Three hours later, the alarm went off. It was time to get up again and go back to the airport. One more flight- this one across the country instead of over an ocean. The airline tried to seat us individually, but I convinced the person at the desk to not force the six-year-old to sit by himself. We also convinced the check-in people not to charge us to check our bags (that are free for international flights, after all). The trip was fairly straightforward and at around 2:00pm we walked in the door of the house. Family arrived to visit an hour later.
And that was it. 34 days in total. Our Grand Voyage.
We’ve been to Europe before, and we will again, but this trip was unique. For two weeks I was actually working in Paris. I got up in the morning, crossed the street to a bakery for fresh croissants, and rode the Metro to the office. Dorinna shopped in the markets for dinner. We were living, not just vacationing, in Paris. Being there for almost five weeks was also categorically different than a shorter trip. We spent a lot less time jet-lagged, and a lot more time truly relaxed. A great trip and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Back in February 2018, I published a post where I gave a goal to myself to finish the story of Le Grand Voyage by the end of the year. I made it! Thanks for reading!
“I went on a plane. I played angry birds at the hotel.”
Our flight back home wasn’t until the afternoon, so we weren’t sure how we would spend the day. We ended up having a fairly massive hotel breakfast. Ironically, our first hotel breakfast of our trip. At the table next to us sat a man with his son- just a few years younger than Nate. He was American, living in England, visiting France. It turned out that Nate and this kid spent most of the day in a kid’s play room at the hotel while we took turns packing. Nate didn’t mind- he discovered Angry Birds on a computer kiosk.
The best part of the day, and one of the highlights of the entire trip, was when we told Nate that we were going home today. He moaned and said
I don’t want to go home. I want to see more things.
After 32 days away from his toys and friends, for him to say this made us realize that Nate, age 6, had become a true traveler!
At the airport, across the courtyard and one stop on the free shuttle train, everything went smoothly until we got to the gate. We were delayed. And delayed again. And now an airplane part was being flow to Paris from… London. Ugh. United was generous with the meal vouchers, and we loaded up at the one restaurant in our area of the airport. That was the worst part- the gate had almost no shops, and was crowded and hot.
When we finally boarded, we knew we would make it to America, but probably not home.
The flight was long. We slept some, but only three hours or so. We landed in Dulles at 11:30pm, and it took us about two hours to get our luggage, go through customs, and ride a shuttle bus to the hotel where the airline was putting us up. We managed to get to bed at 2:00 am.
Welcome back to America!
“I went to Mt. St. Michel. I climbed as high as I could go. It was cool. There was a statue of an angel on top.”
“Oh, this family!”
We drugged the apple.
Yesterday we explored the town; today, July 4th, we explored the abbey that crowns Mont-Saint-Michel. Our expectations were high, and they were exceeded. The abbey is a gigantic castle/church that crowns the mountain on Mont-Saint-Michel. Quiet courtyards, expansive halls, intimate chapels, and grand architecture were everywhere.
There were also balconies and gardens providing more views of the bay, including views out to the English Channel that we hadn’t seen before. Several times during the last two days I looked out in shock. Expecting mud flats, I saw water; expecting water, I saw mud flats.
We went to the abbey first thing in the morning, when the island was quiet and calm. By the time we were finished with the tour the city had completely transformed itself back into a tourist zoo. We grabbed sandwiches to eat in the park then picked up our luggage and left.
The GPS told us it was a four-hour drive back to our hotel at Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) in Paris. It was right. As we neared the city the traffic increased, and the stress rose to match it. CDG has almost a complete lack of signs- would it kill you to put up a few ones that say “rental car return” people? We dropped off our luggage and then our car. It was a long wait before we could get a seat at the hotel restaurant. On the drive back to Paris, we came up with schemes to have dinner in Paris, or go into the city in the morning for pastries or a museum. I don’t know if we truly believed these ideas, or were we just struggling with the fact that our long trip, our grand voyage, was ending.
When dinner finally arrived, I had a cheeseburger, fries, and a beer. On the eve of our return to America, on the Fourth of July, it felt right…
“I went to a beach & Layer in tidal pools. And I played in the tides. I got to hold a jellyfish.”
“I played on the beach”
Nate photographing at Fort La Latte: