Our final day was spent traveling. We got up at 4 a.m. but were unable to savor the brief silence on the streets of Naples because we had to get in a cab and tear off to the airport to make our flight to Milan. I slept most of the way, but did wake in time to see the Alps in the distance as we landed.
There was a layover, and then we boarded an Air France Airbus 320 and flew to Paris. Once we disembarked we had four hours before our flight back to Boston was due to take off. Plenty of time for lunch, shopping, napping, et cetera . . .
. . . right?
Well, not exactly. There were two factors we hadn't considered. First, Charles de Gaulle airport is incomprehensibly vast. I thought O'Hare in Chicago was big, but it's relatively compact compared with De Gaulle. Second, De Gaulle is rather poorly marked, even for those of us who speak decent French. There are maps of the airport available, and they are almost useless.
Third, and perhaps most shockingly, the biggest airport in France, the gateway to Paris for international visitors, the first experience millions of people have of France, has almost no decent restaurants. There were a couple of vegetarian cafeterias and sandwich stands in the international terminal, but that was it.
We are stubborn people. We were in France, we were damned well going to get a proper French lunch. So we wandered the station, asked people, tried to figure out the damned maps, asked more people, consulted Web pages, wandered some more, rode a train, passed through passport control three times . . . and finally found a bistro tucked into a corner of the ticketing terminal. We ate, and then shouldered our bags again for the epic trek back to our gate.
At least we got some exercise.
We barely had time to buy some duty-free foie gras before boarding a 747 for the trip home. This was my first flight on one of the big birds. I've ridden on 767s and 777s, but never a two-decker. (Not that we rode up top; this was economy-class all the way.)
Best thing about Air France: genuinely good food in flight. I had Basque chicken with a tiny bottle of vin rouge and a little loaf of crusty bread. I'd say that's the best in-flight meal I've ever had that I didn't bring along from home.
Since we were flying from Paris to Boston, the plane effectively went up in the sky and sat there while the Earth rotated past underneath. We departed at 4 p.m. and landed at 5 p.m., seven hours later. Then there was the inevitable wait for luggage, the dragons of DHS and Agriculture to be stilled by words of power and runes, the T across Boston, and two hours in the car back to Deerfield. By the time we got home it was about 9 p.m. local time, and we had been going 23 hours with only a couple of brief naps. And so to bed.
Next time: lessons learned!