Best Airports to get stuck in by G. Willow Wilson
By G. Willow Wilson, author of AIR
We've all heard the shtick: the journey is more important than the destination. If that's true, airports are some of mankind's unsung centers of enlightenment. In AIR, hero-stewardess Blythe has served coffee, tea and philosophy en route to some of the weirdest places never to exist. But if you've got your feet firmly planted this side of reality, here are a few airports where your long layovers and flight delays might well turn into an adventure in themselves:
5. Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris
I've included Charles de Gaulle not because it's particularly interesting, but because you will get stuck here at some point in your life if you travel internationally. The French love nothing more than a good transit-worker strike, making de Gaulle a sort of purgatory for the jetlagged. Since this place may become your second home, you might as well familiarize yourself with the excellent selection of duty-free shops and terminal cafes.
4. McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas
It's true: there are slot machines right there at the gate. Humming with neon light even at 2am, which was when I arrived, McCarran pummels you into Las Vegosian submission before you can protest. This airport has to be one of the more surreal places on planet earth, and if you don't drink, gamble or like showgirls there really isn't anything to do. Except stare in wonder.
3. Mehrabad International Airport, Tehran
The first thing you see when you come through customs at this airport is a big sign, in English, that says "ISLAMIC DRESS IS A PROTECTION FOR WOMEN." This is just the beginning of the surreal adventure that awaits you in Tehran, the Unfunny City. Intimidating as this may sound to some, the airport staff are, in my experience, quite gracious--though I did not see a single one in board shorts and Tevas. I was stuck here for several hours due to a sandstorm in Dubai, and chatted with some interesting people over many cups of tea.
2. JFK International Aiport, New York
I have hauled half my worldly possessions--including my husband--through this airport from points abroad, and never once has anything been broken, stolen, lost or cavity-searched. The entry-point for thousands of immigrants to the US, JFK is functionally the new Ellis Island. A fascinating place to people-watch and chow down on international cuisine--assuming you can figure out the bizarre computerized ordering system in the new Jet Blue terminal.
1. Schiphol International Airport, Amsterdam
There's a reason I chose this spot as the home-base for Clearfleet Airlines. Home to innumerable little lounges, where you can sleep on La-Z-Boys while waiting for your next flight or browse Old Master paintings in a mini art museum, Schiphol is as interesting as airports get. It's worth going just to see the American college kids light up blunts of cannabis sativa right there in the terminal, only to be reprimanded by irate Dutch officials. From high art to low brow and everything in between, this is life condensed into a transit hub.