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O Fim duma Viagem

High Flying, Adored

FRANCE | Sunday, 8 June 2014 | Views [291]

My goal for this (and really, most) trips is that it will be a learning experience. And I'm learning so much already! Lesson 1: $400 is a really good price to upgrade to business class. If I didn't believe my family when they told me that, watching the eyes of the most well-traveled person I know pop out when I told him would have been enough proof.

I missed my first chance to take advantage of business class by not noticing the other line for checking baggage. I'm not sure it would have made that much of a difference because the other line didn't seem to be moving that much faster. The person checking my luggage asked why I hadn't been in that line, but she still had the little yellow stickers she needed to mark my luggage.

I did stand in the special line for security, though. Again, I'm not sure if it made much of a difference, since both lines were moving slowly. I did need to answer “first class or business?” a few times, though. (Apparently that was an exclusive or. English should be more specific.)

So the first noticeable advantage of having a business class ticket came when I got through security and decided where to go. Normally it would have been to my gate, or maybe the seating area by the Starbucks so I can get Internet.

Not this time!

Although most of the business class drinks are designed for people of an age that they can do important business-y things, they still had several kinds of juice (I tried grapefruit) a fancy coffee machine, and hot water with several bags of tea and dark chocolate hot chocolate. They also had about six kinds of sandwiches, (I tried one that had a brioche roll with chicken, muenster cheese, and honey mustard. The brioche wasn't as good as I'm used to and honey mustard, like blue cheese, is a thing I constantly forget that I don't actually like, but it was still pretty tasty) oreos, coconut macaroon cookies, granola bars, and several small bags of chips.

The seats were comfy, and depending on where you were sitting there was plenty of outlets. Specifically, there were about three seats you could sit in where you could plug in a computer, a phone, a tablet, an alarm clock, and maybe a hair dryer and curling iron if you got along with the person sitting next to you. Outside of those seats, I didn't see any outlets.

I ended up stealing a seat from an Irish man. Which I felt bad about until his flight was called within five minutes. (He and his wife did find other seats for those five minutes other seats.)

I got the wifi password stamped on the back of my boarding pass, but the ink smudged badly on the way back to my seat so it took me a few tries to type it in properly. (There's not much of a difference between a '0,' an '8' and a '6.') It was much easier to relax in that lounge than it normally is in airport terminals. I was only mildly concerned that my flight time was delayed by 20 minutes, despite what Google and the Air France websites claimed to the contrary. It should also be noted that I only had about an hour layover in Paris, provided the flight was on time.

So, 20 minutes after my expected boarding time I got on the plane. My seat was 7A, which I'd kind of assumed was the window, but when I arrived there was a woman in the window seat, and the seat labels looked like they were pointing to B as the window seat and A as the aisle. Concluding that business class was weird, I sat down.

A little bit later the flight attendant came by with kits that included ear plugs, toothbrush and toothpaste, socks and eyemask, and I believe a drawstring bag. He handed one to both of us, then talked to the woman in French for a minute. I didn't really catch the conversation, but she checked her boarding pass, then asked if I wanted the window seat, since she was there by mistake. I gratefully accepted. Immediately after switching, she got up, went up the plane (leaving her purse and book in the seat) and didn't come back until half an hour after the plane took off. But she did come back, and spent the rest of the flight in the seat beside me.

At our newly appointed take-off time, we discovered mechanical difficulties and an announcement came on saying it would be another half hour. By the time the plane took off, we were over an hour later.

This is my first time flying by myself on a non-direct flight. This is also the shortest layover I can remember having on any flight. Most of my layovers are spending a night in a somewhat random country, so prior to this point airplane delays have been an inconvenience, not huge problem.

On one hand, there was a decent chance that these delays would mean I would miss my connecting flight to Rabat and not be able to get one until 9:00 at night and miss the orientation for the study abroad program and... On the other hand, there wasn't anything I could do about it. So I sat back, hoped the plane would make good time and the airline would hold up to their promise of notifying connecting flights and everything would somehow work out. And if it didn't, I'd have plenty of time between the time my flight landed and the time the later Rabat flight took off to worry about contacting the program.

Instead, I focused on the much more pressing problem: how to stop all of my fellow passengers from looking at me and thinking “how did she ever get a seat in business class.” For the most part, I just mimicked what everyone else did.

When, before take-off the flight attendant came around with glasses (not plastic cups, glasses. Apparently they trust business class people not to throw their cups against the walls.) of orange juice, I took a cup. And then I held onto it until I saw someone set it down on the flattest part of the arm rest. Ditto with the warm washcloths.

It wasn't until the woman next to me pulled out her tray table that I could attempt to mirror her action and find mine. (It was to the right of my seat, and required a multi-step pull out, lift up, tilt out motion.)

Was I over-thinking things and worrying about nothing? Not at all.

I didn't need anyone to tell me how to get the remote out of the side compartment, or that I needed that to control the TV on the seat in front of me. So I assumed it wouldn't be any harder to put it back in. Wrong. I finally managed to get it to stay in the original compartment. And when I say stay, I mean it. After a few unsuccessful attempts to get it out, I gave up and spent the rest of the flight reaching across myself to press keys without removing the remote.

I also managed to make a mess in the process of putting my napkin on my lap. Napkins are supposed to prevent mess, right? Not this one. As I was unrolling it, I managed to dip a corner in the sauce and subsequently spread that sauce to the tablecloth, my shirt, and one of my pants legs. And that was before I'd even started eating. (The rest of dinner passed with very little incident, actually.)

Ah, dinner.

About half an hour before they started serving it, the flight attendants came by with special business class menus. The first page was a biography of a chef, “the most-starred in the world, Air France's ambassador for French gastronomy.” This was to prepare you for special of the day, green curry chicken and poppy seed rice. Other options were beef, fish, and chicken ravioli. But that wasn't the meal. That was one of the options.

When it was time for the meal, and I'd successfully imitated the woman next to me and set down my tray table, the flight attendant draped a white cloth over it. I had a table cloth. Then he set down a tray with a bowl of salad, a thing of butter, two glasses, lobster with wasabi mayonnaise (from the little bit I tasted that did not end up on my napkin, it wasn't spicy) and mango salad, and the soon-to-be-dirty napkin wrapped around two knives, two forks, and one spoon. (Both forks were the same size, so the one piece of etiquette I know turned out to be useless. OK, I know two pieces of etiquette, but being able to fold a napkin into an artichoke has very little practical purpose.)

 

He offered me a choice of two kinds of bread. One had black olives in it. I'm not sure what the other kind was because I never tried it. The olive bread was tasty enough.

The salad was an airplane salad. They didn't even give me dressing. (Probably a wise move, given what I did with the wasabi mayonnaise.)

The lobster was pretty good, though it was plain by itself. Which was probably why it was served with mango salad and wasabi mayonnaise. I'm always vaguely surprised by how tough lobster is. It doesn't seem like it should be the kind of foot that needs fork and knife to eat it. The mango salad was good. It looked like it was mainly chopped up mango, but it tasted like it had a lot of vegetables in it.

After that came the main course. I had the chicken and another piece of bread. As I'd kind of expected, the curry was closer to a British curry than an Indian one, so it wasn't that spicy. The chicken was nice and tender, though it was cut into two-bite pieces, which was a little weird, and the color of the curry sauce didn't seem natural. But the sides were very tasty, even if carrots and mushrooms both grow in cold, dark places and are allegedly untrustworthy foods because of that.

After I finished that, I got a cheese plate. One of the cheeses was definitely brie. I'm not sure what the other kind was, but it tasted gentle and didn't have an aftertaste. I'm not used to eating cheeses by themselves, so with the first bite of brie I though it was too strong, though the other cheese was good. Then I had more of the brie and adjusted to the taste. By the time I'd finished, I thought that the other cheese was too bland.

Third Course

Finally, they came around with dessert and tea or coffee. I chose tea and was given a cup of hot water and shown a box that contained six teas labeled exclusively in French and expected to make a quick decision. The first word I read was “rooibos” and since I didn't want a caffinated tea I chose it, then could examine it a little more in detail. Rooibos, verdana, and honey was I believe the flavoring. It was pretty good.

And dessert. One of the desserts probably would have been sufficient. Instead, I got all three. The one on the left was jelly-textured, with mango and raspberry flavoring. The one in the middle was a raspberry macaroon. The one on the right was chocolate and raspberry and kind of nutty. (One of the raspberries may have actually been strawberry. They're red berries, and I always get their names confused in French. Not that I had the names in French, except for the first one. The other two they must have decided the red berry part wasn't important.

Dessert

It was a delicious four course meal. The only problem was that it was a leisurely four course meal on an airplane. The table was on my legs. I could not move them much at all.

I mean, yes, I was in first class. I could move from them being on the floor to them stretching their full length outward, which helped a little. But not enough. I started getting restless and wanting to curl them underneath me, but I couldn't until the meal was finally over and I could put my tray table back.

I tried sleeping after that, but still didn't succeed. Ah, well, at least that should help me not get jet lag.

A few hours later, a flight attendant noticed that I was awake and offered me a Haagan Daasz ice cream. It felt like some kind of super-secret reward, and I took it, though I made more of a mess with it then I'd made with any food since the wasabi mayonaise.

I read for a bit, then I looked through the in-flight movies. They had Quai d'Orsay, which was a film we'd watched a couple minutes of in French class to learn... something. I tried watching that, but got bored rewatching the opening scene and gave up, deciding to find something easier to understand, but still let me practice my French.

Earlier that day, I'd been discussing Frozen with my family. So when I saw that it was an option, I selected it. Children's movies are such a morale-booster when it comes to understanding a foreign language. Children's movies you've already seen once are even more of one. And with the songs, I could even notice some of the things they changed.

Probably my favorite song was the translated “Let it Go,” with my specific favorite line the change from “the cold never bothered me anyway” to “the cold, for me, is the price of my freedom.”

I timed it perfectly, so the movie was ending as breakfast was being served. Breakfast w2as nowhere near as elaborate as dinner, though I did still get a tablecloth and several choices of bread. We also had yogurt and strawberry preserves. I mixed the two together, and by that point in the flight I didn't care if anyone thought I was weird.

And then, about an hour after we were scheduled to, we touched down in Paris. Boarding for Rabat began in another 15 minutes.

Tags: food, plane

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