By 6 in the morning we were landed in Paris, and we had a 7 hour layover before our flight to Montreal. We calculated that would give us just enough time to take the Metro into the city center to look around, and then get back again before our flight. We hadn't slept all night, but we gamely bought our train tickets (which cost more than all our bus journeys in Egypt combined), and got into Paris just as the sun was coming up. It turned out to be a very magical morning of fog and damp chilly weather, neither of which we had felt for months. Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower, and the top of it was lost in the fog, but all around it, the buds and leaves were coming out on the trees. We couldn't help marveling at the shops and the buildings and the huge change from Cairo and the other cities we had seen lately. We took a long walking tour along the river, passing the Louvre and finally arriving at Notre Dame Cathedral. Inside, there were soft hymns being played, and we finally realized that we were really leaving the first half of our journey behind us. Since we had lived in Europe for three years, Paris felt like we were coming home again, and it was nice to be able to walk the streets in peace and not be bothered.
March 24-31 - Sacket's Harbor, New York
At just after midnight we had still been in Cairo, Egypt. Once the sun rose, we spent the morning in Paris, France. In the afternoon, we chased the sun and a 6 hour time change into Montreal, Canada. Into the evening, we rented a car, and made the 3 hour drive across the border into NY, USA, and finally arrived at Rob's aunt and uncle's house in Sacket's Harbor. We had been up for 48 hours by then, and were extremely tired, but full of stories of our adventures.
So we've spent a week recuperating in a real house, and I am still marveling at the radical differences between life in the States and life in the rest of the world. We visited a Wal-Mart, and I just walked through the aisles with my jaw hanging down. Then we went to a grocery store, and we couldn't help picking things off the shelves that we hadn't eaten in months. We did our laundry in the washing machine, and cumulative dirt from months of hand-washing came off in just one cycle. We've napped on the comfy couch, watched movies (in English!)on TV, played with the family dog, sat in the hot tub, and we've eaten some marvelous home-cooked meals.
The weather has been kind to us here, with cool temps and a little rain, both of which felt quite novel, and we even got snowed on for an hour or two. There was just enough snow left to go cross-country skiing up on the Tug Hill Plateau, and the weather was warm enough we did it in just a T-shirt and light pants. I was amazing at the ski trails, they were well-groomed, with grooves pre-made for cross-country skiis, and I was in heaven gliding down the snow.
We took a day and went up and visited Alexandria Bay at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. The area is called Thousand Islands, and the river there is so wide that the islands seem like the far shore. Each island, even the tiny ones, have a house or castle built on them, and great ships come through the shipping lanes with cargos bound for Lake Ontario and the rest of the Great Lakes. There was still a few ice chunks on the water, and even they melted during the week from the warming weather. Spring along the great lakes means bird migration, and this particular area was a popular corridor of the Atlantic Flyway. We saw thousands of Canada Geese and Snow Geese, flying in great V's, sitting on the ice chunks, and hanging out in barren fields. Some of the V's we saw in the sky must have been a mile long, and it was an amazing sight.
But mostly we just enjoyed being in one place for a while without any of the uncertainties of traveling. After a week of being back in the States, I am finally relaxing a little. I noticed that I got out of the habit of looking anyone in the eye in Egypt and India, and having a normal conversation with the folks here was actually hard at first. But we've told plenty of stories in the last week, and I'm sure grossed out a few people with a few of our pictures. Rob's aunt is a Science teacher at the local high school, and we even visited her classes to share some of our stories and pictures with them, and tell a little about our preparations for the trip.
So now we are headed for the second half. We have resupplied with some warmer clothes for the mountainous part of our trip, packed up more guide books, and stuffed a few hard-to-find snacks into our goody bags. We're ready!
April 1 - Ottawa, Montreal, and Chicago
Once leaving our "home away from home" in Sacket's Harbor :( we are going to spend the day in Ottawa, Canada, before flying to Chicago and then Guatemala City. More updates once we're there!