whistlestop caboose

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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

Tulips 2006 for Gran ellengwallace's Tulips 2006 for Gran photoset

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Schiphol news: inflight pause

I flew Monday from Geneva, Switzerland to Vancouver, Canada, and loved every minute of it. If you have heard tales of hellish travel lately, this is the other side of the coin. It's nearly two hours from Geneva to Amsterdam, KLM's home base and a major European hub - wikipedia says it was 4th in Europe in 2004. I was on KLM so into Amsterdam we went, skimming over the low land and waterways of Holland, to our left giant sea clouds banking and piling up as they skid to a halt when they hit continental air. The land looks like it has been wrapped in tinsel when the sun is shining through the clouds, so pervasive are the dikes and canals for which The Netherlands is famous.

This is one of my favorite hub airports. It's big but easy and comfortable, everyone seems to be briefly on pause, having just arrived from one exotic location, en route to another. Japanese tourists in droves were buying tulip bulbs and the under-30 crowd was streaming into a large "audio" shop.

I had brought a novel that wasn't holding my interest (Singing Bird, by Roisin McAuley), so was delighted to see how large the English selection was in the Dutch bookstore, and bought two more books for the trip: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch, by Dai Sijie and Arthur & George, by Julian Barnes.

I did not buy but lingered over two books about the Middle East, one a history of the Arab world and the other an explanation (bravo to the editor for attemping this!) of the tensions in the Middle East. Both looked worth reading, but airplanes are places where I like to rise above the world's problems. They are escape hatches and movies and fiction seem the best way to while away the hours.

I wandered around the spaceship that is Schiphol, studying tulip bulbs and other travellers, then headed for my gate, which had been changed. A security measure, explained an airport employee. A nuisance, grumbled a German businessman behind me. I had dressed and packed 2006 style for international travel, which made things easier. Shoes slipped off, nothing in my pockets, no hand luggage other than handbag and bookstore and Swiss chocolate shop plastic bags.

The airplane left on time, with not a seat to spare. On my left was a young Italian construction worker, returning to his two-year posting on a major building site in Vancouver. I asked if he skied. "No," and he blushed and laughed at himself. "I guess that is strange, since Vancouver is so good for that, and maybe I should. Maybe I will. But I had to ski in the Italian army and that was such as awful experience I haven't wanted to wear skis since!"

On my right was a bespectacled boy of perhaps 14-15 who shyly asked for help with the landing card for Canada. His mother was in first class, he was in economy. He was Canadian, but seemed unfamiliar with Canada and he had never seen a Mars bar before (they were being handed out at the back of the plane). I asked if he had started the trip in Amsterdam - no, in Iran. He'd flown for five hours, had a three-hour layover and now he had nearly ten hours of flying time ahead of him.

The world slipped away before us and the magic carpet syndrome of flying took over. When I was a child my oldest sister Jeanne gave me a hardbound copy of Arabian nights, with color plates. I loved the physical book and the tales in it and I suspect it is responsible in part for my love of travel.

We all settled in to watch our movies. I laughed my way through American Dreamz, silly nonsense and just right for a long flight. I read my book, dozed, watched On a Clear Day, a Scottish film about an unemployed man who finds courage again by swimming the Channel. I tried to imagine doing that. The seaweed would defeat me before I started, I decided.

We flew far north and what joy! It was a crystal clear day and we could see the raw mountains and ice packs of northern Greenland, as clear as could be. My little map of the world has another few notches on it now - seen that bit of geography. What an amazing globe we have.

Greenland photos will follow once I find the USB port on my hosts' computer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

send news of your arrival in your next port, hopefully phoenix arizona! we await with baited breath and chilled cocktails!

6:52 AM  
Blogger Expat Traveler said...

well - now you've met someone else in Vancouver who has yet to ski! For me it's different reasons. MY skis aren't here yet. No excuse still...

And oh you've made me want to fly into schiphol now too!

Your visit was so enjoyable! I hope for another one day again... :)

5:02 PM  
Blogger whistlestop caboose said...

More on Phoenix, where I did indeed show up, a bit later...

10:10 AM  

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