At about 2:45 p.m. EDT our plane entered U.S. airspace. Over Ohio. We were home. Well , I didn't get to my actual home until around 6:00 p.m. (after landing in Atlanta shortly after 4:00 p.m. and negotiating the customs and baggage-claim labyrinth, then picking up my car ... a two-hour tour that's about par for the course here).
It's neat how great circles work (the paths that take transatlantic flights far to the north because the route around the globe is shorter that way than it would be flying direct). Not only do we return to the U.S. west of our destination, but we also saw some incredibly exciting things along the way.
For instance, our flight path took us over Greenland. For those of you who've flown to Europe, this may not be a surprise, but for me, it was completely unexpected. You could make out icebergs off the coast. The landmass itself was pretty desolate. Jagged, rocky mountains on the coast; endless white covered the interior. For all intents and purposes, the trip was over, but there were still unforgettable sights to see.
As I mentioned earlier, we crossed back into the states over Lake Erie at 2:45 p.m. But I was actually more excited a few hours before that -- our first sight of land in North America ... in northern Newfoundland. That was when I knew we were almost home.
This last day, everyone pretty much kept to themselves, and I guess that was to be expected. Our Milan-Frankfurt-Atlanta group numbered about a dozen (the same ones who made the trip going out), we'd gotten to know each other very week during our time in Italy, but I think we all were just too tired to talk a lot ... even in Frankfurt, where we had a four-hour layover. We'd take turns wandering the terminal looking to spend our last few Euros ... I bought a beer stein. Not the one I'd looked at a week earlier, but still a nice one. A couple of our guests watched a movie on a portable DVD player. Others' noses were buried in books. It was quiet.
The rest of the group scattered back toward their homes ... in both Carolinas, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, New York, and elsewhere across the country. Many will reconvene back on campus over Emory Homecoming Weekend, Sunday, September 28, for the Emory Travel Program Reception, which marks the debut of our 2009 trips. I'll see them then.
For now, I'm going to unpack.
I've got a few more things to write, though, so The Italian Job isn't over ... although I think I am in the getaway car.
Plus, I really need to spell check this thing. The keyboard in the Lido Palace Hotel wasn't friendly. I know there are typos all over the place. Yuk! I'll fix it.
There is also so much I haven't mentioned ... little vignettes from our tours. I need to do a nice sweep though that. And that will be coming soon. But not tonight. The stories will last a lifetime. Right now ... I'm just happy to be home.