14.01.2011 - 24.01.2011 -22 °C
This final blog entry is being written from the warmth of our home in St. Marys, Ontario, for we are back home at last. It feels great to be back home after a year, and seeing more of our our friends and family every day is the best! We'll get to the homecoming in a few paragraphs - for now let's pick things up from where we left them in Detroit.
On Friday, January 14 we checked out of our hotel and left most of our luggage with the extremely helpful people at the Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites - we had explained our situation and they allowed us to leave most of our stuff at the hotel for the week we'd be spending in Orlando, despite the fact that we wouldn't be staying there when we returned. Those people rock, and if you're in Detroit you should stay there. So, off to the airport we went. After frantically redistributing the weight in our two suitcases once informed that one was too heavy, we boarded our flight. Then we waited for an hour while the flight crew waited for "another crew member" who was delayed. As it turned out, this other crew member was in fact the pilot who was just coming off a non-stop flight from Poland. He arrived shotgunning a Red Bull and we were all good to go. So we jetted into the stratosphere. Several hours later we walked into our room at the Beach Club Villa at Walt Disney World, which you can see overhead here. Following dinner we returned to the room to watch a special "Welcome to North America" fireworks display ignited in our honour. Here's what it looked like:
The next day we hit EPCOT and had a blast riding the rides and seeing the sights. We returned mid-afternoon and had a swim, like so:
Sunday was the day for the Magic Kingdom, and it was of course magical. We did the things you would expect, and it looked a lot like this:
That evening, we set up for the next, and final surprise for Bronte and Jack. When we told them Christmas morning that we'd be going to Disney, we failed to mention that Jenn's parents and brother with family would be there too. So when it was time for dinner we made our way to the Polynesian Resort where we'd be dining at Kona Cafe. After a smooth monorail ride, Tim trained the camera on the kids to capture the meeting. Owing to some issues with the travel blog masters, you'll need to follow this link to see the video - click here.
On Monday we made our way in the gentle rain to Hollywood Studios. After meeting the rest of the crew at the gates, the gentle rain turned into a New Zealand-esque torrent and we went sprinting for cover. We couldn't let a little moisture slow us down, so after re-grouping we kept calm and carried on, eventually making our way to the Tower of Terror. This would prove to be a bit of a shocker for Jack, who was adamant that he was ready for the big rides. He did just fine after experiencing the weightlessness induced by the experience, but we didn't last long after that because the rain refused to let up. That evening following dinner, we ended up going back to Hollywood Studios and riding a few more rides before they shut it down for the night. The rain had cleared by then!
Tuesday demanded we visit Animal Kingdom, so we did. There were animals. We were sad for them, especially this guy who looked like he was ready to rip into one of the other animals a bit lower on the food chain:
Wednesday was exciting, as we headed over to Universal Studios to have a gander at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was awesome! Although there are actually very few rides in this part of the park, the one titled "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" was incredible. Not unlike many other rides involving large 3D movies and wildly moving seats, this one surpassed because of the content. If you're not much of a Harry Potter fan, you'd hate it. Here are some pics from the day:
Thursday was our last day at Disney, so we went back to Magic Kingdom in the morning, and then EPCOT in the afternoon/evening. The fireworks show at EPCOT is stunning. Here's a photo from the morning:
With that, we said so-long to the family, and on Friday morning we headed back to the airport where we eventually boarded our flight back to Detroit. Tim dashed back over to the awesome staff at the Fairfield Inn & Suites (you should stay there), collected the rest of our bags, and reunited with the the Cronsberry Crew back at the airport where we then caught the Robert Q Shuttle back to London. Crossing the border was causing us some minor angst - not because we were concealing anything (we weren't), but because we had visions of long delays while humourless people with incredible levels of power dismantled our bags to ensure we weren't bringing in any kiwi birds. We presented our pasports and Customs Declaration, and without a word other than a quiet "Thank-you", we re-boarded the bus and were back in Canada. What an incredible feeling!
That night we spent the night with Jenn's sister and her family in Belmont. On Saturday we moved to Jenn's parent's farm where we were spending the next few nights. Bronte and Jack were in heaven playing in the snow once again. Here's what it looked like:
Sunday night we hosted our Exchange Partners, Kimberly Fridd and Michael Hall and their two girls for dinner. It was great to see them again, one year after driving away from our house in St. Marys with them waving to us from our front porch. We had a great few hours talking about our experiences, and way too early it was time to wrap it up. It was strange for us to reconnect with these great people who we swapped lives with - we feel as if we know them well after living in their house for a year, but in reality we only met them face-to-face a couple of times. We hope that they had an equally wonderful experience in Canada, and it certainly seemed like it from our dinner conversation. Here's the whole crew:
Monday, January 24 was a day of reckoning for Tim. Reality caught up with him, and he was forced to return to work. It ended up being not too bad at all though, for he arrived to find a "Quarantine" sign on the door, and no staff to be found anywhere. After being decontaminated, the official welcome began and he started again the extremely important work that he does to protect the people of Ontario from themselves. Here's what that first moment looked like:
Finally, on Wednesday, January 26 at approximately 5:15 pm, we completed our journey and returned to our house. Kimberley and Michael had left with their girls a short time earlier and the house was returned to our care. It was absolutely incredible to walk through our door again. We were all smiles as we strolled through the house - the warm feeling inside almost making us stride over to the thermostat and turn it down to 7 degrees to remind us of the New Zealand winter! After reveling in the warm fuzzies for a few minutes, we began the long task of unpacking, which continues even as this post is being written.
So, that's it for our adventure, and for this blog. We hope that reading about our experience has been even half as fun for you as it has been for us living it and writing about it weekly. Why not drop by St. Marys for a visit - we'll cut you a slice of Banoffee Pie and tell you about all the stuff that didn't make it onto this screen! Until the next adventure, farewell! Now go out for a hike somewhere.