Headed to a European Adventure

by admin | December 15, 2022 5:01 pm

SOMEWHERE OVER THE ATLANTIC — We are crammed in the outskirts of steerage on what my friend Albert would call a doublewide jetliner. It is a Boeing 777, now flying at 35,000 feet and 600 mph toward Heathrow Airport in London. That is our first stop before taking a short, even more-crammed flight to Cologne, Germany. That is where middle-daughter Mere and son-in-law Matt have lived and worked for a little more than a year. My Beautiful Mystery Companion, daughter Abbie, and I are on our way to visit for 10 days, a trip that required considerable planning. I took charge of the flights and hotel. Mere, from their cozy apartment in Hürth, a charming city of about 60,000 that borders Cologne, planned a jam-packed itinerary for our stay. It includes several visits to Germany’s famed Christmas festivals, a few days in Amsterdam, and other forays. More on that in later pieces.

It is a good thing we are not large people. All three of us have filled the overhead bin and the space under the seat in front with carry-on pieces, leaving little legroom. We settle in for what will be a nine-hour flight to London. Soon, a flight attendant comes by offering complimentary wine. Yes, please. The aim is to get sleepy enough to take a nap for much of the flight. When we finally get to Cologne, it will be about noon — seven hours’ difference. Our bodies will think it is 5 a.m. and that we need to get more sleep. Jet lag can play havoc with one’s biorhythm.

My only other overseas flight was to London a quarter-century ago with Mere and oldest daughter Kasey. We took a double decker tour bus on arriving, figuring that would be a simple tourist activity that would allow us to begin enjoying the city while staying awake. It did not work. With a few minutes of boarding the bus, all three of us were snoozing while the guide described the historic sights of London. We ended up retaking the tour the next day.

We had good intentions on this trip, figuring a couple of glasses of wine would help lull us to sleep. It did not work. I turned on the onboard screen on the back of the seat in front and started watching a George Carlin documentary. Abbie and my BMC tried to sleep, while I would alternate between watching the show and trying to fall asleep. In truth, I have never been able to sleep on any plane for more than 20-30 minutes. I get this weird and unreasonable feeling that I am about to fall out of the plane and jolt awake. One of my many idiosyncrasies I possess.


We discovered that the back part of the 777 — actual steerage — was only about a third filled. My BMC stretched out on three seats with the arm rests raised, while I sat in the front row of that section, which had more-than-ample leg room. I did not want to disturb the folks right behind me by turning on the reading lamp, but there was just enough ambient light to read for a while, then try to sleep for a bit.
That did not work either.


We landed at Heathrow about 8 a.m., London time, which felt like 2 a.m. to us. We sleepily shuffled through an extremely slow security check, providing some angst about catching the next plane to Cologne. But we got through with enough time to make it to the gate. This flight was cramped but mercifully short, about an hour. I had a window seat and watched as we descended into the Cologne-Bonn airport, watching steam rise from the nuclear power plant stacks outside of this city of one million. We landed and sailed through customs to the baggage area, where Mere and Matt waited outside to pick us up.

The adventure was about to begin, jet lag and all.

First of several pieces. Just warning y’all.

  1. [Image]: http://garyborders.com/pages/headed-to-a-european-adventure/cologne-aerial/

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