11 months since I was last in Europe, and I returned, via flights that were blissfully (relatively) short, albeit in a very tiring configuration. I flew at 9.30pm on Monday night, from Seattle to Boston. Boston is three hours ahead, so after a five hour flight, we landed around 5am. Then I hung around all day, which passed nicely, helped by Terminal E being very quiet until mid afternoon. My flight to London left at 9pm and was only 5.5 hours or so, but with the time difference, it landed about 8am. Then I had just over an hour in Gatwick, which is more than enough – British airports are excellent for three things. Cramming in shops, because we know the price of everything and the value of nothing (it compares very unfavourably with the amount of space simply for sitting in Boston – choose between chairs, desks and deck chairs, charging points and water fountains everywhere). Cheap food (a marvellous thing) via the meal deals at Boots and WH Smith. What other airport in an expensive country lets you get food cheaply? And sterility. Most unlovely.
Stockholm’s Arlanda airport has wooden floors, for instance. You still have to walk long distances, and the airport itself is mostly functional (no gardens, or cinemas, for instance). But simply by not having cheap and tacky flooring, not feeling like an institution (in the worst possible sense) it is several steps ahead of Gatwick (and Heathrow. And Stansted. And Luton). But then, there’s no money in making things look and feel a bit nicer.
I handed my passport over. I was in the EU queue, as it happened – there wasn’t much difference in queue length, so it was by chance as much as by choice. Still, the customs lady took it, smiled, then smiled a little more deeply. “There you are!” she seemed to say, welcoming me in. “Might not be so easy for much longer, English twit!” One of many Brexit muppets suggested a benefit of leaving would be that we could use the much shorter non-EU queues from now on. How lovely that will be.
I ran a couple of times in Stockholm, heading off the post-travel sleep. Once in the dark, once in the daylight. It’s a lovely place, interesting architecture abounds. It is also on a few different levels, not always with an obvious way to step from one to another. At one point I was on a high bridge, looking for a way down to the road below. Fine on the run – head a couple more blocks West and head round. On foot alone? I am not sure there was a simple way.
Tonight, I head for Finland, on an overnight ferry. After that, I slow down. One great highlight of being on a great continent – I can use land and sea transport from there on in; no more flights.