We got up bright and early Saturday morning, at 6:20am. We quickly showered, packed our final things, and checked out of the hotel. We programmed CDG into the GPS, but apparently recent changes hadn’t been programmed into it, and it sent us in circles looking for the highway entrance. We finally figured it out ourselves, and were on our way.
I was stressed out about having to find a gas station near the airport to fill the car, knowing that the card readers in the gas pumps don’t usually work with magnetic strip cards (everything in Europe uses the chip), and I wasn’t sure if they’d be open yet. We found one right inside the entrance to the airport grounds, though, and I was able to go inside and pay with a credit card. We found our way to the rental car dropoff, which involves circling around the airport twice (intentionally!), and left the President at Citer.
We walked to the terminal and went to the check-in machine. Instead of our boarding passes, it presented us with an assistance slip, which meant we had to go wait in a very long line at the check-in counter. When we finally got there, the lady was nice and there seemed to be no issue, so I’m not sure what was up. She balked at us wanting to check three bags for free, but I told her I’d just contacted Delta to confirm that as an elite member and Amex cardholder, we were entitled to check two bags apiece for free. She agreed that that was true, and took the backpack. (I didn’t really even have to check it, but since we could I didn’t want to carry it around.)
There were long lines at passport control, too, and we suspected it was just due to Europeans’ intense love of queuing. From there we took the tram to our terminal, and went through security there. That part was quick, at least.
We headed right to the duty free shop to finish up our souvenir shopping. At the liquor store, we got another bottle of Havana Club and a weird bottle of super-concentrated Chartreuse Elixir Vegetal, which came in a little wooden case. We then went to the chocolate shop and picked up three boxes of French chocolate for people back home. We stopped at a little coffee counter to get pain au chocolate and espresso for breakfast, then headed to the gate where they were starting to board.
AirFrance followed the EasyJet boarding system, with an Elite queue (which didn’t include Delta elite, sadly) and a general boarding line, even though seats were assigned. I had requested specific seats that looked to be similar to the economy comfort ones we’d had on the way there, but since we weren’t charged for them, I was fearing the worst. We actually ended up in very roomy bulkhead seats near the bathroom, so I was totally fine with that.
The flight attendant sitting in front of us was very nice, and our video monitors showed an outside webcam view of what the pilot was seeing during takeoff. (It was kind of nerve-wracking to watch.)
It very quickly became apparent how awesome AirFrance is. Shortly after takeoff, they served us a snack of crackers and champage. I fired up J. Edgar on my TV and started watching, but I gave up shortly afterwards because of the sound. (The European-headphones with stereo sound weren’t loud enough over the engines, and my good earbuds were only in mono with the weird plugins they had.) I said goodbye to Europe as we passed the coast of France.
Shortly after our snacks were cleared, they began lunch service. I got my meal right away, because it was a special order vegetarian entree. I had a lentil salad, pasta, miniature baguette, applesauce, and coconut pie. We got Heinekens, too.
After lunch, another cart came around with our digestifs. I said no because we’d just finished our beers, but the flight attendant asked, “are you sure?” and showed us our choices: a pear liqueur or cognac. It’s hard to say no to free booze on airplanes, so we changed our minds.
I tried watching another movie, but I had to hold the headphones against my ears to hear anything. I decided to play solitaire and blackjack on my phone instead. We played cribbage, and I napped for a while. We crossed into North America, and saw what I’m pretty sure were ice roads in Canada.
We watched the cameras on the front and undersides of the plane for a while, and then it was time for breakfast. Mine involved a miniature croissant and pain au chocolate, some weird nondairy caramel pudding, juice, and coffee.
We landed early in Chicago, got off the plane right away, and rushed to passport control. One of the guys waiting there yelled, “who wants to come into America?” We went right to him, obviously. We waited a bit for our bags, and had to open my giant suitcase to put the duty-free stuff inside; you’re not allowed to carry it onto the second leg of the flight. From there we went through customs, and there was no need for my paranoia over the fact that we were smuggling Cuban rum; they didn’t even ask. (We’d declared the liquor we were bringing back, we just weren’t specific about its origin.)
Outside customs, everyone has to drop their luggage off with the baggage handlers. I was a little concerned about that part, because they weren’t airline-specific employees, so the bags would have to be routed to a bunch of different places. I know how that goes at O’Hare, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. We turned our bags over to the guys working there, and I was worried that I would never see my backpack again.
Everyone hopped on the tram and rode to their respective terminal. We checked out the map and saw that the Goose Island pub was in T3, so we walked the long walk over there and got seats at the bar. We were beyond thrilled to see sports on TV (hockey, even!), so we toasted to America and the guy next to us joined in. We got talking to him and learned that he was living in Belgium, so we compared notes on that.
Finally, it was time to head to our flight home. We had very comfortable economy comfort seats, and the flight was very pleasant.
….That is, until we got home and discovered that DELTA HAD LOST MY SUITCASE.
After several hours of panicking, contacting their service department online, and checking status updates, I saw that they’d located it at O’Hare and put it on the earliest flight out on Sunday. A courier dropped it off Sunday morning, and everything was intact inside. The duty free bag had a TSA notice on it and had been opened, but the Havana Club was still there. I’m not sure why they didn’t confiscate it, but I was thrilled that everything made it home intact.