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A grand tour lifts us above it all: illness, age, sorrow

By Naomi Kooker
Globe Correspondent / October 23, 2011

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In the waiting room of Papillon Helicopters, laughter erupts from a group of foreign-speaking elders. My mom and I look at each other and shrug. We miss their joke; but we soon have our own giggle. As we watch the English version of the safety video in preparation for our helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, we hear a woman’s voice: “If the door opens during your flight, do not be alarmed.’’

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If You Go

What to do
Grand Canyon National Park Arizona
South Rim
Papillon Helicopter Tours
Grand Canyon National Park Airport
3568 Airport Road
A 30-minute ride to the North Rim and back, $175 per person; 50-minute ride over the South, East, and North rims, $258. Children ages 2-11, $20 less. Year-round.
North Rim
Take a jaunt to Cape Royal and Port Imperial to see the sunrise. Drive north, away from the lodge, for about 3 miles. Look for a sign on the right pointing to Cape Royal and Port Imperial. Follow the winding road for about 20 miles (about 45 minutes) to the lookout points. It’s a 15-minute walk out to Cape Royal. Port Imperial is an accessible scenic overlook.
Where to stay
Grand Canyon Lodge, North Rim
Book up to a year in advance at this stone lodge right at the rim. Cabins and motel rooms, $116-$187, mid-May through mid-October.
Grand Canyon South Rim
Bright Angel Lodge 219-221 Village Loop Drive
Grand Canyon Village
928-638-2631 /bright-angel-lodge
This National Historic Landmark has comfortable rooms, some with canyon views, $75-$366, year-round.