8th- 11th June 2017
We flew into Jeddah from Dubai which took 2.5 hours and had a 2 and a half hour transfer at Jeddah airport before getting back on the plane to London, which was 6 hours 15 min flight. It was a modern fancy plane, Qantas Airlines, Airbus A330-343R, 2-4-2 seats in a row. We had just us two next to the window. There were TVs in the back of the seats where we could pick our own movies, so that stopped us from sleeping! We were delayed a little at the start as security were telling someone off or trying to kick them off the flight. They were there with them for a while but we couldn’t understand what was going on, then they left them. Before we set off they played an Islamic paragraph from the Quran. It was mainly arabs on the flights. We were definitely one of, or the only westerners on the flight. Through the flight all the men took their bags to the toilets and got changed from their white robes to white blanket like robes that they like wrapped a towel on the bottom half and then another one like a shawl over their shoulders with their bellies out. It was a very bizarre flight for us! When we got off the plane there was a transfer bus but loads of people off the plane had private cars waiting for them, right next to the plane-literally, that picked them up on the runway! No need for them to go through security! We have no idea what it was about! When we got into Saudi airport we had to be separated at security and women were sent to a different check area and I had to go into a room to be scanned. They had a laugh at me because I didn’t know what was going on, but they were nice. It was so the men couldn’t see the women being checked and then lifting up their hijab. The wait in the airport felt so long as there was nothing there at all. Just a few small cafes, if you could call them that, but it was a very old budget airport. It was very strict procedures at the airport and we had to go through security again before our gate, where shoes had to come off and be scanned again and our bags. Flights going into the UK from Saudi and other Middle Eastern countries are no longer allowed to carry electronics other than normal sized phones, everything else has to be in checked baggage.
The second flight was a Boeing 777-300ER. It was a big plane but there were hardly any people on it. It was 3-3-3 seats across. The flight was at 2:00am and arrived in to London at 6:20am. It was a 6 hour 15 min flight back to Heathrow, where it all started 2 and a half years ago!
The taxi from the airport took an hour and a half in the traffic. London traffic eh! We couldn't check in until 3pm and got there at 9am so we had a long wait. It felt weird to be back in the U.K and trying to get used to prices again. It seemed really cheap actually.
Everyone seemed so friendly which we didn't really think people would be as much. We stayed in Southwark at the Travelodge, £350 for 3 nights, probably one of most expensive hotels of the whole trip! It was a great location as we were within an half hour walk of everything! We had a walk along the Thames, it was a pretty grey day, a tiny bit of rain. Great welcome back, no sun! Not used to that. It felt a bit cold, I wore a jacket for the first time in god knows how long. It wasn't too bad though, 17 degrees, it's no 42 though!
We walked over Waterloo bridge and to west end and passed Trafalgar Square. We did some shopping on oxford street. A few armed police were patrolling. You wouldn't get the feeling there was a terrorist attack 5 days ago though. I didn't think I would, but I actually really like London! It's great! We went to Nando's for dinner, yum! The view from our room was right to the shard and we could see the full building. It seemed so small compared to all the massive buildings we have seen. We did just come from the worlds tallest building, so that looked like nothing!
We did a lot of walking around the city seeing the sights. We went to see London eye, Westminster bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, Buckingham palace and Trafalgar Square. We saw Theresa May’s car twice, once leaving Downing Street and once leaving the palace after a meeting with the Queen. It was the general election whilst we were in London so it was busy everywhere with people outside Downing Street and the Palace and there were a lot of press everywhere. We were worried we were going to be seen on the news and people would know we were home so we kept hiding! We could just imagine dad sat at home like “what the hell are they doing?!”
We went to the pub for dinner and then went for drinks and then to theatre. We went to Criterion theatre to see ‘A Comedy about a Bank Robbery’. It was really funny and we loved it! It was the first time we have been to the theatre together and we have never done London West End theatre. It was brilliant.
We walked to Borough market, which was just around the corner from us, but this was still closed due to the terror attack. It was so sad. We went to London bridge where the attack also happened and there were lots of flowers. It was awful and very emotional. They had put barricades up to prevent cars mounting the kerbs. We spent the rest of the day walking around again and went to see The Shard, Tower bridge, the Tower of London, The Gherkin and St. Paul's Cathedral.
I was so hungover from the night before and kept been sick. Typical me! We still managed to get around though- just!!
We went back to the hotel and got ourselves sorted and packed to eventually go home!
Home time- 11th June 2018
The train back to Leeds was at 10:10am from London kings cross and took 2 hours 20. I felt a bit queazy for most of it. I just couldn’t believe it was eventually it and we were going home. I just didn’t know what I was feeling, it was very confusing and a total mix of feelings from nerves to excitement to a little bit of fear, everything all mixed up! I was glad to have the time to adjust in London. Nobody literally had a clue we were coming home. I told Mary so that she could get Sarah to her mums to surprise her and that was it! Everybody thought we went from KL to Singapore and then Singapore to Shanghai and landed there today. Most people thought it's probably guna be the end of the year before we were home. We kept people going thinking that it would be. I love surprises and I was so nervous about it being ruined.
Getting back into Leeds was so strange! I also kept thinking, what if we see somebody! We got a taxi back home and snuck out (with our huge suitcases!!) to Karen and Bally’s house. We slid up the side of the house and to the side door before realising that nobody was even in!! We hid our suitcases in the garage and headed over to my mum and dads to surprise them. We had organised to skype everybody on the day so that we would know they would be at home. Claire and Arron ended up cancelling because they were out so we knew they wouldn’t be at home. We first planned on going to theirs before anybody else’s so that nobody would see us on the street. I thought everything was going to start going wrong when they weren’t in and then Karen wasn’t either- we knew that Bally was working. I rang mum from Nath’s garden to see if she was ready to skype; she said she was just setting it all up and would be ready shortly. We snuck over to mine and the front door was locked!! Which it never is! Oh this isn’t going well... we went down the side of the house to see if we could get in the back garden and in the back door. We walked past the kitchen door and noticed somebody in the kitchen so we hid down the side of the motor home. We heard somebody coming, oh s***! It’s ruined! I just automatically squatted down and turned my back away. We had nowhere to hide! Dad came out from the front door and looked down the side of the van. “You are f***ing kidding me!” he said. My first reaction was to shhh him and said don’t tell mum. He just looked at us in shock, hid down the side of the van, then turned around and walked off back into the house haha! We snuck to the front door and saw dad go in the living room. He had left the front door open so we snuck in as quiet as we could. I was so nervous I think I was shaking! I peered through the gap in the door and saw mum in the living room with the laptop on her knee. Nath filmed it as I walked in and said “I’ve been waiting for you”. Her face...what a picture! She didn’t know what to do, then started crying. It was so sweet and amazing! Dad told us after that he was in the kitchen and saw someone walk near his precious motor home so he went out to investigate. When he went back in the house he was shocked, went to the fridge, got a beer, went back in the living room trying not to be weird and ruin the surprise, went pour his drink but was so shocked he completely missed his glass. Haha! I was gutted we hadn’t managed to surprise him as well, but in fairness we did, just in a different way! We hid out at ours, catching up, when we heard the front door been tried to be opened. Mum looked out and it was Claire trying to get in. I hit panic mode. We knew we had nowhere to hide so we just waited in the living room for her to come in. She walked in the room and her face was such a picture! Crying, mouth wide open in shock, saying “why are you here”. It was brilliant!!
It was mum and dads anniversary and Claire had brought some flowers down for them. Claire had been doing Race for Life with grandma. All of them had booked a holiday to Germany (mum, dad, grandma, Claire and Arron) so we got Claire to ring grandma and ask her if she could come down to mum and dads as she needed to sign something for the holiday. She didn’t even question it and said she would be down soon. She came quicker than expected and when she turned up I ran out of the living room just before she came in and hid in the dining room. Nath was still in the living room but managed to get passed without her even noticing him ha! We waited until she was sat down in the living room and went in to surprise her. “Ohh Rachel!” “Oh Nathan”. So glad we got to surprise her too!
The next one on the list..Arron. Claire got him down to the house, I can’t even remember how. We waited out in the dining room again and waited until he was in the living room. Arron was hilarious! Nath went in first and said alright. Arron looked at him without even realised it was Nath, shook his hand and then noticed it was Nath! The shock on his face. It was soo funny! We got everyone on video too! They all thought we were just passing through and weren’t back for good! They mentioned the Germany holiday that they had booked and were a little gutted that they were going away so soon after us getting back. We told them that we had were actually going away as well so it wasn’t a problem. They asked where and we told them Germany..the penny dropped! We explained how we had booked it all in secret and had booked seats next to them on the coach without them even knowing! Another great surprise!!
We waited at mum and dads until Bally was home from work and Karen and Bally were both back in the house. We then got Claire and Arron to go over and let us know when they were in the living room and we could come in. They were so shocked when we walked through the door and didn’t really know what to do! It took them a while to process it. We spent some time there with them catching up and officially informing them that we would be moving back in!
Sarah was the best surprise for me. Mary had to organise for Sarah to be at her mums so I could go and surprise her. Mary didn’t tell any of the family so they were all shocked too. Sarah was being awkward as always and wouldn’t go up to her mums but Mary eventually got her there. Claire decided to come with me and Mary let me know when I was ready to go. I crept up the side of the house and could hear people in the house. Luckily they were in the living room and nobody caught me sneaking through the house. Sarah was nearly ready to pop with Isla and started crying when she saw me! It was such a good surprise and she had no idea at all!
Over the next few days we went round surprising friends and family. It was lovely to surprise Amy and the girls and Ava screamed when she saw me. Aunty Ann cried and cried. Nath’s grandad didn’t give too much expressions away as always haha, but you could tell how happy he was to see him. Grandma Deane acted like I hadn’t even been anywhere. Comical as always! I jumped out on Uncle Billy when he came to Grandmas too. Then Faye and Bobby came around. Arun and Lauren were having a housewarming party the weekend after we got home so we kept it quiet all week from telling friends we were home and surprised everybody at the party which was great. If I could live the days we returned over and over I would. I loved surprising everybody and seeing their faces and emotions. I would relive it again in a heartbeat! It was so amazing and so good to see everybody after all that time. It was like we had never been away.
And that’s it...all over in the blink of an eye. Something we will never forget and we are so glad that we were able to travel for as long as we did. What an experience..what a life!