by Mike Supple
Of course we did our due diligence and checked our flight status before we left for the airport. We got to Oakland, checked our bags, and headed for the terminal. After sitting for about ten minutes, a representative from Southwest informed us that our flight to LA had been canceled. Since the LAX to France flight was booked on a different airline (Air France), Southwest had no responsibility to get us to LA in time to catch our flight. Fortunately we got squeezed on to another flight shortly thereafter, and landed with about an hour to get our bags, check in, and get on the plane.
Security was light-ish (always pick the line that has the fewest strollers in it) and we had a few minutes to spare in the Business Lounge. After a few moments of rest and a light snack of Heineken, baby carrots and cheese (quite the spread in that lounge), we all got herded onto the shuttle that drove us halfway back to Oakland to meet the Air France Boeing 777 on the airstrip.
Once aboard, we played for several minutes with all of the controls: fully reclining seat (see the video), personal LED reading light, and in armrest TV. I couldn't get my TV to pop out of the armrest, which vexed me quite a bit. After pushing, pulling, prodding, punching and pleading, I asked the skinny Spanish flight attendant to help me out. She deftly leaned over, and put all 60 lbs into pushing on the screen...and it jumped out of the armrest immediately. I have since decided that brute force is overrated, and I will avoid it for the rest of the trip.
One of the movie options was the recent Ridley Scott film (starring Russell Crowe) "A Good Year". The movie is about a British investment broker who inherits his uncle's run down Chateau and vineyards in Provence, and how he comes to terms with his new laid back life-style. There are some gorgeous vineyard scenes, and a few clever witticisms contrasting French and American wine making techniques.
After a dinner of some dried beef, salmon, and steak paired with not very interesting nor offensive wines - 2004 Antonin Rodet Mercurey Chateau de Chamirey and 2001 Jean Goyon Cotes de Castillon Chateau de l'Estang - it was sleep the rest of the flight.
We arrived in Paris, and amazingly enough our bags had been checked through all the way to Bordeaux. A brief stamp of the passport, and we were in the business lounge catching up on some e-mails and video editing. We breakfasted (9:00 AM our time, 6:00 PM France time) on some pre-packaged sandwiches, and worked while our flight got delayed.
Once on the plane, we were warned about the dangers of smoking onboard: "For safety reasons smoking is absolutely forbidden in the toilet." I figure if somebody needs a smoke badly enough to actually crawl into the toilet, they are probably not too worried about any other safety hazards involved. Or maybe there was just something lost in translation?
One thing of note: on this smaller Boeing plane to Bordeaux, the seatbelts in the middle seat of each row are all red, while the rest of them are all blue. I suppose this is for ease of the person flying, to ensure the correct belt tab is being inserted into the right buckle. I don't recall ever seeing a small detail like this on an American airline. Could this be a sign of the French attention to detail that makes their vineyards thrive so well? Maybe I'm just reaching...