When I was a small boy and my family went on vacation by plane, I always felt the need to occupy the seat by the window, to gaze out and see the wondrous sights below. As I have grown older – and my legs have grown longer – I have begun to appreciate the value of the greater leg room offered by sitting on the aisle rather than by the window. After several flights across Europe and Asia, I have also concluded that there is rarely too much that is actually worth seeing. However, I changed my mind just a little as I arrived on the Cote D’Azur and my flight made its final approach to Nice Airport.
As I had booked my flight just a couple of days before departure, I had been unable to reserve and aisle seat – they were all occupied – so I was left with a seat by the window. I knew Nice was a beautiful location, but I was not optimistic of seeing too much of beauty through the window. The precedents I had experienced for arriving in beautiful cities were poor. On the three occasions have landed in New York, the weather was grey and completely obliterated any of the famous skyline. When I flew into Istanbul, all I managed to see was a few tower blocks and some scattered office parks.
In fact, there were only two occasions on which I ever saw anything interesting. The first was when I flew into Ulaan Baatar in Mongolia. And, this example was not really an example of great beauty. As the city is surrounded by miles and miles and miles of frozen nothingness the view was pretty bland. I was, though, able to spot the city from a great distance away the dark shroud of pollution that hovers above grew larger and larger on the horizon. The only time I can recall being dazzled by beauty through the airplane window was when I arrived in Muscat in Oman. I had flown to Muscat from Dubai across the desert, but as the flight neared its destination, it followed the line of the coast into the city. The view was fantastic. It took in bright blue seas, hundreds of palm trees and some stunning beaches.
Arriving in Nice topped all of these, though. The airport is situated, literally, meters from the sea. And to land many flights coming from the north must loop around and approach from the south. This meant that my flight from Heathrow did a grand arc and came in over the Mediterranean. In the course of this arc we looped over the bay and across the beautifully blue sea, past the harbor, which was full of some unbelievably expensive yachts and along the palm-lined sea-front before touching down. For the first time in many years I actually enjoyed being cramped up by the window.
Two weeks later I headed to Paris on business. Sadly, on the return leg for the flight, my awful record re-asserted itself as the flight looped in over the darkened hills behind the city, leaving me with a massive sense of disappointment at missing out on the wonderful view.