I'm finding this hard to put into words.
I got an invitation a couple weeks ago to go on a short flight over Toronto in a vintage, 1930's Junkers JU 52 plane that's owned by the folks who make those fabulous, retro-looking Rimowa suitcases with the ridges.
Well, sure. I mean, that's not an invite that slides into one's email basket every day, right?
I thought it would be fun. It was 10,486 times that.
They took four or five groups of Rimowa folks, Lufthansa workers, media types and celebrities up for 20-minute tours. Included in the latter group was film director David Cronenberg - my brush with Hollywood for the year.
I got on and sat up near the cockpit next to Hans DeHaan, the very entertaining new Regional Sales Director for the Lufthansa Aviation Group in Canada.
The plane is a monstrously beautiful one; all gleaming silver and deep grey and thrumming and powerful as all get out. It doesn't make noise; it roars its power with a deep-throated resonance that's simply amazing to hear.
We took off slowly. And I mean slowly. Halfway across the Toronto Harbour and I don't think we were more than 200 feet off the ground. As we passed the smokestacks over on the portlands (and hit a small air pocket) we were barely even with the top of the stack.
Anyway, we headed out over Ashbridges Bay, the Beach and the Scarborough Bluffs in the near-sunset, with huge, billowing clouds on the horizon before making a U-turn and heading downtown. We were about even with the top of the CN Tower and the views were outstanding.
Our pilot surprised us by circling close to the Tower. VERY CLOSE. I was told later that the president of the Tower was on board my flight and was thinking of saying something but didn't. I mean, you could look out and see what folks were eating in the restaurant we were so close. I guessed 300-400 feet but someone on my flight thought it was more like 200.
We continued west along the shoreline to Humber Bay Park, then banked and came back to the Island Airport, passing sailboats bobbing in the lake and pleasure/cruise ships heading out of the harbour and landed at what felt like 20 kilometers an hour; smooth and almost like we were floating or landing in a glider.
It was hotter than blazes on the plane as there's no AC (and no seat-back movie!) and the plane is dura-aluminum; making most of us on board feel like Swiss Chalet chickens by the time we got off.
Still, nobody complained. It was magic.
As we passed over downtown I looked out at some towering clouds bathed in yellow-orange light. The sun was slanting down onto the Toronto Islands and we were thundering through the sky and I thought, "Okay, THIS is flying. THIS is what people used to get excited about when they took to the skies; a sense of awe and adventure that most of us lose on endless commuter flights to Montreal or family trips to Florida."
I felt like a six-year-old on my first flight, and it was a wonderful, never-to-be-forgotten experience.
They served some lovely appetizers - thanks to some wonderfully decked out flight attendants - and then put on a stunning dinner in the main hangar, with white tablecloths and silver and tender steaks and fish and pasta and desserts and fancy appetizers.
All in all, one of the great nights I can ever remember experiencing anywhere.
Thanks to the folks at Rimowa and to Lufthansa for the invite.