The end of our trip has arrived. TG is definitely ready to go home, she has been quite homesick the past couple days. MN and I are less homesick, but feeling that we've been away long enough and wanting to see Dave and other family and friends.
We ponder what would be the best plan for getting to the airport, since our flight leaves from Heathrow at 6:25am. Dad's house is roughly a three hour drive from the airport, plus rain is forecast so there is concern about roads flooding, or just plain old nasty driving conditions, since driving in heavy rain can be a harrowing experience, especially at night. Dad says we should have plenty of time if we leave at midnight...of course that will mean that he basically ends up driving all night since he'll have to turn around and drive home.
I'm uncomfortable causing such a hassle and wish I'd thought to reserve a hotel room near the airport for our last night, in which case we would have been able to take the train in the afternoon. (I had asked early about our taking the train from Suffolk to the airport, but dad and Maggie say there are no trains running late enough, or early enough I should say, to get us to the airport around 3-4 in the morning.)
Oh well, I make a mental note to remember to book a hotel for our last night on future trips, and then resolve to enjoy our last day of this trip.
We puttered around in the morning, packing up luggage and accumulated garbage, then went along to the beach hut for lunch. The sea was incredibly calm today, even too boring for a swim said Maggie. We'd packed our swimming things anyway since I hadn't wanted to travel home with wet suits. Maggie's brother Chris and two of her cousins stopped by for a bit, so was nice to meet them. After lunch, Dad thought a round of ice creams was in order, so we strolled along to the pier and got a cone each. The girls also bought some candy and fudge. Near the end of the Southwold Pier is a crazy clock that puts on a show. Every half hour, water gushes into a bathtub, where two characters then spray water at each other. The water runs down to the next level, where two more characters drop their drawers and pee into a toilet, then on the lowest level, metal tulips "grow". Amusing and very silly indeed!
Back at the house, we had supper, then played Trivial Pursuit until it was time to leave. I hadn't played that game for ages but just love it...was a challenge playing a British version, even though the girls and I were allowed to draw a new question card when the questions were impossible for us to answer without having lived in the UK. Maggie was first to get all her wedges, but then went round and round the top, unable to get an exact roll to the centre. Eventually we conceded the win to her because she was the only one with all her pie pieces and we were all getting tired of playing (except maybe Dad, who was determined to make a comeback and beat Maggie...those two are quite competitive, I must say!)
Finally midnight rolled around and off we set in the drizzle which soon turned to rain. At one point, we had to veer off the main motorway because it was closed for repairs, but Dad knew the alternate route well so we had no problems getting back on track from this detour. We arrived at Heathrow sometime around 3, or perhaps 3:30, I forget. The check-in counters were not open, but there were hordes of people sleeping all over the place. We found four empty seats up in the departures lounge and sat down to wait. Dad got us coffee (hot choc for TG) to keep us going. Around quarter past four, we noticed that there seemed to be a lot more bustle than previously so we thought best to head back down to the check-in area. WHOA!! Lines and lines of people, so many that it was hard to sort out which queue ended where and was for which checkin counter. We took our places at the end of the queue for the Lufthansa desk, and dad left for home since there was no point in his standing around in the queue. We said our goodbyes, which were short because we'd be seeing each other again in just a few weeks when he and Maggie come over to NS later in the summer.
I started fretting about the length of the line and whether we'd get through in time for our flight. The man in front of us assured me that the pace would be quick, and thankfully he was right. It took only 20-30 minutes to get through and on our way up to security. ACCHHHH, the security line up was even longer!!! Yikes, I miss our l'il ole Halifax airport! Again, we were quickly through, although had to remove our shoes and be patted down (as was everyone else). No kidding that security is tight in Heathrow! Literally only one carryon item allowed, so purses and cameras had to be stuffed into backpacks. They did allow MN and TG to carry their book separately from their small shoulder bags, but I didn't see many other exceptions to the ONE carryon item only rule.
TG wanted to stop at the duty free shop, but I just wanted to get to the gate since we had less than an hour. I have heard so many stories of how huge Heathrow is so didn't want to take any chances on having a loooong walk to our gate. As it turns out, it was only a 10 min walk tops, so we would have had time for a quick bit of shopping. Comfy flight to Frankfurt (on Lufthansa), where we had a three hour layover before our flight home to Halifax (on Condor). Thankfully our luggage was being sent directly to Halifax so we didn't have to claim it in Frankfurt. This meant we could go immediately to our gate in Frankfurt and relax. The girls both managed a decent length nap, but of course I stayed awake to keep an eye on them. Boy, it's little stressful shepherding your children around foreign airports on your own! And I forgot all about going to the duty free shop, where I had fully intended to pick up some European chocolates for my coworkers, plus a jug of Disarrono for myself...rats!!!!
The flight home was relatively comfortable (far from luxurious of course, but decent). MN and TG sat together and I had a window seat just behind. They took turns having the window and aisle seats. I think the flight attendant thought they were travelling alone because she was very attentive to them, and took the time to explain to TG the importance of drinking lots of fluid on airplanes when TG said she didn't want anything to drink. I read, listened to the classic music channel (which was working this time, unlike the flight over), dozed a bit and enjoyed the scenery below when flying over Land's End, the western coast of Ireland, then Newfoundland and Nova Scotia on the other side.
We were quickly through customs - the lady asked a few questions of me, then asked the girls if they had a good trip (YES they beamed!), then sent us on our way. It took a very long time to collect our baggage (afterward Dave told me that four foreign flights had arrived at the same time so he was expecting us to take even longer to get through.) Out into the main airport, I glimpsed Dave's face and then MN took off at a run yelling "DADDY!!!". Lots of hugs, then my niece came flying into MN's arms and I looked around wondering where had she come from? Lo and behold there were my sister and my mom! They all came back to our house for a short visit and we were filled in on the goings on while we were away (Lynn's cat had had kittens so that was the big excitement!) I'll fill them in on the trip another day, after I catch up on my sleep. By the time I went to bed, I'd been up for 40 +/- hours (because of being up all night driving to the airport and then not really sleeping while in transit) so was quite zonked. Thankfully I had one more day off before returning to work so I could get over the worst of the jetlag and sleep deprivation!
We had an incredible trip. I am so happy and thrilled that everything went so smoothly and that the girls enjoyed themselves as much as I'd hoped! But it is certainly good to be home again with Dave. And Winston (the cat) was ever so happy to have us home - Dave had told us that Win was not at all happy to come home with Dave after being treated like a king for two weeks at my mom's house!
Now...to start sorting through my pictures and writing up my trip report and rental reviews!