As Anne's and my flight would not be departing until 15:00, and Roberto told us our shuttle to the airport would not depart the hotel until noon, we slept in, sort of. We were up about 07:00 and went down for our last breakfast in the Galleria Plaza. Then we went back to our room and got to the arduous task of packing to go home. It’s always “fun” trying to put more into our suitcases than we arrived with, because of the various souvenirs and other items we purchased, including a fine small statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe that Anne was concerned would not survive in the checked baggage and thus took care of in her carry-on. But we did manage it – one trick is to bring at least some items, including in my case some very-comfortable-but-really-on-their-last-legs shoes, that you are willing to leave behind to free up some space! We decided to go ahead and check out early (I think it was about 09:30), then take some time wandering around the nearby streets. Anne still had a few souvenirs and sacramentals – including some more medals and rosaries – that she wanted to obtain.
As it happened, a couple of people from our group – Neil from Australia and Steph from South Carolina – were interested in venturing out, as well as Roberto, who was going to oversee all of our transfer from the hotel to the airport at noon. So out we went, and Roberto proved invaluable this last time as well, taking us right to where there was a big indoor market a few streets over that reminded me somewhat of the Mercado in San Antonio. We spent some time in there, and at the end, while we were waiting for Steph to rejoin us, Anne took Roberto a couple of stores down and bought him a big cup of coffee.
We made it back to the hotel, waited around for maybe a half an hour or so as the various others in our airport-transfer group assembled in the lobby, then we were back in the shuttle vans and headed to the airport. It didn’t seem to take nearly as long, but maybe that’s because, friendships having developed among people who did not know each other only a few days ago, a constant conversation was carried on that quickly passed the time; or maybe it was that it was not so uncomfortably hot in the van as it was Thursday!; in any case, we were at the airport before we knew it.
And the final farewells were said. As Anne commented, it was quite different than on our way back from Rome, when most of the pilgrimage group were all returning to the same place. This time, we knew we probably will never again lay eyes on most of these new-found friends, even if the wonders of modern technology (email, Facebook) make it possible to keep some kind of contact. I don’t know of any tears being shed, but it was hard parting from them.
Not much need be said of the rest of the day. The flights went as smoothly as those did on Thursday. The only glitch came in the Dallas airport, when one of our number seemingly lost his wallet in the chaos of passing through security. The most obvious suspicion was foul play, and Anne and I felt bad leaving him as we had to head off to catch our own flight – but a subsequent email the next day revealed that the wallet was found, contents intact. The Velcro that holds it shut had somehow caught on the conveyor through the X-ray machine, and it had not come out the other side. I’m not certain how exactly it was discovered, but it was, and all’s well that ends well.
Finally, near midnight, after our subsequent flight to Shreveport and an hour’s-plus drive, Anne and I pulled back up at home in Natchitoches, to the varyingly enthusiastic welcomes of three cats.