The Great Adventure Begins…At Least We Think So

It’s Saturday, April 14th and we’re scheduled to leave for France tomorrow morning…

Flashback to when I booked the tickets for this trip, I conspired with a very fine agent at the Delta Platinum desk to hopefully, finally be able to use one of the perks of being Platinum, the system wide upgrade certificates. I’ve never, ever been able to use them in the past. Either there were no flights available on the days we needed to fly to the destinations we were planning to visit, or the ticket I needed to purchase was so expensive when compared to a regular coach ticket that I folded. Don’t forget I’m cheap. The woman whose name I wish I could remember worked hard for us, we wanted to go to Paris in the middle of April and come home at the end of May — a pretty wide playing field, and she made it happen. Delta One (Delta’s new branding for first class) to Paris Charles DeGalle (CDG) through Minneapolis on April 15th and home to San Diego from CDG through Salt Lake City on May 30th. I was certain we’d need to purchase Delta Comfort tickets, but no she said “stay with me I’ll make it happen” and I watched it happen, with a basic economy ticket, I saw it miraculously change to a main cabin ticket, and then to Delta Comfort and finally after she applied the upgrade certificates to a Delta One First Class ticket. Flying out on a Sunday, back on a Wednesday (all during the shoulder season – things really change come June 1st) for less money than I remember paying for a coach ticket for years and years. We discussed the weather and the fact that we were flying through Minneapolis in April, and concluded/believed/had our fingers crossed that winter would be over by Tax Day.

Now back the present,  there’s a blizzard forecast for Minneapolis today. Before leaving for knitting, I call Delta to proactively see if there’s anything we can do to change our flights. I ask for a call back and a gentleman calls me back 1 hour later to tell me if we change the flights, he suspects we’ll be in the back of the bus. We get cut off and I’m back in the queue.

OMG…and Delta told me not to worry about it. The airport will be open tomorrow.

A few hours later, a woman calls me from Delta and assures me that the weather will be better tomorrow and I should leave the flights as is. This is great news, I’m relieved and I head out to meet the knitting ladies of San Diego. Thirtyish minutes later I arrive at knitting, and see an alert on my phone that our flight to Minneapolis has been canceled. Oh no! 

I get back in the queue for Delta and as I’m waiting I notice that we have been rebooked tomorrow afternoon through Salt Lake City. Yay!  But I still want to hear it from the lips of Delta. They call me back; we’re good. Within 20 minutes of that call, Phil calls me and says I just got an email and our SLC flight has been canceled.   I didn’t have any such email; I hoped it was a mistake. I got back in the queue for Delta to call me back. While I’m waiting, I get the email that not only have the Minneapolis and Salt Lake City flights for tomorrow but also our return flights have been canceled on May 30th. At this point, I feel awful for the Marketing/e-Business folks at Delta because I am certain that someone has pulled the data wrong (and I’m guessing the select was for more than the 2 of us) and sent erroneous emails to gobs (a technical marketing term) of people. I feel much better, the ap on my iPhone is still showing the flight through SLC as on time – I just want to hear from the Delta person that we are good to go. An hour or so later, they call me back and confirm the email must have been an error and we’re all set for a 1:10PM flight from San Diego to SLC, a sub-one hour connection to Charles DeGalle and six weeks of heaven!

There’s no need to get up early tomorrow morning, no need to finish packing tonight, and I can run in the morning. Best of all, the flight from SLC to Paris is longer than the flight from Minneapolis to Paris so we can get some extra sleep on the plane. The flight from San Diego is early into SLC, our bags make it onto the Paris flight, we pull away from the gate and then we sit on the tarmac for over an hour. Now, there’s a problem with an air conditioning unit on the plane. This flight is 9 hours and 34 minutes long, so I completely understand they need to fix the unit. Somehow, maintenance did it. We never returned to the gate, we took off and the Captain promptly told us that we might only be 15 minutes late arriving into Paris.

We’ve been in International First Class a couple of times before as a result of an upgrade usually on New Years Eve when few are flying. It was unexpected and we enjoyed it. But if you haven’t noticed, Delta has been rebranding their first class service and I expected a little more. I had a glass of sparkling wine as we boarded; Phil opted to wait for Champagne once we were in the air. There are only 4 seats across – the configuration is 1-2-1 and each passenger has their own overhead compartment. The seats lay completely flat for sleeping and they give you a pretty good sized pillow and comforter.

This may have been a mistake, I may never be able to get him to fly “Coach” again!

The food was a little overdone as a result of the delay; but for plane food it was outstanding. Here’s a quick run down of the choices:

Pre dinner snack: Warmed nuts (first time I had warmed nuts on a plane was with Jonathon Neeley on a Maintenance Warehouse world tour) and an aperitif – out came the Champagne

Appetizers: Grilled Apricots with Whipped Ricotta, Truffle Honey and Crispy Prosciutto (sweet, tangy and yummy); Baby Iceberg Wedge Salad with Chives and Cherry Tomatoes, and Basil and Tomato Bisque (spicy, velvety, and rich) – you got all three – the soup was my favorite.

If they really want the food to be good, it can be good. The soup was delish,

Dinner: Your choice of Pistachio Crusted Australian Lamb Rack with parsnip puree, blistered tomatoes, balsamic glaze and grilled asparagus (Phil’s choice and he picked up the bones indicating it was very good), Chicken Milanese with tomato salad and orzo pilaf, Bourbon Grilled Cedar Plank Salmon with warm lemon scented potato salad and asparagus (my choice – a little dry but healthy and tasty), and Cacio e Pepe Ravioli with parmesan fondue, asparagus tips and blistered tomatoes. Served on china, with glasses and silverware.

Dessert: we had a choice of Vanilla Ice Cream Sundaes with sauce, nuts and whipped cream (Phil’s choice with chocolate sauce), Lemon Tart or a Selection of Cheeses (my choice – getting ready for dinners in France). Both of us had a glace of port and we were almost ready for sleep.

We both watched a couple of movies, I did a little knitting and we slept. I slept for five and a half hours and Phil for four hours, I think this was the first time I can ever remember him actually sleeping on the plane.

My New Braunfels’ sweater is almost done.

We landed just about on time, sailed through immigration and as we collected our bags purchased a European SIM card for an IPhone we have, had it installed and tested and just as we finished with the phone folks our bags came out. The Airport Information Desk called the car leasing company and we were off to door 16 to await our ride from the leasing company. We picked up the car, no muss, no fuss, no hassle. A few explanatory details about the car, a brand new Peugeot, a warning to get gas soon and we were off.

The agent at the car leasing company had preprogrammed a gas station on the airport property for us as the car had very little gas. The deal here is it is a brand new car that we are leasing. The station was packed with cars and no one was in any sort of hurry; I was driving. I was nervous, I’m always nervous getting accustomed to a new clutch. I got in line behind two cars that never moved. We waited and waited. Turns out the people weren’t even in the cars – How rude? We figured out how to get the car into reverse (probably should have known that before we took off) and switched lanes. After what seemed like an eternity, the car in front of us finally finished whatever he was doing after he finished pumping gas (he would be very unpopular at Costco) and we pulled up to the pump. Our credit card didn’t work; I went inside to sign and pay (credit cards here are chip and pin, in the US we’re chip and sign) for the gas and then asked Phil if he’d drive. I really wanted to drive, but I was scared to death of the teeny, tiny acceleration lane out of the gas station into the airport traffic. I wasn’t yet comfortable with the clutch. I felt awful; he said he didn’t mind driving.

The traffic was bad. Think NYC, Atlanta, LA. It was around 1PM and you would have thought it was 5:30PM at the height of rush hour. We had a three and a half our drive ahead of us. Fortunately, we’d be having dinner at the Chambre D’Hotes (bed and breakfast) tonight, we would be exhausted.

Well I’m Finally Doing It….Welcome to my blog!

For as long as I can remember I’ve been sending friends emails about our international travels. It started on my blackberry years ago. That tiny keyboard was a real wonder – it enabled short and sweet notes primarily about what we were eating. No more than a couple of paragraphs composed just after dinner (we’re typically in Europe)  sometimes right from the dinner table to elicit “oohs and aaahs” in real time from the folks back at the office. Somehow that has morphed to detailed emails about what we did during the day, what we saw, who we met and of course what we ate. The text is now supported by photos and the blackberry, became an iPad, which finally transitioned to my laptop.  It’s become a real pain in the neck trying to do it on email and with Word and OneNote -not to mention the incompatibility of the Apple and Windows operating systems.  I’ve lost the early editions of my “blog” as everyone refers to it and have been encouraged by many of you to start a real blog.

This first edition is dedicated to Maria Defante, she worked with me for a few years and still, every trip emails me and says, “I love these, you need to start a blog”. My hope is that the “real blog” will make publishing easy, but so far that’s not been the case.  Change is hard and I’m learning something new, but it’s a tad discouraging to have read an entire book on blogging with WordPress to find out the UI had completely changed.  This is my test drive at a post. If you are reading this, it is probably because I emailed my last recipient list to take a look, provide feedback and I hope some encouragement. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it. Please, oh please be sure to comment on the entries so I know someone out there is listening.

Paris has come to San Diego

The other day I was out for a run in downtown San Diego and I was stopped dead in my tracks. What did I see, but this vision of loveliness – an authentic looking French Pâtisserie.

Except for the fact that it is sunny and 65 degrees – you might think you are in Paris!

I made a mental note of where it was located as I was trying out a new East Village route and finished my run. This is my first official week of being between jobs and today felt like my first truly “free day”. After a visit to the dermatologist this morning (see the public service announcement below), Phil and I decided breakfast out was in order.

Minou, Creperie Patisserie comes to us from the folks at Café Chloe, a perennial favorite and it is located at 721 Eighth Avenue in San Diego, just north of G Street. The place is absolutely adorable; if you need a dose of Paris, stop on by. The menu is limited:  Basic French fare, like sweet and savory crepes, sandwiches, quiche, onion soup. They also have croissants and pastries, coffee, tea, wine and beer.

A good dry run for our upcoming trip to Europe

I had the prosciutto and gruyere quiche. It was custardy, creamy and loaded with prosciutto. The crust was flakey. It was yummy. Phil had the ham and cheese crepe topped with a sunny side fried egg. I tasted his crepe and it was light. I think all the crepes are made with buckwheat flour so they are a bit nutty, but still very light. Both came with a little frisee salad dressed with a light lemon vinaigrette. Very French! We both cleaned our plates. The café Americano was excellent. It was a delicious breakfast.

We loved our breakfast at Minou

Public Service Announcement

Go to the Dermatologist! I am lucky. I went two weeks ago after having not gone for a few years. I was irked with our insurance deductible (the days of co-pays were gone) so I was too cheap to go. I noticed some dry skin around the scar on my lip (bicycle accident in the 5th grade) and finally went to doctor. After the biopsy two weeks ago revealed pre-cancerous cells, they were scraped off and cauterized today. I fortunately caught it before it turned into anything serious. Don’t be like me, Don’t be cheap, Be sure to get your check-ups. My story has a happy ending.