Week 39B, USA

On Thursday we were out the door of our Frankfurt apartment by 6:30am on our way to the airport. We were blessed that the owner of the apartment was happy to take us to the airport so we didn’t need to walk to the train station with our heavy bags. At the airport after printing our boarding passes out we had a few moments of panic when the details loaded on Amy’s USA visa had an out dated passport number on them. The Lufthansa staff were very helpful and sorted it out for us. It’s amazing how long the process of checking in and going through security takes. By the time we walked to the gate we grabbed a quick coffee and then had to board our plane.

Our flight was about 13 hours long. I tried to sleep several times but with plenty of movies to watch and a block of toilets directly behind our seats it made it impossible. By the time we reached San Francisco we were pretty tired. Surprisingly we moved quickly through passport/customs with virtually no queues. We didn’t need to walk far to get to the BART train for our trip to Walnut Creek. Here we are on the train looking rather tired:

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I had thought it would take two hours on the train but the ride was only 65 minutes. However we still arrived at 3:45pm which is when I expected. We looked around for Doris but not seeing her we made ourselves comfortable on the bench seats outside the train station. Unfortunately Doris had problems picking up the car rental so she didn’t arrive to fetch us until after 5:30pm. That’s a long time for tired people to wait but hey at least we made it and were half way home to New Zealand. The drive from Walnut Creek to Doris’ home in Folsom near Sacramento took around two hours. By the time we reached it we had been travelling for about 26 hours with next to no sleep. The kids did fantastic. They fell asleep fast but the next morning Daniel woke up around 4:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Doris’ home and our rental car:

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Although it would have been good to do some sightseeing that was not on our list of things to do. Rather we spent three days racing around shopping. Daniel purchased zillions of G.I.Joe toys, Lego, and plastic animals, Karen and Amy brought clothes, Amy finally got a tablet computer (one called Tabeo made specifically for kids with parental controls) and I got a few Starbucks coffees. We had to buy another suitcase, maximum side permitted, for Daniel to put all his new toys in along with a few boxes of GI Joe toys he had bought on eBay and had sent to Doris.

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It was really nice to see Doris again. Karen and I met her in Hong Kong in 1994 and have visited her twice over the years and she also came to New Zealand some years ago.

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It was about ten years since we had seen her last so we enjoyed catching up. She and I have similar interests – ice cream and coffee! Her freezer was well stocked with at least four different sorts of ice cream and I think breakfast was the only time of the day that I didn’t eat ice cream although it was an option.

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Sunday afternoon, after the girls got home from yet another shop, we did our initial bag pack to see if we could fit everything. The next day we loaded up the car and left Doris’ house around 10am. Of course on the way to Walnut Creek we had to stop off and get a Starbuck’s coffee:

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Not long after mid-day we boarded the train at Walnut Creek. We arrived at the airport around 1:30pm. Our flight wasn’t leaving until 7:30pm so we had to wait a couple of hours for the check in counters to open up as they only open about three hours prior departure. It was nice to be so close to home, and for a chance not in a rush. We enjoyed chatting to other travellers and hearing the Kiwi and Aussie accent again.

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We had good seats on the flight and a better selection of movies than the first leg of our journey from Germany. After watching one of two movies we forced ourselves to sleep, or at least pretend to sleep, for four or five hours. After that we rewarded our efforts with further movies. The flight home was not too bad and we arrived in good old NZ around 5:45am in the morning. After 9 months of travelling it was exciting to be home at last, well almost: just a 3 hour drive to go – good thing my Dad was there to pick us up at the airport. So nice to see him and lovely to watch the kids delight. He had seen so many of Daniel and Amy’s hats in photos during our trip that he even bought a new hat to wear himself when he picked us up.

It’s now two and a half weeks later and we’ve unpacked our house to a liveable stage. I have no idea why we still need the stuff in about a hundred boxes we are yet to open! Sadly, some of my memories of our trip have evaporated. Did it really happen or was it a dream? Both I think. We dreamed about travelling to Europe with the kids for many years and now we have done it! Although initially I had hoped we could be based in London while I studied, travelling for 40 weeks allowed us to see Europe in more detail than we ever imagined. In total we spent 6 weeks in Spain, 9 weeks in France, 3 weeks in Italy, 6 weeks in England, 6 weeks in Scotland, 2.5 weeks in Austria, 1.5 weeks in Germany, and a week or so each in Belgium, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and The Netherlands. We also had flying visits to Monaco, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Hungary, and on the cruise we visited Greek Islands and a port call to Croatia. Unbelievable really! Each place has its own story – memories, photos, and experiences. We have learned a lot as a family, history came alive, and the world is a bigger place now. We lived in close proximity to each other for 9 months and somehow survived each other’s company. I will miss the contrasting cultures, the grand buildingsand the rich history but most of all I think I will miss spending every day, all day, with my family, as the kids now begin a stage in life at a new school rather than being home schooled, and Karen begins writing kids stories. I am happy not to repeat again, 9 months of continuous travelling, yet to have been able to do such a trip is certainly a dream come true.

(Week 39B: Thursday, 15 November, 2012 – Monday, 18 November, 2012)