Well, we're back in Finland - can't believe how fast 6 weeks went! I'm typing on my own keyboard (I hated the laptop) and it's much easier now that I had to cut all my nails after one bent backwards and cracked when I was making the beds at my dad's house before we left . . .
Monday morning and Tuesday morning I spent the time packing - and getting all sweaty doing it. It's hard work packing 9 pieces of checked luggage and 6 carry-ons. I've never been one to pack lightly. . . Monday afternoon and evening we spent with our good friends, the deGraafs.
This is the first year they haven't come to pick us up or take us to the airport (the whole Seattle-thing was a huge inconvenience) and the kids were none too happy about it.
On Tuesday I insisted we leave about noon (which meant we left just after 1pm) even though our flight wasn't until 10pm.
I was so sure we were going to have problems at the border, and you never know how long the wait will be. When we first arrived way back in June, the Immigration Officer gave me some extra copies of the Visa Waiver form to fill out for our return. He said that because it was 6 weeks, we would need to do new forms (not Stefan, though, because it was still valid after 2 weeks). He also suggested that the boys travel on their Canadian passports (which Stefan brought with him). I would've wagered that we'd be sent "inside". Well, the border lineup was about 10 minutes and we landed the most easy going Officer, ever. My brother was driving, so he explained he was driving us to the airport. We handed over the wad of passports which included 2 Finnish ones. He smiled the whole time. Conversed pleasantly with us and, strangely enough, never looked in the back to see who all was in there . . . Anyways, I would've lost the bet. He just told us to have a nice trip. Done. Odd.
So, we got to SeaTac quite early - so early that some people were still being ticketed for the earlier flight. After Steve left, we headed through security. The woman who looked at our passports and boarding passes was very pleasant. She asked Mattias if he had, in fact, ridden the Tower of Terror - he was wearing the t-shirt. Then she said that his passport was going to expire in August (which I knew) and Mattias looked at her and said, "Is that dangerous?"
I was first in line to put stuff through the x-ray machine. The woman who was "manning" the metal detector said, "What's wrong? You look stressed?" Has she ever travelled with 4 children?, trying to make sure they follow all the security measures . . . get their shoes and belts off . . . anticipate that they'll have to put their shoes back on on the other side . . . Silly question.
Once safely on "the other side" we enjoyed some Starbucks beverages while watching planes land. There were times when they were landing every 90 seconds! The kids were competing to see how good their eyesight was - how many planes could they see coming in to land. The most was 4 at one time.
Here you can see a plane landing just as it passes OUR plane that is parked at the gate.
On the plane, I decided to take one of the prescription pills I got to help me "relax". It didn't relieve my "travelling tummy", but I didn't need to take Imodium or Gravol, and I did, in fact, sleep for a few hours . . . after everybody was done poking me to ask me stuff . . . and we got past the turbulence (which prompted me to stop my movie and check the journey map to ensure that it was cuz we were flying over the Rockies). Funny story from the plane - Stefan was in the row behind with Sam and Mattias. Behind them, was an elderly couple from India. The gentleman slept in a somewhat cross-legged position on his seat, but his wife stuck her bare feet BETWEEN THE SEATS. Sam was completely grossed out, but he couldn't help but laugh when telling that unbeknownst to Mattias, her "gnarly toenails" were right beside his face as he was slouched over sleeping in his chair . . .
We had 3 hours in Heathrow airport, and the time went surprisingly fast because by the time we saw they had assigned us a gate, a few minutes later it was "boarding" and then "gate closing" so we had to make our way there very quickly. Turns out it was a lounge and we had to wait there because we were to be bussed out to the plane. Then they announced we were going to leave late, due to technical difficulties. Yeah - I needed another pill before this flight too:-) We had quite a bit of turbulence on this flight also, but I did get a bit of sleep.
Stefan's brother and sister-in-law came to help us get home - our car was at the airport, but there was no way we could fit all our luggage.
Sofia is crossing her fingers that all our bags arrive - at this point only 1 had come and the conveyor belt had stopped.
We were home by 6am this morning - what happened to Wednesday? Our internet wasn't working . . . turns out that the fiber optic cable we ordered was installed while we were gone. This is Finland - things like that happen here - you don't have to be home to meet the cable guy. Anyways, we couldn't figure it out, so "the boys" were still in our village (the whole village is going fiber) so they came by and fixed it up for us.
Everybody has had a time today when they were "done" and just wanted to sleep, but we managed to make it to the evening. Sofia and Joel went to bed at 9 and Mattias followed about 45 minutes later. The rest of us - soon.
And, Pepsi was very happy to see us!
The outskirts of St. Pete
Saint Petersburg: Sankt-Peterburg, Russian pronunciation: is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. The city's other names were Petrograd (1914–1924) and Leningrad (1924–1991). Founded by Tsar Peter I of Russia on 27 May, 1703, it was the capital of the Russian Empire for more than two hundred years (1713–1728, 1732–1918). Saint Petersburg is home to more than two hundred museums, many of them hosted in historic buildings. The largest of the museums is the Hermitage Museum, featuring interiors of the former imperial residence and a vast collection of art. Celebrating the 300th anniversary of its foundation, Saint Petersburg was selected as the main motif in a recent Finnish commemorative coin, the €10 Mannerheim and Saint Petersburg commemorative coin, minted in 2003. The reverse of the coin features a view of Saint Petersburg, with the Peter and Paul Fortress and its three turrets. In the coin the words "St. Petersburg 1703-2003" can be seen.