Monday, April 14, 2014

Home from Paris

We had a great time in Paris and last night we arrived home to a welcoming committee of Possum, Harris, and Toffee. Wendy and Lion were shy and reacquainted themselves with us a little later. Lion had been wary of our cat sitter for the first few days, but she was finally able to pick him up and enjoy his silky fur. Wendy was fierce-brave and showed up for most meals.

Toffee and Harris were in and out of our suitcases as we unpacked — my husband is so disciplined that it's the first thing he does after every trip, whereas I lag somewhere behind. After we went to bed, Harris curled up between us and Possum and Lion kept visiting through the wee hours, purring loudly and head-butting our hands for more attention. It was nice to be home.

Postcards from Paris will follow... I shot so many photos that it will take a me a while to process them, and I'm too busy blowing my nose. I woke up yesterday with a cold, a souvenir I didn't expect.

* * *

It took us three phone calls to Air France (after getting nowhere on their website) and insistence and patience, but we booked "Seat Plus" premium-economy seating for both flights. We'd tried this in the past and the difference in comfort (and post-flight recovery) was amazing. This time, the seats, which are slightly wider and have more leg room, were on the upper deck of a Boeing 747. Boarding in Boston, we discovered that the upper deck was nearly empty. This seemed crazy, since the seats are only $67 more but are so much more pleasant. The upper deck tends to be pretty quiet, too. Sitting up there is worth every extra penny, if you ask me. I can only assume that people give up trying to book these seats since Air France makes it so difficult. Even after we booked ours and made the extra payments (they accidentally charged us for five seats, not four, and didn't seat us together on the first attempt...), Air France kept emailing us about checking in, and showing that we were still sitting downstairs in economy seats. At the airport, it took an extra 10 minutes for three members of the check-in crew to determine that we really did have seats upstairs.

Right before takeoff, husband and I each claimed a row of three seats, so we could lie down and sleep during the 6- or 7-hour overnight flight. While we were still on the runway, the pilot had warned us that there would be an unusual amount of turbulence. And he wasn't kidding. I gave up trying to read as soon as it began, and stretched out luxuriously across my row, hoping to sleep.

It wasn't exactly like a roller coaster, but I'd say the overall effects were similar. I'd read recently that planes can break up in severe turbulence, so that thought was in my mind, although I knew the possibility was remote. The pilot kept apologizing — his voice dipping and diving with the bucking plane — and warning us that it would be bad for a while. He must have been flustered because he forgot to speak English, only French. ("Turbulence" is the same word in both languages.) The bumps, tilts, and swoops were not nearly as steep and precipitous as a roller coaster, but then roller coaster rides don't drag on for hours, and they aren't 30,000 feet above the cold Atlantic. So, cumulatively, the thrill quotient was about the same, I'd say. I overheard yelping, gasping, and swearing from other rows as I huddled under my coat. I kept my eyes closed and found myself laughing. I can't say why I found it amusing, but I didn't question it. It was better than feeling terrified, helpless, or sick. I fell asleep.

My husband reported that he had had a terrible flight and felt awful. He'd tried to watch a movie through the turbulence, and he can't handle bumpy rides on the ground. He gets queasy on buses. By the time he realized he should lie down and close his eyes, it was too late. We took it slowly from the airport to our hotel. When he recovered, I fed him pastry.

* * *

Flying to Boston, there was a two-hour delay because the plane was taken out of service, so we were at the airport for the extra time and were already tired and uncomfortable as we boarded the plane. The replacement jet didn't have an upper deck, so we were crammed into economy, although we had tried to plead and reason our way into business class. Two handsome members of the check-in staff assured us that we'd love our seats in the 12th row, way up front.

"That's too close to the babies," I said. The front row of economy is traditionally given to people with kids, either because there are built-in changing tables or a bit more room to stand and bounce the little screamers. I always pick seats towards the back for this reason.

"No, no! No babies, I promise!" I was assured. It also appeared these were the only two empty seats next to each other left on the plane.

We sat two rows behind four very unhappy, very vocal babies. We were stuffed into tiny, hard seats in the middle of the center row of a very old plane. This is my idea of hell. I am not a large or even medium-sized person, but I could barely move my legs. I'm sore today from seven hours of feeling like I'd been crammed into a barrel.

But it won't dim the memory of the great time in Paris (more on that later).

My husband asked me this morning if I wanted to go to Milan; he must have just gotten an invitation.

I said, "NO!"

I may reconsider when I've recovered.

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