As accounts of medieval pilgrimage have taught us, it’s all about the process. Their journeys plagued with hardship made our voyage from New York to Pisa feel all the more authentic. As we traveled to JFK through torrential winds and flood-warning rains, distress began to overshadow our deep-rooted excitement. Upon meeting up at Gate 3 at 6 pm, our fears were confirmed. Flights were getting cancelled left and right, the loudspeaker was blaring, and the congestion in the waiting area was escalating along with tempers. Holy Sepulchre! Each announcement of a delayed or cancelled flight was met with boisterous booing and a refugee camp formed on the airport floor with people using their backpacks as chairs after all seats were filled. The flight before ours to London was cancelled, heightening our concern for our own flight. The announcer hurriedly explained that the pilots were trying to find a small “window” of calm in the howling wind in which we could take off, which began to make some even more nervous than the prospect of a cancellation. They also informed us that they would not be putting our luggage onto this flight, which was the least of our worries at the time—little did we know the inconvenience that this would cause. The staff discovered an engine problem once we boarded the plane, and we sat on the runway for an hour as technicians worked on the engine. FINALLY, we took off! The turbulence was wild, shaking us left to right, up and down, all around like Elvis the Pelvis. Salvation came in the form of yummy pesto pasta, chocolate cake and awesome in-flight movies. Our favorite new releases included Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Blind Side, New Moon, and An Education.
We landed in Heathrow around noon, missing our connection but able to get on a 4:45 flight to Pisa. We got a written apology (oh so heartfelt!) from British Airways, but the biggest perk was the £10 meal voucher!! Many of us went wild at Huxley’s Bar and Grill with greasy British fare. Several napped while waiting for our flight, while others took advantage of the greatest duty-free shopping in the world. Almost everyone slept on the flight to Pisa, and upon arriving there, we began the process of locating our luggage. Although we had hoped that our bags would join us in Pisa, we were sadly disappointed to learn that it would be meeting us in Villafranca (remember, it’s all about the process).
After filing claims, we piled into cabs to our hotel, a beautifully converted convent. We quickly dropped off our carry-on bags in the rooms and tried to take a moment to freshen up (although we had nothing to freshen up with).
As it was already 10 pm or so, we went down the street to a delicious and authentic pizzeria for our first of many good meals.
We returned to our modest little rooms surrounding the cloister garden and slept soundly that night like Fra Angelico, very happy to be horizontal after 24 hours of being in transit.