I have to admit my first roster was quite disappointing.
I had six turnarounds (destinations without a layover, where you do not get to stay a night there) and four layovers. My layovers were London (twice), Paris and Amsterdam, the latter being the only place I hadn’t visited before. In a way I felt good in the knowledge that I would be going to Europe, see familiar sights, walk on old cobbled roads and feel the chilly breeze of an oncoming Winter. On the other hand I was anxious to see the exotic and wild side of the world. I wanted to go to places I might never have a chance of visiting again when I go back home. I told myself it was only my first month, that I’d have plenty of opportunities to visit countries less travelled to. So I packed my suitcase, tried to calm the hyperactive butterflies in my stomach and left.
The first two flights are called SUPY flights. During these flights you observe mainly, try your hand at things but you are absolved of any duties. London was one of my SUPYs. The flight was great. I remember, for a London Heathrow flight, it wasn’t very busy, probably because it was a night flight. Being a supy I got to sit in the cockpit for take-off and landing and I remember seeing the dawn from thousands of feet above the ground. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It seemed like the horizon was about to split open and beyond, blinding golden light. The herald of a new day. It was magnificent. We got to the hotel, the Marriott and as soon as I reached my bed I passed out. I had not slept at all before the flight due to my nerves and now I was so tired I nearly felt sick. I didn’t sleep long though. I remember telling myself I wanted to go to the city centre, see sights I had not yet seen, mingle with the people and eat good local food. And Primark. One must never forget Primark when in London. And that is precisely what I did. In the evening I went to Covent Garden with a Greek friend and had a taste of the nightlife there and my first Pimms. I loved it! On one of my London layovers I did the Tower of London tour. Our tourguide was a Beefeater and he was hilarious. Loud, boisterous with a heavy dose of British humour and sarcasm. It was funny, entertaining and highly interesting. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s into British history or is just fascinated by anything you may have come across in a book you were reading. Just like me.
Paris and Amsterdam had much the same European vibe going for them. Paris is one of the most charming cities in the world. Yes, it is just my opinion but it is one of my few indisputable opinions. With its wide avenues, architectural beauty and small cafes with their chequered table cloths, it is simply impossible not to fall in love with it. And Paris in Autumn, when the trees are all afire in hues of orange and red and gold is magic. Then, out of sheer impulse, you happen to look around a cluster of trees and you see the prettiest carousel standing in a clearing. You know, from the goosebumps on your arm that a sense of wonder was taking over. That you would never see the place with the same eyes again.
Amsterdam was and will always be one of my favourite destinations. I love playing the tourist in Amsterdam, taking the tram, visiting Museums, strolling in parks. The Christmas Market set up on the street which leads to Dam Square is one heart warming stall next to another, displaying delicious local food or handmade items. I have a fond memory of getting inside this huge snow globe with a friend and dancing with a snowman, then taking our photo and having it printed right there and then. Best souvenir I could have gotten myself. The Rijksmuseum was oozing with the beauty of Dutch classical art while the Anne Frank Haus was the saddest and most heart-wrenching place I had ever been to.
Travelling isn’t all about itineraries, guides and fixed schedules. Sometimes it’s about getting lost, asking for directions and finding your way again, very much like life in a way. The unpredictability is thrilling and in many cases it is from the unpredictable that an adventure springs. You do not plan an aventure. You do not give it a time or a place. Rather it presents itself in a wrong turn, a missed bus, a wrong stop.
The beauty of a particular place is there if you know how to see it. It’s not just in the Eiffel Tower or the Big Ben. It’s in the numerous bikes which line the canals in Amsterdam. In the way the old lantern casts shadows in the trees lining the Seine. In the gesture of a man offering his umbrella to help get you to the other side of the road and to shelter. And when you see it and recognise it for what it is, you will realise how awfully lucky we are to be living witnesses of it all. And you will want to get lost, because the unexpected turn around the corner could show you something worth getting lost for. And then the feeling of managing to find your way again is always so nice.
So don’t be afraid to get lost. The right path will always find you in the end. In the meantime, enjoy the stroll. Capture the beauty in memory or in writing or in a picture. And it will live on forever.