Airport Moments of Beauty

We usually don’t think about airports as being beautiful places. And, usually they’re not!  But every once in a while, something gives me pause to smile, linger, and appreciate the moment.  Here are some I have enjoyed.

Chicago O’Hare, March 16, 2016

An airline crew member plays the piano at Chicago O’Hare on March 16, 2016.

When traveling to California on United Airlines in March, 2016, I stopped to enjoy listening to an airline crew member play the piano at one of the departure lounges.  I no longer remember what he was playing, but I remember he was a good pianist, and he gave me a smile!

Chicago O’Hare, Polaris Lounge, October 5, 2017

Entrance to Polaris Lounge, Chicago, O'Hare Airport
United Airlines remodeled its international first class lounge in Chicago O’Hare Airport in 2016-2017, and renamed it the Polaris Lounge. This photo shows the entrance to the new lounge. Taken on October 5, 2017, en route to Senegal.

I flew business class on United on my way to Senegal in October 2017.  When I entered United’s new Polaris Lounge on the C Concourse of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, I took a moment to simply appreciate the beauty of the ceiling art. It consists of many twinkling lights, and was designed to give an impression of the night sky.  This photo doesn’t do it justice, but it’s the best my phone could produce.

Lisbon, Portugal, November 4, 2017

I saw this rainbow at the airport in Lisbon, Portugal on November 4, 2017 on my way home from Senegal.

Arriving at the airport in Lisbon, Portugal was actually a very miserable experience for me on my way home from Senegal in November, 2017.  I was already sad to leave my IBM colleagues and new Senegalese friends all behind.

When I deplaned in Lisbon, I had to stand in 2 different passport control lines and go through security before being allowed to go to the gate for my flight to the U.S.  The whole process took well over an hour.  It was a relief to finally arrive at my gate.  The rainy weather outside echoed my miserable mood.  When it was time to board, this rainbow came out, as if to say, “Things will get better from here!”  And they did.  The rest of my trip, though long, was reasonably comfortable and pleasant.

Chicago O’Hare at Christmas, 2017

Connecting through O’Hare on American Airlines on December 12, 2017, I saw these holiday decorations.

When flying American Airlines on my way home from a business trip to Boston on December 12, 2017, I connected through O’Hare Airport.  It was a delight to see that the concourse had been beautifully decorated for Christmas.  Although I was tired from a very intense business trip, it made me smile to see it.

Chicago O’Hare, January 11, 2018

One of my favorite airport sites for many years has been the tunnel at Chicago’s O’Hare airport that connects the B concourse and the C concourse. These two concourses are used by United Airlines flights.

This tunnel at Chicago O’Hare airport connects the B and C concourses.

I always enjoy going through this tunnel when making connections.  Sometimes, if I have a long layover and the tunnel isn’t too crowded, I’ll walk back and forth through it several times just to get some exercise.  I enjoy both the cascading light show and the accompanying background music.

The Day I Didn’t See Lisbon

On my way home from Morocco, the airline itinerary required me to spend an overnight layover in Lisbon, Portugal.  At first, I was frustrated at having to pay for a hotel and have the journey home take so much longer. But then I started thinking about it, and started to view it as a fun opportunity to explore a city I had never been to before.

The day I departed Marrakech for Lisbon got off to a rather painful start, with 2 hours of standing in lines at the Marrakech airport.  The line to check in for the flight, the line to go through passport control, and the line to go through security all added up to that. My back was really hurting from all that standing. It was a relief to collapse into my seat once I boarded the plane.

Upon arrival at the Lisbon airport, there was another hour of standing in line, thanks to passport control and the taxi stand.

When I reached my prepaid hotel, the reception agent told me that plumbing issues had flooded several rooms at the hotel, and therefore they were not able to assign me a room. They had re-booked me into another hotel, at no cost to me, and they provided me with transportation to the new hotel.

There were check-in delays at the replacement hotel while the front desk staff tried to tell me to go back to the original one.  Eventually, the manager appeared, acknowledged that they had agreed to host me, and all was solved.  However, in the process, I endured another 30 minutes of standing around hotel check-in desks.

By the time all this was resolved, I was exhausted.  My back was really hurting, and I was tired. It was only 2:00 in the afternoon, but the only thing I wanted to do was sleep.  A voice in my head said I “should” go out and explore Lisbon, because who knows, I might never again have such an opportunity. A different voice in my head responded that sightseeing is supposed to be fun, and in this case I was in too much physical pain to enjoy it.

I knew I had a 23-hour trek home the next day, crossing an ocean and half a continent, with more grueling hours standing in line at airports, so why not take advantage of a nice hotel room to get some much-needed rest? And that’s what I did. I closed the curtains, and crawled into bed. When I woke up 2 hours later feeling better, I knew I’d made the right decision.

I walked across the street to have dinner at a nearby restaurant. I ordered a sea bass entree, which sounded very appealing. I was a bit dismayed when it showed up with the head still on it.  But it smelled delicious, so I tried not to think too much about the head and proceeded to eat the fish, leaving the head behind. It was a simple meal, which is what I needed at the time, and tasty.

Enjoying a fish dinner at the restaurant across the street from my hotel in Lisbon, Portugal. September 13, 2017.

After dinner, I returned to my room, did some reading, and reorganized my packing for the next day’s flight home. I made it to bed early, and slept well. Very well.

So, I have been “in” Lisbon, but all I saw was the inside of the airport, two hotels, a restaurant, and the view out of a car window going between these places.  But… I started my 23-hour trip the next day feeling reasonably well rested and pain-free.  For me, it was worth the tradeoff.

Sometimes, when traveling, self-care is more important than sightseeing.