When I was 12 years old, my grandmother took me to Paris. I had never left the country before and from the moment that we arrived at Charles de Gaulle, I was smitten. I walked the Champs Elysee like I owned it, ate pigeon during a dinner cruise on the Seine, and even went to the Moulin Rouge. Clearly, my grandma wasn't the normal bake-you-cookies type.
That trip not only cemented my love of travel, but my love of France. France is my favorite country in the world and I continuously find myself wanting to return to. As I get older, my interests change, which makes each trip fundamentally different; like I'm visiting a completely new city and a dear old friend at the same time.
This year I turned 30 and I wanted nothing more than to spend my big birthday in the city that changed my life for the better. I never win prizes, so when I went to a travel agent event at the French Consulate in New York for the Palace Hotels, I never in a million years expected to be the grand prize winner of two business class tickets on Air France, two nights in a suite at the Mandarin Oriental, and 4 nights at the Byblos St Tropez. With tears of joy streaming down my face, I called my mom and asked her to spend two weeks with me in France.
After months of anticipation, we were finally at JFK waiting for our flight. The lovely folks at Air France flew us over on business class, so we waited in the lounge for our flight. Waiting in the lounge is night and day compared to waiting in the terminal! It's much quieter and you don't have to fight over a seat- plus the Wi-Fi is significantly stronger. If you have a long layover, I highly recommend trying to buy a day pass, which some airlines allow. I find that I often spend the same amount of money at a bar in the regular terminal waiting for my flight that I would on a pass. At least in the lounge I can take a shower.
Our flight departed at 11pm. Air France allows business and first class passengers to eat their meal in the lounge before the flight to maximize sleeping time. The menu was created by David Boulud and was a far cry from the typical notorious air plane mush. After enjoying our fill of lobster, beef tenderloin and several glasses of champagne, we boarded Air France's Boeing 777 with the new business class.
This plane offers business class passengers their own private compartment that combines an office, restaurant table, and an adjustable flat bed. Even though we checked our luggage, we appreciated all of the storage space so we could spread out. A delightful French flight attendant greeted us with a glass of champagne and helped us understand how to use our seat.
The 180 flat bed was perfect for sleeping and I loved all the adjustments that you could make. Unlike the gauze square "pillows" in coach, we were given a down comforter and soft plush pillow. There were a bunch of movies and TV shows to watch, but I knew that I needed to be well rested. I chose a glass of wine from their delicious French wine list to pair with ONE TV show. No sooner was my wine finished then my eyes shut. The next thing I remember was a gentle tap on my arm and a soothing French voice whispering, "we are landing;" the complete opposite of being shaken awake in coach!
We arrived at Charles de Gaulle at noon the following day and our driver met us promptly at arrivals to take us to our hotel. Usually, I take a 7 or 8pm flight to Paris, arriving at 8am or 9am. However, I really enjoyed taking the later flight; by the time that we arrived at our hotel our room was ready and we could check in. The late arrival also was better for my jet lag as we only had half a day to trudge through before going to sleep at a time in Paris.
We had a great experience flying Air France. While the airline is plagued by a reputation of delays and strikes, once aboard, the French hospitality prevails.