We are in France! Not only that, we are well-rested, having had a full night’s sleep last night (assisted slightly by a little chemical magic) and ensconced in chez Germain, Mary and Gilles beautiful house.
The Plane, the Plane!
First, understand that I like the planes of Seattle’s home-town airplane builder and I’ve always chosen to fly Boeing planes when I had a choice. After flying the Airbus A380, though, I have to say that on a long-haul flight it’s my airplane of choice.
Here is our plane arriving at JFK:
Inside, really, it’s not much different than any other airplane: lots of seats crowded together. This plane is three and a half years old, so everything was still pretty fresh and clean. The only indicator that you’re on a BIG airplane is looking outside and seeing the ground crew waaaaay down below.
We sat in the back on the upper-deck, in a row that has only two seats. We paid extra for that privilege, because we’d read that these rows have some extra leg-room (not true) and because it’s nice not having to crawl over a third person to get in and out, or to share the armrest and space (true).
We’d heard that on the upper deck, the noise level is the same as any other airplane; on the lower deck, it is said to be much quieter, since there’s no wind noise above. That’s likely true, but I can tell you that Laurie and I were immediately impressed at how quiet it was at our seats way in the back (which is usually noisier than anywhere else on the plane) and on the upper deck. We carried on a conversation at lower-than-normal voice levels as the plane was taking off and climbing out! Throughout the flight, the noise level seemed to us to be way lower than on any other plane we’ve been on lately. I took some sound level measurements and will compare them to our remaining flights on this trip.
A funny note: at home we’ve become fans of a French wine named “La Vieille Ferme” (the Old Farm); we think it’s one of the best bargains in wine: about $7/bottle at Total Wines, and a very nice wine, worth much more than that, in our always-humble opinions. So we got a great laugh when we saw what wine we would be served with our dinner:
Overall, we are totally impressed by this airplane, and will go out of our way to fly it on long flights.
A historical side-note: in the mid-1980s, Boeing and Airbus conducted a joint study to determine if they should build an A380-size airplane together. Boeing declined to participate and Airbus decided to build it anyway. Whether that was a good decision on either manufacturer’s part remains to be seen, but with flagging A380 sales and the success of Boeing’s 777 and 787, it looks as if Boeing was right. Airlines seem to really like those two airplanes, which have the range of a 747 or A380, but make money with fewer passengers. (Big planes just aren’t so attractive right now: Airbus sold zero A380s last year, and Boeing has sold only 122 747-8s so far, 71 of which are freighters and six of which are VIP Business Jets!)
Count us as fans of the Airbus A380!
Mary had arranged a driver for us at the airport and we were very glad to see him as we exited baggage claim. It’s about a 90-minute drive to Boi-le-Rois, site of chez Germain; Gilles has, in the past, picked us up, but they’re in the States now, so taxi it was. (The taxi was a BMW station wagon – very nice.) When we arrived, Mary’s friend and neighbor Valerie was waiting at the house to give us keys, and show us the tricks of the new house. She had brought us fresh croissants, a baguette, bread and jam. Now if there’s a better way to start a France visit than with croissants, we don’t know it. We devoured the croissants, unpacked, napped, opened a bottle of wine (thank you, Gilles!), had a simple dinner, took a walk along the Seine and fell into bed. Glad – very glad – to be back in France.