Brian’s Travel Spot: Heading Home – Chicago to Boston

My Global WAKEcup, full of coffee I'd just made in the lounge and brought on the plane with me before my flight from Chicago to Boston.Welcome to the fourth instalment of this, the second (and possibly last) Travel Spot of 2020. It covers my recent trip to America, which began when I flew to Boston at the end of February. It’s been shaped throughout by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, no more so than at the end of the trip. I’d originally planned to return at the end of March, but, as you’ll see, that’s not quite what happened.

I’d arrived in Chicago on Saturday, 14th March, having flown in from Atlanta. Everything felt fairly normal as I settled into my usual hotel right on the corner of the Chicago River, although the hotel itself felt rather quiet. The following day was gorgeous, with clear, blue skies, the temperature hovering a few degrees above freezing.

While people were taking precautions COVID-19, the city felt pretty normal. However, by the end of the day, the Governor of Illinois had announced the closure of all bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes except for takeaway customers and I decided that it was time to head home. I rearranged my flights that evening and, the following morning, I left for the airport. When, I wonder, will I be able to return?

You can read more about the trip and how it ended so abruptly after the gallery.

  • I arrived in Chicago on Saturday and settled into my (ridiculously big) hotel room.
  • Well, by settled in, I mean I unpacked my travelling coffee gear.
  • The following morning dawned bright and clear. This is the view towards The Loop...
  • ... while this is the view to the north (I had a corner room).
  • It was sunny, but chilly, which made a change from the 20°C temperatures of Atlanta!
  • I headed out to Wicker Park. First stop,  Fairgrounds Craft Coffee and Tea...
  • ... followed by Purple Llama...
  • ... and finally, Intelligentsia. By now, news had spread about the closure of restaurants...
  • ... and when I popped into the supermarket that evening, the queues were massive!
  • Instead, I got this from the corner store...
  • ... heated it up in the microwave (there's one on each floor of the hotel)...
  • ... and had a quick dinner in my room. It was better than it looked. Marginally.
  • By now I'd decided to return home, so took one last walk along the Chicago River.
  • Two of my favourite buildings: the Wrigley Building and, behind it, the Tribune Tower.
  • Chicago, looking gorgeous in the evening sun. At least it gave me a decent send off.
I arrived in Chicago on Saturday and settled into my (ridiculously big) hotel room.1 Well, by settled in, I mean I unpacked my travelling coffee gear.2 The following morning dawned bright and clear. This is the view towards The Loop...3 ... while this is the view to the north (I had a corner room).4 It was sunny, but chilly, which made a change from the 20°C temperatures of Atlanta!5 I headed out to Wicker Park. First stop,  Fairgrounds Craft Coffee and Tea...6 ... followed by Purple Llama... 7 ... and finally, Intelligentsia. By now, news had spread about the closure of restaurants...8 ... and when I popped into the supermarket that evening, the queues were massive!9 Instead, I got this from the corner store...10 ... heated it up in the microwave (there's one on each floor of the hotel)...11 ... and had a quick dinner in my room. It was better than it looked. Marginally.12 By now I'd decided to return home, so took one last walk along the Chicago River.13 Two of my favourite buildings: the Wrigley Building and, behind it, the Tribune Tower.14 Chicago, looking gorgeous in the evening sun. At least it gave me a decent send off.15
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I left Chicago on the morning of Monday, 16th March. When I’d arrived, 36 hours earlier, I’d been looking forward to spending two weeks in the city, although, ironically, I hadn’t even planned on being in Chicago in March. Instead, I was supposed to be in Shanghai for back-to-back week-long meetings, but with the outbreak of COVID-19, the meetings were moved to Chicago at the end of January.

So, I rearranged my travel plans, extending an existing trip to Portland to see Amanda by adding a week in Atlanta, and flying from there to Chicago for the meetings which were due to start that Monday. However, not long after I arrived in Portland, the Chicago face-to-face meetings were replaced with conference calls. Since everything was already booked, including the hotel, I decided to continue with my original travel plans. I could just as easily do the calls from my hotel room as I could from home. Since the calls were scheduled for late afternoon/evening Chicago time it was actually more convenient than doing them from the UK (10pm to 2am), plus it left much of my day free, so I could still explore something of Chicago and catch up with my friends.

As it was, I managed just one full day in Chicago, Sunday, 15th March, which I spent exploring the Wicker Park district, visiting Fairgrounds Craft Coffee and TeaPurple Llama and Intelligentsia. By the time I got back to the hotel, news of the Governor’s announcement had started to spread (I first heard it from the staff at Intelligentsia).

I’d already made some plans of my own to combat the risk of COVID-19, deciding, for example, that I would not eat out. The hotel had microwaves on each floor and I had a fridge in my room, so the night before I’d bought milk and cereal for breakfast. For the rest of the time, I’d decided to live off ready meals, heated up in the microwave, so before I returned to the hotel, I popped into the local supermarket. It was five o’clock on a Sunday evening and, while the shelves were well-stocked, the queues for each checkout already stretched to the end of the first aisles. Instead, I went to the convenience store around the corner from my hotel, which I had to myself, and bought microwave ravioli.

That evening, after a short period of reflection, I decided that it was time to go home. Even though I hadn’t planned on using them, the fact that the restaurants were now all closed made me realise that this was more serious than I’d previously thought. If I’d stayed, I doubt that I would have been at much greater risk, but with travel bans coming into place later than week, I didn’t want to take the chance of being trapped in Chicago.

It was still glorious outside, so I went for a walk along the river, something I particularly enjoy when in Chicago, one of my favourite cities. Who knows when I’ll be able to do that again? Returning to the hotel, I rearranged my flights, let the hotel know I was leaving the following morning, and set about packing everything away.

You can see how my journey home went after the gallery.

  • Monday morning. Time to say goodbye to the hotel. My last look at The Loop and the...
  • ... John Hancock Center (now 875 North Michigan Ave). By now, the hotel was so quiet.
  • There was no-one at breakfast, since the restaurant was shut, as was the coffee bar...
  • ... in the lobby. I was going to hang out there during the week, catching up with the staff.
Monday morning. Time to say goodbye to the hotel. My last look at The Loop and the...1 ... John Hancock Center (now 875 North Michigan Ave). By now, the hotel was so quiet.2 There was no-one at breakfast, since the restaurant was shut, as was the coffee bar...3 ... in the lobby. I was going to hang out there during the week, catching up with the staff.4
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My original trip, planned at the end of 2019, had me flying in and out of Boston. As I’ve explained in previous Travel Spots, my intention this year was to avoid taking business class flights to/from the US by returning on the early morning flight from Boston, which arrives into Heathrow in the evening. When it became clear that I was no longer going to Shanghai, I moved my return flight from Boston to the end of the month and booked a connecting flight from Chicago which got me into Boston the night before. So, when it came time to (hastily) arrange my return to the UK, the easiest thing was to stick with the original plan and move those two flights forwards.

Looking online, I had multiple options. For example, I could have flown to Boston the following morning, then took the late-night flight back to the UK, arriving early on Tuesday morning. However, therein lay a problem: even the latest flight would have seen me getting home no later than 9am following, at most four or five hours sleep on the plane. I would have then had to stay up until 10pm for my four-hour conference call.

Given my previous problems with jetlag, I decided to stick with the original plan. I moved my flight from Boston to the Tuesday morning, booked a room at the airport hotel, and then moved my flight from Chicago to Monday lunchtime. This was scheduled to get me into Boston at 3pm, which meant that I’d have plenty of time to get to the hotel before that day’s conference call (5pm – 9pm Boston time).

At this point, I’d like to give a big vote of thanks to British Airways, American Airlines and IHG Group (my hotels), all of whom let me move flights and bookings without any charge. In particular, IHG let me cancel a pre-paid, non-refundable eight-day stay at the hotel, refunding the full amount for the stay. With a heavy heart, I packed up my computer and went to bed.

The following morning, as I left the hotel, I got more clues that something had fundamentally changed. The hotel was so quiet. The restaurant was shut, so there was no-one at breakfast, while the check-in desk, normally so busy, was also quiet. There was just me and the clerk, the same one who’d checked me in on Saturday night. When I got to the lobby, the Infuse Coffee and Tea Bar, where I’d expected to spend the week, hanging out with the staff, was also closed. I wasn’t surprised, but it hit me hard. It was definitely time to go.

You can see how I got on at the airport after the gallery.

  • I got to the airport just before 10 o'clock. There was a short queue at check-in...
  • ... and an even shorter one at security. Mind you, that was the wrong checkpoint.
  • It was TSA pre-approved only, so I was sent down here instead. Again no queues.
  • Soon enough, I was through security and into the terminal.
  • Next stop, the lounge. Check out the handy map! And the size of Terminal 3. It's huge!
  • The nearest lounge was just around the corner from the security checkpoint.
  • Here it is!
  • Or maybe not. Off to Gate H5 it is then.
  • Following the signs to the Admirals Club.
  • This gave me a chance to wander around a near-deserted airport. This restaurant...
  • ... and this pub were still open, but had virtiually no customers.
  • Meanwhile, although there seem to be a lot of people in this picture, it was so quiet.
  • Normally these corridors are jammed with people.
  • I'll say one thing for Terminal 3. The signs are very clear!
  • Five minutes' walk later, I have arrived at the lounge.
  • Let's go in, shall we?
I got to the airport just before 10 o'clock. There was a short queue at check-in...1 ... and an even shorter one at security. Mind you, that was the wrong checkpoint.2 It was TSA pre-approved only, so I was sent down here instead. Again no queues.3 Soon enough, I was through security and into the terminal.4 Next stop, the lounge. Check out the handy map! And the size of Terminal 3. It's huge!5 The nearest lounge was just around the corner from the security checkpoint.6 Here it is!7 Or maybe not. Off to Gate H5 it is then.8 Following the signs to the Admirals Club.9 This gave me a chance to wander around a near-deserted airport. This restaurant...10 ... and this pub were still open, but had virtiually no customers.11 Meanwhile, although there seem to be a lot of people in this picture, it was so quiet.12 Normally these corridors are jammed with people.13 I'll say one thing for Terminal 3. The signs are very clear!14 Five minutes' walk later, I have arrived at the lounge.15 Let's go in, shall we?16
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My flight was just after noon (12:10 to be precise), so I had plenty of time to get to the airport. Normally I would have jumped on the Blue Line, retracing my steps from Saturday evening. However, this time I decided I would get a taxi, reasoning that with travel demand collapsing in the near future, my taxi driver would need my fare far more than Chicago’s transmit authorities would need my $5.

The last time I flew out of Chicago O’Hare with American Airlines was in November 2017 when I had a pretty smooth experience on my way back to Manchester. However, O’Hare, and its domestic terminals in particular, can be very busy, so I wanted to leave myself plenty of time, particularly since I’d tried checking in on-line and had been told I would have to check in at a desk, probably because of the late change of flight.

I needn’t have worried though.

I arrived the airport at 09:50 and, to be blunt, it was deserted. At 09:50 on a Monday morning. There was a short queue at check in and, after a short delay, where the agent had to phone reservations since she couldn’t find me on the system (definitely a heart-in-mouth moment), I was checked in and on my way to security.

There was another short hiccup while I went to the wrong security checkpoint (the first one I tried was for TSA pre-screened passengers), but even taking that delay into account, I was through security in record time and looking for the lounge. Like bad luck, minor delays come in threes, so, unsurprisingly, the nearest lounge was closed, which, as it turned out, worked in my favour, since I ended up at the much nicer main lounge.

Along the way, I got to walk through a near-deserted airport. It’s not immediately apparent from the photos in the gallery, but Terminal 3 was practically empty. It’s the emptiest I’ve ever seen a major airport. Between flying in from Atlanta on Saturday, when everything felt like business as usual, and that morning, less than 48 hours later, it was as if a switch had been thrown and the world had completely changed.

You can see how I got on in the lounge after the gallery.

  • The American Airline lounges at Chicago O'Hare Terminal 3. Let's go in!
  • The ground floor just has the welcome desks. From there you are directed to the lifts.
  • There are two lounges: Admirals Club (aka business class) & Flagship Lounge (first class).
  • I was in the Flagship Lounge and it was huge. And deserted. This is the food area...
  • ... with lots of tables for eating your breakfast/lunch/dinner at.
  • The view back along the length of the lounge. I told you it was big!
  • More tables and my first sighting of a fellow passenger!
  • A quieter section of tables.
  • There's also lounge seating and, look! More passengers! Two this time!
  • There's another one! Usually I have to try hard to keep passengers out of shot. Not today.
  • More lounge seating...
  • ... and a coffee area. Normally, there would be lots of snacks out, but not today.
  • A view along the front of the lounge, where the windows overlook the planes.
  • Looking out of the windows confirms that there are planes out there. Just no passengers.
  • American had a full schedule that day, with over 75 departures in the next three hours.
  • As befits a lounge, there is a lot of lounge seating...
  • ... with copious power outlets, which I approve of.
  • The Flagship Lounge even has its own TV viewing area at the far end.
  • Those seats look very comfortable!
  • I'll pass today, thanks.
  • With the whole lounge at my disposable, I planted myself in the food area.
  • I arrived at 10:30, when breakfast was still being served...
  • ... so I helped myself to a (self) toasted English muffin.
  • I suspect that this normally holds a hot buffet, but come lunchtime...
  • ... individual plates were laid out instead. Here's the roasted sweet peppers.
  • ... while this is the grilled tomato, zucchini and cauliflower. I had one of each.
  • There were also a range of desserts, again...
  • ... on individual plates covered in clingfilm.
  • There was also a range of chocolate bars.
  • By now it was 11:30 and since my flight wasn't shown as boarding...
  • ... I decided to make some coffee, using the coffee machine...
  • ... as a source of hot water...
  • ... although that might be the most pathetic hot water jet ever!
  • However, it was sufficient for my Travel Press, which was all I cared about. By then...
  • ... it was time to go. Looking outside showed that it had started snowing! Thanks Chicago!
  • By the time I got down to the gate, everyone else had already boarded.
  • And there it is, my flight to Boston, a Boeing 737-800.
  • At least this meant that I could walk straight on the plane without having to queue!
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In common with many airlines at major airports, American has two lounges at O’Hare, the standard Admirals Club (which I’m used to) and the Flagship Lounge, which, due to my status with British Airways, I qualified for. Now, it was surreal enough walking through a near-deserted airport on a Monday morning, but the lounge was even more surreal than that. I’ve been in my shared of quiet lounges, but this was something else.

As you’ll have seen from the pictures, this was a pretty big lounge, but I was one of just eight passengers in there. In fact, there were more staff on duty than passengers at one point! This wasn’t, by the way, because flights had been cut back. American was still running a full schedule at that point, with over 75 departures due in the next three hours. People simply weren’t travelling.

In all, I spent 1¼ hours in the lounge, which (for future reference) was very nice. There were plenty of seats, with a good mix of lounge seating, desks and window-seats. There was even a TV room at the far end! I can’t really speak to the food offering, since American was running a limited service, but even that was better and more varied than those I’ve had in the Admirals Club (and that’s compared to the full service in the Admirals Club!).

I was there just at the change over between breakfast and lunch, initially helping myself to a toasted muffin and some fruit. When lunch came out, rather than offering a full buffet, individual plates were put out, each covered in cling-film to reduce the risk of contamination. I helped myself to a couple of the small plates: grilled tomato, zucchini and cauliflower for one and roasted sweet peppers for the other (there were meat and fish options as well). However, since I was going to be fed on the plane, I limited myself to that.

I also made my own coffee, having tried the in-house coffee (admittedly in the Admirals Club) on a previous occasion (I was less than impressed). So, out came my Travel Press and Aergrind, the hot water supplied by the coffee machine, and I brewed up some of Tandem Coffee Roasters’ West End Blues espresso blend which was, as usually, excellent.

By then it was 11:45 and although my flight wasn’t yet shown as boarding, I made my way down to the gate, taking my coffee with me in my Global WAKEcup. By the time I got to the gate, just five minutes later, the plane had already boarded, so I wandered straight on and took my seat.

You can see what I made of the plane after the gallery.

  • Back on board an American Airlines Boeing 737-800, only this time I'm sitting on the left.
  • However, I was, once again, at the front by the window...
  • ... this time in Seat 3A.
  • Behold my legroom.
  • There were the usual complement of sockets, etc, on the stanchion between the seats...
  • ... while once again, I found the fold out drinks holder indispensible...
  • ... first for my Global WAKEcup, which had the coffee I'd made in the lounge...
  • ... and then for the welcome-on-board drink provided by the cabin crew.
  • The fold out table was much the same...
  • ... while the only new thing I discovered was the mystery slot down the side of the seat!
  • The weather, by the way, had continued to worsen, with the snow coming down heavily.
  • We were fully boarded by 12:00, so the doors were closed and the airbridge retracted.
  • We had the obligatory five minutes on the tarmac watching the safety video...
  • ... then we were pushed back...
  • ... and ready to go.
Back on board an American Airlines Boeing 737-800, only this time I'm sitting on the left.1 However, I was, once again, at the front by the window...2 ... this time in Seat 3A.3 Behold my legroom.4 There were the usual complement of sockets, etc, on the stanchion between the seats...5 ... while once again, I found the fold out drinks holder indispensible...6 ... first for my Global WAKEcup, which had the coffee I'd made in the lounge...7 ... and then for the welcome-on-board drink provided by the cabin crew.8 The fold out table was much the same...9 ... while the only new thing I discovered was the mystery slot down the side of the seat!10 The weather, by the way, had continued to worsen, with the snow coming down heavily.11 We were fully boarded by 12:00, so the doors were closed and the airbridge retracted.12 We had the obligatory five minutes on the tarmac watching the safety video...13 ... then we were pushed back...14 ... and ready to go.15
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After a couple of years of flying short haul on Airbus A319/320/321s, this was the second time in three days that I was on a Boeing 737-800. Once again, I was sitting at the front, but this time on the other side, in Seat 3A, rather than 3F. Next to me was an American Airlines captain who seemed disappointed that the apparently empty seat had next to him had suddenly become occupied!

Like the 737-800 I’d flown in on my way from Atlanta, this was very modern and very comfortable. I can’t really add much to what I’ve already said about the cabin, except that I discovered an interesting slot at the side of the seat beneath the outside armrest. I’m not sure it served any useful purpose since it was hard to actually get anything in there (and then safely retrieve it) with the armrest in the way. However, it did seem very well suited to accidentally losing things down, although I managed to avoid that fate!

I was one of the last people to board the flight, which was almost empty, although the first class compartment (all 16 seats of it) was quite full. However, there were probably no more than twice our number in the back of the plane, which probably explains why we boarded so quickly. The cabin crew came around with a welcome-on-board drink, but as soon as those had been served, the doors were closed and the airbridge retracted.

We spent the obligatory five minutes on the tarmac while we watched the safety video, then, at 12:05 and five minutes early, we pushed back and were on our way. The weather, by the way, had taken a turn for the worse, with the previous day’s blue skies replaced by low cloud. To make things even more interesting, it had started to snow not long after I arrived at the airport, Chicago having decided to give me a real sent off!

You can see how the flight went after the gallery.

  • The weather really is miserable as we make our way from the terminal.
  • Another American aircraft is ahead of us, and, in the distance, someone's taking off.
  • However, we weren't heading straight for the runway. After five minutes of taxiing...
  • .. we reach the American Airlines de-icing station.
  • Each plane has two de-icing trucks, one for each side. This is the one on my side.
  • Getting ready for action...
  • ... and go!
  • All done! The whole process took about five minutes.
  • After a couple of minutes we move off...
  • ... but we're going ever so slowly, creeping past this American Eagle...
  • ... regional jet as it gets de-iced.
  • There's a steady stream of planes queueing up to be de-iced as we move off.
  • Finally, ten minutes after we finished our de-icing, it's time for us to go.
  • Typically, the de-icing station is at the far, western end of the airport...
  • ... and we're taking off in a westerly direction today.
  • So, we have to taxi the full length of the airport...
  • ... back past all the terminal buildings...
  • ... and lots of other aircraft...
  • ... all the way to the far end of the runway.
  • 10 minutes later, we're at the eastern end of the airport...
  • ... with the international terminal (Terminal 5) as a backdrop.
  • There's a British Airways Boeing 747 parked out on the tarmac.
  • And talking of 747s, here's an Asiana Cargo 747...
  • ... followed by a Nippon Cargo one!
  • Finally, 35 minutes after leaving the gate, we're at the end of the runway and ready...
  • ... to go.
  • And we're off!
  • Airborne!
  • Time to say goodbye to O'Hare...
  • ... which doesn't take long since we fly straight into cloud!
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The first task at O’Hare is to get to the end of the runway, ready for take-off. Remembering the fun and games I had when I arrived on Saturday, when it took 25 minutes to get to our gate, I settled in for a long ride. However, things were further complicated by the weather. Since it was snowing, we had to go for de-icing before we could take off, and, this being O’Hare, Terminal 3, where the American Airlines flights are housed is at the eastern end of the airport. Naturally, the American Airlines de-icing station is at the far, western end of the airport.

Five minutes later, we arrived at the other end of the airport, where we waited in a queue for five minutes before it was our turn. I’ve been on flights that have been de-iced before, but never when I’ve had a window seat and been able to watch the process, which I found fascinating.

The plane pulls up between a pair of trucks, each with a long hydraulic arm. At the end of the arm is a small control cabin, where the operator sits, which has a further, extendable hose at the side. Once the plane is in position, the arm lifts up and the cabin turns round, extending the hose, which it then uses to spray de-icing fluid over its side of the plane. The whole process takes around five minutes, then the hose is withdrawn and the cabin tucks back in on the hydraulic arm, which is lowered back onto the truck.

After our de-icing, we moved off, but we didn’t clear the area for another 10 minutes, which was puzzling. Of course, now we were at the western end of the airport, but due to the prevailing winds, we were taking off in a westerly direction. This meant we had to taxi back across the whole width of the airport, a process which took another 10 minutes. Finally, we were in position to go and, a mere 35 minutes after we left the gate, we were hurtling down the runway. We took off at 12:45 and about 30 seconds later, disappeared into the cloud!

You can see how the rest of the flight went after the gallery.

  • We broke through the top of the clouds five minutes after take-off.
  • I love flying above the clouds, particularly when they make pretty patterns like this.
  • For whatever reason, I couldn't get my monitor to show the moving map, so I had to...
  • ... rely on my neighbour's monitor, here showing our route, flying due east to Boston.
  • Initially, there weren't many views, just glimpses of the land through gaps in the clouds...
  • ... which were hard to identify. This, however, is the southern shore of Lake Huron...
  • ... and that's the St Clair River flowing out of it.
  • Since the St Clair River marks the US/Canada border, we must be over Canada now.
  • Lake Huron and the Canadian farmland of southwest Ontario.
  • What's that I see down there amongst the patchwork of fields?
  • Oh yes, I see you (probably not so) little plane!
  • The meal service was soon underway, starting with a bowl of warm nuts...
  • ... and quickly followed by some rather lovely mozzerella ravioli.
  • There was also a warm bread roll to go with it.
  • A last look at Lake Huron before...
  • ... we crossed over to the north shore of Lake Erie.
  • London? Hmmm.... I'm sure I've seen that name somewhere before...
  • The patchwork of fields continues as we fly east, roughly following the coast.
  • The clouds were also making regular appearances.
  • I'm guessing that's Port Dover (at the curve in the coast line). And that dark line? Well...
  • ... it could be the shadow from our vapour trail. Or maybe the shadow from this one.
  • Again a guess, but that might be Peacock Point.
  • Happy to be corrected if I'm wrong though!
  • By now we were crossing over the eastern end of Lake Erie, close to Buffalo...
  • ... and back into the USA, passing over the Finger Lakes of New York State.
  • There are quite a few of them, so I'm not sure which is which!
  • Dessert arrived in the shape of a warm chocolate chip cookie.
  • Another Finger Lake. I'm now convinced that the dark line is our vapour trail's shadow.
  • Soon we're crossing over the Hudson River at Albany...
  • ... which means that we're flying over northern Massachusetts, although...
  • ... what we're seeing below is Vermont and, in this case, the (frozen) Harriman Reservoir.
  • The Vermont landscape of forests and frozen lakes slips quickly by until we reach...
  • ... the Connecticut River at Vernon, marking the Vermont/New Hampshire border...
  • ... although once again, we're flying over northern Massachusetts
  • The Connecticutt River is pretty magnificent, isn't it?
  • New Hampshire, like Vermont, is a patchwork of forests and lakes...
  • ... some of which, like this little one, are frozen.
  • The bigger ones stay ice-free however.
  • This is Lake Monomonac, which straddles the Massachusetts/New Hampsire border.
  • By now we're starting to take a slightly more southerly course as we approach Boston.
  • The forests are starting to thin out and the landscape become more urban.
  • This is Hickory Hills Lake, which is near the (small) town of Lunenburg.
  • The landscape of northern Massachusetts. It looks awesome from up here!
  • As an ex-astronomer, I love spotting radio telescopes. Say hello to Haystack Observatory.
  • Not long after, we fly past Forge Pond before...
  • ... crossing over I495, a sure sign that we're approaching Boston...
  • ... as is the appearance of the coast on the far horizon!
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We broke through the top of cloud at 12:50 as we flew pretty much due east across Lake Michigan, making landfall after 10 minutes. Annoyingly, I couldn’t get the map working on my screen, although my neighbour, the pilot, has his working, so I followed our progress on that.

With an estimated flight time of 90 minutes, and a full meal service scheduled, the cabin crew worked quickly. The dinner service started at 13:05, when a bowl of warm nuts arrived. The food was already being warmed up in the galley which, being right at the front of the plane, I could clearly smell. There was a choice of chicken salad (cold) or mozzarella ravioli in a creamy sauce (hot). Naturally, I had the ravioli, which arrived five minutes later, just as we flew north of Detroit.

My ravioli came with a warm bread roll and a side salad and was excellent, far better than the microwaved ravioli I’d had the night before. The ravioli themselves were perfectly cooked and the sauce really was rich and creamy.

Our route took us across Lake St Claire, with views of Lake Huron in the distance to the north through gaps in the clouds. We had a clear spell as we flew along north shore of Lake Eire before the clouds closed in again. We passed just south of Buffalo then followed a route parallel to the southern shore of Lake Ontario, passing over the northern tips of finger lakes at 13:40, when warm chocolate chip cookies were served.

The pilot announced the start of our descent at 13:50, just over an hour after take-off and, while the map suggested we’d be landing in 20 minutes, the pilot said we wouldn’t be in the ground until 14:15 (15:15 local time). We crossed over the Hudson at Albany ten minutes after that and made our way across Massachusetts, very close to the border with Vermont. By now the clouds had cleared and I got a very good view of a landscape full of lakes, many of them frozen, although what I was actually seeing was Vermont and the likes of the Harriman Reservoir.

We crossed the Connecticut River and flew south of Lake Monomonac, which straddles the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. By now we were tending to a slightly more southerly route, leaving the New Hampshire border behind. We flew almost directly over Lunenburg, but I forgot to wave to my friend Lise, since I was too busy admiring Hickory Hills Lake. The next major landmark (for me at least) was Haystack Radio Telescope, and then we crossed over I495, by which point I could see the Massachusetts coast in the far distance, a sure sign that we were getting close to Boston.

You can see how the landing went after the gallery.

  • We flew directly over Boston Logan airport...
  • ... and headed south across the harbour...
  • ... before turning over Quincy.
  • Then we were heading back to Boston, see here on the skyline.
  • We came in over Dorchester and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library...
  • ... and then over the container port...
  • ... before landing at Logan.
  • It was a five minute taxi to the gate...
  • ... and then a short walk through the quiet (but not as quiet as O'Hare) airport...
  • ... to get my bags.
  • Then a 20 minute wait for the hote shuttle...
  • ... before settling into my room ahead of my call.
We flew directly over Boston Logan airport...1 ... and headed south across the harbour...2 ... before turning over Quincy.3 Then we were heading back to Boston, see here on the skyline.4 We came in over Dorchester and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library...5 ... and then over the container port...6 ... before landing at Logan.7 It was a five minute taxi to the gate...8 ... and then a short walk through the quiet (but not as quiet as O'Hare) airport...9 ... to get my bags.10 Then a 20 minute wait for the hote shuttle...11 ... before settling into my room ahead of my call.12
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The pilot asked the cabin crew to prepare for landing at 14:10 (15:10 local time) and, five minutes later, we flew over Boston’s Logan airport at a height of about 1,500m, heading due south. This provided some excellent views of the harbour before we back to turn back to the west in a big 225° turn over Quincy to approach the airport from the southwest. This, in turn, gave me some glorious views of the city as we came in over Dorchester and the container port before landing at 15:25. From there, it was a swift five minute taxi to the gate which made such a contrast to O’Hare.

I was off the plane by 15:35 and into a surprisingly busy Terminal B, far busier than O’Hare had been. Within 10 minutes, my bags were on the carousel and all that remained for me to do was get the shuttle to the hotel, which proved to be the trickiest part of the operation! I called the hotel, which said the shuttle bus was on its way, but the traffic outside was completely gridlocked and it took the shuttle 20 minutes to arrive.

From there, we followed the by now familiar route back to the hotel, arriving at 16:20, giving me a whole 40 minutes to check in, unpack and get ready for my call.

The final part of my journey home, the flight from Boston to London, was even more surreal than this flight.


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