Friday, May 01, 2009

Paris to Providence, again

Another early morning on Thursday. I got up before the alarm, made caffe and we both roused ourselves for the long journey home.

About half past seven we began schlepping (I love that word it is so evocative of what the action really is) our bags downstairs to just inside the front door. The driver from Paris Shuttle pulled up just a little after 8am, we loaded our bags nd after stopping to make two other pick ups we headed north out of the city, crawling through rush hour traffic pointing the car towards Charles de Gaulle airport.

Once we arrived and unloaded the bags we walked inside Terminal 2 into a maelstrom of humanity pushing every which way but the right way, as the hordes of travelers were seeking to escape the city before May Day holiday kicked off. May 1 is one of the major holidays in Europe and we were getting out just in time.

Notwithstanding the chaos the folks at the British Airways kiosks were incredibly helpful and before long we had deposited our bags into their custody -- would we ever see them again, I wondered? -- and with boarding passes in hand glided through security in fairly short order.

We found our gate and sat down to wait for the two hours or so until our flight left. Our major source of activity, it seemed, was watching the incredibly goofy tour group of Texans at the gate next to ours where an American Airlines flight nonstop to Dallas was getting ready to depart. We've all heard the final boarding announcements, you know where they call the names of passengers for the tenth time, warning them that the plane is ready to depart and if they don't show up the bags will be removed, that sort of announcement. I've always wondered how that happens? Are the passengers locked in the bathroom or passed out drunk in a corner somewhere (both plausible I suppose).

The real reason I suspect is simpler: they're not very bright. We watched with some amusement as a woman, from Texas apparently, wandered around browsing the store directly across from us when her husband screamed at her from the gate to get over as they had to get one the plane. Of course everyone else had already been on board for nearly a half hour.

Ah yes, life's little diversions.

before long they called our flight. I unlocked myself out of the bathroom and scampered on board sitting next to a beautiful young woman from Providence who, as it turned out, was a pastry chef of some distinction.

After a quick and uneventful flight to London Heathrow Airport we found ourselves once again the maze of the new Terminal 5 and before launching through security (again) had our boarding passes checked once more (for perhaps the umpteenth time I suppose). At that point the BA staff person informed us that we had been upgraded to business class and that after going through security we should make straight for one of their lounges.

After passing through a short queue at security, where we were permitted to keep our shoes on thank you very much unless you were wearing high heels or boots, we sought out the BA lounge. Walking past the Lamborghini raffle stand ("one day left!" ) -- I had to drag Susie away from dropping the 30 bucks on a ticket -- we found the lounge and entered a world apart form the noise and tension of the general waiting area. No announcements, with incredibly comfortable chairs, all the food one could want, wine, coffee, juice to drink, and make your own drinks, in a space that was enormous. And it was packed. But we found a couple of chairs together, sat down and spent the next three hours or so relaxing and preparing ourselves for the journey home.

Eventually we had to leave -- it really was inevitable you know -- once our gate came up on the departures board. Our plane boarded on time, we settled into our seats, not the 34-inchers of coach but more than 70 inches of stretching and sleeping space, seats that actually came with an instruction manual, both facing rearward. We couldn't help but feel incredibly relaxed as the attendants came by to take our coats, hand out champagne (Charles Heidseck) and pass out the menus for us to peruse.

Once airborne the lights dimmed, seats adjusted into nearly bed-like positions and with on-demand video (a feature for all classes on BA now) we spent the next six or so hours in a state of peace and harmony, our chi centered, we were one with the universe, at risk of never wanting to leave the plane ever again.

But leave it we did.

Arriving in Boston on time, at nearly half past six in the evening in fine weather, we scooted right through security, and waited for our bags. Susie's brother Dick had kindly offered to pick us up and drive us home and he was waiting for us right outside -- rather nearby. Over the years he had done this thing quite a lot for family, friends and colleagues and had found a place in the roadway labyrinth around the airport he referred to us "no-man's land) where he could actually wait with his car until given the signal for pickup. We hooked up by phone as soon as we had our bags and strolled into the evening air choked with fumes of gasoline and jet exhaust. A minute or two Dick pulled up, we loaded the bags and swept out and down I93 in rush hour traffic, switching to I-95 and then on into Providence.

After thanking Dick for the ride, we off-loaded the bags and he drove off home to Douglas, MA just 30 miles or so up Route 146. Fifteen minutes later our bags were in the apartment, we looked around, pleased to be home, more or less, and then left again. Walking across the street we had a light supper of salad and a glass of prosecco to end a long day and the beginning of a long night.

We were back in Providence, but were we back home?

Of course we were.

Wish you had been with us,

Steve

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