Part 1. Frenchie Goes Home

 

Today I am riding a giant metal bird all the way back to the homeland. Air France was and always has been my airline of choice, mostly because "camembert on my dinner tray”.

But not just.

I love that traveling with this airline makes me feel like I’m halfway to France already the minute I step on the plane. The YSL’ed flight attendants always look impossibly elegant from take-off to landing, despite having been on their feet for eleven hours. They greet me with a controlled cheer and a distance that are so particular to the French. I am almost there, I can feel it in my bones. Now, bring on the camembert already!

As I take my seat, I am ecstatic. I get to do absolutely nothing for 11 hours, except catch up on the latest French movies, fantasize about all the pretty little things I will get my hands on, and all the cheesy goodness I will stuff my face with.

2 hours into the flight.

I am not pleased. They brought my dinner tray and it is severely lacking in camembert. I got robbed. What is this bright orange, dry block of congealed milk just laying there, staring at me? I eat my grain salad with a vengeance, possibly muttering a few profanities under my breath.

8 hours into the flight.

Are we there yet? Hesitant between watching the 3rd Dany Boom comedy featured on the flight, or dozing off through what would be effectively my 10th viewing of Bridget Jones’ baby. Clearly facing dilemmas of the utmost importance while thousands of feet up in the air.

10 or so (million) hours later.

At long last! The crew greets us off the plane, their still impeccable hair buns making a mockery of the herd of us, disheveled, wrinkled, haggard, with less than perfect hair and even less perfect breaths, shuffling down the aisle towards the exit in a jet-lagged stupor. And while they may be somewhat inconvenienced by the fart-flavored air floating on the plane, they have the courtesy of absolutely not showing it.

As I walk towards the exit, I angle my face slightly to the left to conceal the diagonal mark the tray table has left on my cheek and across my left eye. Great. I am now a pirate. I quickly attempt to un-Picasso myself by maniacally massaging my face, and bid the crew farewell.

France is calling. Ooooh, I have a caught a whiff of… could it be?… yes, it is. A whiff of cigarette smoke. I am not and have never been a smoker, but it smells delicious. It smells of memories and possibilities. Of leather goods and butter croissants. Of strolling down paved streets and zoning out at a bistro terrace.

Every atom and molecule in my tired body awakens, bullies me down the ramp. I step foot on the cool floor of Roissy Charles de Gaulle, a mess of an airport with endless hallways and broken elevators. It looks like a different land. It is. Beloved, beautiful France, country of my childhood. I am here, I am home.

To be continued...

 

Words: Cécile Charlot  |  Photo: screen capture from the movie Emmanuelle, 1974.