We gathered at the Aero Bus to catch our flight back to the U.S. We were all on the same connecting flight from Bologna to Paris, and from there would go our separate ways. Outfitted in our orange travel shirts--and taking home two more suitcases than we started with (just from 4 to 6)--we prepared for the 10-hour flight from Paris to Houston. While waiting during our three hour layover, John and I toured the duty free shops in the terminal, determined to spend our last Euro. My favorite store was the Godiva chocolate store where I picked up some candy for the kids and an amazing hazlenut hot fudge for myself. As we were given our seat assignments, we realized that no one was together. I figured the person next to Griffin might be willing to trade their seat after about 10 minutes, but an Air France rep came and made sure to re-assign our seats so that there were 3 together, 2 together and 1 single. I was the single of the day and prepared myself for the long flight. Fortunately, this leg was easier than the one coming and I made it through with flying colors--and after watching 4 or 5 movies. Once we made it into Houston and through customs (with all our luggage), we headed to the Marriott where we were greeted by the following beds.
Griffin was fascinated by the mirrors in the bathrooms and the "eternal" nature of his reflection.
We enjoyed some dinner via room service and slept comfortably until the next morning.
One of the lowlights of our trip happened the next day as we were going through security. Not using my brain was the culprit. (No, I didn't yell, "BOMB!") I had neglected to pack the Godiva sauce into my luggage, but kept it in my carry-on. As the security woman explained to me that I couldn't take it on the plane or could check it through, I just about broke into tears (I did later when I was telling Mom the story). If I was going to check it, I'd have to go through the whole security line again. I had to leave it there and watch her put it in the trash. John tried to console me by saying we'd get some more online. (I have since found out that they don't make that available in the U.S. I should have checked it!)
Our trip out was delayed by an hour, so it gave me some time to take Griffin to the NASA store in the terminal. Griffin was thrilled with his new space shuttle toy, and the girls were happy to get some magazines in English!
I must admit, I was happy to read a paper as well.
When we arrived home, my friends had cleaned the house, placed fresh flowers around, done the remaining laundry that didn't get finished, put food in the fridge, and installed wainscoating in the living room (that was a paid job). We were exhausted, but in a good way. It was probably the most wonderful vacation I have ever had, and may ever have. I loved seeing my parents and my brother and sister and all the extended family. I'm sad that Chris' family was unable to attend, as well as Kim (although I'm so proud of where she is). I hope someday our kids reflect on what a once-in-a-lifetime experience they had.
Most importantly, I'm grateful for those who helped us get there and for the advice I received to have my surgery prior to the vacation. I was able to do everything pain free for the first time in years. To me, the whole trip was a miracle!