Narrowly missing Iceland's volcanic eruption - Curt Yeomans

I am so about to commit a fireable offense -- I think. I have got to say, I'm a little disappointed I narrowly missed being caught up in all that volcanic mess that has screwed up all the flights out of Europe since late last week. And, when I say narrowly missed it, I mean I flew back to the U.S., having to cross over the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean, just two days before the volcano blew its top.

I wouldn't have minded a few extra days in Europe. In essence, I likely would have been stuck in Europe for nearly three weeks. Well, I only half-wish that had happened, and I'll explain why in a second.

If you have ever flown to Europe, you know the typical flight path from the U.S. to that big continent across the pond. First, you have to fly up the eastern seaboard of our country, and over New Foundland in Canada. Then, you begin the long flight over the northern Atlantic, passing just under Greenland and Iceland, before finally reaching western Europe.

Now, how you come into western Europe depends on where you are going. Last summer, when I flew to Paris, my flight crossed over southern Ireland before crossing the English Channel into French airspace.

However, when I flew to Rome a few weeks ago, my flight passed just south of Ireland, and entered French airspace at the far northwestern tip of the country, at Brittany, and flew southward, diagonally across the country toward Nice.

Either way, you have to fly over the northern Atlantic, and that can be difficult when a volcano is spewing all kinds of junk into the atmosphere, near your flight path. Then, of course, it spreads out across Europe, and then, you can't fly over the continent.

Now, I had a great time in Rome. If I could have had the option to stay there forever, I would have jumped at it. I just wouldn't like to get on the trains, to go to other cities right now. The trains (well, at least any train not operated by Eurostar Italia) would be the deal-breaker for me.

I rode a very crowded train, sitting in a fold-down seat next to a door, from Rome to Napoli one day. It was the worst possible place to sit on a train. I was right next to the doors, and there were people getting on and off at every stop.

There were not enough seats for everyone, so people had to stand in the aisles, many with luggage. Many more had to stand in the compartments where the doors were located. So many people were in these areas, that I, and others sitting in them, had to stand up and fold our seats up, so everyone would have enough space to fit on the train.

It was totally uncomfortable.

Now, if you were smart (as I was, coming back from Napoli), then you got a ticket on a Eurostar Italia train. They don't overcrowd their trains. They sell tickets for specific seats, and they only sell tickets for the seats they have.

It helps that they have fold-out meal trays, or tables, for every seat on the train, you know, just in case you brought something to eat. They also have electrical outlets, in case you want to plug in your laptop computer, or iPod.

Still, from what I've heard, seats on the Eurostar trains across Europe were quickly getting booked, as were all trains on the continent, really. With air travel out of commission, trains were your best way of getting around the continent. Therefore, train travel would probably not be an option at this point.

On the other hand, my Italian was getting much better (by leaps and bounds) over the eight days I spent in Italy. If I had gotten stuck over there, who knows, I might be speaking Italian like a local by now.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.