Leaving on a jet plane

By Carol / May 8, 2011 /
As we drove to the airport, I said to my husband that it felt as though with every step I was leaving my comfort zone, moving steadily into the unknown. This Italian writing retreat would be a real adventure.

My writing buddy – Mary – and I spent the first day on airplanes. Des Moines to Chicago to London to Pisa. In the course of 18 hours, we flew over the U.S., England, France, Switzerland and Italy. Amazingly, every plane departed on time and landed on time. The weather was perfect. Are we blessed? I should say so.

In Heathrow Airport, I got up close and personal with airport security. I beeped going through the scanner. Very soon, I had the full body pat down. Twice. Then a wand scan. Followed by a trip to the full-body x-ray scan. The culprit? My underwire bra!

Now I can say I’ve experienced the latest security screening. I didn’t find it particularly intrusive or embarrassing. But it does demonstrate the inconsistency of screening equipment. My bra has never been so offensive before. Perhaps overnight on the airplane caused it to be so?

Also at the screening booth was a young woman who ranks as the most interesting person of the day. I spotted her earlier in one of the queues (Brit for lines.) She wore a torso brace attached to her leg, causing an awkward gait and uncountable stares. Turns out she is with the circus. When her comrades used her body as a jump rope, she fractured her back. She was quite good humored about it all.

Even cruising at 37,000 feet, the sights were impressive. Midwest farm fields – tidy, square, and even contrast with English and French farm fields – all different shapes and sizes and all bordered by trees or bushes. Morning sun reflected off the white cliffs of Dover as we crossed the English Channel. I was in awe of Switzerland’s snow-capped peaks, where villages follow the highways through mountain creases. The Mediterranean Sea is as blue as advertised – reflecting the cerulean skies and dotted with sailboats. Descending into Italy, we saw the Mediterranean coast lined with resort hotels, the beaches packed with lounge chairs. Ready for the season.

Our good luck continued. We made it through immigration checkpoints and bought bus tickets from Pisa to Lucca (only 3 Euros) with 10 minutes to spare. Our host met us at the Lucca bus station. She and her father welcomed us to our home for the next month with a picnic of meat, cheese and wine.

Do we need anything else? I think not.

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