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david and carol

Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 1
Europe 1999
London, Paris, Venice, Florence


David and Carol




Day 13

The Journey Ends
- Homeward Bound -

Woke up, showered, finished packing, all in a state of depression. London was wet from last night's storm and was foggy, soggy and gray. Beautiful London weather in our opinion.
We retrieved our last pound notes from the nearby bank machine and had our last breakfast in Europe at the Hotel Bloomsbury. Typical English breakfast, one last time.
One of the desk clerks kindly arranged a taxi for us at 9:30. The driver, a nice young entrepreneurish Pakistani of Iranian descent, was truly a character. He never stopped talking during the hour drive to Gatwick Airport. He was taxiing in order to continue his pursuit of a commercial airline pilot's license. He had just lost an entire clothing business due to "politics." His sister is an aspiring actress in L.A.
Our drive took us across the murky Thames, near the Tower of London, through "dangerous" Brixton (our taxi driver's description, not ours, and according to an acquaintance this reference may not be accurate or appropriate,) out into the beautiful, green rolling English countryside and through small villages such as Croyden. We savored the gray, cool, misty morning, and wore our new black leather jackets for perhaps the last time for quite a while.
We pulled into the Gatwick international departure terminal and our driver kindly checked on the gate for us. We paid and thanked the lad, and I took a photo of him with Carol. Our last photo from Europe. We wished him good luck with his many entrepreneurial endeavors, and walked out of the cool English mist, into the terminal, and checked in.
Too soon, we were boarding Continental Flight 5, another gleaming new Boeing 777, destination the United States. Although we had contemplated rushing out of the terminal, hailing a cab and getting "lost" on the continent for a few years, we sat quietly and dejectedly in our seats, and as the white steel bird lurched skyward and the wheels finally let go of the runway and Europe, we were past the point of no return. No more Tube stations, Metro stations, vaporettos, pubs, ales, beef pies, French wines, Italian wines, perfect pasta, fragrant fromage, incredibly fresh seafood, French fries with either vinegar or mayonnaise, artery-clogging English breakfasts, Cuban cigars (damn the embargo,) unbelievable art and architecture, midnight arm-in-arm strolls along deserted Parisian boulevards, canal-hopping down sidewalk-sized Venetian alleyways, easy-going no-pressure take-your-time outdoor café dinners, delightful and patient waiters, funny money, deciphering the exchange rates, mentally computing tips, lovely Eleni, the soul-stirring Notre-Dame, Santa Croce or Westminster Abbey, hotel-hopping, ten mile (minimum) a day walking (each step a delight to be savored,) squinting at maps, train rides, new friends, authentic gelati, leather markets, the magnificent rivers Seine, Arno and Thames. Europe 1999 was fading behind us at nine miles per minute.

End of trip depression sets in...
The nine-hour flight to Houston was uneventful and so depressing that I could not even watch a movie. I relived our Magnificent Journey. Reading the London Daily Mirror I was bringing back to give to Dot, my Liverpudlian friend and co-worker, rubbed salt into my wounds.
We finally arrived in Houston 4800 miles later after watching the coast of the British Isles recede beneath us, hours above the azure Atlantic, crossing land at Gander, Newfoundland, travelling down the East Coast to Tennessee, then heading west across the Mississippi and touchdown in Texas.
I must say that Continental's international flights are impressive. Monitor screens around the plane and in the entertainment center in front of you keep you informed every second of the flight's progress - exactly where the plane is at that moment, how many miles it has traveled thus far, the times at origin, destination and current location, altitude and ground speed. Both east- and west-bound flights were comfortable, the food was exceptional, the service was admirable and we were given many choices for entertainment. I would rather we were on a Europe-bound flight however - it was obviously more exciting.
We cleared customs in Houston - a no-brainer, no-stress event. I had been nervous about bring in several Cubanos. Then we sat, tired, in a terminal in Texas, depressed, for four hours until our last flight, a two-hour hop back to Tucson. Then a quiet cab ride home, and our Journey was finally at its end.

Previous Day

Next Day

Day 1 London/Paris | Day 2 Paris | Day 3 Paris

Days 4 and 5 Paris/Venice | Day 6 Venice/Florence

Day 7 Florence | Day 8 Florence | Day 9 Florence

Day 10 London | Day 11 London | Day 12 London

Day 13 Home | Reflections

 copyright 1998 / david and carol lehrman / all rights reserved

 email david@davidandcarol.com