The Return, Part I

As I go through and describe all my days in France, I will be adding onto the little that I wrote in a journal that was mostly just a summary of the places we went. Excerpts from the journal will be italicized. For this beginning post, however, I will start with where my journal writing has already ended- our last morning in France. I will cover the two days it took to get home in "The Return" parts I and II, and then I will start from the beginning. I suppose I must prelude all my storytelling with saying that our group from Ketchikan was made up of my aunt (Madame Z.), my mother, Bekah Bowers, Laura Brandt-Erichsen, Niles Corporon, Grant Wadley and myself.

Now, let's see... lundi, le vignt-trois juin, le 16e jour du voyage

Our last morning was in Nice. I was up far past midnuit sorting things, packing, reading and watching Euro Trip on Grant's iPod. Eventually I did go to sleep though, and when I woke up the other groups that had toured with us (Indiana, Arkansas and Texas) had already left and were on their way home. I was rooming with Grant and Niles, but Grant was going off to Switzerland instead of flying home with us, so he wouldn't be leaving until later in the day so he wasn't in a rush. We all went down to breakfast at different times, and it was a little weird being without all the other kids who had been with us the whole trip. The hotel in Nice (Hotel Busby) provided a very limited breakfast compared with practically all the other hotels we had stayed at, as there wasn't a buffet but only a croissant and baguette on each plate and a few other things available. We said goodbye to Grant and went off in taxis with our tour leader, Amanda. She would be flying home to London later in the day. The taxis were the only cars we drove in the entire trip.

The Nice Airport was very nice; it was tall, large and elegant while also seeming open and simple. It was in fact so open that we saw a bird flying around inside the dining area where we ate and again while waiting at the gate, despite the fact that there were no big open windows or other such things to be seen. The birds might very well just make their nests in the airport and live off the food court without going outside at all. Amanda bought us that second little breakfast inside the airport while telling us what a great group we'd been. I had an Orangina and an "escargot" (a cinnamon roll). It was the last food I ate in France. I was actually disappointed that we never had any escargots or frogs legs on the trip. I never found anywhere that I could have had them, and two out of our three meals each day was already planned out for us anyways.

We said goodbye to Amanda and got on our British Airways flight to London. I got a window seat, which was really great, especially when we were over la Manche and I could clearly see Calais, Dover and the water between all at the same time. Before that we saw the Alps, although we failed to make out Mont Blanc, and I had also marveled over Massif Central, whose cliffs and hills lined up beautifully with the shadows of little strips of cloud.

It was upon landing in London that the day started to go badly. As we flew over London I thought it looked like a terribly ugly city, and what I generally saw of England from the air I thought was less beautiful than France. London seems a lot more planned out and a lot bigger size-wise than Paris. Paris is a tight city, made of narrow streets and many apartments, while London had huge suburbs branching out from it made of individual but very homogeneous houses. London also has skyscrapers, while Paris is a short city by law, with all buildings limited to a certain number of floors and only la Tour Eiffel standing above the rest. The more serpentine nature of the Thames is also unnerving, whereas the Seine is a more clear divider of its city while also containing islands that keep it from having a monotonous width like the Thames. But enough about aesthetics- it was not London that was responsible for our home-seeking group's troubles, but rather it was Heathrow Airport and British Airways.

Our group's first experience with Heathrow was not very fun, as I'll detail later, but the second was far far worse. Heathrow's biggest problem is that it is splintered into five different terminals, which means long bus rides are required to make most connections. We arrived at Terminal Five, which is the one that had eaten our bags before (sorry, I'll talk about that when it's time) and immediately had to bus over to Terminal Four. The ride was more comfortable and seemed shorter than when we had gone the other way, but when we arrived at the terminal, just inside there was... the escalator.

I was foolish. I was naive. I was totally unsuspecting when I started up that escalator. I was last in the group, following Niles and Laura, and I was not looking down at all. When I got to the top, I was going to step off but then it was if I tripped, but my foot was stuck. I pulled my foot out of the front part of my sandal and then my sandal came out as well, but the tip of it had been eaten by the escalator. All that happened in a second or two, and of course I had stopped the escalator as well.

My sandal, pictured while we're waiting for the bus at the hotel. (I'll talk about that later.)

A staff person rushed halfway up the stairs to ask if I was ok, and my mom rushed back to do the same, and of course, yes I was. My toes actually got scratched, but I didn't tell anyone this- certainly not my mom, who was already a little distraught over what happened. Anyways, now I have a little bit less of a right sandal. It's a fun story, but it's hardly important, and certainly not that bad compared to what's to come.

I don't remember much anything of note before we got on the plane. We watched Wimbledon and looked at shops, which were all ridiculously expensive. Who in their right mind would buy a shirt for 100 pounds? Why not fly to the U.S. and have more than $200, with which you could buy at least five shirts of the same type? Anyways, we got on the plane. The plane's door never even closed. When we first got on, I wasn't keeping track of time at all and actually did a little sleeping, but at some point there was an announcement that while fueling the plane a fuel leak had been found near one of the engines. They said it would take half an hour. It was more than half an hour before there was another announcement saying it would take another hour. Ever since the problem had been found, the plane had been turned off and thus the air conditioning as well. It was a fuel leak, after all. Without air conditioning, the plane began of course to get very hot, especially in back, which is of course where we were. During this time I watched the Da Vinci Code, which was ok but not as good as the book at all. The story really seemed to be something that should be suitable only as a book, and the book was really just a momentary success of little lasting substance. I didn't even get to finish watching the movie though, because just as it was getting to the end and after more than four hours on the plane, British Airways decided that we wouldn't be able to fly that day.

We got off the plane and took a little while in getting our five pound snack vouchers. We then went around searching for a place in the airport that didn't have a huge lines of people getting food with vouchers, and eventually got some food, which was pretty ok. I had "jacket potatoes" with cheese and beans. The funniest part though was that both my aunt and mom got vegetarian breakfasts. When their food was brought out, at first I thought there had to have been some mistake, because there was absolutely no green on their plates. That's British cooking for you I guess- no vegetables even in a vegetarian meal. After eating, we had to start going through the process of leaving the airport, which took a lot of queuing up, as the British would say. Eventually we got down to baggage, where we got our bags (except Laura's, which had been lost) and our vouchers for a hotel. We were some of the last people to still be in the airport from our flight, but we were still promised that a bus would be coming to take us to the hotel. Long story short, it took an hour for the bus to come. It was 11 by the time we got to the hotel. Since we got into London, the day had been nothing but near toe-chomping, walking, waiting in stuffy heat, standing in line and just plain disappointment. Thankfully though, the hotel was one of the nicest at which I've ever stayed, and we got a good free dinner as well, even though it was almost midnight by that time. That was the day I was supposed to have gotten home. Next comes the day when that was finally accomplished.


  1. It appears you have the basics of supply and demand of a free market society learned...

    You stated, "Why not fly to the U.S. and have more than $200, with which you could buy at least five shirts of the same type? Anyways, we got on the plane."

    You state a great example of why America is the greatest country in history. We promote free enterprise which in turns helps all of society. You seem to be on the right path to becoming a true conservative.

  2. I resent that... the $200 shirts in the UK are an example of how capitalism exploits the Brits who buy those shirts, when the shirts could obviously cost them much less- even less than what we Americans pay.

  3. Angels and Demons was so much more intense than The Da Vinci Code.

    I contribute.


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