We finished packing then met our dear friends Sally and Bill, who had graciously offered to drive us to SFO. Traffic was a little heavy….as it always is in the Bay Area….but, even so, we arrived at SFO shortly after 3:00 p.m. Our flight wasn’t scheduled to depart until 6:10 p.m., so we had a comfortable cushion of time for check-in and security clearance. We bid our friends good-bye and headed into the terminal.
We’re normally “Coach” travellers but, due to our late booking, the Coach prices weren’t appreciably different from the “Premium Voyageur” prices…..so, we upgraded. The first difference we noticed was at check-in when we were personally escorted to an exclusive check-in line. Our bags (we were allowed two instead of one) were tagged “Priority”…..and we were told they’d be the first ones off the plane and on the baggage carousel!
Then we found out that our flight was delayed by an hour. No problem…..we’d just enjoy an extra Bloody Mary before the flight. We passed through Security and, after a bit of duty-free shopping, found our way to the bar for those great Bloody Mary’s…..definitely the best served in any airport we’ve passed through. As it neared boarding time, we headed to our gate. We had just arrived when we discovered another perk of Premium Voyageur….. we had priority boarding!
We entered the plane and found our seats…..in a new section created between Economy and Business. People who normally travel in Business and First Class probably won’t understand our absolute joy and delight when we sat in these seats and were able to CROSS OUR LEGS!
After this sheer pleasure, we checked out the other perks this upgrade had given us…..
A bottle of water, an amenities kit (that included a shoe bag, socks, shoe horn, ear plugs, eye mask, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste & hydrating lotion), a footrest, a feather pillow, a wool blanket, noise-reducing headphones, a larger video screen (much larger!), a larger tray-table, an actual armrest, a personal reading lamp (that really came in handy) and a PC plug-in (that we didn’t use)…..all very nice…..but none of these perks could compare with being able to cross our legs or stretch out at will.
The seats themselves were interesting. They were a hard shell design that allowed the interior of the seat to move while the exterior shell stayed in place. This allowed us to enjoy a fully reclined position without impinging into the space occupied by the passengers behind us. Woo-hoo!
After dinner (Beef with Wild Mushrooms), there was yet another perk…..Digestifs! We were offered Cognac after dinner!
Despite the niceties, the flight was just as long….movie, dinner, nap, movie, snack, nap, movie, breakfast, nap. We arrived in Paris, walked to the next terminal, got our passports stamped at Immigration Control, found our departure gate and read a little before we boarded the plane to Toulouse. After an uneventful flight, we landed in Toulouse right on schedule at 5:15 p.m. When the plane stopped at the gate, everyone rose, gathered their belongings and waited…..and waited….and waited. Finally, the Purser made an annoucement…..the ground crew was on strike and it would take a while before the gangway could be brought to the plane.
Before we left San Francisco, we read that Air France was experiencing rolling strikes that impacted some international flights…..guess the strikers have moved on to domestic flights. We seemed more perturbed than the French….these short-lived strikes are a matter of course in their lives….they even found some humor in this one.
As the ground crew walked away from the plane, supervisors drove up and took over their duties. It took a while, but the gangway finally met the plane, the door was opened and we started disembarking.
Naively, we thought our problems were over. Not so. The ground crew also refused to offload the luggage. As we waited and waited for our luggage turnstile to start moving, a group of passengers on a Lufthansa flight from Munich arrived, got their luggage and left. As we watched the last of these passengers leave, there was still no irritation on the part of the French passengers on our Air France flight….they knew that these strikers would support them if (or when) the tables were turned.
Finally, the turnstile’s lights flashed, it’s bells rang and it started moving…..our luggage had arrived! Well, not exactly our luggage…..ours was the last off the plane. So much for the “Priority” tag. We grabbed the luggage, got our rental car and called Sharon at Chateau Miaou to let her know we were just leaving the airport. It was already close to 7:00 p.m. (their closing time) and we were at least 30 minutes away……but Sharon said she’d watch for us so we could pick our Felix up tonight. Yay!
Because of the airport delay, we missed most of the rush-hour traffic and, after driving past fields and fields of glorious, bright yellow sunflowers, we arrived at Chateau Miaou in record time. Sharon met us outside and told us what a delight our Felix had been. I don’t know if he recognized us or not, but he willingly let Craig put him in the carry case.
We were tired…..we’d been up for almost 30 hours with just a few short naps in between….but traffic was light and we made good time. Felix had been quiet the entire ride. As we left Lezignan-Corbieres, I opened the window hoping the fresh air would revive all of us. Felix’s big, golden-brown eyes glared at me….so I rolled the window up.
I rolled it back down at Mirepeisset…..this time, Felix perked up and let out a quiet “meow.” The closer we got to the cottage, the louder his “meow’s” became. When we turned onto the gravel road next to the canal, he was beside himself…..he couldn’t wait to get out. I don’t know what he smelled, heard, saw or felt…..but he sure knew he was home.
As Craig off-loaded the luggage, I entered the cottage with some trepidation…..each return trip has brought a surprise of some sort that always required immediate cleaning. I searched high and low…..dust balls and a few deceased flies but nothing that couldn’t wait ’til tomorrow. Hooray! We closed the doors, opened the windows, let Felix out of his case, opened a bottle of wine and breathed a sigh of relief.
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I
find myself.”…….Maya Angelou