Looking down at snowy mountains from a plane
Friendly Friday,  Landscape,  Themed galleries,  Travel in general

Gallery: it’s a wonderful world, from above

One of the (many) things I have missed during the pandemic has been that little frisson of excitement I feel when arriving at the airport to take off on a trip. Excitement tinged with a touch of anxiety too – not about flying (I love flying) but about the little details of a trip. Have I remembered everything? Did we lock the back door? Are we on time?

We are always on time and usually early, impatient to be off and flying to our destination! That means quite a bit of time hanging around at the airport but that’s OK. As a keen people-watcher I find airports fascinating, wondering where everyone is going and why. And sometimes you see the oddest sights. The oddest by far that I have seen was during a stop-over in Brisbane, when a man walked past with a full-size human skeleton slung over one shoulder! I have no idea if it was real or a model, and I wasn’t quick enough to pull out my camera for a photo, so you will just have to believe me on this one.

Actually, I don’t usually take photos in airports, although I often grab a shot of our plane before we board. That’s an old habit from my Virtual Tourist days, when we all posted reviews of transport, including our flights. They’re not the most exciting photos I take, and I rarely share them. But it does mean I have a few to share for Amanda’s Friendly Friday Challenge theme of Airport Experiences.

Taking flight

Whether it’s a short city break in Europe or a long trip to Asia or Africa or South America, the moment we are in the air the holiday begins in earnest. If it’s a day-time flight I always like to secure a window seat. I want to be able to look out and know that I am in the air. And if possible I like to take photos, both on our outward flight and on our rather less exciting return to London. Flights from and back into Heathrow often fly directly over the city, making it possible to pick out many of the famous sights. They also fly pretty much over our house (high enough for noise not to be an issue) – but I haven’t yet managed to spot that!

Aerial view of a city

London, after take off from Heathrow to Nairobi. You can see Clapham Common in the lower centre, Battersea Park beyond that and the Thames snaking off into the city centre near the top. The dark green patches in the distance are, left to right, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’ Park.


Aerial view of a city

London, after take-off from Heathrow to Leipzig. You can see the Oval cricket ground near the centre of the shot. The Millennium Wheel on the South Bank is clearly visible top centre, and St James’ Park to the left.


Aerial view of a city

London, after take off from Heathrow to Karlsruhe. Here we are over the south eastern part of the city. You should be able to make out Tower Bridge near the centre of the shot and the tall Shard to its left. On the north side of the river are the tall buildings of the City, the financial district. Look very carefully and you’ll see St Paul’s Cathedral just to the left of the tip of the Shard, just touched by its shadow.

The world from above

I’m hoping to fly again in a couple of weeks’ time, the first flight in 21 (I counted them!) months. Meanwhile here are some of my favourite photos taken while in flight. Most were taken soon after take-off or just before landing at an airport, so I hope Amanda will forgive me for focusing on this part of the airport experience.

Dramatic cloud formations seen from a plane

Storm clouds soon after taking off from Leipzig, Germany.


Plane wing and snowy mountains

The Cascades Mountains, soon after take-off from Seattle. We had driven through these mountains just a few days previously, now we were seeing them from the air.


Aerial view of blocks of flats in the snow

Landing at Kharkiv, Ukraine, in the snow. Below us are the typical apartment blocks dating from Soviet times.


View of a city with red roofs and white cathedral, from a plane

Landing in Pisa, Italy. I was amazed at how low we flew over the city! You can easily see the Baptistry, Cathedral and of course the famous Leaning Tower.


Line of beach and small houses inland seen from a plane

The coast of Africa; coming in to land at Banjul International Airport in The Gambia.


Looking down at small houses in a dry landscape

Taken just before landing in The Gambia, flying low over the small villages near Banjul.


Aerial view of dry land jutting out into the sea

Taking off from Sal, one of the Cape Verde islands, flying in the small white and green prop plane included in the gallery above.


Aerial view of small city by the sea

And landing very soon afterwards in Praia, the capital of Santiago, another of the Cape Verde islands. The small islet in the foreground was once home to a lepers’ hospital and is now being turned into a casino by a Chinese company!


View of dry landscape from a plane

Taking off from Muscat after a wonderful tour of Oman. The dry landscape is a stark contrast to the glitzy airport buildings (seen in my gallery above).


Aerial view of dry landscape with mountain ridges

Somewhere south and east of Baghdad, on a flight to Abu Dhabi. I was fascinated by the unusual land formation below me. Peering at Google Maps later I decided it was probably the protected area of Kabir Kouh, which looks rather beautiful.


Plane wing, clouds and orange sun

A sunset landing at London Heathrow, returning from a Virtual Tourist gathering at the Christmas markets in Karlsruhe, Germany.


Orange sky with small plane in the distance

And finally, another sunset near London Heathrow when arriving home from Oman.


  • maristravels

    I forgot to mention too, that my sister and I were given the wrong gate at Dubai airport about five years ago, and only managed to get on board by waylaying an Emirates air hostess who was passing. We knew something was wrong because there was no one else there nor were there any passing travellers or workers. She rang ahead and got them to hold the plane and we had to run for it. I was out of breath and had to stop at one point and she got quite cross with me but I said I’d sue the airline for not giving us the right Departure Gate and I’d mention her name in dispatches! When we got on board everyone clapped (relief, I think) but I was mortified and I wanted to explain to everyone that it wasn’t our fault. I can only thank whatever god looks after travellers that Emirates isn’t a dry airline!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Oh no, that must have been worrying at the time! It happened to us a few years ago at Bogota but luckily a) there were quite a few passengers in the same position, and b) we realised with a bit more time to spare than you had!

  • maristravels

    I’ve never thought to take pictures of the cities below me, how unimaginative of me! I only ever think of snowy vistas as I love flying over the Alps and other places where the white stuff lies. Living as we do on an island and fearful of a storm coming up suddenly and interfering with the ferry departure, we years ago decided we’d had to travel to the airport the night before we were due to travel, to avoid the stress and sleepless night worrying, and that early morning start. So, our holiday started at the airport the night before. We factored in a decent hotel so that it felt like part of the holiday, with dinner and a bottle of wine to ease the time away. I still do the same but now I have the worry of meeting up with my travel buddy at the check-in!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I love flying over mountains too and I have plenty of photos like that, but for this post I wanted to focus mainly on photos taken just after take-off or before landing so that I didn’t stray too far from the challenge theme 😆 I think I like taking these shots partly because of my fascination with maps. I like to pore over the images afterwards and try to make out the landmarks etc. We once flew over Venice which was amazing, but I didn’t have my camera to hand as back then I wasn’t in the habit of taking photos in flight. Nowadays I would be better prepared 🙂

      I would definitely be like you and want to be off the island the night before flying. We sometimes stay at Gatwick if we have an early morning flight (Heathrow is close enough not to be a worry) and I also like to do that if flying from there in the winter, in case bad weather affects transport!

  • Tanja

    Beautiful shots from an airplane.I did a similar post about airplane views recently but I hope to write about airport experiences for this Friendly Friday challenge

  • Alison

    A great take on the airport theme Sarah. You have a wonderful gallery of photos from above. I agree with you the holiday starts for me when I snap that seat belt in.

      • Alison

        That’s still stressful for me as I have to keep an eye on my dear husband going astray, going to the magazine shop or look at the last minute! We are frequently the last ones on the plane. His mantra is “they won’t fly without us” as if he’s the pilot.

        • Sarah Wilkie

          Oh dear 🙄 I’ve been late on to the plane a couple of times and hated it (once a tight connection, once sheer stupidity as we hadn’t been watching the time and didn’t realise there were no announcements!) So I do know how stressful that can be.

  • wetanddustyroads

    Wow Sarah, you have some wonderful photo’s here! Love the ones of London and those stormy clouds over Germany is quite something! I had to laugh at the sign board at Savute International 😅 (that’s Botswana, isn’t it?)
    Yes, we’re also those travellers that arrive quite early on the airports – we hate to rush, especially when leaving on an adventurous trip! Hope you get to take soon more of these pictures …

  • thehungrytravellers.blog

    Agree with you on all levels – we always get to an airport early, well on the way out, anyway. It avoids stress, increases excitement and we really don’t understand why people don’t like the airport experience, it’s all part of the excitement and fun. We’ve missed the buzz too – it felt brilliant when we boarded that plane to Thessaloniki in July!

  • Marie

    It’s not something I do very often but you’re great collection is more than enough to prompt me into taking more photos in transit…. great blog. XXX

  • Rose

    Love your sky photos! I have been missing traveling by air. One of my favorite events when flying, is leaving the cloudy ground and, Suddenly bursting into sunshine! Another reason to try to always get a window seat.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Rose 🙂 You’re so right, I love that moment too, especially on a winter trip when I know my destination will be equally sunny and I’m leaving the grey skies of home behind for a while!

  • Heyjude

    You have been everywhere Sarah! I used to enjoy the excitement of flying off to a new destination, but with all the extra security hoops and economy travel getting more and more uncomfortable I’ve gone off the idea, it doesn’t help that we moved away from the main airports and getting to them was another irritation. When I did fly though I liked having the window seat, though got told off many times not to open the blind, not to use a camera! Like Margaret, if we go abroad again it will possibly be by rail, though that won’t unfortunately get me to Australia!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Jude, and not everywhere, just a lot of places 😀 I do know what you mean about economy travel. Every now and then I look at the prices for more comfortable upgrades, then realise we could have a whole extra holiday for that amount 😆 In the end the sacrifice of a bit of comfort is worthwhile when balanced against the excitement of the trip, and taking photos like this is one way of passing the time. That, a film and a good book usually get me through OK. But we’re lucky enough to live only 20 minutes from Heathrow (by Tube) and not too far from Gatwick, which definitely helps.

  • Manja Maksimovič

    Lovely all. You transfer the excitement of what lies ahead very well. Looking at London from above I realised that it’s been a long time since I posted any photos from there. I will do it one day.

  • Anonymous

    Well Sarah…we seem to share common interests….you echoed my feelings about flights, takeoffs and landings.I too have many pictures of landings at various places….

  • Forestwood

    I so enjoyed your collection of flight photos and the contrast you showed between the wooden passport control sign to the metropolis that is London. Funnily, my maternal grandmother was born at Battersea and I had no idea it was so close to the city centre. Looking at the world below gives us such a different perspective. Like you, I do love flying and love to look out the window at all times! The best landings are the ones like you showed in Pisa, seeing all the old buildings in Europe appear is glorious. So many airports are moved to locations away from the city so we miss out on those experiences.
    This challenge prompt and seeing the photos makes me want to fly again!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Amanda, I’m happy you enjoyed my response to the great challenge 😀 Yes, I loved that sign in the Okavango. We didn’t disembark there, just touched down to drop off some other passengers staying at that lodge, but i had to grab a few photos from the window! That landing in Pisa was amazing – definitely the closest look I’ve ever got at a city from the air!

        • Sarah Wilkie

          I’m not sure how long our longest planned layover was, but only a few hours. We’ve had two unplanned ones. A long delay at Charles de Gaulle en route to Cuba, caused by snow. Our flight had to wait for an incoming one from Marseilles and we ended up arriving in Havana at 2.00 AM to find our hotel all locked up for the night! Luckily a porter heard our bangs on the door and they let us in and were very welcoming and apologetic 😀 The other a long wait at Miami as our incoming flight from Belize was delayed and we missed our connection to London. But BA looked after us well, gave us vouchers for a meal and seats on the next available departure.

          More memorable are the short layovers – a mad dash through Munich Airport to make a connection to Milan while also on the phone to the friend who was to meet us there, telling her to delay leaving for the airport until I could confirm we were actually on the flight. We made it with minutes to spare! And a similar one at Luxembourg connecting for a flight to Kharkhiv – a friend who was already there and catching the same flight had to stand at the gate assuring them we were coming!

          • Forestwood

            Some close calls there Sarah. It is ever so stressful feeling that there is a possibility of missing the flight. I usually like to be at the departure gate super early- often too early and they often change the gate on me. Arriving at the hotel to find it closed at that hour must have been worrisome. Glad they heard you knocking! The only time I have had food vouchers was a delay flying from N Z to Australia- the pilot’s seat belt was malfunctioning, or so they told us. They flew another plane over from Australia to pick us up. (Which took all day). I often wonder if it was really only the seat belt!

  • margaret21

    I remember in particular a flight to Vancouver, across the endless empty wastes of Canada. But these days, flight isn’t a pleasure, and in fact we’ve decided to go by rail wherever possible. Ridiculous that it costs so much more!

Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! And please include your name in case WP marks you 'anonymous' - thank you