A very long day. We woke at 4:30 a.m., dressed and double-checked Captain Midnight's kung-fu packing job (all set), and then our very kind hostess drove us out to the Acton Town Tube station, which was all but deserted at that hour. We caught the Tube to Heathrow and went through the usual cattle corralling common to every airport on earth. Somehow we made it through several security screenings despite my knitting needles; I was a little concerned someone might consider them dangerous weapons and confiscate them.
The plane from Heathrow started late; they also didn't tell us where the gate would be until about half an hour before the flight was scheduled to depart. I suspect this is done on purpose to encourage more duty-free shopping. CM found even more chocolates on which to expend his excess pounds (and gain some very different ones later), plus a small bag of Thai sweet chicken flavor crisps. OK, Walkers, McCoy's, et al, we expect you to start providing us with unusual potato chip flavors in the U.S.; we are sadly deficient in this area.
I looked back at the English countryside as we lifted off.
It really is a green and pleasant land.
A trip from Heathrow to Schiphol (in Amsterdam) takes about 45 minutes -- far less time than a flight from SeaTac to Salt Lake City to visit my mom. I began to understand why so many Britons take vacations on the Continent; by comparison, everything's so close. You can hop a flight and be in another country in under an hour.
We lifted up through two layers of cloud. The first looked like a long, white plowed field with soft irregular bumps in it; it looked as though you could walk all the way to Amsterdam on it if you felt inclined. The second layer was more loose, thin and striated, and there was yet another layer above it, a hazy mix of cloud and sky. I didn't take pictures because I know I couldn't do it justice.
Coming over the coast of the Netherlands, I thought about my little Dutch great-grandma and how she was baptized in the freezing North Sea below us. If she hadn't chosen to do that, or to come to America, I don't know if I ever would have come into existence... dank u wel, Oma. I wondered how she felt when she returned here as an old woman to serve as a missionary -- how odd it would have been, to leave one's native land on a steamship in the early century and to return much later on a jet plane. I could see how the coastline in most places rises to a point behind the beaches to keep out the sea, and then slopes back to a flat plain. So much of the Netherlands -- about two-thirds -- is land claimed from the sea floor. (Yes, that means that when you say to the Dutch, "Nice country you have here!" they can legitimately reply, "Thanks, we made it ourselves.") It's odd to think most of it, all the neat orange-red roofs below me, would disappear like a modern-day Atlantis without the dams and dikes in place.
At Schiphol we picked up some cheese (we were pretty sure they'd take any bulbs away from us at U.S. customs), then hopped an eight-hour flight to Minneapolis. Due to flying west against the time zones, we left Holland in the early afternoon local time and got into MSP around 4:30 local time. Then another three-hour flight to Seattle. By the time we picked up Miss V from our friends' house, we'd been going for over 24 hours. Let's just say we'll sleep well.