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The Windy City

It’s a long and arduous 30 plus hours of travel from Quito to Chicago.

Our day starts with a 4am pick-up from our hotel to catch a flight to Lima. We have an 8 hour wait in Lima for a flight to Panama.

We are now very skilled at passing time in airports.

The key is to find the café with the best wi-fi, a seat near a power point, order a coffee and make it last for hours!

Upon checking-in at Lima, Copa Air said it would ticket our luggage all the way through to Chicago, though we would need to collect it in Fort Lauderdale, where we are required to clear immigration/customs.

We are a little dubious, but with a 6 hour layover in Panama, you’d think the airlines would have plenty of time to sort out where our luggage is going, or perhaps plenty of time to lose it…

Arriving in Panama around 9pm, our Spirit flight from Panama to Chicago (via Fort Lauderdale) leaves at 2am; another 6 hour layover.

We decide to purchase a bottle of red wine. The one requirement is that it needs to be a screw-cap.

Slight problem; we need boarding passes to make the purchase and we won’t get these until someone from Spirit turns up at the boarding gate.

I think the sales guy was on to us; he suggested the only way he could sell it to us was if we consume it before the flight – which were exactly our intentions!

We find a quiet spot (on the floor) and have a picnic dinner of wine and Ecuadorian chocolate!

The Spirit staff are somewhat confused by our lack of boarding passes and are quick to say they take no responsiblity for our luggage turning up! That fills us with confidence.

Spirit is a low cost American airline. Luggage is charged per piece, including carry-on. There is minimal inflight service (at a cost), no entertainment, no blankets (lucky we purchased two alpaca rugs on our travels) and except for four premium seats you pay more for, they don’t recline.

We opted for the premium seats which put us in the first row, a good thing, because we had a tight connection in Florida.

Even though we are first off, we wait and wait at the carousel for our luggage, but to no avail. Taking the advice of the ground crew, we decide to leave the luggage behind and dash for our connecting plane.

Once in Chicago, the Spirit staff are helpful, though clearly see it as not their problem and point us in the direction of the Copa staff, who are also very helpful.

Our luggage is found to still be in Panama and they put it on next plane; we should see it tomorrow. If not, I have a very good excuse to go shopping!

True to their word, Copa call in the morning and confirm they have the luggage. We happened to be going past the airport and offer to pick it up – we’ll be relieved when we have our bags in our possession.

Potential disaster averted and all in all it was only a slight inconvenience.

We are staying with friends Derek and Susan Magilton, who have two children Gretta and Oliver. They live in Winnetka, a lovely area a little north of downtown Chicago. Derek’s parents Ann and Max, are also visiting from Australia for a month.

It’s a lovely few days spent catching-up, swapping stories and re-grouping (which means making use of the washing machine and repacking our bags).

We managed a bit of ‘wardrobe replacement’ shopping. You can’t go past a good sale in the US, it’s like they are giving you stuff for free!

We also spent a couple of nights downtown to explore a bit more of the city and go to a U2 concert. Even if we were up in the bleachers, U2 still put on a good show.

Our stay in Chicago was all too brief and a little hindered by problems with my foot, so much so that we didn’t really take any photos. I spent much of my time hopping (literally) to podiatrists and getting cortisone injections.

Don tried his best to play the patient and supportive husband, but let’s face it – that’s not his thing! He couldn’t wait to get on that plane and meet his mates in Scotland.

We definitely have to get back to Chicago sometime.