I remember a very specific moment in my childhood when I realized, crushingly, that I’d never be able to fly on a magic carpet through the clouds and sculpt them into fluffy shapes. Then I took my first airplane journey, and decided that if that was as close as I could get to the clouds, I’d take it and love it. I’ve always loved flying, and takeoff is my favorite part. When we were on our way to the National Championship in 2010 on a plane chartered especially for the Million Dollar Band, Mr. Simpson had them play “Yay Alabama!” during takeoff. It was thrilling.
I feel the same excitement every time during takeoff, and I felt it on Sunday when I took to the clouds to begin my 9-month adventure in Europe! Mom captured this moment as she was waving me through the security line.
It was a loooong journey, with a three hour car ride to the airport, a two hour wait in the airport lounge, an 8 hour plane ride (I wasn’t able to sleep, because a giant claimed the empty seat right next to mine and I don’t like sleeping with strangers a quarter of an inch away from me), and 2 hours to get through customs, immigration, and baggage claim. And that was only the beginning. From the airport I rolled my 50 pound checked bag, 35 pound carry on (and I didn’t have the heart to weigh my backpack, but it was super heavy) to the underground, where I caught the Piccadilly line Platform 2 to the London/St. Pancras train station. I think that took about an hour, lots of stopping and starting and taking on new passengers and letting them off, but it only cost 5L. 😉 From there I made my way directly into the St. Pancras train station. And on the way up the first escalator, only a few feet up, I did the most magnificently comedic (yet painful) cartwheel fall. Pro tip: When traveling, the big suitcase does NOT go first on the escalator. Because if it falls, it falls on you, and then you fall on the smaller suitcase, and the backpack on your back keeps you from regaining your balance. And since it’s an escalator, every time you almost regain your balance the steps moving up will drop you again. There were two passably attractive Englishmen rushing up the escalator to help me (after they recovered from their shock) but by the time they made it up I was finally on my feet and surveying the damage. Story of my life. I put a brave face on and limped onwards, first to claim my train tickets, and then to find a haven to wait out the 3 hours I had to kill. I spotted a restaurant called Des Vins with empty tables, and hobbled towards it, and the lovely waitress opened the door for me, for which I decided to make her my favorite person for life. I settled in at the table and ordered an apple/raspberry juice, a nutella crepe, and a pot of tea for comfort.
After that blessedly restorative stop, I checked in for the international departure, where I had to heave all of my bags onto the conveyor belt to be scanned and show my passport yet again. Luckily there was a ramp for the largest suitcase, otherwise I would have sat down in the train station and cried. Once I made it into the lounge area, surprise surprise, there were no seats. I thought, hey, I’ll run to the restroom while I wait. I cannot even write about the pain of cramming myself and three pieces of luggage into a small bathroom stall only to find it… unusable. Twice. I finally gave up on that idea and ran from there as fast as I could pull my bags behind me. I found an empty seat, which a gentleman was also heading towards but very kindly allowed me to take, and settled in to tell my heart sister about how grumps I was via text. Luckily she consoled me, as she always does, and when I boarded the train it was for a Premium seat! (So comfortable, so wonderful). And the train manager helped me with my largest bag! I truly meant to stay awake to see what it was like going through the tunnel under the Channel, but I’m pretty sure I dozed off immediately after eating the salmon they served us. At this point I was groggy from tiredness. But I made it to Brussels (a kind gentleman helped me with my largest bag off the train) and I followed the crowd to the exit, where my dashing reynard was waiting for me. From there, he took the lead (and my bags) and all I had to do was stumble tiredly after him. We found two seats together on the train to Ghent, and had only a ten minute walk in the bracing cold air from the train station to the reynard’s cozy den.
It took a day to recover, but I’m now up and nesting and I’ve even gotten back to work! This afternoon will be my first real venture out into the city of Ghent, and I can’t wait to discover its wonders. 🙂