July 26, 2022

The Alps, near Geneva.


Surely, of all the wonders of the world, the horizon is the greatest.

-Freya Stark


The day of my next adventure has finally arrived.  My plane leaves for Philadelphia this afternoon.  From Philly, I’ll be flying to London for a plane change, then on to Geneva.  From there, I go on a two-hour train ride to Sion, a city in the Rhone Valley.  Then it’s just a short 45-minute trip in a bus, switchbacking its way up a steep mountain slope, to Haute Nendaz, where I’ll be staying for a week.  The whole trip will take right around 24 hours.  First, though, I have to drop Waldo off with the woman who watches him when I’m away.

I throw my luggage, Waldo’s portable crate, food, bowls and treats into the car, put the dog in his seat (front passenger side) and we’re off.  I’m pretty sure Waldo knows something is up before very long because we almost never spend so much time in the car.  When we do, it’s either for a long walk, or I’m leaving him somewhere.  When we get to the house where he’ll be staying, he recognizes it, wags his tail and seems happy to greet his caretaker.   I set up his crate and leave.  As I close the door, I look back through the window and Waldo is staring up at me with the most forlorn face fur can make.  Big brown sad eyes look up at me as if to say, “What?  You’re leaving me?”  Then, after just a few seconds, his attention is diverted to something in the room and the moment is gone.  I’m sure he’ll have a good time.

I park my car in a commuter lot and take a bus to Logan Airport, getting there about four hours early.  I never know what to expect from security and try to give myself at least three hours for international flights.  I’m all packed and ready to go, it’s just a matter of waiting at the airport or at home, so it doesn’t bother me.  It’s Thursday and there aren’t that many people traveling, so security is a breeze.  I grab something to eat and drink and settle down in the stiff uncomfortable chairs and wait.  I brought plenty to keep myself busy, so it’s no big burden.  I wear a KN95 mask the entire time – most of the other people are not masked.

Traveling by twenty-first century passenger jet is magical.  As I step into the plane, I feel like I’m leaving the real world behind and entering a surreal and artificial metal and plastic tube.  The door closes and my fate is sealed – I am of the world, but no longer in the world.  There’s a lot of noise and vibration, the tube jostles about and the most amazing, spellbinding sights can be seen through the small windows.  The world is out there, thousands of feet below, dutifully rolling from in front to the rear.  After a period of time, the plane lands and I am again in the world, but at a distant place from where I started.  It’s like I walked into a teleportation device from Star Trek, but a breathtakingly slow one.

Through the years, I’ve traveled by means of all sorts of conveyances.  First generation passenger jets, prop planes of a wide variety, steam locomotive trains, diesel-engine drawn trains, freight trains, buses, on horseback, horse drawn wagons, boats of various kinds and sizes, bicycles and, of course, my own two feet, are all on the list.  They all are also relatively uncomfortable (at least the way I use them) with plenty of delays and opportunities for things to happen to interrupt my trip.  Today is no exception.  My flight to Philly arrived at Logan late.  At Philadelphia, I only have about twenty minutes to walk (there were no alterntives) a long way to get between my arrival and departure gates.  When I do get to my departure gate, no other passengers are in line to get on the plane.  The door is closed and sealed behind me as I walk down the aisle, looking for my seat.  I just barely made it.  Finding my place, I get settled and send off a hurried text to see if Waldo’s doing okay, before I have to put the phone in airplane mode.  It doesn’t take long for a response – he’s doing fine.  We take off on time and it’s not long before we’re out over the Atlantic in the dark of night.  We’re scheduled to arrive in London at about 8 AM.

At Heathrow Airport in London, I go through customs and walk directly to my departure gate.  No Covid tests or vaccination cards are required any longer (although I did bring my card) and my flight is boarding as I get to the gate.  From there, it’s a relatively short flight to Geneva and I enjoy a pleasant conversation with a retired couple from Bristol, England, who used to manage four pubs in the area around where they live.

Customs in Geneva was much like that in London, only a lot slower and more crowded.   I make it to baggage claim and find out that my checked baggage didn’t make the plane in Philadelphia.  Sigh.  I arrange for it to be brought to me in Haute Nendaz and I go to the train station, which is a short walk in the same building as the airport.  Still not many people are wearing masks…

At the train station, I meet up with my grandnephew, William, who flew in from Gatwick, England, just an hour or so before me.  I wasn’t expecting that, but am quite pleased that it happened.  We made connection by cellphone and were soon on the train to Sion.  I’m exhausted, but I think William is even more so.  He said he was only able to catnap now and then for the past seventy-two hours.  It wasn’t long and we’re both sound asleep sitting up.

I’ll bet Waldo slept much better.


The Rhone River Valley, as seen from the train.

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