The flight home was thankfully uneventful, since Richard has been getting slowly sicker over the past day or so. Both planes - the one from Dublin to London, and the one from London to San Francisco - were packed, but I managed to get us both aisle seats on the London to San Francisco leg, so it wasn't nearly as horrid as it could have been, especially considering that we were on a 777, which means 2 seats on either side, and then 5 in the middle. I sat next to a family of three who insisted on getting out and going to the bathroom at least 4 times during the trip, and all as one group. By the last time the guy on the other end of the row and I were starting to laugh about it, because they would always make me move so they could get out, but not once did they ever make him move. Not that it was a huge hassle - it gave me an excuse to stand for a little while each time, and when you're squashed into coach seats on an international flight, you take any excuse to get up and move about that you can get.
But I am getting ahead of myself. There was the very short flight over to London, where we had to collect our bags. We were both expecting to have to go through customs since we were actually leaving the airport for the night (and thus entering a new country) but there wasn't a soul around to check anything. We just got our bags and left, right outside to the taxi queue, where we paid a huge sum of money (huge if you take into account that the dollar is doing spectacularly crappy against the pound) to have a taxi drive us to our hotel for the night. It was a typical business type hotel - you have to pay for anything and everything, including breakfast - but it was a million times better than sleeping on the floor of the airport terminal, especially when one of you is sick.
Heathrow was rather a nasty time-suck of a maze when we flew over to Ireland, but that was because we never left the terminal. This time around it was a piece of cake. We checked in, dumped our bags, and then camped out in one of the little waiting areas in the middle of the duty free shopping district and obsessively watching the little monitors for when they would finally tell us the gate number. Heathrow does it different than any airport Ive ever been in in the US - you don't actually ever find out the gate number until they are ready to board, so we weren't the only travelers nervously staring at the screen waiting for it to change from 'pending' to something actually useful. And then once it finally did there was the mad dash to the gate, or rather, we were nearly trampled by several other people who apparently did not grasp the concept that every single other person on the flight had also been waiting for the gate assignment and thus the plane was not likely to take off at a moment's notice if they didn't race insanely down the corridor no matter who got in their way.
We touched down in San Francisco and got to pick up all our luggage again, and lug it all over the place to go through customs and security and then check it right back in, before boarding our very last plane of the trip, which was a teeny tiny little toy of a plane that had actual propellers in the front, and was so small and compact that my head was barely grazing the roof (and I am 5'3") and the flight attendent actually had to tilt his head to one side when he stood. But the flight itself was ridiculously short, and finally we were back in Sacramento, where we were met by my parents, and we got our bags, and they drove us home and that was it.
Except, of course, that this isn't exactly the end, because when doing a head count of all the cats once we got inside we discovered that Azzie was nowhere to be found, even though we tore the house apart top to bottom (and trust me, we *know* all the spots in this house where cats can hide), and to make a long story short, it turns out that the pet sitter had accidently left the back door ajar when she and her boyfriend were cleaning up and while they saw Sebastian sneak out, Azzie (who has never before shown the slightest bit of interest in the big scary outdoor world) slipped out without them ever knowing he'd escaped. There was an hour or so of traipsing around in the backyard with flashlights, calling for a cat (who of course never comes when you call in the first place) and accidently waking up the neighbors, and then finally we heard his very distinctive little whine, and after an exciting chase through the thickest and thorniest of bushes in the backyard, we got him back inside. And by this time it was after midnight and Richard was wheezing and we were both in tears because we were really relieved that he was okay, and that seemed like as good a time as any to just go crawl into bed, and that, then, was finally the end.