My plane soars across the Atlantic Ocean from Barcelona ready to make its descent on the small mountainous island of Madeira. With no airport in sight, the plane begins to turn on a sharp angle with one wing pointed towards the ocean. A sailboat passes by below and it seems as if the wing is going to hit the mast. The plane shakily steadies back straight and the airport appears dead ahead. It’s close; too close. The plane begins to aggressively jerk down. The plane drops. It catches itself and continues straight. Another drop. Passengers on the plane grow tense and nervous, clutching their armrests until their knuckles turn white.
Another intense drop. A shriek. I feel my gut sinking with every decent as if I am on a rollercoaster. Another drop. “Arrêt!” a French lady behind me cries. “Oh God, please stop!” an English woman pleads. And here I am… laughing. This isn’t my first time flying to Madeira. I already knew that the landing at Madeira Airport is one of the most nerve-wracking, seat-clenching, thrilling plane rides; it is definitely not for the faint of heart. Without even stepping foot on the island, you can already see that a journey to Madeira will be one of the most exhilarating trips you can take.
As someone who is extremely organized and well-planned, my trip to Madeira was the most spontaneous, last minute trip I have ever taken. After my brother sent a picture to our WhatsApp family group chat of him and my grandmother in Madeira, I grew eager. I had been living in Barcelona for eight months and hadn’t seen them since I was in Canada. After being away from your family for so long there is nothing you wouldn’t do to see them and spend time with them.
I had a four-day long weekend and it was the perfect chance to see my family. On a Thursday, just two days before the weekend, I searched long and hard for flights. I could only find first-class seats that were costly. I gave up hope and was dismayed. As I slept, six hours behind in Canada, my mother continued the search. She was determined to make the trip happen, and she did. She found me a ticket for the following day. Yes, one day to buy the ticket, make arrangements and pack my suitcase.
The adventure does not end here…
I make it to the Barcelona airport, after a long commute, two hours early. I look around the shops and wander around aimlessly to kill time. I constantly check the flight board, but the gate for the Funchal flight does not appear. I check online on my digital ticket. Gate A10. Okay, perfect.
A little while later, snacking on an M&M McFlurry from McDonald’s, I check the board again. “Go to your gate,” it reads with no gate number. Well, good thing I checked online! I stroll over to gate A10. It’s empty. Okay, maybe I’m just really early.
I wait a few minutes. Still no one. I read the board again, “Boarding.” Oh no… something is not right. I go over to Gate A12 beside me and ask the flight attendant in Spanish, “Excuse me, do you know where the flight to Funchal is boarding?” The flight attendant checks the computer. She looks up, “B32.”
B32?! My face goes pale. That’s on the other side of the airport!
My adrenaline kicks in and for the first time in my life I experience a true adrenaline rush. I toss the full McFlurry into the bin and clutch my suitcase. I run. I run as fast as I can as if I were Forest Gump. Run Dani, Run! I run through the A Gate then I run past the restaurants and all of the shops. By now I am turning heads and onlookers watch the crazy girl sprint through the airport. I run to the B Gate, which is at the opposite end of the terminal, and I run all the way down to 32.
There are still five people waiting in line to board. Thank God, I made it. I am panting, sweating and out of breath as I hand the flight attendant my ticket and Portuguese citizenship card to board the plane.
I sit in my airplane seat, still sweating, and I feel the pressure rising to my head. My head aches and my body crashes. All of the energy completely drains from my body and I can no longer keep my eyes open. I’m on my way avózinha.
This was a particularly special trip because my grandma did not know I was coming. I informed my brother of my arrival but told him not to tell my grandma. My brother and cousins picked me up at the airport while my grandma spent time with her brother.
We arrive at the apartment and I see my grandma through a small window cooking fresh tuna steak and rice. I hide behind the wooden door. My brother takes out his camera phone and starts to record me. He taps on the window and tells my grandma to open the door. I hear the lock click and the door unhinge. I stand in the doorway smiling. My grandma is frozen. She is confused.
“What? What is this?” she asks in her hinted Portuguese accent. “Daniella? What are you doing here?!” Her mouth drops and tears begin to well in her eyes. I walk over to her and embrace her. Together we shed a few tears of joy.
My journey to Madeira a chance to embrace my loved ones who I hadn’t seen in a long while. It was a total adventure exploring this spectacular island where my family comes from with the greatest company. Although the trip was too short, I will never forget giving my grandma the greatest surprise of her 74-year life and spending those days with her and my brother who I both missed very much.