Last time, I shared with you how attending an Air France exhibit in Chelsea on a warm June afternoon morphed into spending Christmas week in Paris. Any chance to go to Paris is a gift, whether at Christmas or any other time of the year. And add to that, the wonderful luck we had in being able to take advantage of highly discounted fares, which enabled us to fly in first class (a/k/a La Premiere). Mon dieu!!
Our adventure began at the La Premiere check-in desk at JFK. After handing over our passports, we were given our boarding passes and our personal “handler” – at least, that’s what we called him – arrived. He was very nice and very French and escorted us through Terminal 1 to our waiting area. Along the way, he insisted on carrying our carry-ons as he whisked us through security.
Eventually we arrived at what seemed to be a private dining room, which had 2 tables, a seating area and lots of windows. We were immediately greeted by a waiter who offered us a glass of champagne or cocktail and presented us with a menu. No matter that we were on a dinner flight – perhaps we were feeling peckish and required some grub before boarding. We decided to have champagne and a couple of hors d’eauvres, both of which were yummy.
After awhile, our friendly handler arrived to escort us to the plane. We were taken to a private elevator and then towards a special boarding area. As we were flying on an A380 (double-decker configuration), we boarded through the lower deck, at which point our handler wished us a bon voyage.
The purser met us as we stepped onto the plane, introduced himself and escorted us to our seats. There are only 9 seats in the cabin, so we could have easily found them ourselves, but who were we to complain?
Once at our seats, we met our flight attendant (FA) and, again, offered a glass of champagne while he explained how the seat worked and presented us with an amenity bag, along with pajamas and slippers, as well as a dinner menu.
The Air France A380 holds up to 516 passengers, so you can imagine that it took awhile for boarding to be completed. While we were waiting to leave the gate, we chatted with the FA and got used to our surroundings.
Finally, it was time to depart. The plane doors were closed and we pulled away from our gate and began to taxi (which, at JFK, can sometimes seem almost as long as the flight). What’s really cool on the A380 is that there is a closed-circuit camera in the tail of the aircraft, so you can see where you are going. Even though it was dark, it was still interesting to see where we were going, especially at takeoff and, later, at landing.
Once we were wheels up, the FA was immediately at our seat to take our cocktail and dinner order. As it was a relatively short flight (about 7 hours) and because we had already eaten on the ground, we opted to have 1 or 2 dishes and then have our bed made up so that we could get right to sleep. We’d always heard that food on Air France was among the best in the sky. And the airline did not disappoint; however, the real culinary treat awaited us on our return home. For some reason, the food when flying out of Paris is superior. More about that later.
Note the chef’s bio in the menu. As stated, Joël Rubuchon is one of the most celebrated chefs in the world.
Once we had eaten, we changed into our PJs – by the way, in our cabin there was one bathroom and one changing room, which was particularly luxurious. And the pajamas were kinda cute, too.
I’m a notoriously bad sleeper on planes, even when I have the luxury of a full-size bed (not to mention pharmaceuticals). In this case, I think I managed to get about 4 hours which, for me, is a bloody miracle.
(AAC CPA, on the other hand, can go to sleep while sitting up straight as the plane is taxiing towards the runway.)
I must have awakened about 90 minutes before landing, and our FA offered me some breakfast (heaven forfend that I should be hungry!).
After a delicious (and I mean deeelicious) Croque Monsieur and some tasty fresh fruit, I was ready to change back into my traveling clothes and prepare for gay Paris.
As we made our final approach, the captain reactivated the closed-circuit camera and I was able to watch our descent and landing from my seat. We landed a bit early, and it was a slightly overcast and cool looking day.
We gathered our carry-ons and our FA wished us a very happy holiday and safe travels.
As we stepped onto the jet way, we were immediately met by our next handler, who seemed to know exactly who we were, as he called us by name. With a brisk “Bonjour et bienvenue à Paris”, we were escorted off the jetway, down a corridor, into an elevator and taken onto the tarmac.
Get a load of this: We were then handed off to a chauffeur and private car to drive us to customs and baggage claim. How much fun is this!!! Our handler met us at customs and whisked us to the front of the line (oops, “Pardonnez moi, tout le monde!”) So customs was a breeze, and then we were escorted to baggage claim.
And then, we had an experience that had never ever happened to us before. Can you imagine what it was? It was so rare that it never would have occurred to us. It seemed inconceivable that it could ever happen. The baggage carousel started to move and – much to our amazement – the first piece of luggage on the carousel was mine! I mean, what are the chances? We both tingled a bit when that happened. Zoweeee!
Our handler assumed that, of course, we’d be met by our own car and driver, but we had to ruin his day and say that a taxi would do nicely, merci. So he escorted us out of the terminal and, somewhat embarrassingly for us, took us to the head of the taxi queue, and made sure that we were given the first taxi. And, off we headed to the City of Light for a lovely Christmas week.
To be continued……