05 December, 2006

Miscellany - Advent Blog Tour, and air travel

Remember how much fun it was opening the little doors on your Advent Calendar as a kid? Marg and Kailana are organising a virtual advent calendar this Christmas.

Here’s how it works (text from Marg's blog post):

Each day anyone who wants to participate could take turns sharing a little treat with our friends here in blogland. For example it could be something about a holiday tradition (and it could be whatever holiday you celebrate if you don't do Christmas), or a recipe, or a picture of a hot guy, or a favourite Christmas memory, movie, song...anything you like. We will create a list of links so that as people express interest we will add them to the list, and then we will post a link directing visitors to the appropriate blog. To give people a chance to get organised, we will start on Sunday 10 December. If there are more people than there are days that's fine too.....the more the merrier! So do you want to see a little treat each day?

More details, including the list of participants, available from Marg and Kailana. I’ve signed up for 16 Dec. Be sure to join the tour when it starts on 10 Dec, and if you feel like joining in you could always ask Marg and Kailana if there’s room for any more.

Recently I had reason to take a flight from London City Airport, which is an airport I haven’t used before. It’s a small airport tucked into the London Docklands financial district, and does mostly short-haul flights to European cities for the business travel market. Having a fairly short runway and steep approaches to clear the tall buildings, it doesn’t take big airliners and mostly flies 50-100-seater planes like the BAe 146.

Years ago a much older colleague was telling me that he used to do a lot of business travel way back in the 50s and 60s when air travel was still a big deal and most of the pilots were ex-military. He said you could always spot which pilots were ex-Navy, because even when they had a mile of runway to play with they still took off and landed as they'd learnt to do it on aircraft carriers. Plunge down like a dive bomber, bounce a couple of times, slam on all the brakes, bring plane to quivering halt in 50 yards, then realise the terminal building is still rather a long way off and sheepishly taxi the remaining mile while the passengers and cabin crew are gingerly picking themselves up and wondering if they're still in one piece. I am sure he was exaggerating :-) But London City would suit a Navy pilot.

You taxi out sedately enough, more or less like a normal airport. Then you turn onto the runway, the pilot steps on the gas, the engines roar into their best "When I grow up I want to be a Concorde" impression, the plane shoots off down the tarmac like a scalded cat, and about five feet later the pilot hauls the stick back and you've got a bird's-eye view of the Thames Barrier and the Millennium Dome (am I the only person who thinks it resembles a stunned spider?) while the plane pirouettes on one wing tip and heads off down river. The weather was clear over England, so I got to see the Thames estuary with the Essex marshes fading off into the distance, then we flew along the Kent coast and crossed the Channel at Dover. I couldn't see the castle, but I could see the harbour breakwaters and the line of the white cliffs, and Cap Gris Nez near Boulogne on the other side jutting out just like it looks on a map. I've walked the French coast path between Cap Blanc Nez (which really is white) and Cap Gris Nez (which really is grey), so it was rather nice to see them from the air.

Much more fun than flying from a huge hub like Heathrow :-)


Robyn said...

I would need a Dramamine as big as my head to get through that without hurling. It does sound fun, though!

Gabriele Campbell said...

That totally sounds like an airport I have to try one day. I like it when flying still feels like flying. :)

Carla said...

Make a few allowances for artistic license :-)
But London City does still feel like flying, and is definitely much nicer than Heathrow. Easy to get to from the centre of London, too. If you get the choice, London City wins every time.

Marg said...

That sounds like a fun experience. I remember landing at Heathrow and being excited about coming in over the famous landmarks...how much more exciting to be so close! Don't mind me...I used to be a travel junkie...now I am a travel dreamer!

Thanks for posting about the blog tour!

Alex Bordessa said...

Sounds like the small plane I took from Leeds/Bradford airport to Belgium. It was pretty small, and there were only about three passengers on it :-) However, we didn't have such a great view - not that I dared look out the window till about the time we flew over the very flat Low Country. I've only flown twice

Carla said...

Marg - You did well getting to see the London landmarks coming into Heathrow! I think that's only happened to me once in all the times I've flown from Heathrow -usually it seems to be either dark or cloudy or I've got an aisle seat (grrr!) or the flight path goes over leafy southern England (fields are very pretty, but not as exciting as a city).
What's that line from the song, "Thinking is the best way to travel" ?

Alex - Your plane might have been even smaller? I like small planes much better than big ones. Ages ago I had to fly from somewhere obscure in Virginia to Washington DC and the plane was a tiny little twenty-seater with just a curtain over the cockpit entrance rather than a door. My friend said the Americans call them 'puddle jumpers'. It got bounced about by turbulence something shocking, but at least all the seats were window seats! I love looking out of the window, especially if I can see the engines and the control surfaces on the wings (I had a seat near the engines both ways from London City). If I can get interested in what's going on, or in trying to work out what the view is, I get a lot less scared.

Bernita said...

Enjoyed this description!
I love take-off.

Carla said...

Thank you, Bernita. Glad you enjoyed it.

Constance Brewer said...

I don't hate flying. Really. It's the taking off and landing I can't stand...

I won't be flying into London anytime soon. Thanks, Carla. :)

Carla said...

Constance - I'm a bit like that about driving; I don't mind driving too much but I hate parking. Sadly one can't have one without the other.