The time has come to leave Italy. Thick, dark clouds are rolling into Venice as we take off, and that’s not a place I want to be when it rains. It’s been raining in London, where we will change planes, then the journey will continue on to home, Los Angeles.
There is sometimes something mystical about aviation, about the change in perspective these giant, heavy “sardine cans” give you as they push their way through the skies. The window seat is always my preferred choice, and a lot of time usually gets spent staring out at the landscape below.
Colorful fields and wind turbines are shown among the French countryside from cruising altitude.
We approach London, and Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Palace and Abbey all come into view. This is really cool. It’s a surreal experience, almost as if none of these sights truly existed until I witnessed them with my own eyes. I had the same feeling when visiting Washington D.C. in 8th grade.
Over London, the River Thames and landmarks including Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the Millennium Wheel are visible.
Oddly, during this aerial sightseeing, a Virgin Atlantic passenger jet approaches, then travels alongside us. We fly and fly and fly, and the other aircraft keeps pace. Are we a part of an air show demonstration no one told us about? Through the clouds, a glimpse of the city again comes into view. Finally, the pilot updates over the intercom: Due to the storms, air traffic is backed way up. Planes with less fuel are given landing priority.
London, England – June 8, 2012: A Virgin Atlantic airliner jet is shown flying nearby, in an air-to-air view during a cloudy day.
Twenty minutes pass, the Virgin jet changes course, and I lose sight of it. Finally, after about 30 minutes more, we start to hear the mechanical buzzes and whirs from the bowels of our jet, indicating we will be landing soon.
Touchdown was normal and uneventful, although we had to wait on the tarmac for a parking spot to open up next to a jet bridge. The airport is a madhouse right now.
The interior is busy, busy, resembling Los Angeles International Airport during the days leading up to Thanksgiving. With so many canceled flights, an airline employee directs us to a rebooking line. Great. Hundreds of people are waiting ahead of us, if not a thousand.
This is no exaggeration: 6 hours pass, and the queue has hardly budged. British Airways starts handing out sandwiches, which is probably food that would have been served on one of the canceled flights. Two hours later, an employee announces to the line the airline is putting us up for the night. We head to the shuttles outside, then on down the road to the hotel.
A buffet dinner has been set out for the weary travelers, and we are handed airport vouchers for breakfast. We appreciate that, considering 8 hours in line was rough. Maybe it’s good customer service, or maybe it comes from EU regulations, but we can think of at least a couple U.S. airlines that would have been okay with us sleeping on the airport floor.
My sister was scheduled to pick us up from the airport in L.A., and I need to let her know about all this, that we certainly won’t be landing on schedule. We don’t have international SIM cards, so our cell phones won’t connect to any network. We managed to spend almost every single Euro we had in Italy. Before leaving Venice, we converted the money back to U.S. dollars, which ended up being about 12 bucks. I ask the hotel front desk if I can make a quick, international call and pay the bill in USD. Nope. Can we pay the wifi charge in cash? Nope. “Do you convert currency?” I ask. “Not anything less than 20 dollars.”
Janine and I step away from the desk and do some brainstorming. After finishing with the next customer, the clerk gets my attention, and I approach the desk again. He whispers “I’m sorry about your situation, and I understand. My shift ends at 5 AM. If you can come back 5 minutes before then, I will get you logged in using my account, and you can send your email.” Wow. That’s hospitality.
During the night, I toss and turn and head back downstairs at 4:50 AM. I’m exhausted and can barely open my eyes. The clerk is doing some work and, a few minutes later, gets me set up on the computer. It takes a minute to send my email. I muster up enough energy to sincerely tell the clerk “thank you” for helping us. I give him all the USD cash I have on-hand as a tip, go back upstairs, and sleep for a couple hours.
Not-so-surprisingly, the airport is very busy, but we finally manage to leave London. With just a little more time, I would have loved to visit the city. Maybe next year…
Gazing out the window, some icebergs come into sight. We see a field of pack ice, followed by glaciers coming together between mountain valleys, as well as the edge of a glacier. This must be Greenland.
Glacial confluence is shown in Greenland from an aerial view.
Every time I open the window shade and start taking photos, the passenger behind me opens up his or shade. Then it quickly closes. What can I say? The landscape is neat, and apparently the person behind me must not have ever taken Dr. Garrett’s Geology class at Miami U.
The edge of the Greenland ice sheet is shown from an aerial view during the 2010s.
The rest of the view is generally of a broad, simple, rural landscape. Lots of farms, lots of mountains. When we get to more rugged parts of the U.S., a fault line running through farmland provides an unusual sight. It wasn’t visible on this flight, but the Grand Canyon is always an amazing place to fly over.
A fault line is shown in the USA from an aerial view.
Downtown L.A. and Hollywood come into view. It hasn’t been so easy getting back to this land of hopes and dreams. The travel was long and stressful. It’s good to be back on terra firma but, after all this, I could sure use a vacation.
Until we meet again…
"Getting Back To Hollywood Isn't So Easy" – June 2012 Written by: Justin Kilmer
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