Europe – July 2017

Day 21 – The End

Friday 18th August

Well, I guess it had to happen eventually. The trip is, finally, at an end. The fat lady has sung. The curtain has closed. Everyone has left the theatre. Being the last person out of the building, I’ve switched off the lights. The only thing left is the rather unpleasant ritual of travel back home. Indeed, as I write this, we’ve already arrived. I had intended to detail the gruelling and less than rewarding journey back to the other side of the planet. It’s at times like this you truly appreciate why sleep deprivation is used as a means of torture. I even wrote up the notes ready to chronicle the whole trip, which is how I do things with these blogs. At the end of the evening, I sit and write a series of one-liners as I think through the day. Then, when I get the time, I use those reminders to re-construct the events of the day in blog form. For those interested, I’ve added the notes from the journey at the end of this blog entry by way of illustration. In the meantime, instead of constructing that travel blog, I thought I’d use this last blog entry to dwell a little on all the memories we just made.

It’s hard to know where to begin since we’ve crated so many new memories over the past three weeks, it seems like there’s over six months to cover. One of the principal reasons for making the trip in the first place was to get to see Mum & Dad. They are both pushing on in life and we don’t get the chance to visit England very often. It isn’t something I like to dwell on but we missed seeing Sandy’s mother by just a few short months. She passed away before we got a chance to go back over to Europe to see her one last time. We have already been kicking ourselves because of that. I don’t think I could forgive myself if Mum or Dad passed away before we got a chance to see them again. I just hope it’s not for the last time and that we don’t have to wait another eight years before going back.

Secondary to the need to see Mum & Dad was the need to see everyone else. We managed this with just one or two exceptions. I didn’t get to see my Brother, Richard, or my Niece, Victoria in England. It did mean we had to travel about a bit but we otherwise got to see just about everyone else. In Holland we also got to see almost everyone. We missed out on seeing Sandy’s Brother, Peter, as he was unwell, as well as Ivo, Sandy’s Nephew that lived with her and her Mother for many years whilst they were both growing up. There were also a few of Sandy’s extended family members that we didn’t get to see. For the most past, however, most people showed up to the family reunion – as well as a few surprises.

After visiting family, the next reason for the trip was, well to simply enjoy ourselves and to somehow form a relaxing holiday from it all. OK, I think it’s a stretch to call the holiday relaxing but it certainly had its moments. We crammed so much in. Here are some of the highlights just off the top of my head:

  • Seeing Mum & Dad again.
  • The BBQ at John & Lisa’s house and seeing some of my Nephews’ & Nieces’ children for the first time.
  • Spending the day with Annie and her clan playing games in the garden – not to mention that episode on the couch (no good opportunity ever goes unpunished).
  • Doing my author talks.
  • The reunion at Cara’s house.
  • Visiting my old primary school, Dilkes, and being given a personalised tour by the staff there.
  • The Harry Potter Warner Bros. studio tour.
  • The much better than expected AirB&B place we stayed at in Paris – very nice.
  • Paris, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, river cruise on the Seine and the Catacombs.
  • Disneylandparis (although perhaps a few fewer drops on the Tower of Terror the next time).
  • Seeing friends like Diana & Lei, Anton with daughter Elysa and Peter & Irenea.
  • The family reunion in Hilvarenbeek.
  • Spending time with friends and family at Center Parcs in Lommel, Belgium.
  • The back-stage tour of the Roda JC stadium courtesy of my brother-in-law, Frank.

This list could probably go on and I’m undoubtedly leaving something out. The truth is that every day brought with it some new and fun memories – all of which are now securely imprinted on all of us. It won’t ever matter what happens in our lives going forward. We could one day end up penniless and destitute BUT we will still have these memories to cherish forever.

Of course, it wasn’t always roses and rainbows. We had a few moments of unpleasantness along the way, although such is the nature of travel and holidays. Here are some of the less than impressive moments I can recall:

  • Having to leave in the first place whilst a dear friend’s husband had just passed away and knowing we wouldn’t be there to support her for three weeks.
  • Not being able to find the right place to get onto the hop-on-hop-off tour bus in London and working up a sweat and stress in the process.
  • The sticker shock of the canteen at the Science Museum in London.
  • Trying to get through the security checkpoint whilst boarding the Eurostar train and worrying about them detecting explosives on Joey’s Lego, thanks to Paul David’s bloody spud gun.
  • Poor level of customer service at the hotel Kasteen Erenstein – especially that breakfast business.
  • That tense moment when we were shown the rental car in Holland and immediately worrying whether the luggage wouldn’t fit.
  • Driving away from Maastricht in that all but brand new Jaguar and worrying about damaging it – especially as it was night, I was half asleep from the 24-hour journey, it was partly raining and I had to drive on the opposite side of the road for the first time in eight years. I think I crawled at 20 Km/h for the first few Kilometres.
  • Inadvertently locking out one of our two global currency cards at a Maccas in Paris – and the food was crap, too.
  • Jennifer falling off a piece of play equipment at the park adjacent to the Notre Dame cathedral.
  • The sad business about the Disneylandparis luggage transfer service that didn’t live up to expectations.
  • Not being able to cash in our unused Disneylandparis meal vouchers and the snotty nosed attitude of the staff at the Disney Hotel.
  • Realising that we’d have to leave Disneylandparis and manoeuvre through the Paris metro system with our entire luggage because the overland train line was closed.
  • Having to keep secrets from work colleagues (Shhh!).

Even when I factor all of the above in, I still wouldn’t change much if I had to do it all over again. The fact is that dealing with unexpected challenges is all part of the business of travel. It’s all character building. After we completed our round the world travels, I reflected all the unfortunate things that went wrong which we encountered then as well. In fact, it’s now enshrined in my resume by way of a reference to the various skills acquired whilst travelling – like learning how to deal with adversity.

After all is said and done, what I most enjoyed from this trip was to be able to spend quality time with Sandy and the kids. Yes, it was challenging at times; yes, we were tired and irritable at times; yes, things went wrong on occasion. But through it all, we had each other. That matters.

And thus we come to the end of another epic Morgan family blog. I’ll wrap up by thanking the hoards of people that have been following along vicariously with us through my writing. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are out there reading the daily updates. Thanks to all the feedback and comments – via this website, the Facebook posts and e-mails.

Until the next Morgan family holiday, then 🙂

Here’s a sample of what my daily notes look like before they are converted into an actual blog entry:

– Early start – intention of being on the road by 7:30 a.m.
– Last packing & loading
– Packed lunch to take with us
– Goodbyes
– Drove to Schiphol airport near Amsterdam – following their route advice
– Filled up at the airport – around €25 – after finding another petrol station
– Found the car rental drop-off and surrendered the car – no issues
– Had to walk well into the terminal building to find a second trolley – one not enough
– Five-ten minute walk to the departures hall
– Had to use the check-in kiosk to get a boarding pass
– Led to the business check-in after inquiring if there was somewhere Joey could sit whilst I queued – nice bonus
– Checked in and provided all four bags
– Security checks no issues – also taken to near front of line on account of Joey
– Plenty of time and thus no real stress
– Maccas brunch
– Phone call to Dad
– To the gate
– Allowed to board early
– On the plane – games, movie, blogs