I was starting to get a bit panicky when he appeared from somewhere muttering about officious krauts, and we went on through to join everybody else in a crowded holding area. At Frankfurt many domestic flights use hard stands, parking bays away from the terminal where passengers access the aircraft via stairs. Buses take people to and from the plane. Eventually, a bus arrived for us and we all packed on for the short trip. Manners weren’t in the mix. Barge on, first in, best dressed. I didn’t get a seat. I was going to be really, really glad when we finally arrived in Amsterdam.

It was still only mid-morning local time when the flight took off for the short hop to Schiphol. I chucked my stuff in the overhead locker and tucked in to morning tea delivered by a pleasant middle-aged German gentleman, then stared out the window.

I wrote this back in 2010, one of the few pieces I kept, describing the flight from Frankfurt to Amsterdam.

The 737 thrusts up from the runway into an unmistakable atmospheric inversion. I look out the window onto a slightly blurred landscape, as if some entity had cast a gauzy grey veil across an alien landscape of low, green-forested hills interspersed with towns and villages, collections of little boxes set amongst the flowing lines and curves of nature. My camera is up there, in the overhead locker inside my carry-on bag. Should I take pictures? Nah. I’m tired, still grumpy about the crummy airport and facilities at Frankfurt. But I can’t stop looking. Steam rises into the turgid atmosphere, spewing from the flowerpot-shaped stacks of four, five, six… good grief, how many power stations all across this verdant land. Interspersed between them, in discreet groups on the tops of the hills, tall white wind towers stand, their massive sails barely moving.

I realise we’ve crossed into Holland when my brain finally registers the countryside has changed. Down there beneath the woolly clouds the land has taken on the appearance of a patchwork quilt in brown and green and gold. So different from the channel country in the heart of Australia, where rows of petrified sand hills march across the land like so many frozen waves. Do I need the camera? … Nah.

The plane turns and begins to descend into Schiphol. The patchwork quilt of fields changes again, each piece becoming long and narrow, edged with glittering channels of water. Water, more water everywhere. Barges drift along a lazy river threading through the landscape. And what’s that? I peer down at a shifting shape leaping along below, hazy, elusive, blending with the shadows, hiding under the clouds. The plane loses height and speed. So does the shape. The haziness resolves and hardens. It is the shadow of the 737 in which I sit, thousands of metres above. I notice the pools and lakes that seem to erupt into crinkled silver paper glitter as the sunlight hits them. And still the shape paces with us, sailing over water, leaping over roads, galloping dark and gleeful over the white roofs of massed greenhouses, only to disappear briefly into the shadow of a drifting cloud.

Camera? No. It won’t last. The plane will turn and it will be all over.

Down, further down. Our shadow matches every move. Damn and blast, it’s perfect; there’s the tail, the foreshortened wings. The shadow disappears into the detail for a moment and reappears. By now the plane is dropping down to the runway. The cultivated fields are replaced by a wide expanse of grass edging the asphalt and the shadow paces with us, perfect, sharp edged and dark until it merges with our wheels

I sigh. The camera’s up there, in the overhead locker.

We’re finally in Amsterdam, city of my birth. Next time, I’ll tell you all about it.


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