Wish we could have bought some of these delicious Belgian waffles home to share with you...
Home...yes, always yes to home.
Awwww, this picture of my daughter seeing her boyfriend today, for the first time in 5 weeks, sums up how happy we all are to be home.
Ok, well, she's probably the happiest, young love and all...but still, the rest of us are happy too. The truth is, I'm a homebody, so arriving home always makes me happy.
We ended up away from home longer than expected. If you follow me on instagram, you know the story, if not, here's recap: we left Bilbao for the airport at 5am, tired, but ready to head home. We flew from Bilbao, Spain to Brussels, Belgium, and started making our way to our connecting flight to the US only to be told at the customs window: "sorry, your flight has been cancelled, you'll need to go to the U.S. Air counter to find out what to do next."
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal, just an inconvenience, I realize that. At the time, it felt big and disappointing. And maddingly frustrating to sort out. The 4 actual U.S. Air agents that were dealing with the hundreds of stranded passengers that were scheduled to fly to Philadelphia were wonderful, but the overall U.S. Air handling of the situation was less than ideal. We headed straight to the line as instructed, and proceeded to wait for well over 3 1/2 hours to be helped. Most all of the passengers waiting had spent time in two different lines- us included, because they weren't organized. Lame, since they had to know for hours that the plane was not on it's way. While in line we were given a phone number to call that was specifically set up for this situation. I spoke with four different agents and was put on international hold (can't wait for that iphone bill) for 20 minute intervals, only to find out that the different information I received was incorrect. Lesson learned: double check and stay in line just in case. (Thankfully, we didn't proceed after being assured by two different agents that we had four tickets to the U.S., all we had to do was get to Amsterdam, becuase it was apparently not true when all was said and done.) The first phone agent that I spoke with actually said, "yes, your flight was cancelled, we have rescheduled you for the flight on August 10th." I said, "That's unacceptable, and not reasonable." to which she replied, "Well, you may say it's unacceptable, but that's the best I can do, so you have to accept it."
I understand things happen (we never did hear why), and I believe I am reasonable, but I do believe in fairness and being treated with respect and general kindness just as I expect to treat others. We've all gotten the wrong person on the other end of the line at one time or another, so I chalked it up to that and called again and got a more helpful person, or at least friendlier, as in truth her "help" was the non existant Amsterdam flight. It is frustrating to me that your solution is dependant on the luck of who you get in customer service. Anyway, long, boring story short, we all received a voucher for a hotel room across the street from the airport, while they re-routed us with partner airlines and various routes. By the end of today, most people will be on their way to their final destination if not there already.
By the way, while my husband was trying to retrieve our luggage to prevent it from ending up in lost-in-transit purgatory, he stopped by British Airways to see about buying flights for the four of us to get home (since US Air said they'd give us $600/person to basically go away) and found the price for ecomony to be 2,300 Euro a person one way. Hahahahhaha, ya, we ALL got a good laugh out of that one.
Anyway, that's how we found ourselves to be accidental tourists in Brussels (a mighty cool place might I add).
First thing we did was check in at the hotel and promptly all fell asleep as soon as we got to our room. Later, we met up with everyone from the flight at the buffet dinner and kept Jean Lou, a sweet 18 year old French boy we stood in line with under our wing. He was on his way to Arkansas, his first flight alone, and his first flight to the U.S. poor guy. He said his mother was worried about him when told of the situation, but he seemed confident and accepting of the crazy situation. He hopes to "play basketball with Americans" when in Arkansas. I asked him if he considers himself a good basketball player and he answered, "I don't know, I don't really have anyone to play with" in his small town in France. How cute is that?
The girls on the right are from a family on their way home to Phillidelphia that we also befriended. Doesn't it look like my daughter is related to them?
The next day we headed into Brussels via the train. The kids didn't want to go, but we insisted. Sometimes, we have to push them...truth is, sometimes I have to push myself...but hey, this was an opportunity, no matter how unexpected, or unwanted at first sight.
Deep in thought- probably not, probably about wishing he were in the hotel playing on a device of some sort - took some nudging by his sister to get him in a more agreeable disposition. Siblings have such a way with each other, don't they? They can push each others buttons and bring the other around, both.
It's exciting to me to see my kids get comfortable being a tourist in new places in the world. When I grew up, the thought of international travel was super intimidating. Of course, with technology, the world has gotten smaller, more easily managed, so it's not the same thing, but still, I like the way their world seems to get bigger because of the new experiences.
More failed attmepts at pictures with me in it, my face is either huge or barely showing...maybe my arms are unusually short? I don't know how all the "selfie" takers out there do it so well.
Once we got into town, we couldn't resist the delcious fare:
We used food to get them on board with the unplanned adventure. I wanted willing tourist companions, not grumpy counterparts. It worked.
Sometimes, I am able to take in the blessings and not take it all for granted. Like this moment above, taking a picture of my kids from a distance while walking around Brussels. When I stop and think about that, it's awesome.
I wish I could live in that clarity.
More sights seen on our quick visit to Brussels:
I hope I never grow accustomed to the majestic architecture and history that takes my breath away every time I'm in any European city. I'd say majestic might even be an understatement for Brussels, the capital of the European Union.
For some reason, this fountain is famous in Brussels, I'm not sure why, but it was on the tourist map and lots of chocolate replicas of it were sold everywhere. Anyone care to shed some light?
How great is this street? The lights alone deserved a closer look. So very gorgeous!
I even remembered to jump in one picture! Evidence I was there too.
Hard to believe it was just a day ago...is that even right? I get all confused with the time differential, but the last day of our trip, the unplanned day. A good lesson for us in letting go, embracing the unexpected.
More lessons I learned and trip photos to come...