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A very relaxed Gail, ready to cross the Irish Sea for the last time
June 18th marked our last full day in Éire, our last full day in the British Isles, in Europe, across the ocean -- in short, our last full day before returning to the United States. We checked out of the Windsor Lodge after breakfast, repacked the car, and drove through the maze of roads to the north side of Dublin. Before checking into our next accommodation, we stopped at the Dublin Airport to visit the British Midlands ticket desk, in a last-ditch attempt to resolve our London-Dublin ticket mess.
Fortunately, there was no line at BMI ticketing (in fact we had difficulty finding any BMI presence at all in the airport); and even more fortunately, we were waited on by Tara, a very competent customer service employee. She apologized for the problems we had had, and immediately set to work to fix things. She issued new Star Alliance tickets for tomorrow's Dublin-London flight -- in Business Class. She took charge of our £1,000 new tickets to obtain a refund; she even called the Refunds department to warn them that the tickets were coming and that a refund was due. Tara single-handedly restored our faith in BMI; we even wrote a letter of commendation that we hope gets to her superiors.
(For the record, out of the 34,000 miles allowed on our Star Alliance world tickets, we will have used 32,803 by the time we reach Detroit.)
With our ticket fiasco finally resolved, we proceeded to the Travelodge at Swords, about five minutes from Dublin Airport. Here our family room was very similar to the Travel Inns in the UK: a double with two twins that rolled out of a sofa (the Travelodge was also twice as expensive as the Travel Inn). We have now gotten very used to repacking our bags to go on airplanes, and the process went quickly and smoothly. Our leave-behinds this time include Gail's and Cameron's slippers from France (Joss and Russell are keeping theirs), some more gloves, and a turtleneck of Gail's that is on its last legs.
The Travelodge at Swords: one last sofa fort
For dinner that night, we ate at the Little Chef restaurant next door. We have been seeing this chain at roadside stops ever since we arrived in the UK, and we finally had a chance to try one. To say that it is like an American Denny's Restaurant is to pay Little Chef a compliment. Gail's first two meal orders were bounced back as "out of stock" -- how can you be out of pasta? (Joss, on the other hand, was thrilled to discover that his child's meal included a soft drink, ice cream, and a lolly.)
Back in the room, we watched the Irish World Cup team receive a heroes' welcome on television as 100,000 fans packed into Phoenix Park in nearby Dublin to celebrate their efforts. Cameron and Joss had an enormously difficult time getting to sleep that night, even considering that we were all in one room together. When we finally had the lights off, Gail heard Joss crying to himself in the darkness. Asked what was the matter, he sobbed, "When we get home, I'm never going to see Cameron again!" (We have been talking with them for weeks about the reverse culture-shock that we will all go through when we return home. We guess that Joss took our warnings a little bit too much to heart.)
On June 19th, the morning went incredibly smoothly. Deciding not to return to Little Chef's for breakfast, we ate what we had in the room and packed up the car. We had everything finished so far ahead of schedule that we were even able to stop at a toy store on the way to the airport. As we had done when leaving London, Russell dropped the family and luggage off at the Departure Gate before returning the rental car. (During our two weeks in Éire, we put 302.4 miles on our Picasso -- the car measured everything in miles, while the Irish road signs measured everything in kilometres.)
We hit a small snag at the BMI check-in counter when two people couldn't find our new reservation anywhere in the system. The second woman had to run over to the ticketing desk to resolve the problem. She came back so embarrassed and apologetic that we never did get to find out what the problem had been, but we were finally able to check in. Our four check-in suitcases weighed in at 26.2 kilos, 22.4 kilos, 21.3 kilos, and 18.3 kilos, plus a 4.7 kilo duffel bag that wouldn't fit anywhere else.
A familiar sight: Cameron and Joss waiting at an airport check-in
Our 1:55 PM flight from Dublin to London went smoothly, especially because we were able to rest in BMI's Business Lounge for an hour before the flight (Russell caught up on Web letters). We arrived in London at 2:30 PM, giving us another hour in United Airline's Business Lounge before our 4:30 PM flight (Russell updated the Web site).
We weren't sure how we would feel when we left London and Europe. Gail anticipated tears, but there were no more sticks to leave behind. No one cried when we returned the Irish rental car, and so far we have been too busy lugging our carry-ons to think about what's really going on. It remains to be seen how we'll feel when we set foot on American soil again for the first time in eleven months...
Brushing up on the USA, courtesy of "Horrible Histories"
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