It's no secret that most people would much rather read about trips that are squiggly than straight.
Then they can happily sit back in their rockers, turn on the Travel Channel, and think how smart they are to be staying home rather than venturing into some foreign clime where the dollar's virtually worthless, the prices astronomic, the natives rude, and no one speaks English.
"Told you, Maude. This ain't no time to be going abroad!"
Daily horror stories of aircraft mechanical problems, cancelled flights, long security lines, lost luggage, congested air space, and terminals that don't work all play right into this attitude, as well as provide endless grist for any travel writer's quill.
With this as background, however, we simply have to tell you about our recent flight to France. And how sometimes things can actually go incredibly right!
Our departure was on Northwest Flight 49, which leaves Detroit Metro at 9:35 p.m. and touches down at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris at 10:45 a.m.
6 p.m.: We arrive at McNamara Terminal 3 1/2 hours prior to take-off, a little early but we like to err on the side of caution. Airlines recommend three hours for international flights, so we had plenty of cushion.
To our surprise and delight, there was no line at the check- in counter. Just empty space, a Northwest clerk, and us. Heaven.
6:10 p.m.: We check in. Cheerfully. Our one bag each (light, of course!) is tagged for Paris. Boarding passes show departure from Gate 34. Aisle and window seats assigned as per request. (It's an Airbus 300 with 2-4-2 seating). We also remember to get our Frequent Flyer miles logged in.
Security was just as easy. There were no snaking lines, no bored TSA staff. Everyone must have gone to charm school. They passed us through with courtesy, efficiency, and smiles. We didn't even have to remove our shoes.
6:30 p.m.: A mere 30 minutes after airport arrival we're sitting snugly in a Max & Erma's being served smoked turkey sandwiches and Sam Adams, relaxing and waiting for the boarding call.
8:30 p.m.: Boarding begins at Gate 34. And more good news: The plane's only half full (bad for Northwest, good for us). We have room to spread out and stretch.
9:35 p.m.: Wheels up. The captain's announcing a flight time of just seven hours. No bad weather en route. An early arrival is expected in Paris. Hooray.
10:10 p.m.: Somewhere over Montreal, a flight attendant comes by with the drinks cart. Offers soft drinks, selection of adult beverages, pretzels. We order our traditional Bloody Marys.
10:40 p.m.: Dinner is served. Our flight attendant -a charming veteran of 34 years - is now decked out in a colorful Paris/Eiffel Tower apron.
"Chicken or pasta?" We choose chicken. And while certainly not gourmet, when the foil came off it all was still hot and quite tasty. The slice of chicken was moist and served over the bed of rice and peas. There was also a small salad, a roll, some cheddar cheese from Oregon, and a nice Cabernet from Chile.
11:05 p.m.: The in-seat TV tells us there's still "5:38 hours to destination." Time to relax, watch the capable cabin staff at work, read. shuffle some iPod tunes. And nap....
3:55 a.m.: We switch watches to 9:55 a.m. local time. It's light outside. We're somewhere over the UK. And our advertised "breakfast snack" arrives. There's a dry cheese and egg bun, a tropical fruit cup, orange juice, and a strawberry yogurt, coffee or tea. But it's all OK, because in no time we'll be in baguette country.
10:40 a.m.: Flight 49 touches down smoothly at De Gaulle Airport. Early.
All in all, it was a very pleasant flight indeed. And while it might have been only a brief respite in the increasingly stressful world of travel, we'll take it!
Contact Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer at: firstname.lastname@example.org.