Getting in and out of Canada is never that easy - of the 20 or so international airports I've gone through Toronto's Pearson is by far the worst. Arrival for me has meant climbing off a long flight with two tired children, walking the long passageways to Immigration, dragging 2 kids and 3 carry-ons behind me without travelators or trolleys. And don't even get me started on Immigration - travelling alone with children in to that country is a nightmare - the only country I have been in where I have to have documented permission from the father that I can travel alone with my children. Sure - it is in the interest of the child in the event that it has been kidnapped - but as I said to the woman last year - do you seriously think I would bring them to their father's country if I was kidnapping them?? "I decide whether or not you enter this country" she curtly advised me. In my mind it is just another of the many fears that one seems to face in the great space of North America.
Anyway, all that is another story - even if it will remain etched in my memory forever.
Our departure this year was a little more eventful (or less) than it usually is. Once we checked in all 8 suitcases, all of which had been strategically balanced to ensure none weighed more than the allowed 23kg, and paid for our oversized piece (one of our checked in pieces was a framed picture that Ty inherited last year but that didn't make it home with us and was carefully packed in miles of bubble-rap, pillows and towels) we headed to the gate. It cost us 120 dollars (720 kr) to take an oversized piece with us - about the same as it would have cost to send it surface mail. This check-in procedure is always a little nerve-racking and the tension is there until everything has been accepted. You never know if the scales at home will be the same as those at the airport - although this year Tyler went out at the last minute and bought new ones when the two we had borrowed were giving different readings (that spiced up the situation a little - let me tell you!!).
Despite being there the required three hours beforehand (somewhat different to Swedish regulations of an hour), time seemed to go quickly and after discovering that Canada no longer provides a tax-back service meaning there is no duty-free shopping (!!) we headed to the gate and boarded the Air Canada flight heading for Frankfurt.
Little did we know that the thunderstorm and the huge bolt of lightening that seemed to hit the tarmac itself, had actually closed down the airport and we sat on the runway for nothing short of two hours before finally taking off. We were number 20 in the line-up and judging by the long line behind us I can only guess that there were at least 20 planes behind us - it is cool to see them all lined up like that - waiting to take off.
I can only say that I am so glad I bought the kids a milkshake each and that I had a ribbit sandwich and boiled egg in my bag - all of them despite protests from my other half - we would all have starved to death otherwise - particularly the boys.
The rest of the flight was uneventful - the kids slept some of the way but not much of the 7 or so hours (K 4 and M 2 or so) and upon arrival in Frankfort we and two others were quickly and efficiently escorted through the airport to our flight to Stockholm, which we made much to our surprise and appreciation - another 4+ hours in the airport would not have been a barrel of laughs.....
Needless to say that not all our luggage made the flight - 3 pieces were left behind but were delivered to us later in the evening. I thought that it would be a miracle in disguise and that we were not going to need the large taxi (which costs more) to get us home. Alas we had the over-sized picture frame with us and needed the over-sized vehicle. Unfortunately, I did not heed all the warnings and ask the driver what the charge would be but rather assumed it was the price advertised on the vehicle - small print said otherwise - oversized vehicles carry and oversized price. The whopping 750kr (125 dollars for a 40 min drive) came as a shock and the driver and his company representative at the end of his phone, got to hear my fury - even my Canadian neghbour who saw that we had arrived came out and argued with him. In the end I gave in (she later told me she would have ripped it up and said- I'll pay you the advertised 495 kr and nothing else - I only wish I was a sassy as she is).
Still, here we are, safely at home and all our possessions arrived unscathed. Shame I didn't take any photos of the chaos either before our departure or upon our arrival - at home. Eight suitcases and five carry-ons is a lot of luggage and the packing and unpacking of it is quite an event. Poor Grandma had to endure the full extent of the chaos for the first time and despite the appearance of the situation we are experts and this year's packing was a lot less stressful than it has been in the past - it was mostly clothes, a car seat (for the car we don't have!), some inherited pottery, a few food items, toiletries and some toys and books (including M's birthday present) - all of which now fight for space of their own in our mansion of an apartment.
Despite forgetting some of the things we like to buy we did come home with Mac&Cheese (not for me I hate the stuff), Mandarine Salad dressing, Ranch dressing, smoked almonds, Brown sugar BBQ sauce, chocolate chips (unobtainable in Sweden!) and peanut butter - what I just discovered, much to my dismay, is that they are almost all Kraft Products - oh how I hate to support the multi-nationals - give me the little guys any day.
And now, at 3 am, it is time for me to try and get some sleep - although I might ring my mum first - I only wish I had stayed up when she rang and woke me at 11am this morning. The kids went to bed a mere 30mins ago and Ty is watching a movie. Tomorrow is going to be ugly! I'll have to drag them up much earlier than they want to be - whoever said that kids don't get jet-lag has obviously never travelled with kids - it is no fun to force their little bodies to adjust to another time schedule. We'll have to find someone to be social with tomorrow - that should make it easier.....