I got so excited about my walk through Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood that I got a little ahead of myself in the story. I should probably back up a bit and start with the airline flight that brought me to this wonderful spot along the Charles River. A nor’easter blew through last week bringing bitter cold and incessant rain but it completely cleared out as the weekend trailed away. Monday brought crisp blue skies and warmer temperatures; light jacket weather — my favorite time of year.
It’s been a long time since I’ve shared a travel tip so I think this would be an appropriate opportunity to mention another lesson I’ve learned from many years of business travel. I’ve talked about how to find a decent meal and I’ve suggested a way to find thoughtful yet free souvenirs for the kids waiting back home (although I will note that mobile phone cameras are now "good enough" for these purposes). The third tip I’ll share is that if one has the flexibility it’s always best to pick a flight time right around noon on a weekday, especially a Monday. I like to go into the office to put in a few hours of productive work, bang out emails that have collected over the weekend perhaps, and then leisurely make my way over to the airport. I’m just a few minutes away and I can literally see a section of the runway from my window so I do realize I’m more fortunate than most and perhaps this tip won’t work for everyone.
The mayhem of Monday morning flights has completely cleared out by then but it’s too early in the day for people returning from their trips. Airports are ghost towns at noon. That has all sorts of positive implications for getting through security, grabbing something to eat, and boarding flights without being jostled.
I had perfect weather and an empty flight. I owned the entire exit row and sat in a seat with nothing else in front of it. It felt like first class. This must have been what it was like during the Golden Age of jet travel back in the 1960’s before the airlines became the bus. Maybe I’m idealizing that image. I never actually experienced those days of flying when a trip was an event and people dressed up in their Sunday best before taking to wing. Stereotypically though, that’s how I imagine it, and regardless it seems a far cry from the dehumanizing experience that it has devolved to today.
I almost never look out the window during flights anymore because most are crammed with people and I can only fit my frame even remotely comfortably into an aisle seat. It’s a rare treat when I have an entire row to myself combined with a cloudless day. I put my book away and plastered my face to the window instead. It was an amazing day for someone obsessed with geography and maps since every physical feature of the eastern seaboard could be determined with precision to the point that I can tell you my exact flight path from memory.
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I sat on the right side so I faced east for most of the flight and experienced an oceanside view. I’m sure I would have gotten a great shot of Manhattan and the other large eastern cities had I sat on the left but I was just as happy with the land formations along the coast. I did get a great view of Washington, DC and all of its glorious grids and diagonals, along with the green wedge formed by Rock Creek Park, as the jet followed the nose abatement path along the Potomac River before swinging north.
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I’m always a little surprised by the width of the Delmarva Peninsula, or more properly the lack of width. It sure doesn’t seem that way while fighting Friday night traffic out to Ocean City, but one can see clearly across from Chesapeake Bay to Delaware Bay Bridge at an altitude of 33,000 feet. The individual features at Cape Henlopen and Cape May practically jumped from the farmland plains below where Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. I tried to spot the ferry running across the mouth of the bay from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey (it was literally that clear of a day) but without success.
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Ribbons of sand defined barrier islands along the New Jersey Coast before we cut the southwestern tip of Long Island into New York and flew straight up the Sound. I kept a watchful eye as we passed mysterious Plum Island and could clearly discern the buildings where who-knows-what concoctions are being formulated. We nicked Connecticut right around Mystic and I spotted the little geo-oddity known as Fishers Island that belongs to New York for historical reasons but probably should be part of Connecticut due to proximity. Block Island appeared as we approached Rhode Island and we then cut over the harbor, with the complicated patchwork of island-hopping bridges connecting Newport to the mainland on display far below.
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Thence we traversed the southeastern corner of Massachusetts but I didn’t have a sightline out to the tip of Cape Cod, a bit of a disappointment but hardly unsettling given all the other incredible objects spotted. Heading into Logan provided a wonderful opportunity to view the numerous isles of Boston Harbor, including several of the lighthouses and a clear low-altitude view of Fort Independence before hitting the tarmac.
I wish it were always this easy and entertaining.