A smooth flight from Washington, DC to Toronto, Canada
The time had come for me to serve for the first time as a Group Leader for a trip abroad. What a proud moment! From 2007 – 2013, I served as the Trips Abroad Coordinator for my son’s French Immersion School. However, I never had the good fortune to lead a trip. I was determined to make my inaugural trip a huge success!
The flight from Washington, DC to Canada was as smooth as ever. We landed right on time and claimed our baggage and headed straight to the food court for some grub. Since our flight was a little more than one hour, Air Canada merely served a few snacks. After shuffling about from one eatery to another, Roland, Phoebe, Madison, Malea, and I settled for lunch at The True Burger Co. I decided to lightly eat, so I ordered a chicken breast sandwich. I knew a few hours later they’d be serving food on the plane from Canada to Beijing.
We had about three hours to spare so we took our time, walked around a bit, and took in the sights. The Toronto Pearson Airport is simply beautiful! That was the first time I set foot in Canada. I’m adding this country to my list of places to visit. There was a bit of snowfall for a spell; I wondered if our flight would be delayed. The time had come for us to leave. Luckily, the snow wasn’t severe enough to keep us from departing on time. After standing in line for about 20 minutes, we began boarding and prepared to make our way to China.
I love long flights
The flight from Canada to China was scheduled to last for close to 13 hours. I love long flights! When I was returning from China and making my way back to the US in 2015, my flight was 25 hours. Heavenly! I knew this flight would be just as spectacular. We boarded with ease and made our way to our seats all the way in the last row of the plane. All five of us were spread across two aisles, side by side. I’m glad we were able to sit together. The flight was delayed for about 15 minutes on the runway. Air Canada was missing one passenger and could not leave without him. I didn’t mind the delay at all. I would want Air Canada to wait for me, too. After he finally arrived, we took flight.
Movies, food, and sleep. Oh, my!
I was settled rather nicely in my seat. With Phoebe on my right and Madison on my left, I knew I was in for a lovely treat. The synergy between us all is fantastic! I was a bit concerned about Madison and Malea connecting and engaging with each other. There’s a six year age difference: Malea is 12 and Madison is 18. To my most pleasant surprise, they were a match made in heaven! Malea is very mature for her age, and Madison still has that sweet little kid on the inside. She enjoys a good round of jokes and play!
I had plenty of entertainment to keep me occupied. With the exception of interruptions from the captain and crew here and there, I managed to get in a couple of great movies between food being served and long naps. The only drawback was the edema I experienced in both my feet. I had the hardest time getting them back in my shoes. Ouch! Suffice it to say, I only got up twice during the entire flight and that was just to use the restroom. On the way back, I’ll be sure to walk around a bit.
Back in the land that stole my heart
We arrived in China pretty close to our scheduled time. What a most enjoyable flight! We were so excited to finally be back on land and looked forward to meeting John, our Tour Director. First, we had to go through customs, which is always a “joy.” The stern faces peering at us behind the glass is very hard to read. “Will they randomly pull us aside for an unscheduled search?” One never knows. Gratefully, we went through customs without a hitch.
After a quick restroom stop, we went straight to Baggage Claims and found all our luggage with no problem. We regrouped and hurried our way to the other side where John was anxiously waiting, holding his “EF TOURS – PARKER” sign. That was so cool! I bowed to greet him, shook his hand as well, and introduced him to my group. Their names were very familiar to him already. He just had to see their faces.
John, led us to McDonald’s for a quick bite, but we all decided to go to the hotel first instead. Why come all the way to China just to have your first meal be from McDonald’s? Doesn’t equate, you know? He totally understood and took us to the shuttle waiting to transport us to the hotel.
The ride from the airport to the hotel was close to an hour. There was a bit of rush hour traffic. We didn’t mind: we were in China! Along the way, we took in the sights. Some I recognized from past visits to Beijing; others were new and refreshing. There were lots of “Ooh’s” and “Aah’s” from my travelers. I loved every moment of their excitement. I was so very grateful to be of service to them as a Group Leader.
We arrived at the hotel and checked into our rooms. How nice they were! After freshening up, we were out to explore the area for some grub. We quickly realized there were not restaurants in the immediate area, so we had to hike to the main road where there were plenty of spots to eat. After checking out one menu after another, we settled for dinner at The Party Base. Tofu, seaweed, cucumbers, rice, noodles, chicken, and fish graced our table. We were so hungry; nothing was left on the table. We made a few new friends, if you will, sitting at a nearby table. “Picture?” We knew it would happen. Of course, we obliged.
Our eyes were very heavy, so we headed back to the hotel. To my surprise, I spotted a nail and massage salon I missed earlier. I’d been craving a pedicure, so I decided to make this my last stop before turning in for the evening. What a wonderful treat! Just before turning in for the evening, I met one of my former student’s, Simba’s, uncle. He came to the hotel to purchase a book from me to send to Simba who is featured in the book. Before leaving China in 2015, I made a commitment to stay connected with my students. Simba and his mom made the same commitment to me. I’m so grateful for our bond.
Well, our first day in China could not have ended on a better note! From the flight to the food to the wonderful treatment of feet, I was on cloud nine!