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The Journey Home

The TV in the hotel room woke us up at 6:30am, which was what we'd told it to do the night before, so I give it full marks there.

I groaned as I got out of bed. My arms and shoulders ached, my bum throbbed, and the backs of my thighs protested. The last time I went go-karting must have been years and years ago, with the Cornerstone guys, and I think Josh and Derek were there too. Well, I remember being sore afterwards then too.

I showered and went down for a last breakfast before coming back up to the 4th floor to pack away my pyjamas and and toiletries. We came down to the lobby with our baggage and checked out. We'd ordered a taxi for 8:00am. The lobby was full of kids. They appeared to be several sports team from England, or something like that.  They weren't all wrestlers! Some of them must have been. But we found our taxi OK shortly after they started filing out to their bus.

On the way to the airport we saw some wonderful images alonside the river, with mist hovering over the water and the rising sun lighting up some old brick buildings. I wished I hadn't packed my camera. Our taxi driver knew the best way to go and we were soon at the terminal.

Before we could check in we had to go through an interrogation by a U.S. immigration official. This was fairly serious stuff: She started out straightforwardly, asking what our reasons for travelling were, etc, but before long she was asking for evidence of the conference and did I have a business card, and other questions that I don't remember now but at the time I felt like every answer I gave was incorrect. By the end of it we were both pretty nervous, and L had our marriage certificate handy in case we needed it.  Finally it was over and we were allowed to approach the check-in desk.

We wondered later if our varied forms of travel and ports of entry - along with our two passport nationalities - had made us stand out as worthy of inspection.

Our flight was due to leave at 11:10 am but when we got to the gate it was all shut up and we had to wait. People arrived at a steady rate and soon they opened the gate, we queued up, showed our boarding passes and then we could go through the glass fence and sit down. We looked for a handy power point to top up our laptops but decided that it wasn't worth it.

We left Frankfurt airport in bright sunshine and clear skies and headed West. As we crossed over the Channel I looked for the "white cliffs of Dover" but I couldn't see anything that might be them. I did notice that we appeared to be going to fly right up the Thames Estuary and over central London. And shortly, we were. I looked intently for some landmarks. "I'll orient myself later by that big white round thing..." I thought, under the impression that I wouldn't be able to make out any real detail. And then I realised that the big white round thing was the Millenium Dome... and then everything snapped into focus and I realised what I was looking at.

I saw Westminster Bridge and Big Ben, where we had stood with Mitchell on the first evening. There was the commons, where that guy was protesting...

Big Ben and Westminster Bridge

Westminister Abbey, looking spikey, and Victoria Street which led back to the train station...

Westminster Abbey

And there was St James Park, and the Birdcage walk, and Buckingham Palace!

St James Park and the Palace

And then, unmistakably, Hyde Park, with the curly Serpentine and Kensington Gardens with the Round Pond. And... was that the Albert Memorial?

Hyde Park

But it was drifting steadily behind us and my eyes were watering and I couldn't recognise anything anymore. England slipped behind us as the aircraft flew Westward over the Atlantic Ocean. I dozed and read more of my book. There may have been a meal of some sort. I kept looking out my window and eventually there was something there - a very distinctive land formation that we couldn't figure out from the map in the back of the airline magazine:

Cape Cod Bay looking South

(Later we determined that it was Cape Cod Bay and that we were heading South-West, about to fly over Boston.) A little bit later I was sure I recognised Long Island and sure enough, eventually Manhattan slid past our window in the distance. I couldn't make out any particular building.

It was another couple of hours before we landed at Atlanta. I wish I could say that our connection was uneventful but it wasn't. For a start I messed up the customs form and we got "picked" to be interviewed. We thought our bags were going to be searched but instead we had a *very* casual conversation with a security guy who was very interested in the fact that we were computer software people and eventually he waved us through without further inconvenience on our part. Lucky us I think. Except that then we had to go through security which was just horrible, just the worst ever. Shoes off, belts off, laptops out, and L got the PCMCIA eject lever on her laptop bent as she tried to get it back into the bag. We changed over our remaining Euros into a scarily depleted number of dollars and scrambled to find our connection flight.

I don't remember much about the flight from Atlanta to Vegas but obviously we arrived safely. It was only two weeks since we'd left but it felt like a month. The drive home was uneventful, and the house, when we arrived, was peaceful. We'd have to change that: we'd pick the cats up from Creature Comforts tomorrow. We'd deliberately arranged to take the day off from work because we knew we'd need a day to recover.

Link: The Journey Home

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