7 July 2017: Since the kids and I had gone to bed quite early the night before, by 5:30am we were wide awake and ready to start our day. We got up and began organizing our things and packing our suitcases while we waited for David and Thomas to be ready for our final breakfast in the hotel. In spite of the dank, unappetizing, sewage smell at the entrance to the restaurant as well as all the indigestion and other troubles that the food caused us, we knew that we’d all miss that buffet and the humous English translations.

The only day that we saw blue sky and sadly we had to leave!

The view of Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest (built for the 2008 Olympics), from David and Thomas’ room

After breakfast, we finished our packing and confronted our main travel issue — the kids’ shoes were still completely soaked from the rain the day before. We’d left them out to dry overnight, but they were not wearable. We decided that we had to abandon their shoes since 24+ hours packed into plastic bags inside luggage would not end well. Lucy and Isaac’s shoes were worn out and on the small side anyway and Thomas’ had also seen better days, so it wasn’t a big sacrifice.

The boys both had backup shoes, but Lucy only had flipflops. By the time we got to the airport, she already had blisters starting to develop on her toes. We knew that the plane flight wouldn’t be a problem for her because she could wear a pair of the free slippers from our seats, but we’d have to address her footwear issues once we landed in Newark.

Our university friends insisted on accompanying us inside the airport, to make sure that we got checked in just fine and that we didn’t need any other assistance. Once inside, Thomas announced that he was interested in getting pizza again. Our friends told us that the Pizza Hut was outside security, so we made a plan to head over there first. Once we had our boarding passes, we said our final goodbyes to our friends.

The Pizza Hut wasn’t like any we’d ever visited before. The menu was thick and full of photos, like all the phonebook-style menus we’d seen that week. There were also some very unusual options on the menu, including Chinese dishes that had nothing to do with pizza. Thomas ordered a drink called a black angel (Pepsi, ice, chocolate ice cream, and whipped cream). Lucy bravely ordered the corn juice that we’d seen on other menus (it was undrinkable). Isaac ordered cheesecake for dessert and it never arrived, although we’d pre-paid for it. We flagged down a couple of servers to ask for it, but in the end we gave up and headed downstairs to security.

The Pizza Hut menu — it was thick and heavy

We easily understood this page

Security was tough leaving Beijing. I’d read that it could take awhile and that there were no express lanes, so we’d allowed plenty of time for it. It was hot and stuffy and the lines were long, snaking around and doubling back on themselves many times. Somehow Isaac and I ended up with total pat downs, but eventually we all made it through. Once we got on the other side of security, we saw a Pizza Hut (!).

By that point we were all looking forward to relaxing in the Air China club, to which our Eurobonus status gave us access. However, the club turned out to be quite toasty, had no wifi, and was very crowded. It took us a long time to find a place to sit and we had to drag chairs over to make enough seats for all of us.  Having free snacks was great, but otherwise it probably would’ve been better to sit in another part of the airport where it was significantly cooler and less occupied.

Hot and tired in the Air China lounge

Parts of Beijing Capital Airport were quite beautiful and relaxing

Our flight was pretty easy and about 14 hours long. We had to remind the kids to SLEEP, but otherwise the trip was uneventful. The service in United Business was excellent — some of the best we’ve ever had. The flight attendants really made up for the fact that the plane itself was a bit older. Good service truly makes a difference!

Once we got to Newark, I came up with an idea for Lucy’s feet. I’d packed a pair of sandals as extra shoes for myself, so after we got through security I fished them out of my suitcase along with a thick pair of socks. She felt a little bit like a clown with oversized shoes on, but the bulky socks kept the sandals on her feet and she was fine from that point forward.

We then spent hours in the United club, as our flight to RDU was delayed quite a bit. In fact, the club closed down before we needed to head to our gate. As we were exiting the lounge, we were greeted by a guy driving a courtesy cart and asking us if we’d like a ride to our gate. The kids were thrilled! We all hopped on and sped along towards our gate.

It was like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride on that courtesy shuttle!

As I recall, it was about 2:00am before we finally set foot in our house. We were tired, but happy to be home after having had an adventure like nothing else we’d ever done. It was all worth it and we’d do it again, given the chance.